Sunday, October 31, 2004

Hospitals Offer Training To Medical Students

PETALING JAYA, Oct 30 (Bernama) -- Major hospitals under the Ministry of Health although non-teaching are now offering clinical training to medical students from public and private institutions of higher learning.

Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad said this was to provide students exposure to patients besides allowing them to understand their roles as medical practitioners.

"We have the criteria ...the patient load is sufficient for teaching ...only that the current situation is not yet suitable for 100 per cent teaching hospitals," he said.

He said this to reporters after witnessing an MoU signing ceremony between the Ministry of Health and Monash University Malaysia, here Saturday.

The MoU provides clinical study for the university's students at Hospital Sultanah Aminah in Johor Bahru.

Sunway Group's Health and Education Division chief executive officer, Lee Weng Keng signed for the university while the ministry was represented by its Secretary-General Datuk Ismail Adam.

Dr Latiff said besides Monash University, the ministry had also entered into similar agreements with nine public and six private institutions of higher learning.

However, he said the ministry did not issue any certificates for the students on completion of their training.

In line with the development, the capabilities of major hospitals in state capitals would be upgraded in terms of infrastructure and expertise, he said.

This was also to cater to pressing needs by the hospitals besides meeting the needs of learning institutions, he added.

As an example, an allocation of RM40 million had been made to upgrade infrastucture at Hospital Sultanah Aminah, he said.

Meanwhile Monash University Malaysia Pro Vice-Chancellor Prof Merilyn Liddell said that the university will enroll its first batch of 50 medical students early next year.

She said they would undergo their clinical training in Sultan Aminah Hospital in 2007 after completing a two-year initial study at Monash campus in Melbourne, Australia.

Extra health screening for foreign workers

PUTRAJAYA: All foreign workers must undergo an extra full medical check up, a month after their arrival as they have been found to be responsible for the increase in communicable diseases in the country.

The Cabinet Committee on Health and Cleanliness yesterday decided that a more stringent health screening for foreign workers was needed after it was found that tuberculosis, malaria and hepatitis B, diseases which had almost been eradicated, were now back due to the large number of foreign workers.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said this decision was taken because random checks showed that a high number of them were carrying these diseases.

“Those found carrying communicable diseases will be deported immediately,” he told reporters.

Currently, foreign workers are only required to undergo a second health screening after having been in the country for a year, although authorities do carry out random screenings on between 5% and 10% of the new arrivals.

It was these screenings that uncovered that many of the foreign workers carried health certificates that did not match their health status.

Najib said the Government still required the workers to undergo screening in their home country, as it was part of the memorandum of understanding between the governments.
Veteran Malaysian doctor spills the beans on illegal beauty treatments

SHE'D had her share of praise and attention lavished on her.

Her friends called her stunning, beautiful, attractive.

And they were bewildered when Malaysia Airlines stewardess Jannie Lew Fong Khun died suddenly three weeks ago outside a Kuala Lumpur clinic - where she had gone for a nose job earlier.

The 35-year-old had gone back for a post-surgery checkup when she collapsed.

A check with the Health Ministry's online records showed her doctor is a ear, nose, throat specialist who is not licensed to perform plastic surgery.

She's among a fast-growing number of Malaysians opting to go under the knife.

Dr V Surendranathan, a plastic surgeon for 30 years, said: 'In the last 10 years, demand has increased 10 times (in Malaysia). About 100 new patients come to see me every month for consultation and surgery.'

The most common requests are for double eyelids, higher or sharper noses, and bigger breasts.

Problem is, there are some people, including doctors hungry for a quick buck, who are not licensed by the Health Ministry and perform cosmetic surgery illegally.

Take the example of beauticians who employ nurses from Taiwan and perform procedures like double-eyelid surgeries.

Dr Surendranathan said: 'Some beauty centres owned by 'rich people' bring in nurses from Taiwan who pass off as plastic surgeons.

'But you must ask yourself: Why would doctors come all the way from Taiwan when they can earn more money there?

'These nurses learnt how to do plastic surgery from watching their doctors back home.'

Dr Surendranathan was the former president of the Malaysian Association of Plastic, Aesthetic and Cranio Maxillo Facial Surgeons (Mapacs).


He added: 'There are professional beauticians who don't cross the line to perform cosmetic surgery. But there's another group that has crossed the line.'

He believes there are no organisations or syndicates involved.

Instead, unethical beauticians and doctors who say they are plastic surgeons tend to work on their own.

Dr R Angamuthu, current president of Mapacs, which represent 35 plastic surgeons, say they need to be gazetted by the Health Ministry.

There are 38 plastic surgeons in Malaysia, but it is not compulsory for a surgeon to be a Mapacs member.

Upon graduation, a doctor needs at least another six years of study and practice before he can be a plastic surgeon, said Dr Surendranathan, who is based in Petaling Jaya.

A nose implant costs about RM3,500 ($1,540) while a breast-enhancement surgery can cost RM11,000.

Ms Lew reportedly paid RM33,000 for a nose job before her death.

But some Malaysians who don't want to fork out more for a qualified surgeon end up paying dearly instead.

Dr Surendranathan saw a woman in her early 30s whose abdomen was scarred by laser treatment two years ago.

She went to a beautician to remove stretch marks on her tummy after she gave birth.

He recalled: 'She came to me for help, but I told her I couldn't do anything as the burns had already changed the colour of her skin.

'She had no choice but to live with the scars. Now, she can't wear clothes that show her belly button.'

Miss Christine Choy, a cosmetic surgery consultant with Murall Beauty House at Petaling Jaya, has seen about 10 cases of botched jobs by beauticians since April alone.

Miss Choy, 29, has five years' experience in the cosmetic surgery industry, although she is not a plastic surgeon.

Her 20-year-old company started the consultancy service this year, advising customers on the risks of plastic surgery.

Three plastic surgeons conduct at least 30 operations a month, or one operation a day.


The bulk of her customers are female professionals, including lawyers and businesswomen, aged between 28 and 45.

But some people still go to beauticians for cosmetic surgery because 'trust' is developed between them and their beauticians over a period of time, said Miss Choy.

But they end up suffering for their misplaced trust.

One of her clients is so terrified of surgery that even after her nose swelled to twice its original size, she's still considering whether to go for corrective surgery.

Miss Choy said: 'Her nose-head is now twice its normal size and the region around the nose is blue-black.


'She was in pain for a month.

'As she had lost all confidence in cosmetic surgery, she's still deciding if she wants to go for surgery to correct the problem.'

The woman, a Chinese Malaysian in her early 30s, went to a beautician in Singapore for a nose job six years ago.

In one year, the beautician injected her nose with liquid silicone four times.

She wanted the bridge of her nose to be straighter and sharper.

