The 20th European Network of Trainees in Obstetrics and Gynaecology (ENTOG) meeting was held in Antwerp, Belgium. This year’s meeting, as is customary every other year, was held in conjunction with the EBCOG Congress.
Antwerp lies on the river Scheld and is the second largest port in Europe. The city is famous for its diamond trade, avant garde fashion houses and its artists, including Peter Paul Rubens who lived in Antwerp from 1609-1620. The meeting was held at the Flanders Concert and Congress Centre in the Darwin Hall. We were delighted to find an imposing skeleton of a whale suspended high above us in the conference room as it gave the proceeding a sense of scientific importance or perhaps just reminded us of our place in the natural world. We did hear exclamations of ‘look a dinosaur!’ from the majority of delegates, but as we were not there for a palaeontology conference perhaps we can be forgiven.
We heard from three trainees, including one of our UK trainees, about the differences in Belgian training in comparison to their own. Overwhelmingly, trainees felt that the level of surgical experience gained by Belgian trainees far surpassed their own. The reason for this appeared to be that most departments only had two trainees with one spending a week on call whilst the other spent a week in theatre. This system resulted in most trainees having access to daily operating for two weeks out of every four. The drawback to this system did appear to be the lack of access to clinics where the decisions for surgery were made and the question was raised as to how the trainees will learn consultation and decision making skills. Overall, trainees felt that Belgian trainees worked incredibly hard and 48 hour week end on calls are still common place. There appeared to be little regard for the EWDT but trainees seemed to be satisfied with both their obstetric and gynaecology training.
We are delighted that ENTOG will be held in England and Wales in May 2011 and we heard from Maud van de Venne about the opportunities that will be available to visiting trainees. During the exchange we plan to arrange for trainees to meet College Tutors, Educational Supervisors and in some cases the Training Programme Directors of regions as we would like trainees to gain insight into the infrastructure that is in place to support our training. This appears to be more formalised in the UK than in other European countries and we feel this will add to the exchange experience.
We had an annual report from the ENTOG Executive Council who have continued to forge links with American Colleagues. Two of the Council members had had the opportunity to attend the annual ACOG Trainees conference in Washington DC. We were also told about the continuing work that is being done in improving long term exchange opportunities between member states and ENTOG is continuing to work towards well established long term exchange programmes.
Elections were held for the ENTOG Executive council and we were please to find that Karen Rose who is a member of our ENTOG organising committee for 2011 was elected onto the ENTOG Executive. Pille Parmae, who has been a member of the Executive for the past 2 years, was elected as Secretary General. Panos Christopoulos stepped down from the Executive.
In 2012, ENTOG will be held jointly with EBCOG in Estonia. We heard from the Estonian president of their local organising committee that preparations are being made for the exchange. As there aren’t as many hospitals as in other countries, it looks like only one trainee per member country will be able to attend the exchange. We were also told that the exchange will start during the weekend, rather than on the Monday.
Finally, the bids for the joint ENTOG/EBCOG meeting for 2014 were placed and we heard from Turkey and Maud van de Venne and Professor Cameron represented Scotland. The trainees’ vote was very close (13 to 12 votes for Istanbul), but we are delighted that the final vote at EBCOG Council went to Scotland which will mean that ENTOG will be held in the UK again in 2014, this time in Scotland.
The following day, we attended the ENTOG session at EBCOG. The first half of the session concentrated on litigation across Europe in our specialty and covered strategies to avoid being sued, including how to create a safer environment for patients. Litigation practices vary widely across the member countries, but overall, the rate at which doctors are becoming involved in legal cases seems to be gradually increasing. No statistics were demonstrated for the different member countries and the talks only touched on the general issues surrounding litigation.
The second half of the session discussed whether obstetrics and gynaecology should be separated and whether we need an increase or reduction in sub-specialists. The case against separation and over subspecialisation was brought across very well by Belgian professor Jacquemyn and he seemed to have won the debate, even though a large proportion of the ENTOG representatives stated that they wanted to sub-specialise.
Overall, it was a very successful ENTOG exchange and meeting. Many people approached us, saying how much they were looking forward to coming to the UK next year. The expectations are high and we certainly have a lot to live up to if we want to achieve the standard that was set this year in Antwerp!
Maud van de Venne
ENTOG representatives RCOG NTC