Meeting in Belgrade this month, medical personnel from various militaries came together and agreed to jointly fight the effects of natural disasters.
By Ivana Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 26/06/12
Telemedicine would allow medical specialists from various militaries to contribute to cases. [Reuters]
This year's annual Congress of the Balkan Military Medical Committee (BMMC) this month ended with an agreement to establish a joint Balkan Medical Task Force.
Congress chairman Colonel Zoran Popovic of Serbia explained that the force would be activated in case of mass disasters. Phase 1 is to be underway by 2015, with the task force fully operational by 2017.
Committee President Colonel Djoko Maksic, also of Serbia, told SETimes the project would create joint medical teams "to act in emergency situations, natural and other disasters."
Two other agreements struck during the congress involve "the exchange of experts [and] the possibility of better interoperability of military medical services via telemedicine," Popovic noted.
He described telemedicine as an innovation among all the countries in the region that will improve the knowledge and quality of treatment. It will enable doctors to exchange images and diagnostic procedures in a very short amount of time and acquire the opinions of colleagues from across the Balkans.
"I'm sure that the exchange of doctors and medical technicians, depending on the training programmes offered by the military medical services in the region, will be very intense activity since all of us were offered educational programmes and all of them are high quality. A special and very important segment of the co-operation in this field is the exchange of cadets [from the] Military Medical University," he said.
In all, 200 medical experts from the militaries of member countries -- Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, and Serbia -- attended this 17th conference. Albania was absent, citing financial woes. Montenegro was there, however, with observer status.
The goal this year, as every year, was to exchange knowledge and expertise, singling out the best ideas to improve general safety in the region.
One of the committee founders, Bulgarian Colonel Evgeniy Belokonski Iliev, said the benefits of these joint projects extend well beyond the field of military medicine and into general relations among countries.
"Friendship and mutual support are the biggest benefits ... because friends will always help better and faster than others," Belokonski Iliev told SETimes.
This year's host, Serbia, is the only non-NATO member. It is on the membership track however, participating in the Partnership for Peace programme.
Representing the Alliance at the congress was General Rob van der Mer of the Netherlands. "This conference contributes to regional co-operation in military medicine, both in terms of science and exchange of information as in operational co-operation," he told SETimes.