Medical Channel Asia presents the weekly Asian medical news bulletin, bringing you essential healthcare news from across the region. This week’s news bulletin covers Nipah Virus in India, a new mental health institution in Malaysia and the new National Health Board in Thailand.
The newly-formed National Health Board (NHB) is set to centralise and synchronise health policies across ministries and the private sector, according to Public Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew. Headed by the prime minister, the board aims to ensure better coordination and improve the quality of healthcare delivery. Dr. Cholnan emphasised that the NHB would not replace other health bodies but would focus on policy execution and oversight. The intention is to bridge gaps in the current system, bolster the role of the Public Health Ministry, and make health policy implementation more integrated. The current “gold card” universal healthcare scheme remains unchanged. However, the government plans to improve its effectiveness and reduce discrepancies between health insurance programs.
In response to growing mental health concerns, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim announced plans to establish a mental health institution in Malaysia. During the Mid-Term Review (MTR) of the 12th Malaysia Plan (2021-2025), they presented the plan. The initiative aims to bolster collaboration between the government, private sectors, and civil society. The government will expand the Madani Medical Scheme, refurbish 1,200 clinics by 2025, accelerate the Sultanah Aminah Hospital upgrade with RM500 million, and integrate electronic medical records in healthcare facilities. Malaysia anticipates a demographic shift with 7% of its population aged 65 by 2021. Therefore, a National Aging Action Plan, a new Geriatric Centre, and a review of the Private Aged Healthcare Facilities and Service Act 2018 are underway.
Dr. Kong Sim Guan, previously a psychiatrist and doctor at Clinique Suisse, has been prohibited from providing medical evacuation or transport services for 18 months due to alleged lapses in the care of a COVID-19 patient transported from Batam to Singapore. Dr. Kong failed to document the patient’s vital signs at both Batam and Tanah Merah Ferry Terminals. He also did not assess the patient’s condition before transferring to Tan Tock Seng Hospital. The patient, in critical condition, passed away shortly after arrival. An interim orders committee from the Singapore Medical Council detailed these lapses. Dr. Kong had come out of retirement to assist a private ambulance service “out of friendship”.
The Indonesian Health Ministry plans to expand access to biopharmaceutical products to offer affordable cancer treatment. Rizka Andalucia, the ministry’s director general of pharmaceutical and medical devices, highlighted that cancer is a significant concern. There were 3 million cases in 2022 costing Rp4.5 trillion under the national health insurer BPJS Health,. The lag of 14 months for foreign treatments to reach Indonesia pushes many patients to seek treatment overseas. Thus, the ministry aims to update regulations to speed up research, support technology transfers, offer incentives to pharmaceutical companies, and prioritise local medical devices.
India – This Week’s News Bulletin Special
Kerala, a southern Indian state, has raised an alert following the deaths of two individuals from the Nipah virus in Kozhikode district. Two family members of one deceased have tested positive for the virus and are hospitalised. This incident marks Kerala’s fourth Nipah outbreak since 2018. Nipah is a zoonotic illness. It can be transmitted from animals like pigs and fruit bats to humans. Additionally, it can be transmitted through contaminated food and direct contact with infected individuals. Some infected people may be asymptomatic, while others could have severe respiratory symptoms.