Dr Sim: Sarawak aims to be healthcare service hub

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Abu Bakar reads Dr Sim’s speech at the opening ceremony of the conference. – Photo by Nur Shazreena Ali

KUCHING (Sept 22): Sarawak wants to position itself as a healthcare service hub, said Deputy Premier Dato Sri Dr Sim Kui Hian.

In stating this, Dr Sim, who is also Public Health, Housing and Local Government Minister, said the state government is mapping out its efforts to achieve the goal.

He said the efforts will include the development of research and manufacturing facilities in Samarahan.

“The Sarawak government intends to build the entire healthcare ecosystem of services, including research and manufacturing, around Samarahan, augmenting Sarawak Heart Centre, Sarawak (Tropical) Infectious Disease Centre and Sarawak Biodiversity Centre,” he said at the opening ceremony of the 16th National Clinical Research Conference (NCCR) here yesterday.

Dr Sim’s speech was read by the Ministry of Public Health, Housing and Local Government acting permanent secretary Abu Bakar Sepawi.

Commenting further, Dr Sim said the development of such facilities plays a pivotal role in navigating Sarawak in its journey towards biomedical research and development.

He also said that taking such bold measures would make a significant impact not only in biomedical research but also national health policy.

“Clinical research is a critical step in the development of new treatments, and Sarawak is very much part of this. I thank the leadership of the ICR (Institute for Clinical Research) for continuing to support the CRCs here in Sarawak.

“I am delighted to see multiple collaborations across different disciplines, involving both public and private institutions here – the visible fruits of labour by so many of you here. The 16th NCCR 2023 should inspire you towards greater heights,” he said, adding that building such an ecosystem would help many lives.

In this regard, Dr Sim hailed Sarawak General Hospital’s clinical research team for its success in Malaysia’s first First-in-Human clinical trial.

He described the achievement as a significant milestone in positioning Sarawak’s capabilities in biomedical.

According to him, Sarawak’s clinical research team is the backbone in providing national health guidance and policies which has helped the lives of the people across the nation.

He said this is especially through the invaluable information that has been generated by the team throughout the years.

“The importance of clinical research is well established, as it generates invaluable information to improve the lives of patients and plays a pivotal role in shaping policy.

“The recognition for the achievements of CRC SGH, including conducting Malaysia’s first First-in-Human clinical trial, during the 60th year of the formation of Malaysia, the vibrant research ecosystem that exists in the CRCs here in Sarawak and the relevance of the clinical research agenda of the ICR in shaping our nation.

“For this, the Institute for Clinical Research (ICR) has distinguished itself since its inception, particularly in recent years. Its four CRCs in Sarawak, situated at Sarawak General Hospital, Hospital Sibu, Hospital Bintulu and Hospital Miri, have directly contributed towards these efforts from drug and medical device development to the cutting-edge areas of translational research and digital health,” he said.

In recalling the establishment of Sarawak General Hospital’s clinical research centre in 2003, Dr Sim said he believed the clinical research team would continue to spearhead Sarawak to become a global healthcare institution in the development of various clinical researches including vaccines, therapeutic drugs and treatment.

“I established the CRC SGH in 2003, as the pioneer CRC in Sarawak, with the intent to drive the clinical research agenda here. Many leading exponents of clinical research worked with me in the early days, including YB Datuk Dr Annuar Rapaee (then at Unimas and now chairman of University of Technology Sarawak), and Dr Ong Tiong Kiam (from Sarawak Heart Centre).

“When I left to pursue my political career in 2011, I entrusted the helm of CRC SGH to Dr Alan Fong, who was largely responsible for the milestones and success achieved to date,” he added.