Singapore pairs up with foreign medical tech giant in fight against diabetes

Dr. Koh Pon Koon (centre), Minister of State, Ministry of Trade and Industry, trying the iDriveTM Ultra Powered Stapling System, as Medtronic's President of Asia Pacific Bob White (right) looks on. PHOTO: MEDTRONIC

SINGAPORE- Singapore's "war on diabetes" received a shot in the arm on Tuesday (May 31) when public healthcare group Singhealth signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with medical technology giant Medtronic International Limited to develop Singapore as a base for tackling the chronic disease across South-east Asia.

The MOU listed four key areas of cooperation: clinical research; the wider adoption of treatment devices; training of service personnel from doctors to nurses; and patient awareness.

This comes after the Ministry of Health (MOH) publicly declared war on an illness that is costing the country more than $1 billion a year to deal with. There are more than 400,000 diabetics in Singapore today, with one in three not even knowing that he has the disease, The Straits Times reported in April.

Dr Bee Yong Mong, who heads the SingHealth Duke-NUS diabetes centre, predicted that "the problem is only going to get worse", pointing to more sedentary lifestyles.

"In addition to an ageing population, we will also see more young diabetic cases. We need to know our enemy well," he added.

Medtronic's President of Asia Pacific Bob White agreed with Dr Bee: "The earlier the illness is diagnosed, the more effective and less costly the treatment will be."

Before the signing ceremony, Medtronic, whose headquarters is in Ireland, also announced the opening of its new Asia Pacific regional headquarters in Mapletree Business City in Pasir Panjang.

At the event, Dr Koh Poh Koon, Minister of State for Trade and Industry, hailed the expansion as a move that fits in with Singapore's efforts to renew its economy.

He said: "Healthcare is a growth sector for Singapore, and we are committed to partnering industry to seize opportunities from evolving healthcare paradigms."

A colorectal surgeon himself, Dr Koh said he looked forward to more innovations by Medtronic that will "address healthcare needs in the Asia Pacific".

Mr Mark Procyshyn, director of Medtronic's Asia Pacific Service & Repair Centre of Excellence, said of the choice of Singapore as its regional headquarters: "It has a long history of biomedical expertise, and plenty of resources we can leverage. It really is an expansion of programmes that we have already built up over the years."

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