Two years later, her nose-head started to droop and swell like Pinocchio's, Miss Choy said.

She went back to the beautician, who removed only 20 per cent of the silicone.

The beautician even spilled the liquid silicone during the procedure.

Desperate, she went to see Miss Choy two months ago for advice.

Miss Choy said the woman should have gone to a plastic surgeon in the first place, as the surgeon would have surgically sharpened her nose bone instead of injecting her with silicone.

But operations done by plastic surgeons are not without risks too, as one out of 10,000 procedures fail, said Miss Choy.

'She had breast job done before nose job'

MISS Jannie Lew Fong Khun had gone to the Kuala Lumpur clinic on Oct 9 for a check-up, five days after a nose job.

Bystanders brought her back to the clinic after she collapsed on the first storey of the building at Jalan Raja Laut.

The clinic is on the second storey.

But it's not clear if the death of Ms Lew, who had worked as a flight stewardess for 14 years, was connected to the recent plastic surgery on her nose - or perhaps to other plastic surgery.

A source told The New Paper: 'The medical examination on her body found puncture marks on both her breasts.

'Before she came to this clinic, she'd had plastic surgery on her breasts by a beautician.'

As the case is still under police investigation, the source did not want to disclose the identity of the beautician.

Also, the source did not reveal if the beautician is in Malaysia, or when the alleged breast surgery took place.


But a police spokesman said Ms Lew had not had any other plastic surgery before she visited the doctor at Jalan Raja Laut.

He confirmed the 53-year-old doctor is helping police in investigations, but he couldn't confirm if there are puncture marks on Ms Lew's breasts.

The case has been classified as sudden death, and Ms Lew's family is thinking of getting legal advice.

Two days after Ms Lew's death, the Health Ministry raided the clinic and found eight types of unregistered drugs, The Malay Mail reported.

If found guilty of possessing unregistered drugs, the doctor can be jailed up to three years and fined RM25,000.

When The New Paper visited the clinic two weeks ago, the doctor and his staff were not there.

A tall, well-built man standing outside the clinic said he was 'helping out' at the clinic while the doctor and his staff were with the police.

Miss Lew left behind a 7-year-old son.
Study on clinics in densely populated areas

JOHOR BARU: The Health Ministry is conducting a study on the ability of clinics and polyclinics in densely populated areas to cope with the increased demand for health care.

Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said some clinics and polyclinics here and in Jinjang and Kepong in Kuala Lumpur could no longer function effectively because of rapid population growth.

He said his ministry would have to identify places to build bigger clinics while upgrading existing facilities and services.

“The increasing development in residential areas could be the reason the clinics are overcrowded as more and more residents are seeking medical attention.

“The problem is due to a weakness in planning. We will look into the matter and take this into account in planning the 9th Malaysia Plan,” he told reporters after visiting the site for the new Taman Universiti clinic here on Friday.

The RM10mil clinic, which would be equipped with facilities such as an X-ray unit, pharmacy and laboratories, is expected to treat up to 500 patients daily.

Dr Chua said the imbalance in provision of health facilities resulted in some areas having a single polyclinic and only one doctor serving a population of 150,000 while other areas with a similar population were served by a hospital.

He cited the Taman Ungku Tun Aminah clinic here as an example of a clinic that was seeing too many patients a month.

He said he had met the state executive councillors and asked them to compile a report on the health needs in their states.

There are about 4,000 government clinics and polyclinics in the country which serve people living within a 5km radius.

“By paying RM1 at these clinics, a person can benefit from the health services there, which is evidence of our success in providing affordable health care,” Dr Chua said.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Varsities to face shortage of lecturers

KUALA LUMPUR: Local universities will face a shortage of medical lecturers when the terms of service of some 40 doctors seconded from the Health Ministry expires over the next few months.

Higher Education Minister Datuk Dr Shafie Salleh said seven government doctors lecturing at the Universiti Sains Malaysia would be the first batch to leave at the end of the month and return to their duties.

“We are still negotiating with Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek to extend the secondment period but Dr Chua said his ministry is also facing shortages.

“If an extension is not possible, then, we will have to fall back on Plan B, which is to employ foreign lecturers,” he said at a buka puasa function with public universities' student council representative last night.

Dr Shafie said the leaving of these Government doctors would have a great impact on the quality of medical courses in eight local universities.

At the dinner, Dr Shafie announced that his Ministry planned to set up a foundation named YES (Yayasan Ehwal Siswa) to promote inter-universities activities in an effort to curb racial polarisation, promote integration and unity among undergraduates.

He said YES also aimed to organise extra curriculum activities to equip university students with “soft skills”, such as leadership training and character building.

“It is not enough to learn solely from the books, we hope to strengthen the confidence and character of our graduates through the YES programme.”

Pharmacists in private sector told to register

Kota Kinabalu: Sabah Health Director DatoĆ¢€™ Dr Zainul Hamzah said pharmacists wishing to work in the private sector in Sabah will be required to register themselves with the Pharmacy Board of Malaysia, under Type A Licence.

The ruling, which comes into effect on Nov 1, empowers the Sabah Health Director as the licensing officer, under Section 26(4) of the Poisons Act 1952 (Revised 1989).

It does not apply to any pharmacist who has been previously issued with a Type A Licence before Nov 1.

Further details are available from the Pharmacy Board of Malaysia Secretariat (tel. 03-7968 2200) or Sabah Pharmacy Enforcement Office, tel. 088-231609/231610/257258 (Kota Kinabalu), 089-668671 (Sandakan), or 089-775094/759379 (Tawau).
Government orders steps to control dengue

PUTRAJAYA: Concerned over the drastic increase in the number of dengue cases in the last three years, the government has directed all the relevant agencies to immediately take steps to control the situation and destroy all aedes breeding grounds.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak who issued the directive Friday said the government felt that the situation was serious enough to warrant immediate attention from all parties to prevent more deaths from dengue fever.

“There have been a serious increase in the number of dengue cases in the country since 2000 where 3,723 cases was reported. By last year, the number had jumped to 15,442 cases with 72 deaths, including 24 schoolchildren.

“This year, a total of 53 people died of dengue fever to date and 12 of them are schoolchildren. All parties, particularly the local governments, education departments and schools must work together to tackle this problem,” he told reporters after chairing the meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Health and Cleanliness Thursday.

As a long-term effort to curb this problem, Najib said the local governments had been directed to ensure that the designs for all future projects in their areas must not have any potential mosquitoes breeding grounds like open gutters, tanks and sand-traps.

He said the local governments could work closely with the Malaysian Architects Association.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Plant extract may have properties to treat cancer

KUALA LUMPUR: A local pharmaceutical company will carry out tests on mice for a plant extract that can possibly treat cancer.

