Politician under fire for calling radiologists redundant, comparing profession to grocery store cashiers

A Dutch lawmaker is under fire for recently calling radiologists’ work “redundant” and comparing the profession to grocery store cashiers.

It was back on Oct. 1 that Minister of Finance Wopke Hoekstra first argued that physicians in imaging have become largely unnecessary, thanks to advances in artificial intelligence. During government budget talks, he equated radiologists with retail clerks replaced by automated kiosks.

The comments have ignited controversy among the Netherlands’ physician community, with the Dutch Society for Radiology asking Hoekstra for a meeting to discuss his remarks. In a news item issued Tuesday, the society said it had not yet received a response 10 days later, despite sending a follow-up reminder.

The NVvR, as it’s called for short, also posted the original Oct. 3 letter to its website after fielding multiple inquiries from its members, according to a Google translation of the statement. Society President Mathias Prokop, PhD, highlighted radiology’s tradition of innovation, while also noting that demand for imaging has skyrocketed over the past 20 years, without a commensurate increase in staffing. AI can help, but development of the technology has stagnated in the Netherlands, stifled by regulation, a dearth of data to train systems, and fragmentation across the Dutch healthcare system, he wrote.

He and NVvR envision a future in which artificial intelligence helps meet the rising demand while maintaining the same staffing levels and keeping costs affordable, according to the letter.