MANDALAY - Doctors and nurses from Singapore have started training their counterparts in Myanmar, in what is part of a larger effort to support development in the country.
Over the next two years, a team from KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH), backed by Temasek Foundation, will train medical staff in Myanmar in paediatric emergency care and update them on the latest practices.
The first run of the programme began in the 550-bedded Mandalay Children's Hospital this week.
President Tony Tan Keng Yam, who is in Myanmar on a state visit, dropped by at the hospital on Tuesday to be briefed on the programme and watch the trainers in action.
Posting on Facebook later, he applauded the work that the Singapore team was doing: "I am happy and encouraged by the good work that Singaporeans are doing here, which adds to the people-to- people ties between Singapore and Myanmar."
On Monday, Dr Tan pledged Singapore's support for Myanmar's ongoing reform and development, saying that training the young workforce was a good way for Singapore to help.
After this hospital, the KKH team will visit three of the biggest paediatric hospitals in Myanmar over the next two years.
The staff who attend training sessions, however, will also come from smaller district hospitals. The organisers hope to see a multiplier effect where participants will pass on the skills.
"Hopefully, the concept will take hold and we will have more collaborations and interactions," said Associate Professor Ng Kee Chong, chairman of KKH's division of medicine. "We will move the boulder up the mountain slowly."
On Tuesday, the KKH team trained 25 doctors and nurses from seven hospitals in the Mandalay region as well as some 50 postgraduate observers. They covered scenarios involving babies with blood poisoning and young patients suffering from respiratory arrest - conditions commonly seen at the Mandalay hospital.
The sessions also included training with life-like mannequins brought from Singapore.
Dr Myint Nilar, 44, a participant on Tuesday, said the hands-on experience was especially valuable. The lecturer in Mandalay's University of Medicine said she has had to teach her students procedures like bone marrow injections using PowerPoint slides.
"In this session, we can practise with the mannequin. It feels like treating a real child," she said.
Hospital medical superintendent Dr Sein Han hopes the exposure will aid in reducing Myanmar's infant mortality rate which is now 20 times higher than that of Singapore.
Temasek Foundation has committed $130,688 to the new programme, and another $2 million to three other schemes in partnership with Myanmar's National Skill Standard Authority.
Separately on Tuesday, Dr Tan met Speaker of the Lower House of Parliament Thura U Shwe Mann in Naypyidaw before arriving in Mandalay.
A statement from Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Mr Shwe Mann expressed his appreciation for Singapore's support in providing technical assistance and looked forward to greater parliamentary exchanges.
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