Plan radiology donations carefully

July 14, 2003

Radiologists are not immune to humanitarian impulses, but because so few charitable medical organizations are radiology-specific, some have taken it upon themselves to donate equipment to underserved areas.Equipment donation is complex, however, and

Radiologists are not immune to humanitarian impulses, but because so few charitable medical organizations are radiology-specific, some have taken it upon themselves to donate equipment to underserved areas.

Equipment donation is complex, however, and should not be undertaken lightly, according to Dr. Harald Ostensen, coordinator of diagnostic imaging and laboratory technology at the WHO.

"Nobody should even consider donating anything if the receiver's side, including the national authorities, is not fully in the picture. Also, the donor has to find out what is needed and how to comply with local conditions," Ostensen said. "Too many 'donations' of medical equipment are not functioning, or even worse, have never been properly installed because of ignorance by the certainly well-meaning donor."

Retired radiologists with time to spare and young idealistic radiologists with a desire to change the world might want to set up a mission to donate both training and equipment to needy nations. But they need to keep a few things in mind.

"You need an effective action plan, a precise time frame, a good team, and a bit of luck," said Dr. Giacomo Bertacchi, a member of the Rotary Club in Bergamo, Italy, and the organizer of a collaborative effort with other Rotary Clubs to install a WHIS-RAD unit in Gumry, Armenia.

Donors should not only scout out a prospective site but should have a good knowledge of the country and its healthcare system, Bergamo said. Additional pointers include:

- Develop a good relationship with the political authorities of the country, such as the minister of health, or other radiology officials such as a ministerial consultant for x-ray protection.

- Avoid complicated political situations.

"Choose the target, coordinate with the beneficiaries, build a team, begin the fundraising, scout the site, arrange transportation and clearance, install and teach, then let other people learn from you," Bertacchi said.