The government-operated healthcare system in Belgium is a model for many countries in both its patient coverage and its technical coverage. It covers nearly all of Belgium’s 10.1 million inhabitants.

Danny Weyts is a nuclear medicine service engineer who concurs. “Many other countries here in Europe are even a little bit jealous on how our system is working here in Belgium,” he says proudly.

Of the 287 hospitals in Belgium, 80 percent are public facilities. The total Belgian market for medical equipment is estimated at $1.2 billion and has seen an annual growth rate of approximately 5 percent in the past five years, according to Tradeport.

Service is provided by in-house, dealers and manufacturers. Larger hospitals are mostly university-based facilities with in-house biomed programs. Despite economic pressure, the annual investment in new and replacement equipment is estimated to be between $220-250 million. The government has taken a supportive approach to helping the medical community in their procurement efforts.

Many smaller hospitals are banding together in groups to gain funding from the government and rely mostly on dealers and outsourced service options, except for the most basic maintenance repairs.

“Many hospitals trust the smaller local dealers more than the manufacturers for repairs because of the established relationship over the years,” says Weyts.

An effort to establish quality assurance programs in the hospital is gaining momentum but does not have government support yet. Weyts says the government is writing laws and regulations to set up quality assurance programs for dealers and manufacturers to follow.

“This means that in the near future many well trained personnel will be needed to fulfill those needs,” Weyts says of the movement’s anticipated effect on the job market. “Appropriate equipment will also be needed, which will improve the market for test and measuring equipment in the future.”

Most biomeds practicing in Belgium today were trained by manufacturers and not in formal college degree programs, since many degreed engineers were pulled into the IT sector.