Abu Dhabi, UAE: A shortage of radiologists in the country is leading to overworked doctors and lengthy waiting times for patients.
Radiologists play a vital role in the diagnosis of many illnesses, particularly cancers, by using imaging techniques such as X-rays, CAT scans and ultrasound, and in treatment through radiation therapy.
However, a shortage of these professionals means that some are having to work seven days a week, while patients have to wait up to four months for an appointment.
Dr Yasmeen Ul Mulk, a female imaging and foetal medicine expert at Global Hawk Imaging & Diagnostics (GHID) Centre in Jumeirah, Dubai, said advances in technology meant radiologists were more essential than ever.
“The need is great and there are very few professionals in the UAE,” she said. “Whereas earlier radiologists were required only for reading some tests, the increasing dependence on technology means that more people are required to analyse the reports. Also, with growing investment in the health sector in UAE, more radiologists are needed.”
She said the shortage meant she was constantly pushed for time.
“We have to consult too many patients within a given time and that is overwhelming. We need to make sure that we refer the patients to the concerned doctor on the basis of their report,” she said.
She believed the UAE should encourage more medical graduates to train in the profession.
Radiologist Dr Jassem Al Hammadi, who works at the Dubai Bone and Joint Centre, agreed that the problem was critical.
“In case of emergencies we see patients immediately, but for a standard check-up or appointment, patients may have to wait for as long as three to four months,” he said.
“Some hospitals in UAE have just one radiologist and they have to be on call every day. They are overworked.”
He said the issue was compounded by the fact some female patients only wanted to see female doctors.
“Female radiologists are even harder to find and many women prefer being consulted by a person of the same gender when they are undergoing a test like a mammogram, MRI or ultrasound.”
Dr Hammadi added that there are not enough programmes teaching radiology.
“Only in the recent years have there been residency programmes for radiologists in UAE,” he said.
“We have excellent consultants and it would be a great help if they would teach the students.
“Universities should focus on teaching this discipline and young Emiratis can also be trained. If this is done, a student can assist a senior doctor and this will reduce the burden of work on the senior radiologist.”
The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) started a residency programme for radiologists two years ago and six students are studying the discipline at present.
Dr Suhaila Qayed, coordinator at Dubai Training Residency Programme at the Department of Medical Education, said: “The students here are Arab board certified and are taught by consultants at DHA. They can pursue fellowships after their studies. The idea is to train Emiratis and ensure there are more specialised radiologists in UAE.”
The programme is open only to Emiratis at present, but Dr Qayed added that the programme might be expanded in the future.
© The NationalSep 2014