Weekly Asian Medical News Bulletin – 8 September 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 cover conjunctivitis cases in Vietnam, a politician assisting a woman on a flight in Malaysia, and AI to translate traditional medicine in Thailand.


The Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine (DTAM) is collaborating with King Mongkut’s University of Technology North Bangkok to use artificial intelligence (AI) to translate ancient Thai traditional medicine texts into modern language. This project aims to digitise and modernise traditional medicinal knowledge, incorporating four main modules: creating digital versions of traditional texts, translating over 200,000 prescriptions, compiling extensive herbal product data, and developing AI-supported digital tools for Thai traditional medicine, including virtual herbal expos.


PhilHealth pledged to pay most or all of its P27 billion outstanding debt to hospitals within 90 days. CEO Emmanuel Ledesma Jr. intends to use a debit-credit payment method, initially covering 60% of the total claims. The remaining 40% will be settled once all conditions are met. Despite this commitment, Rep. Wilbert Lee criticized PhilHealth for its unpaid debts, affecting hospitals and medical staff salaries. The Department of Health’s 2024 budget will see a 3% decrease from 2023.

Also reported this week


On a Malaysia Airlines flight from Kuching to Kuala Lumpur, Deputy Minister of Sarawak Education, Innovation, and Talent Development, Datuk Dr Annuar Rapaee, a trained cardiologist, assisted a woman experiencing an asthma attack. When the flight crew announced the need for medical help, Dr Annuar stepped forward. After confirming his credentials humorously with a credit card, as he did not possess an ID specifically for medical doctors, he administered emergency treatment using an inhaler from a fellow passenger and a nebulizer from the plane’s emergency kit. The patient was able to breathe normally by the time the plane landed. Dr Annuar later joked on Facebook about the paperwork he had to fill out following the incident, receiving praise from many netizens for his swift actions.

Also reported this week


Vietnam, India, and Pakistan are witnessing a spike in conjunctivitis (pink eye) cases in both adults and children. Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, in particular, are experiencing significant increases of conjunctivitis cases. This could lead to an epidemic, says Quynh Anh Luu, Deputy Head of the National Children Hospital’s Ophthalmology Department. Luu notes an “abnormal increase” with many affected children developing dangerous complications. In August alone, over 50 pediatric patients daily reported to the hospital with acute conjunctivitis, of which 20% had severe complications. Additionally, there’s been a 20-30% surge in children getting checked for refractive errors. Nguyen Thanh Luan of the University Medical Center in HCMC confirms the uptick, noting 15-20 cases examined per shift compared to the usual few cases.


Dr Lim Yong Chin, the founder and director of the Access Medical Clinics group, has been temporarily barred from making claims under the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS), MediSave, and MediShield Life on patients’ behalf after being charged with fraudulent activities and sexual offences. Dr Lim faces charges for deceiving National Healthcare Group Polyclinics and SingHealth Polyclinics by submitting fictitious CHAS claims and for committing sexual crimes against at least three teenagers. While he is prohibited from making claims, the Ministry of Health (MOH) stated he can continue practising medicine. This is provided he retains his valid registration and practising certificate with the Singapore Medical Council. The suspension takes effect from Sep 19 and will last until the conclusion of his criminal proceedings. Four years prior, MOH had suspended 10 clinics from the Access Medical group due to subsidy non-compliance.

Also reported this week


Bangladesh and Indonesia have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to strengthen cooperation in primary and secondary healthcare, health resilience, and financing. The agreement was inked by Foreign Minister Dr. AK Abdul Momen of Bangladesh and Indonesian Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin. It took place during the 43rd ASEAN and 18th East Asia summits in Jakarta. The MoU promotes training, technology transfer, joint research, and exchange programs. Momen highlighted Bangladesh’s achievements in healthcare and its global pharmaceutical exports. Additionally, Momen urged Indonesia to ease the registration process for Bangladeshi pharmaceuticals. Both ministers reaffirmed their commitment to fostering strong bilateral relations and collaboration in international forums.


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