This follows results of a preliminary cancer research by Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) on the extract, which has shown to kill cancer cells and slow down cell replication.

Autoimmune Sdn Bhd signed a research and consultancy agreement with the university in July to evaluate the company’s 35 herbal extracts for anti-cancer activities.

Lecturer Dr Johnson Stanslas of the Biomedical Sciences department of UPM's Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, said the preliminary research began with the testing of nine extracts.

Dr Stanslasa, who led the research under UPM’s Cancer Research and Drug Discovery Group, said the extracts were tested for their anti-cancer activities against three different cancer cells in an artificial environment (in vitro).

“We chose to test them against the breast, prostate and lung cancer cells as these cancers are the number one killers for men and women in Malaysia.”

He said ASB001 was also tested on mice, and the results showed no toxicity as there was no reduction in the body weight of the mice.

“This is a positive sign as anti-cancer agents with minimal toxic effects will benefit cancer patients,” he said.

Autoimmune managing director Patriek Yeoh said if the results from the animal trials are positive, the company may register the extract as a herbal supplement by next year.
1,200 can qualify as doctors every year

KUALA LUMPUR: The country can produce about 1,200 doctors a year, compared to 950 previously, following the increase in the number of local colleges and universities offering medical courses.

Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad said the figure includes foreign-trained doctors, too.

The number is small compared with the country’s needs but the Government could not raise the number of medical graduates without taking quality into account, he said.

Dr Abdul Latiff said Universiti Malaya and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia produced about 300 medical graduates in 1980.

“Now we have other universities, including private institutions of higher learning (offering medical courses),” he told reporters after witnessing the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the ministry and Kolej Universiti Islam Malaysia (KUIM).

The MoU is for the use of several hospitals under the ministry for the college’s clinical programme for medical students.

Under the MoU, the Ampang, Temerloh, Tampin and Jelebu hospitals and 12 health centres in Negri Sembilan will be used as training centres for KUIM medical students for 15 years. – Bernama

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Chua: Operation theatres shut down for cleaning

KUALA LUMPUR: All operation theatres in public and private hospitals are shut down from time to time for cleaning and disinfections if the level of germs and fungus exceed the permissible level, Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said.

He said they would be shut down only for a day or two for this purpose.

As such, he said he did not see why the Alor Star Hospital director Dr Juita Ghazali had to announce the cleaning and disinfections for two of the seven theatres in the hospital as highlighted by a few major newspapers yesterday.

“The reports were confusing and these can trigger panic reaction,” he said, describing such reports as irresponsible.

Speaking to reporters in Wisma MCA after the party's central committee meeting here yesterday, Dr Chua said he had directed his ministry’s secretary-general to investigate the matter.

In Alor Star, Dr Juita said there was no need to close two operating theatres at the hospital here as the fungal spores found in the rooms were not dangerous.

“It is a saprophytic type of fungus and would not cause any infection. The two theatres are now operating normally.”

Dr Juita revealed that the spores were found after air sampling on Saturday.

She said the hospital began air sampling at its first, second and third operating theatres on Oct 16, adding that the three theatres were found to be free from any fungus or bacteria.

“The second test, at theatre four, five and six, was conducted on Saturday morning. The results, which we get on Sunday, showed the presence of fungal spores in theatre four and six.”

Dr Juita said the hospital's specialists and administrator concluded at a meeting yesterday that the fungus was not dangerous and all surgeries would be conducted as scheduled.

She said a sample of the fungal culture was sent to the Health Ministry for type verification.

The hospital is now conducting a thorough cleaning of the two theatres, including doctors' surgical boots. Another air sampling of the two theatres would be carried out on Oct 30.

Dr Juita said the spores could have been brought to the theatres by various people, including nurses and doctors undergoing training there.

She added that another possibility could be the change of the vinyl flooring in one of the two affected theatres last week.

Dr Juita said the hospital initiated the air sampling after reading about the fungal outbreak at the Sultan Ismail Hospital in Johor Baru on Sept 26.

She also denied that the hospital's centralised air conditioning system caused the problem as each theatre had its own filter, which was changed every six months.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Policy needed to safeguard children with HIV

PENANG: An HIV-positive boy grew up lonely at a hospital in Penang after his parents abandoned him seven years ago when he was a baby.

The hospital authorities kept him in isolation because of his medical condition, said Community AIDS Service Penang (CASP) chairman Dr Ismail Baba.

“He grew up in such a sterile and lonely environment for seven years before he was placed in a children’s home several months ago,” he said.

It was an uphill task for CASP volunteers to enrol the boy in a primary school earlier this year. The boy was only accepted into Year 1 in April.

In another case, a nine-year-old girl with AIDS died alone last year.

“No one from her school or village visited her when she was sick and dying. Even the teachers did not call her parents to find out the reason for her prolonged absence,” he said, adding that such indifference would have lasting psychological effects on the affected children and their families.

Another pre-schooler had a hard time enrolling at a kindergarten because the operators demanded a medical report after hearing rumours that her parents were HIV positive.

“Schools have no right to make such demands,” he said.

Dr Ismail urged the Government to draw a national policy to protect HIV/AIDS children against discrimination and neglect.

“There is an urgent need to formulate a legal policy to protect the 6,000 children who are affected by HIV/ AIDS,” he said, adding that the Health Ministry had until last December recorded 598 HIV/AIDS cases among children under 12.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Raffles Medical Group expands into Malaysia

SINGAPORE : Raffles Medical Group has expanded into Malaysia by buying the Island Hospital in Penang for 110 million ringgit or S$48 million.

The move is in line with its strategy to broaden its geographical presence and transform itself into a significant regional player for healthcare services.

Raffles Medical Group owns Singapore's largest network of private clinics, with more than 60 of them throughout the island.

Besides that, it also owns and operates the 380-bed Raffles Hospital.

But until now, its foreign operations have been quite limited - just five clinics in Hong Kong and a representative office in Indonesia.

Buying Island Hospital will enable Raffles Medical to gain an immediate foothold in Malaysia, as it is a profitable operation with an established market share.

And it has growth potential as well.

Dr Loo Choon Yong, Executive Chairman, Raffles Medical Group, said, "We are buying something with a view to grow even more. And indeed there are possibilities of acquisition of some land nearby so that we can expand the physical facilities. We have confidence in Malaysia. That's why we are making this investment. We have confidence in Penang and we want to make greater investment."

The 240-bed Island Hospital has an occupancy rate of 70 percent.

It serves Northern Malaysia, Thailand and Sumatra.

Some 30 percent of its patients come from abroad, mainly Medan.

Raffles is buying the hospital at under two times book value and will be paying for it in cash, which it intends to finance mainly from reserves.

Meanwhile, Raffles says it is also looking at expanding into China, Indonesia and the Middle East, but has not set a timetable yet.

