Medical Channel Asia presents the weekly Asian medical news bulletin, bringing you essential healthcare news from across the region. This week’s bulletin covers healthcare services in Thailand and Malaysia and Diphtheria in Vietnam.
The Universal Healthcare (UC) programme in Thailand is launching a pilot scheme that will enable its members to receive medical services at any hospital, as announced by Public Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew. Initially, this scheme will be tested in a few health zones to gauge its efficiency. These health zones are clusters of provinces, with 13 such zones throughout Thailand.
Dr Cholnan, the leader of the ruling Pheu Thai Party, described this initiative as a significant step towards progress and stated that it would be initially rolled out in two or three zones. He emphasised convenience, stating that individuals could avail of services using only their ID cards. The system is expected to debut in the 8th health zone, which includes seven provinces. The ultimate goal is to digitalise health services to enhance accessibility and reduce hospital congestion. Additionally, the ministry aims to expedite the cervical cancer vaccination programme for young girls in response to the high incidence and mortality rates associated with the disease in Thailand.
The government has expanded its free Madani Medical Scheme nationwide from September 15 due to strong demand from B40 households. Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa reported over 130,000 outpatient treatments provided through the healthcare scheme, with 1,300 private clinics participating. The scheme aims to ease congestion in government hospitals and assist the B40 community. Dr Zaliha also emphasised increasing physiotherapists, given that current numbers are far from the World Health Organisation’s recommendations.
Dengue fever cases in Davao City, Philippines, have surged, with over 1,500 affected from January to August, compared to 1,052 in the same period of 2022. Poor sanitation, frequent rainfalls, and residents’ hesitation to seek medical aid contribute to this rise. 28 deaths, mainly among children aged four to seven, have been reported. The City Health Office urges barangays (villages) to establish task forces to combat dengue. Only nine of 182 barangays currently have active task forces. The Department of Health emphasises the importance of barangays in dengue prevention and control.
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In Singapore, some TikTok users are impersonating doctors from the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) to post mock comments on the platform, drawing concerns from experts. These trolls, using pseudonyms like “Doctor Daniel Zhang of IMH”, typically comment with phrases such as “See me in my office”. While intended as jokes, these comments could diminish the seriousness of mental health concerns. A TikTok user named Wabikaeru, who has personally dealt with mental health issues, expressed distress over the increasing prevalence of such comments, highlighting the importance of treating mental health with respect and sensitivity.
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Dr. Ngabila Salama, a representative from Indonesia’s Ministry of Health, emphasised in an online talk show that while the COVID-19 virus hasn’t vanished, its threat is diminished. Although Indonesia has entered the endemic phase, meaning the virus spreads continuously like the flu, its symptoms have become milder than the pandemic’s onset. Still, periodic surges in cases, approximately every 4–6 months, are expected due to the easily transmissible Omicron sub-variant and its potential to mutate. Dr Salama warned of potential mutations, especially among vulnerable groups and reiterated the importance of health protocols, testing, and vaccination. On June 21, 2023, President Joko Widodo officially transitioned Indonesia from the pandemic to the endemic phase of COVID-19.
Diphtheria has claimed three lives in northern Vietnam, with dozens of suspected cases reported, according to the health ministry. Health officials in Ha Giang province, where two deaths occurred, are treating 46 suspected cases. The source of the infections is still unknown. Health centres are preparing for possible admissions, and the ministry advises early testing, regular vaccinations, hand hygiene, and personal cleanliness.