Indonesia, S'pore health workers share knowledge

JAKARTA - Indonesian and Singaporean health-care workers are working together to try to better handle infectious disease outbreaks such as dengue and H5N1.

Since the University of Indonesia (UI) and Singapore's National University Health System (NUHS) started an exchange programme in January last year, 113 participants have spent one-month stints in each other's countries.

Among other things, the students attend lectures in preventive medicine and community health care, and take part in research on vaccines.

"If we cannot tackle (infectious diseases), I'm afraid this can spread outside Indonesia," Dr Ratna Sitompul, dean of UI's faculty of medicine, told The Straits Times. " We need to work together."

The $665,000 programme by Temasek Foundation is expected to involve another 322 participants by the end of next year.

Both sides are learning from each other, Professor John Wong, National University of Singapore vice-provost for academic medicine, told The Straits Times.

"The way that Indonesia has to tackle problems on a very large scale is something that certainly we, in Singapore, can benefit from learning," he said.

Those who return home are expected to share their experiences. UI's partners in Indonesia include the Jakarta State Islamic University, and the Universities of Bengkulu in Sumatra as well as Tanjungpura and Palangkaraya in Kalimantan.

Indonesia faces other health challenges including tuberculosis and HIV. It had about 530,000 new tuberculosis cases in 2010, according to the World Health Organisation's 2012 Global Tuberculosis Control Report.

Tuberculosis is responsible for 6.3 per cent of the total disease burden in Indonesia, which is the world's fourth most populous nation with 250 million people.

Dr Adhrie Sugiarto, a programme participant, said he was glad he got a chance to test advanced equipment at the National University Hospital in Singapore.

He said the hospital's information technology system would be useful for Indonesian hospitals.

"All the data of a patient - from the emergency room, clinic, laboratory, radiology, all consultation reports - are managed in one database that doctors can access easily, so doctors have full - not fragmented - knowledge of each patient, and we can do better and have more comprehensive management for the patient," Dr Adhrie said.

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