Dr Loo said, "Raffles does not just go out and acquire whatever comes in sight. We have been actually quietly looking at many, many opportunities. And we have our own internal hurdle. We have to see if something is worth acquiring, and whether it's synergistic and whether we can add value and whether it can add value to Raffles and its shareholders. If we are not confident of these things we will not acquire."

The group however says it is committed to becoming a regional player for healthcare services. - CNA

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Cop laments treatment at govt hospitals

Kuala Lumpur: Corporal Zahari Husin’s left thigh was swollen and infected, the pain was almost unbearable and he could hardly walk.

But the Kuala Lumpur Hospital (HKL) and the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Hospital (HUKM) refused to get him admitted, the 45-year-old policeman said Wednesday.

Zahari claimed that a medical officer at HUKM even went to the extent of telling him to wait for the swelling to turn blue before he could be admitted. “I was only given outpatient treatment. I requested to be admitted because my thigh was very painful and I could not walk ... but my request was turned down,” he said at the private Sentosa Hospital, here.

An x-ray taken at the Sentosa Hospital showed two two-cm shrapnel of a booby trap embedded in Zahari’s thigh. He had stepped on the explosive device in 1979 when serving with the Police Field Force in an operation against communist terrorists along the Malaysia-Thailand. He underwent surgery then at the Alor Star Hospital.

The scar had now become swollen and infected. Zahari, who is now a detective at the Dang Wangi district police headquarters, said he was disappointed with what he claimed was the unprofessionalism of staff at the two government hospitals who had failed to take care of a patient in severe pain.

He was only given an injection and pain killers at both the hospitals, he said, claiming that he had waited from 2pm to 10pm to be admitted to HUKM. Zahari said that at the Sentosa Hospital he was told that surgery to remove the shrapnel would put him at risk of paralysis.

He said he had paid RM2,000 to the Sentosa Hospital and owed RM2,000 more, adding that he was forced to seek private medical treatment though it was beyond his means because he wanted to save his leg.

“I had to pay up first before claiming from my health insurance,” he said, but added that money was not the point but the indifferent attitude of the government medical staff entrusted with the responsibility to administer treatment to patients professionally. - Bernama

Friday, October 22, 2004

Nurses feel cheated by University Hospital board

WE are a group of retired nurses of University Hospital writing to appeal to the Board of Management of the University Malaya Medical Centre to reconsider its decision to terminate our free medical benefits.

We were the pioneer batch of nurses of the hospital since its inception in 1967 and have dedicated our lives to caring for the sick despite the acute shortage of professional nurses and frequent night duties.

Our pay was relatively low with no overtime, critical allowances or bonuses.

In 1986, the staff morale was at its lowest as large numbers of experienced nurses and paramedics were leaving for higher pay overseas and in the private sector.

As an incentive to retain the nurses and healthcare personnel, the board promised to reward the long-serving employees on EPF scheme free medical benefits only at University Hospital.

We have fulfilled our part by staying on until retirement and as promised were given a pension card, Kad Pesara KWSP, which entitled us to free medical treatment at the hospital upon retirement.

However, a circular dated April 7, last year, was given to the counter staff in the polyclinics to invalidate our Kad Pesara KWSP.

We, the retirees, were never informed of this personally or via any public announcement.

The present board has the moral obligation to honour a promise that was made 17 years ago.

It is a most cruel act to deprive a handful of elderly nurses in their twilight years of the free medical benefits that they rightly deserved.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Blood Bank seeks more platelet donors

PETALING JAYA: The National Blood Bank needs more non-Muslim platelet donors in Ramadan, as most Muslims would not be donating blood when they observe their month-long fast.

National Blood Bank medical officer Dr Vaani Valerie said the number of platelet donors had gone down by about 75% after the fasting month started on Oct 15.

“The shortage is also due to the increased number of dengue cases recently,” she said, adding that Muslim donors usually made up 50% to 60% of the donors. The platelets can be kept for five days.

Dr Vaani said the blood bank provided platelets to at least 30 patients at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital as well as patients at other hospitals in the Klang Valley.

Patients with dengue fever and leukaemia were those who needed the blood product most, she said when met at The Star’s blood donation drive at Menara Star here yesterday.

Dr Vaani said platelet donation could only be done at the blood bank as donors had to go through the aphaeresis process that extracted platelet and plasma from one’s blood.

“Donors can choose to donate either platelet or plasma (the watery, yellowish fluid in which the blood cells are suspended and move through veins and arteries in the body) or both.

“The red blood cells (which contain haemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen to body tissues) are returned to the donors in the process,” she said.

‘Fungal’ hospital: Chua says Samy’s explanation unacceptable

Health Minister Dr Chua Soi Lek has described the explanation given by his colleague in the Works Ministry on the fungal problem at the Sultan Ismail Hospital in Johor as “unacceptable”.

“We can’t accept this accusation,” Chua was quoted as saying in the Sin Chew Daily and Nanyang Siang Pau today.

Works Minister S Samy Vellu explained on Tuesday that his ministry handed over the Sultan Ismail Hospital to the Health Ministry in March but blamed the latter for only appointing a contractor to oversee the hospital six months later and that the delay had resulted in the fungal problem.

But Chua has a different version of what actually happened.

He told the vernacular dailies that his ministry had immediately pointed out numerous “weaknesses” pertaining to the structure of the hospital building after they took over from the Public Works Department (PWD) in March.

“The cause of the fungal problem was due to the flaws in the building structure during its construction process.

“PWD’s responsibility is to monitor the project development and ensure no problem will arise from its construction. The Health Ministry is a consumer in this case,” Chua added.

Briefing in cabinet

Sin Chew also quoted sources in a frontpage report as saying that the works minister has been “advised” during the cabinet meeting yesterday to exercise extreme caution when giving media statements in future.

He was also requested by his cabinet colleagues to take stringent action against contractors who failed to carry out their tasks and that none of them should be ‘protected’.

The cabinet, however, has yet to state its stand on whether to accept Samy’s report pertaining to problems of six government projects under his ministry. The report was handed over to Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Tuesday.

Two Barisan Nasional backbenchers, MCA Kota Melaka MP Wong Nai Chee and Gerakan Puchong MP Lau Yen Peng together with opposition DAP Seputeh MP Teresa Kok also expressed their dissatisfaction with Samy’s explanation as reported by Sin Chew.

Wong opined that the works minister’s explanation was insufficient and did not address the main issues such as why the problems occurred repeatedly and why it could not be avoided.

Lau agreed on the inadequateness of Samy’s explanation and felt that the latter should provide an in-depth statement to the media and public, not just to the premier and cabinet.

DAP’s Kok argued that Samy just cannot wash his hands over all that had happened.

