ICR draws notice to needs of African radiologists

November 1, 2006

Organizers of the International Congress of Radiology hope that staging the event in Cape Town will bolster development of radiological services in South Africa and the entire sub-Saharan region.

Organizers of the International Congress of Radiology hope that staging the event in Cape Town will bolster development of radiological services in South Africa and the entire sub-Saharan region.

The meeting, held in September, attracted nearly 1500 delegates, including an estimated 500 radiologists and 350 radiographers from 75 countries. Hosting the first ICR to be held on the continent provided a source of pride for South Africa's 350 or so active radiologists, said Dr. Richard Tuft, president of the Radiological Society of South Africa and chair of the organizing committee.

"We are aware that, while standards in parts of the South African system are as good as any in North America or Europe, it is very difficult for our colleagues in the rest of sub-Saharan Africa," he said. "We are focused on the needs of radiologists from those countries, many of whom we are subsidizing to allow them to come to this meeting. It is vital to offer them the opportunity for this type of ongoing training and to give exposure to the latest technology and thinking in radiology."

Organizers expressed hope that the benefits of the meeting will be apparent long after delegates have returned home, particularly in those countries with smaller numbers of radiologists attempting to cope with huge patient populations in difficult circumstances.

"It has helped us to form closer bonds with the officers of our sister radiological societies throughout the region," Tuft said. "There is an awareness of the value of working together and a recognition of the useful coordinating role that the South African society can play."

The ICR featured a relatively large educational component compared with other international meetings. The scientific program covered the full range of radiological subspecialties, plus lectures and workshops on telemedicine and Web-based services of interest to radiologists in rural areas.

South Africa is a country of startling contrasts, and nowhere is this more obvious than in its medical system. While the 20% or so of the population with medical insurance enjoys private radiology services as good as any in the world, public sector hospitals are bedeviled by many economic and structural problems.

The private sector centers can often be more efficient than centers abroad, Tuft said. The cost of a typical imaging procedure in a private South African center, for example, can be half of that provided in a German hospital. This has led to a growth in the phenomenon of medical tourism to South Africa.