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Weekly Asian Medical News Bulletin – 23 June 2023

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Medical Channel Asia presents the weekly Asian medical news bulletin, bringing you essential healthcare news from across the region. This week’s bulletin will focus on medical staffing in the region & health risks from El Nino.

 

Thailand

To address the ongoing shortage of medical staff in Thailand, the Ministry of Public Health and the Civil Service Commission are planning to create approximately 35,000 positions for doctors and 140,000 positions for nurses over the next three years. They also plan to increase the number of medical students by around 2,000 each year to ensure more doctors graduate in the future.

Regarding doctors’ career paths in state hospitals, they plan to review certain regulations. The goal is to upgrade doctors to specialists. This hopefully provides an incentive against moving to private hospitals with higher pay and less workload.

Intern resignations at state hospitals have recently increased, with many opting for specialized field studies. The Medical Council now advises interns to work for two years in local hospitals, increasing from the previous one-year term.

Philippines

The Philippines initiated its COVID-19 bivalent booster vaccination program on June 21, 2023, offering protection against the Omicron variant of the virus. The program was launched at the Philippine Heart Center in Quezon City. An expected 2,900 workers are set to receive the vaccine.

The country has received over 390,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccines from the Lithuanian government, with more expected to arrive. These bivalent vaccines target both the original strain of the virus and the more contagious Omicron variant.

The priority groups for the first jabs are healthcare workers and senior citizens, the most vulnerable population. An individual can receive the bivalent vaccine at least four to six months after their last booster vaccination.

Malaysia

As the El Nino weather pattern takes hold, Malaysia is preparing for a severe water crisis that may also pose significant health risks. Besides the impact on daily living, dwindling water supplies can lead to sanitation issues, increasing the risk of waterborne diseases such as cholera, dysentery, and typhoid.

National Water Services Commission member Charles Santiago urges all sectors to conserve water. Santiago notes that if rivers dry up, there could be a serious problem. Water supplies are already uneven across the country due to infrastructural issues such as broken pipes.

The state of Sabah, on Malaysian Borneo, faces water disruptions primarily due to defunct infrastructure. The total water reserve margin currently stands at just 7%. Hence, the potential lack of clean drinking water could further heighten health risks. These risks include dehydration and malnutrition, particularly among children and the elderly.

Vietnam

Vietnam’s Ministry of Health has issued a new circular, effective August 1, 2023, which stipulates areas where smoking is prohibited. Under the new regulations, smoking will be completely banned indoors and on-premises at these places. They are healthcare facilities, educational institutions, child care and entertainment services, high-risk areas for fire or explosion, automobiles, aircraft, and metro lines.

Indoor smoking will also be prohibited at these places. They are workplaces of state administrative agencies, businesses, political and social organisations, food service establishments, entertainment facilities, transport hubs, religious facilities, places of worship, convention centres, commercial centres, markets, cultural houses, sports halls, stadiums, and community houses.

Singapore

Singapore’s Health Minister Ong Ye Kung has appealed for donations of O blood type, with the country’s blood stocks currently at low to moderate levels. This situation is due to an increase in blood usage as hospitals try to clear a backlog of postponed surgeries and treatments due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The O blood group can be used for any patient in emergencies. Therefore, it has been particularly in high demand.

The minister also announced that Singapore will ease restrictions on blood donation rules related to Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD), or “mad cow disease”, later this year. Advancements in science now allow for the removal of white blood cells, which can potentially transmit diseases, from transfused blood. Countries like the United States and Australia have already lifted geographical risk restrictions related to vCJD.

The minister also pointed out that more than 34,000 patients benefited from blood donations in 2022, and he encouraged residents to check their eligibility and make an appointment to donate blood.

Indonesia

The Indonesian Health Ministry has declared that the COVID-19 situation in the country is under control and has downgraded the disease from a pandemic to an endemic. The government has lifted the public health emergency status for COVID-19 due to the improving situation.

Head of the Ministry’s Public Communication and Service Bureau, Siti Nadia Tarmizi, reports COVID-19 is now more localized in Indonesia. Despite remaining a problem, it’s no longer an emergency disease. Now, it’s treated like other infectious diseases, such as HIV and syphilis.

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