“As the minister in charge of the projects, he should have brought it up in the cabinet as soon as he is aware of such problems,” she said.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Move to win doctors’ hearts

PONTIAN: The full payment service, to be introduced at government hospitals soon, is not expected to stop doctors from leaving the public sector, said Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek.

Instead, he said the service was aimed at “winning the hearts” of doctors.

“The plan will see the creation of an environment similar to that in private hospitals.

“We are talking about facilities and support staff that would all be just like in private hospitals,” he told reporters after visiting the Pontian hospital yesterday.

Dr Chua said many doctors craved for such an environment in the workplace.

“Now we are working towards creating that environment which we hope will win their hearts and encourage them to continue working in government hospitals,” he added.

Dr Chua said it was not impossible to keep doctors in government service.

“The scenario where doctors leave public hospitals is happening everywhere even in developed countries.

“This is a reality we must face. But at the same time, we are trying everything we can to make them stay (in public hospitals) and the introduction of the service is one of these efforts,” he said.

On the Pontian hospital, Dr Chua said its services would be upgraded to cater to the rapid development in the area, including the construction of the Tanjung Bin power plant and a petrochemical plant.

He said the hospital would be equipped to treat injuries caused by petrochemical incidents.

“I hope to be able to implement the upgrade within three years, which will coincide with the completion of the projects,” he added.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Pay for doctor of your choice scheme soon

JOHOR BARU: Full payment service will soon be available at government hospitals in which patients will be put in first-class wards and be able to choose the doctors and specialists to treat them as in private hospitals.

Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said the plan would see services equivalent to private hospitals in government hospitals and was aimed at improving efficiency, services and increase competition in the healthcare industry.

Speaking to reporters after attending the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) Johor branch annual dinner on Saturday, he said this would be implemented instead of the earlier proposed private wing at government hospitals, which would have required a high cost to set up.

He said these patients would be required to pay the full amount and the fees would be compatible to that charged by private practices, according to the schedule drawn by the MMA.

He said the ministry would work out the division of fees and payment to specialists, doctors and workforce providing services under the scheme, adding that the service was targeted at those with insurance coverage and patients whose medical expenses were borne by their employers.

“This way, we can help increase the Government’s revenue in medical services which is heavily subsidised.

“For instance, delivery charges for those whose medical treatment is subsidised costs only RM100 while the full paying patients who engage the services of a gynaecologist and obstetrician of their choice will pay around RM500,” he said.

Dr Chua said the Cabinet made the decision last Wednesday and Putrajaya and Selayang hospitals had been selected to start the service next year.

“However, I would like to stress that services provided to other patients will not be affected by this and we assure those seeking treatment in government hospitals that their medical needs will not be overlooked.

“I would also like to emphasise that full paying patients will not be given the priority in the waiting list for surgery and treatments merely because they are paying in full,” he said.

“Any consideration to speed up treatment or an operation will be strictly based on the medical condition of a patient.”

He said hospitals found suitable for such service would have their first-class wards renovated for the purpose, adding that this would involve a large number of the 1,683 beds in first-class wards.

Dr Chua also said that the Cabinet had agreed to allow public doctors to do locum in government hospitals and clinics in view of the shortage of doctors.

He added this initiative would also prevent them from leaving Government service.
Medical practitioners 'abuse' usage of pill for profits

SEGAMAT: An agonistic pill, used as an alternative to cut down the cravings of drug addicts undergoing rehabilitation, has been abused by certain medical practitioners and pharmacists to gain profits.

Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said the pill was prescribed by doctors and administered as a detoxification treatment for drug addicts hooked on morphine and heroin.

“When used as a treatment, the pill may help reduce drug cravings. However, if the pill is mixed with other drugs, it can produce a euphoric effect.

“This means that instead of cutting down the cravings, it enhances the ‘high’ feeling of the addict,” Dr Chua told reporters after visiting the Segamat Hospital here Saturday

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Private hospitals to be available in government hospitals soon

JOHOR BARU: Services equivalent to those in private hospitals will soon be available in government hospitals with the introduction of the full payment service, aimed at improving efficiency, services and increase competition in the health industry.

Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek, in making the announcement, said under the proposed service, patients would be warded in first-class wards and could choose the doctors and specialists to treat them, similar to the option available when seeking treatment in private hospitals.

Speaking to reporters after attending the MMA (Johor branch) annual dinner on Saturday night, he said this would be implemented instead of the earlier proposal for a private wing at government hospitals, which would incur a high cost in setting up.

He said instead of paying the subsidised fees, these patients would be required to pay the full amount and the fees would be compatible to that charged by private practices, according to schedule drawn by the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA).

Dr Chua said the Cabinet had made the decision last Wednesday and Putrajaya and Selayang hospitals had been selected to start the service next year

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Herbs with medicinal value making impact

Unknown to many Malaysians, the pegaga herb (Centella asiatica) and meng- kudu fruit (Morinda citrifolia) are making waves locally and abroad because of their medicinal benefits.

In the old days, the pegaga was used to detoxify blood and improve skin conditions, with research on the pegaga in 1949 showing the plant's success in accelerating the healing of inflammation on leprosy sores and ulcers. Its other medical uses include treating skin diseases, asthma, hypertension, poor appetite, poor blood circulation, kidney stones and leg cramps.

It is also said to improve memory retention. The mengkudu is said to be effective in treating hypertension, diabetes, stomach aches and improving vitality.

Several companies nationwide are beginning to realise the business potential of these herbs and are sell- ing them to foreign markets. Konsortium Pasifik Sama Sdn Bhd (KPS) is one company that sells these indigenous herbs, which are also found in Sabah.

They are sold at local pharmacies and retailers, and through the Internet to foreign markets. KPS is a joint venture company involving the Sabah Institute for Small and Medium Enterprises, a private sector group, and Creative Business Services Sdn Bhd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Institute for Development Studies Sabah.

They started selling six locally-produced natural products — mengkudu juice, capsules and hair and body shampoo as well as pegaga tea and pegaga and tongkat ali capsules — five years ago.

Although the company suffered setbacks due to the global economic downturn and the Iraq invasion, business is picking up.

"We are getting orders from the United States, Scotland, Middle East, Australia and South Korea.

"We cannot afford advertising or marketing campaigns, so we rely on retailers, pharmacies and the Internet to promote our business," said KPS general manager Mary Sintoh. She said the company planned to diversify its products by taking advantage of the State's abundant resources.

According to her, the herbs are taken from the wild in Sabah, while those in Peninsula Malaysia are mostly cultivated.

The products are available in 31 retail outlets in Sabah and Peninsular Malaysia.

Prices range from about RM12 for hair and body shampoo and teabags to about RM40 for a bottle of pegaga capsules and mengkudu juice.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Malaysians losing virginity at 19

KUALA LUMPUR: Nineteen years, three months and 18 days – that is the average age Malaysians are losing their virginity today, according to the 2004 Durex Global Sex Survey.

