Speech by Dr Amy Khor at the 16th Medical Association of South East Asian Nations (MASEAN) Conference on 9 May 2014

A/Prof Chin Jing Jih, President of Singapore Medical Association
Dr Jose Asa Sabili, Chairman of MASEAN
Dr Wong Tien Hua, incoming Chairman of MASEAN
Delegates
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

 

1.            A very good afternoon to you. I am pleased to join you for this opening ceremony of the 16th Medical Association of South East Asian Nations (MASEAN) Conference held here in Singapore.

2.            First, let me extend a warm welcome to everyone, especially our guests from overseas. I hope that your journey here has been pleasant, and that you will enjoy your stay in Singapore, with the many attractions and experiences our city-state has to offer.

3.            This year’s conference focuses on “Pandemic Preparedness and Response in South East Asian Nations”, which is a very timely and important topic of discussion. It has been over 10 years since the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic affected Singapore and over 30 countries globally. Lessons learnt from SARS and the 2009 Influenza A(H1N1) pandemic remain relevant  as the global infectious diseases situation continues to evolve. This includes threats from new and emerging infectious diseases such as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and Avian Influenza A(H7N9).

4.            Avian Influenza A(H7N9) has infected over 400 people since late March 2013, mainly in mainland China, with a few imported cases being reported in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Malaysia. Since the initial reports of human cases in 2012, MERS-CoV has affected over 300 people. Most cases have been reported from the Arabian Peninsula, while imported cases, or cases linked to imported cases with a history of travel to the Arabian Peninsula have been reported in the UK, France, Tunisia, Greece, Malaysia and the Philippines. Just last week, the world learnt that an imported case of MERS has emerged in the US. Given the ease of global travel, cases may well continue to be detected in other countries including Singapore. We need to continue remaining vigilant and operationally ready.

5.            These examples, together with other deadly outbreaks across the world, such as Ebola in West Africa and Zika Fever in the Pacific Island countries, reinforce the importance of remaining vigilant against potential threats. We need measures and systems in place to prepare us for unexpected events and to promptly mitigate their impacts.

Pandemic Preparedness

6.            The readiness of countries to effectively manage a severe pandemic is of regional and global concern. Preparedness for pandemics requires proper planning and implementation of systems, as well as coordinated efforts between governments and members of society.

7.            Pandemic preparedness also extends to healthcare institutions and medical professionals being prepared to address challenges brought on by a novel infectious disease threat or pandemic. Protocols and lessons learnt in the clinical management of cases should be shared and future generations of doctors should be trained to handle novel infections and pandemics. This ensures the medical community is well-prepared and can potentially save precious lives. Good infection control measures should also be emphasised, the importance of which can be seen in reported cases of nosocomial transmission of Ebola in Africa and MERS-CoV in the Middle East.

8.            During a pandemic, the importance of communication within the medical community is vital. This could be through prompt reporting of cases and through the presence of strong surveillance systems. This has been further emphasized through their incorporation into the revised International Health Regulations (IHR) as core capacity requirements for surveillance and response.

Conclusion

9.            The Medical Association of South East Asian Nations (MASEAN) aims to establish a cooperative association in order to pool talents and resources, to formulate programmes for studies and research, as well as to improve the services in healthcare delivery to the people of our nations. I hope that through sessions like this, we can achieve all of the abovementioned goals and educate our doctors in our respective countries, especially in the area of pandemic preparedness and response. This will not only benefit our individual communities, but the region as a whole.

10.         In closing, I am certain that this event will be a step towards developing a regional framework that is ready to deal with future pandemic situations. On that note, I wish us all a very interactive and productive conference.

11.         Thank you.

 

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