New medical science center opens in Phuket

SRISOONTHORN, PHUKET: The Public Health Ministry opened a new front in the war against infectious disease in Phuket late last week with the opening of the new Phuket Medical Science Center.

Public Health Minister Witthaya Kaewparadai presided over the June 11 opening ceremony, which was attended by more than 200 public health volunteers as well as Phuket MPs Tossaporn Thepabutr and Rewat Areerob.

The new center is based in a one-story building on Bangjo Road in Tambon Srisoonthorn, Thalang District. It will be dedicated to preventing the spread of Legionnaires’ disease, chikungunya, food poisoning and a host of other preventable medical conditions.

Mr Witthaya said Phuket is an important tourist destination in Thailand, generating an income of more than 72.5 billion baht each year.

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Despite this, the island is still home to infectious diseases that impact the tourism industry.

Such diseases include Legionnaires’ disease, which can be caused by bacteria breeding in air conditioning systems, the minister said.

“We have reports that within the last year, seven European tourists were infected with Legionnaires’ disease while on vacation in Phuket,” he said.

One of the Phuket Medical Science Center’s responsibilities will be to inspect establishments such as hotels, hospitals and shopping centers to ensure their rooms are free from Legionella bacteria. The center will issue certificates to establishments that reach the required safety standards.

Thus far, two establishments in Phuket – Vachira Phuket Hospital and Katathani Phuket Beach Resort – have been issued Public Health Ministry certificates declaring them free of Legionella bacteria, he said.

The Phuket Medical Science Center will also focus on checking the food production systems in hotels according to GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) food safety standards, he added.

“At this time, 22 hotels in Phuket have received GMP certificates. We also took food samples from 22 convenience stores out of the 202 in Phuket. We found that 68 food samples out of 147 failed to comply with GMP standards,” he said.

Food sample testing would reduce the risk of poor quality food being served in Phuket and lead to improved health for both residents and tourists, he added.

“The work of the Phuket Medical Science Center will boost tourism in Phuket by reassuring tourists they’re visiting a safe place,” he predicted.

The minister said that chikungunya fever had spread far and wide across Southern Thailand. More than 20,000 cases have been reported, though many more people will have been infected without seeking medical attention, he said.

“Chikungunya fever doesn’t kill people, but the disease will cost the country a lot of money in drug spending,” he said.

The Ministry of Public Health has set up a committee to fight the disease. Its priority is a campaign to help people avoid being bitten by the Aedes mosquito that carries the chikungunya virus as well as the virus that causes dengue fever.

“Public health volunteers are the main weapon in the fight to increase public awareness and help eliminate potential mosquito breeding areas,” he said.

— Kamol Pirat

Phuket News
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