This could be considered “old” when compared to the global average of 17.7 years, but according to the survey, Malaysians start engaging in sexual intercourse at a younger age of 19.3 years compared to the average age of 20 in 2001.

The Icelanders are the youngest (15.7 years) to start having sex compared to other nationalities while the Vietnamese are the most patient (19.8 years).

Out of the 8,202 Malaysian respondents to the online survey, those below 20 even claimed that the average age when they first started “doing it” was 17 years.

Despite this trend however, Malaysians are among the oldest to receive sex education at 14.5 years together with the Indians (15 years) and the Vietnamese (15.4). The Germans, at 11.3 years old, are the youngest to be taught about “the bird and the bees.”

Some 30% of Malaysian respondents even claimed that they have never had any formal sex education.

While 69% of Malaysian respondents were concerned about HIV/AIDS and another 22% about unplanned pregnancy, more than a third (35%) of them, as well as those in the rest of the world, admitted to having had unprotected sex without knowing their partner's sexual history.

Most Malaysian respondents felt that parents and guardians (49%) and schools (30%) should be responsible for teaching sex education.

SSL Healthcare Malaysia (the manufacturer of Durex condoms) managing director Tim Evans said the increase in the number of Malaysian respondents from 5,645 last year to 8,202 this year showed that people were increasingly willing to talk about sexual issues and their particular likes and dislikes since the survey was done online. More than 350,000 people from 41 countries took part in what is reputed to be the world's largest survey of sexual attitudes and behaviour.

According to the survey, the French are having the most sex (137 times a year) while the Japanese are the least sexually active (46 times a year). In this respect, Malaysians are not doing too badly at 86 times a year compared with the global average of 103 times.

The survey also revealed that a woman's breasts (30%) were the biggest turn-on for men followed by a toned body (15%), her attitude and face (9% each), a nice bottom (7%) and beautiful legs (7%).

Women on the other hand were more charmed by a man's attitude (17%), followed by his eyes (14%), a toned body and chest (13% each), a good sense of humour (10%) and a nice smile (9%).
Action on firm duping public on health

Kuala Lumpur: Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek on Tuesday exposed a health product firm said to have deceived its customers.

The Bursa Malaysia-listed company had promoted the product, saying that it could improve blood circulation and strengthen the heart.

“Throughout my involvement in the medical profession, I’ve not come across a device that can strengthen the heart of a person,” he told reporters after opening a anti-smoking forum, here.

Dr Chua, however, declined to disclose the company’s name, saying it was listed on Bursa Malaysia only recently.

He said his Ministry was studying the form of action to be taken against the company which had reaped millions in profits every year from the sale of health products.

Dr Chua reminded the public not to be easily swayed by advertisements of health products and medicines on television, newspapers and the Internet.

He advised them to buy only government-sanctioned health products. - Bernama

Monday, October 11, 2004

Ministry slams private hospitals for overcharging

PENANG: Some private hospitals are believed to have overcharged their patients for transfusion of blood obtained at a lower fee or for free from government hospitals, Health Ministry parliamentary secretary Lee Kah Choon said.

“I am not accusing any party but only urging private hospitals not to overcharge patients for transfusion of blood obtained from government hospitals and make a profit out of it,” he said.

He said some private hospitals asked for blood supply from government hospitals that either charged RM80 a unit or did not charge, depending on the cases.

The RM80, he said, was the cost of screening blood donated by volunteers.

He said private hospitals should only charge the amount paid to the government hospitals upon obtaining the blood supply.

“If they received the blood for free from the government hospitals, the fee on blood supply should not be included in the patients’ bills,” he said after launching a blood donation campaign organised by the Hui Yin Sen society at the Prangin Mall yesterday.

“We don’t want patients complaining that they were charged RM200 for blood transfusion, when the amount actually included other services as well,” Lee said.

He added that private hospitals should give details of charges in the bills issued to patients.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Unlicensed 'Hospital' raided

The signboard reads ‘Chinese Acupuncture Treatment Centre’ but it is a different scene inside.

The acupuncture centre is actually a 12-bed hospital complete with a treatment room and a laboratory.

The centre, which is on the first floor of a three-storey building in Jalan 2/116D, off Jalan Kuchai Lama, was raided by the Federal Territory Health Department yesterday morning.

When the raiding party entered the premises, there were two patients being treated - one was on intravenous drips, while the other was seated on a bed.

There were a doctor and a nurse in the centre. Checks revealed that the doctor is a Chinese national who is not registered with the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC).

Enforcement officers from the department's pharmaceutical services division found that the centre is actually an unlicensed hospital.

The division's principal assistant director Ahmad Nozrin Taharin said the premises is not licensed as a hospital.

"Moreover, the doctor on duty is not registered with the MMC," he said.

Checks revealed that the doctor is from Beijing, China, and that most of the medicines prescribed were also from China.

The enforcement officers seized an assortment of medicines and 200 syringes.

In the midst of the raid, the owner of the centre, who is a certified doctor, arrived at the scene.

He was questioned by the enforcement officers.

The Malay Mail learnt that the centre had been kept under surveillance for about a month before the enforcers moved in yesterday morning.

"We are still investigating. All their records are in Chinese and we will have to get someone to translate them," Ahmad Nozrin said.

The owner is expected to be charged with selling drugs without a licence.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Seremban Hospital bags top award

PETALING JAYA: Seremban Hospital gained international recognition when it was named the winner of the “Governance or Social Responsibility” category of the 2004 Asian Hospital Management Awards held in Bangkok, Thailand yesterday.

The award was one of eight that went up for grabs, which included categories like customer service, human resource and development, quality medical care, patient safety, information technology and e-commerce, technical services and marketing and brand management.

Asian Hospital Federation (AHF) president Datuk Dr Ridzwan Bakar said in a statement that the award won by Seremban Hospital was for an undertaking that made a difference in the improvement of corporate governance or in responsible leadership, including that of healthcare in the community.

He said Seremban Hospital’s “Volunteer Service Programme” received praises from the panel of judges as it had illustrated that it was possible to present such an initiative at minimal expenditure in today’s landscape of ever increasing costs, utilising a comprehensive pool of volunteers.

A total of 165 entries from 11 countries had been received for the eight categories.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Tuberculosis on the rise among HIV patients

PENANG: Six per cent of the total number of tuberculosis (TB) cases in Malaysia involved HIV patients and the number is increasing yearly.

Health Ministry Disease Control (Infectious Diseases) Division deputy director Dr Nirmal Singh also said that if a person suffering from HIV was exposed to TB, he would show signs of TB earlier compared to a person free from HIV.

