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Speech by Senior Minister of State Dr Lam Pin Min at the Launch of Changi Aviation Medicine Centre and Inaugural Changi Aviation Medicine Symposium

11 Jun 2019 Speeches

Ladies and gentlemen,
Good afternoon.

Introduction

1.     I am happy to join all of you today at the official launch of the Changi Aviation Medicine Centre, or CAMC. The CAMC represents a synergistic collaboration between two sectors in Singapore – Aviation and Medicine – both of which are close to my heart. Having spent 9 years in the RSAF as a flight surgeon, I was intimately involved in looking after the health and aviation physiology training of aircrew.

Development of Aviation Medicine in Singapore

2.     Aviation Medicine is the specialty concerned with the health, safety and performance of aviation personnel, including pilots, air crew, and air traffic controllers. From a nascent practice mostly confined within the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), it has developed with the growth of the RSAF and the civil aviation sector in Singapore. Aviation medicine was recognised as a specialty by the Ministry of Health in 2014. The Civil Aviation Medical Board (CAMB) which oversees the medical fitness assessment and certification of civilian flight crew and air traffic controllers, has also grown rapidly.

3.     Singapore’s contributions to the practice of Aviation Medicine extends beyond our shores. For example, CAMB played a key role in an international collaborative study to design the crew schedule for the first Ultra Long Range flights by Singapore Airlines from Singapore to Los Angeles and New York in 2004. Our aviation medicine specialists have been actively involved in various international professional organisations like the Aerospace Medical Association (ASMA) and the International Academy of Aviation & Space Medicine, or IAASM. They have also supported various International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) initiatives, including chairing of the ICAO Medical Provisions Study Group.

4.     In addition, the IAASM-Singapore Aviation Academy Graduate Certificate in Aviation Medicine course for Medical Examiners and Medical Assessors is the only such course in the world that is accredited as an ICAO Compliant Training Package. This course was developed with inputs from our aviation medicine specialists. Medical examiners and assessors from more than 30 countries have attended the programme to date.

5.     The establishment of the CAMC is therefore another significant milestone of aviation medicine in Singapore. It is the result of the close collaboration between the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and Changi General Hospital (CGH) under their recently signed Memorandum of Understanding. I commend CAAS and CGH colleagues for turning their vision into reality.

Need for a Centre of Excellence in Aviation Medicine

6.     The demand for air travel is projected to grow, with the Asia Pacific region forecasted as one of the fastest growing regions in the world.

7.     With the anticipated traffic growth, we need to provide better support for aviation professionals who are at the centre of the aviation enterprise. Aviation professionals need to cope with and adapt to increasing complexity, workload and pressures. Each vocation faces unique sets of work demands and stress.

8.     Having a Centre of Excellence dedicated to developing and providing specialised health care services is a good step towards providing better care to our aviation professionals throughout their careers. The CAMC will consolidate the expertise of Aviation Medicine Specialists in Singapore, all of whom have a dual specialty qualification in other disciplines such as Psychiatry, Cardiology, Ophthalmology, and Anaesthesiology. The CAMC will be able to provide holistic medical care to our aviation professionals, which in turn will benefit companies and the aviation system as a whole.

9.     Let me share three areas in which the CAMC can make a difference.

10.    First, the CAMC will able to provide customised clinical care for aviation professionals. The CAMC will make available complex aviation medicine consulting and coordinate multidisciplinary care to help our aviation professionals achieve and maintain their medically fit status.

11.    This is particularly relevant in areas where highly customised care is required, such as mental health intervention, as well as in areas where the development of new treatment methods is rapid, like in various aspects of cardiology and ophthalmology and where treatments might not be compatible with risk considerations of safety critical jobs in the aviation system. In this regard, I am happy to note that the Centre has recently developed a new “CHAMP” programme, which stands for Collaborative Health Achievement and Motivation Programme, for the treatment of alcohol use disorder, to address a specific need of the community. CHAMP offers aviators a highly customised and supportive programme involving the multidisciplinary expertise of a healthcare team comprising aviation medicine specialists, psychiatrists, counsellors, medical social workers and psychologists to achieve the best rehabilitation outcome. The programme also provides close monitoring and support by the healthcare team and peer para- counsellors to help aviators stay in remission.

12.    Second, the CAMC provides human performance support programmes for enhancing operational safety in aviation. One example is sleep disorder and fatigue management. The CAMC will collaborate with the Department of Sleep Medicine, Surgery and Science in CGH on the evaluation and treatment of sleep disorders amongst our aviation professionals. The Centre would also help formulate fatigue risk mitigation strategies for individuals as well as companies.

13.    Third, the CAMC will play a key role in further developing the standard of care for patient transport to and from Singapore. The CAMC will serve as the multi-disciplinary resource to provide specialised training in aeromedical evacuation and aeromedical evacuation management for healthcare personnel involved in these roles. Further downstream, it could also provide clinical expertise for consultations on fitness for air travel to patients.

Conclusion

14.    Today marks the start of CAMC in this journey to providing more focused care for aviation professionals. We aim for CAMC to be the provider of choice where specialised intervention is accurately guided and coordinated to minimise downtime of patients.

15.    The CAMC can be a recognised Centre of Excellence in Aviation Medicine by producing good clinical outcomes and benefits to the aviation industry. It should also aim to provide high quality Aviation Medicine training for future generations of Aviation Medicine Specialists in Singapore and internationally.

16.    Thank you all for being part of this important milestone and I would like to wish the Centre every success.

17.    Thank you.