Singapore touts its healthcare expertise

Singapore will be showing off its prowess in healthcare provision at this year’s Arab Health. The island lays claim to some significant medical breakthroughs.

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By  David Ingham Published  January 8, 2006

Singapore will be showing off its prowess in healthcare provision at this year’s Arab Health. The island lays claim to some significant medical breakthroughs. In 2001, Nepalese twins who were joined at the head were successfully separated in a milestone operation that lasted nearly 90 hours. In the same year, the world’s first successful cord blood transplant from an unrelated donor was performed on a patient suffering from thalassemia major, a disorder which prevents red blood cells from carrying oxygen. In 2002, Southeast Asia’s first adult living donor liver transplant was carried out. In 2004, a revolutionary two-stage tooth-in-eye surgical procedure helped a blind boy to see. In 2004, more than 320,000 international patients came to Singapore to avail of a wide range of medical services. Some visited for health screening, while others came for eye, heart or brain surgery and cancer treatment. Singaporean hospital also aim to provide specialised treatments that are not available in patients’ home countries. The hospitals and specialty treatments provide an integrated focus in areas such as neurology, cardiology, ophthalmology and oncology. For example, the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI) is an international specialist centre for treatment, education, training and research into the neurosciences. Dr James Tan Siah Heng, a consultant in the Department of Neurosurgery at the NNI, has pioneered ‘fusionless’ technology to treat degenerative spine diseases. The Haematology Department at Singapore General Hospital has been at the forefront of treatments for a variety of blood disorders since it carried out its first haematopoeitic stem cell transplant 20 years ago. Since then, doctors have carried out more than 700 such transplants at the centre, including, in 1995, the world’s first successful peripheral blood stem cell transplant from an unrelated donor on a five year old Malaysian child. At Singapore General Hospital, the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit has embarked on a variety of measures in order to reduce transplant complications and improve overall results. New conditioning regimens involving non-myeloablative stem cell transplant allow older and sicker patients to access this important method of treatment with equally good results as those in conventional regimens. Singapore boasts a large pool of medical expertise. Dr Susan Lim is widely known in Asia and Singapore for being the first surgeon to have performed a successful liver transplant in 1990. She was voted ‘Spirit of the Century’ by the Singapore public in a national contest held to identify the role model for the 21st century. With her colleague Dr Kum Cheng Kiong, a consultant surgeon at the Centre for Advanced Laparoscopic Surgery at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, she pioneered robot-enhanced general surgical procedures with the Da Vinci Surgical System. This incorporated the use of Minimally Invasive Surgery (MIS) as a replacement for traditional open surgical techniques in many fields of surgery. Singapore positions itself as an ideal place to have treatment and recuperate. Around 15% percent of its population is Muslim, meaning halal food, same gender doctors and prayer facilities can all be provided. At Arab Health 2006, the Singapore Medicine pavilion will allow visitors to see various Singaporean companies focusing on the provision of healthcare services.

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