“Most of us were exposed to TB when we were younger and the germs were then locked up somewhere in our body as our good health prevented it from affecting us.

“But when we got older and if our health begins to get worse, then we might start showing signs of TB,” he said.

He said this after the launching of a two-day national TB symposium by Health Ministry parliamentary secretary Lee Kah Choon at a hotel here yesterday.

Lee said the number of TB cases nationwide have increased to 15,912 last year compared to 14,830 cases in 2002.

He said the increase was due to the change in the TB reporting system introduced last year, which resulted in more cases being reported.

The symposium was jointly organised by Universiti Sains Malaysia’s School of Pharmaceutical Science’s TB Research Group and National Poison Centre and the ministry.
Event to promote healthy lifestyle

KUALA LUMPUR: Women of all ages will have the opportunity to get expert advice on health, undergo free health screening and have fun at an inaugural programme of the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry.

The three-day event, entitled Women: Health and Lifestyle 2004, will be held at the Putra World Trade Centre beginning Friday.

Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil said the event was a new initiative by the ministry and the private sector to promote innovative lifestyle for women towards a healthier way of life.

The event, co-organised by Pantai Medical Centre and F & R Exhibition and Conference Sdn Bhd, will be launched by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

More than 30 local and foreign medical experts will be talking on various issues at the event.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Dr M: Set up rapid response centres to check diseases

PETALING JAYA: Special centres should be set up internationally to rapidly identify diseases so as to avert pandemics, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said.

With today’s speed of travel, a carrier of an infectious disease could travel halfway around the world before symptoms appeared.

“The centres should consist of well-equipped laboratories owned, financed and operated by the international community, manned by competent personnel drawn from all over the world,” the former prime minister said during the 5th Asia Pacific Travel Health Conference at a hotel here yesterday.

Dr Mahathir was delivering a keynote address at the conference entitled Travel Health: View of a Statesman.

Since poor countries where new diseases were most likely to appear would not be able to set up and man the centres, he said the project should be shouldered by an international organisation like the United Nations and financed proportionately by all countries.

“If an epidemic breaks out, all countries will suffer. Since travelling costs money, people in the rich countries are likely to suffer first because they are the ones who travel most.”

Dr Mahathir said inadequate measures in dealing with the spread of diseases associated with travel were also another reason why such centres were necessary.

Citing an example, he said quarantine measures were not foolproof and even put uninfected persons at risk when they are isolated together with those infected.

Dr Mahathir said the centres must be stocked with the best equipment and the best method of vaccine production that are not subject to any intellectual property issues.

In addition, he said medical teams must always wear protective suits and should have special diagnostic kits to enable immediate tests to be carried out.

“Systems and drills should be developed to minimise the risk of infection. The samples must be quickly sent to the nearest centre where laboratory examinations can be carried out.”

Dr Mahathir said that although the cost involved in setting up the centres would be high, the money would be well spent, as it was only a fraction of what weapons development and production cost.

In the end, he said it would be cheaper than handling a pandemic.

Tobacco-related deaths to climb

PETALING JAYA: The number of deaths yearly due to smoking will triple over the next three decades to 30,000 by 2030.

Health Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Mohamad Taha Arif said about 10,000 Malaysians die each year now as a result of smoking.

“There are about five million smokers in Malaysia, each smoking an average of 14 cigarettes a day. Half of these smokers will eventually be killed by tobacco,” he said.

He said this in his foreword to the Clinical Practical Guidelines on Treatment of Tobacco Smoking and Dependence 2003, published by the ministry's Disease Control Division and the Academy of Medicine.

Dr Mohamad Taha said while tobacco consumption was dropping in developed countries, it was on the rise in developing countries, including Malaysia, because of higher population growth.

“The prevalence of smokers among Malaysians aged 15 years and above had increased from 21% in 1985 to 31% in 2000,” he said.

Noting that it was difficult to quit smoking, Dr Mohamad Taha said healthcare professionals could also playing an active role in helping smokers break the habit.

“Among the current smokers, about 43% have attempted to quit on their own, but failed to do so,” he said.

However, he said, studies had found that a few minutes of firm advice from doctors, supported by educational materials and follow-ups, had helped smokers to quit.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Chua: 260 schools get notices during anti-dengue checks

TAIPING: About 4% or 260 schools are among 6,522 premises issued with notices during anti-dengue checks carried out throughout the country this year, said Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek.

He said the notices, asking them to clean up their premises, were among the actions taken by the health authorities to prevent dengue fever.

“We are disappointed that schools are not taking the matter seriously as they should set good examples,” he said during a visit to the Taiping Hospital here on Friday.

Dr Chua said up to Sept 25, about two million premises were inspected by the health authorities where 6,522 notices were issued on premises, 10,472 premises were issued with compounds and 45 people taken to court.

“Two premises were closed down (for failing to take remedial action),” he said.

He said dengue fever should be seriously viewed by the people as it had become an endemic disease.

Annually, between 30 and 60 people died from dengue fever, he said.

He said Perak was among the “top” states afflicted by it, recording eight deaths from haemorrhagic dengue fever.

“Two of the eight deaths were recorded in Taiping this year,” he said.

From the checks, it was discovered that most of the breeding grounds were at abandoned projects, empty space, factories and schools.

“People tend to blame the Government for the spread of dengue but they must also play their roles by ensuring that their compounds, houses and their surroundings are free of breeding grounds for the aedes mosquitoes,” Dr Chua said.

Earlier, the minister was briefed on the various development projects taking shape at the Taiping Hospital.
New way to fight drug menace

KUALA LUMPUR: Increased enforcement is among factors contributing to a 16% jump in the number of drug addicts in the country, Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said.

He said the number of addicts last year was 36,996 compared with 31,893 in 2002, adding that this was a big increase compared with the rise of 1% from 2001 to 2002.

“This increased enforcement is part of the government’s new approach against the drug menace.

“Enforcement agencies have embarked on a nationwide operation to nab drug addicts, pushers and dealers, while public awareness programmes are being enhanced for students, women’s groups, community leaders, youth organisations and religious bodies,” he said.

Dr Chua said this in a speech, delivered by Public Health deputy director-general Datuk Dr Shafie Ooyub, at the opening of the First National Conference on Addiction Medicine (NatCAM) yesterday.

Federation of Private Medical Practitioners Associations Malaysia Dr Steven Chow said that during heightened enforcement, with active case-finding activities, new cases were bound to be found.

“But this does not mean that the high number of addicts did not exist before, it can be a case of underreporting,'' he said.

Dr Chua also said the Government was concerned with the fact that 70% of the addicts detected last year were young adults aged between 20 and 29, people who ought to be economically and socially most productive.

He said heroin accounted for the most frequently used drug, followed by morphine, ganja and metamphetamine.

