Welcome to Medical Channel Asia’s regular segment, the weekly Asian medical news bulletin. Each week, we will bring you essential medical news from within the region to keep you informed about the healthcare industry.
This week, we will look at VR technology in nurse training in Singapore, free condoms in Thailand, organ trafficking in Vietnam and other health news in Asia.
The Department of Justice in the Philippines is set to train 35 medical doctors in forensic pathology under the guidance of Dr Morris Tidball-Binz, a forensic expert. Dr Tidball-Binz arrived in the country last Monday and will return in May or August to further aid in the capacity-building program for Filipino forensic pathologists. In addition to the medical doctors, government prosecutors will also be invited to participate in the training which will focus on forensic pathology and investigative work and will be funded by the UN Joint Program with the Philippines.
The Philippines has confirmed its first case of the highly contagious Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5, according to the Department of Health (DoH). The XBB.1.5 subvariant, considered to be the most contagious form of the coronavirus by experts, has been found in 59 countries across six continents and is rapidly spreading in the US, accounting for 41% of COVID-19 cases by the end of December. The Philippines expects to receive at least 1.4 million doses of COVID-19 bivalent vaccines to combat both the Omicron variant and original coronavirus strain, with 300,000 doses soon to be delivered and the rest to be donated by a World Health Organization-backed vaccine platform next month.
Starting from February 13th, mask-wearing on public transport in Singapore will no longer be mandatory due to the improvement in the global Covid-19 situation, according to the Ministry of Health. However, masks must still be worn in indoor healthcare and residential care settings during patient interactions and in patient-facing areas such as hospital wards, clinics, and nursing homes. The Singapore Food Agency may still require masks to be worn while handling food.
The Singapore General Hospital (SGH) has adopted VR technology to train its nurses in IV cannulations, partnering with Serious Games Asia and Microtube Technologies to develop an immersive gamified training module called IV NIMBLE. The module includes a virtual patient avatar, a 3D-printed hand that mimics human skin, and a pressure sensor glove that measures the pressure of cannulation. The project team plans to improve the technology by creating 3D-printed hands with medical conditions and of the elderly, as well as adding more patient avatars and scenarios. SGH chose to use VR training to help new nurses become more confident and better equipped to insert IVs. The hospital’s shift to VR follows similar adoption trends at universities in Asia, where VR is increasingly being used to augment medical and nurse training.
Ahead of Valentine’s day, The National Health Security Office (NHSO) in Thailand will be giving out 94.5 million free condoms to gold health cardholders of “reproductive age” starting February 1st. The cardholders must register through the “Pao Tang” app to receive ten condoms per week for 52 weeks, free of charge. NHSO Secretary-General Jadej Thammatacharee stated that free access to condoms for gold card holders is a basic right under the national health security system, with those infected with AIDS or HIV still eligible for free condoms. The government-procured condoms will be distributed through various health service units, primary health service units, and community clinics.
Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa acknowledged the severe overcrowding in public hospital emergency departments, causing physical and mental fatigue for both staff and patients. She vowed to find solutions to the manpower and equipment shortages affecting public hospitals. The Health Ministry plans to increase the allocation for the Ministry of Health in Budget 2023, and the minister has pledged to table a Health White Paper to resolve the issues facing public healthcare. The ministry will hold internal discussions to provide clearer staffing directions and open more beds in the hospital. The minister promised to continue listening and finding solutions both internally and in discussions with the Ministry of Finance.
Deputy Minister Tran Van Thuan announced that human organ trafficking is rising in Vietnam due to high demand and low donation rates. Organized crime groups are taking advantage of this, using sophisticated methods and fake documents to perform illegal procedures. Most of the profits go to the brokers, who charge large amounts of money to buyers and pay small amounts to the sellers. The majority of transplanted organs come from living donors. To combat this issue, the Vietnamese government is proposing amendments to the law on organ donation and transplantation to increase the number of donors and limit illegal trafficking. This includes asking people if they want to be organ donors when they apply for their identity card or driver’s license. As of now, 63,552 people have registered as organ donors in Vietnam and 7,297 transplants have been performed for eight types of organs, mostly kidney transplants.
The Minister of Health in Indonesia, Suharso Monoarfa, is highlighting the importance of a strong health sector for the country’s future and economic progress as part of the Vision 2045 plan. According to Monoarfa, Indonesia has a lot of work to do in terms of addressing health problems such as malaria, leprosy, and tuberculosis. To achieve optimal health, the Minister believes that the health sector must be supported by adequate infrastructure and human resources. All first-level health facilities should have nine health workers, and all health facilities should be equipped with the necessary infrastructure, he said. The Minister emphasized that the health sector is crucial for the future of Indonesia and that a comprehensive health roadmap is needed to address the various health issues facing the country.