Dr Chow, who is also NatCAM organising chairman, said early intervention was one of the solutions to tackle the rising scourge of drug abuse.

He said parents were given education on how to spot signs of their children being involved in drug abuse.
Specialists in turning around hospitals in the red

CHRISTOPHER Yap, 43, is willing to take a clever challenge with any hospital owner or management. “Let us, Health Solutions (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd, review your hospital operations and business process and we can turn it around and make 25% more in profit for the hospital.”

For hospital managers whose operations are running at a loss, Yap's offer is a difficult one to refuse because his pitch is: “If we do not make profits for you, then the following year's service is on the house.”

He is serious because his company has turned around two hospitals in the Philippines from the red into black within a year.

According to Yap, in November 2000, as principal consultant of Health Solutions, he did a business review of Fatima Medical Centre in the Philippines, which had been operating in the red for the past eight years.

The study, which he did with his colleagues at Health Solutions, took five months.

“We did a total review of all the business process operations, which included its marketing, pharmacy, radiology and housekeeping. Following the review, we identified the necessary changes and saw a 25% increase in hospital revenue,” Yap said.

Another feather in the cap for this international Malaysian company is turning around De Los Santos Medical Centre, also in the Philippines, said Yap, who sees the mission of the healthcare industry as planning and delivering excellence in its service.

Health Solutions Group accomplished a major milestone last month when it launched the first of its chain of eight Family Care International Clinics in Ho Chi Minh City. This launch also marked its maiden entry into the Vietnamese market.

Yap said the centre would provide curative medicine for children and adults, primary first aid, medical investigations, employment medical checks, immunisation, preventive medicine, occupational health, rehabilitation and other specialist services.

He said he is able to make profits for hospitals by using innovative and highly competent professional management techniques learnt from his 15 years of experience in sales, operations, financial and administrative work in a wide spectrum of industries primarily in the Asia-Pacific region.

Yap does this by first creating the vision and mission to achieve profitability. He then goes about establishing systems and procedures that consistently result in significantly increasing efficiency, control and profitability.

Health Solutions Group is entrenched in many parts of the Asia-Pacific, he said. It offers multifaceted, value-added consulting services in project management, medical planning, medical equipment planning, IT consultancy, specialised healthcare consultancy and operational management.

The group’s more recent forays include long-term operational management contracts with hospitals in Australia and Philippines, and a joint venture with one of the largest industrial groups in China.

“The fact that people at Health Solutions are made up of Malaysians speaks volumes of the professionalism, experience and international expertise these Malaysians possess. They would be of great service to the country and the Malaysian public and private sector healthcare industry,” said Yap.

In Malaysia, it built the Slim River District Hospital with a consortium, and another hospital in Setiu, Terengganu.
Anti-arthritis drug Vioxx withdrawn from market

PETALING JAYA: Popular anti-arthritis drug Vioxx has been immediately withdrawn from the market by its pharmaceutical company Merck and Company because of increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

Its principal in Malaysia, Merck Sharp and Dohme Sdn Bhd, has taken steps to recall the drug, including notifying the Health Ministry’s Drug Control Agency yesterday morning after receiving instructions from its parent company in the United States.

“Patients currently on Vioxx should consult their doctor to seek advice on alternative treatments,” she said.

She said patients should also return any unused tablets to where they bought them and full refunds would be given.

A toll-free service line at 1-800-38-1202 has been set up and those who had questions could call between 9am and 6pm until Oct 8, she said.

She added that information could also be obtained from and

Malaysian Society of Rheumatology president Dr Yeap Swan Sim said Vioxx was a popular drug for people suffering from various kinds of arthritis.

However, she said it was almost impossible to determine the number of patients in Malaysia who were using it.

“I don’t think there should be a problem arising from it being withdrawn as it is the kind of drug which a patient can stop taking immediately,” she said.

Dr Yeap also said there were alternatives in the market and urged patients to see their doctors to get proper advice on this.

She added that Vioxx was not only used for arthritis but also migraine and menstrual pains.

On the risks which brought about the drug’s withdrawal, she said she was not aware of any incidents of heart attack or stroke in Malaysia resulting from taking the drug.

A fact sheet by Merck said the decision to withdraw Vioxx was based on a new three-year study to evaluate the efficacy of Vioxx 25mg in preventing the recurrence of colorectal polyps.

“In this study, there was an increased relative risk for confirmed cardiovascular events, such as heart attack and stroke,” it said.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Ministry plans mental health module

IPOH: The Health Ministry is formulating a module emphasising the promotion, early diagnosis, rehabilitation and treatment of the increasing number of people with mental problems.

Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said the module would give the Government a clearer direction in the development of the mental health programme.

A study conducted eight years ago showed that 10.7% of Malaysian adults suffered some form of mental problems.

The problem was prevalent among people aged 50 and above, with Indians topping the list followed by the Chinese and Malays.

“What we are more worried about is that those affected are mostly single mothers and divorcees.

“We hope to have a module that will outline the appropriate strategies, objectives and activities to address the problem in future,” he told reporters after opening the Fifth Perak Mental Health Convention at a hotel here yesterday.

Dr Chua said the National Mental Health Committee, headed by the ministry’s director-general, had been tasked with formulating the module.

He said the ministry would strengthen and consolidate the psychiatric and community mental health services in all government hospitals and health clinics in dealing with the problem.

“We are looking at setting up halfway homes for the mentally ill to help them over the period between full institutional care and their discharge,” he said.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Health dept contacts doc who wants to help govt

SHAH ALAM: The Selangor State Health Department has contacted private practitioner Dr K. Balachandran to advise him how he can serve part-time in government hospitals and clinics.

At the same time, the department said it regretted the inconvenience faced by the doctor who claimed to have been given the runaround by various government agencies and associations when he wanted to respond to the Health Ministry’s call to serve part-time in government hospitals.

State health director Dr Ang Kim Teng said Dr Balachandran’s difficulty in registering for the service announced by the ministry last month was due to “miscommunication and failure to contact the unit concerned on the service.”

Dr Ang said this in response to a report in The Star last Wednesday that the private doctor was facing difficulty in offering his services to help ease the shortage of doctors in government hospitals.

Dr Balachandran claimed that there was a lack of information on the scheme despite contacting the state health department, the Klang district health department, the Health Ministry as well as the Malaysian Medical Council and the Malaysian Medical Association.

Dr Ang said the department got in touch with Dr Balachandran and forwarded to him a copy of the ministry’s guidelines on “Utilisation of Private Doctor Service in Health Clinics”.

“We thank Dr Balachandran for offering his services and we shall be pleased to process his application as soon as we receive it,” Dr Ang said.

The guideline which contains relevant details pertaining to the scheme is also available on the ministry’s website at