Monday, February 28, 2005

Medical tourism boost

Private hospitals in the country raked in a whopping RM56 million from medical tourism in the first nine months of last year.
However, the figure could be much higher as some hospitals do not disclose their income from medical tourism though they are encouraged to do so by the Health Ministry, according to its parliamentary secretary, Lee Kah Choon.
There are 35 private hospitals involved in the promotion of health tourism with 14 of them having obtained the MS ISO 9001 accreditation. Another six have been awarded the Malaysia Standard Quality Hospital certification.
Seeing the potential in this field for hospitals as well as the nation, the Health Ministry is soon to set up a Malaysia Health Tourism Promotion Council, a corporatised body with highly specialised staff to promote Malaysia as a centre of excellence in medical tourism.
Lee said: "In order to promote medical tourism in a more active and co-ordinated manner, we need to set up the council with full-time staff to solely handle medical health promotions."
It is learnt that 80 per cent of the groundwork for the formation of the council has been completed and the staff appointed. An official announcement is expected anytime now.
At present, the National Health Tourism Promotion committee, headed by the Health Ministry's Director-General, Tan Sri Dr Mohd Taha Arif, handles all matters pertaining to health tourism with the assistance of five sub-committees to handle promotion, advertising, tax incentives, accreditation and fees.
Lee said the council hoped to enlist the support of the Association of Private Hospitals of Malaysia (APHM) in obtaining details on the number of foreigners seeking treatment at their hospitals and the revenue derived to help it plan its projects and programmes to further boost medical tourism.
IJN seeks to attract more foreign patients

Institut Jantung Negara (IJN) plans to expand its role in medical tourism by attracting more than the average of 2,300 foreigners who come to it annually for a variety of procedures.
Its chief executive officer, Mohd Radzif Mohd Yunus (picture), said a concerted effort would be made over the next few years to attract foreigners to the comprehensive facilities and treatment at the hospital.
"We want to go into medical tourism (in a bigger way). We want to raise the number of foreign patients from three to five per cent of our total patient load."
He said IJN wanted to support the Government's proposal to woo foreigners to Malaysia for medical treatment.
"Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi wants to see an increase in medical tourism. The market is huge and we can tap it."
He said Thailand had made substantial gains in the field.
Radzif said most foreigners came to know of IJN through "word of mouth". Some foreign patients came to know of IJN through foreign doctors who had been on attachment as fellows at the hospital.
Nearly 80 per cent of patients are government servants. The majority of the rest are private Malaysian patients.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Specialised training for teaching the disabled

The Education Ministry plans to introduce specialised training so that teachers will be qualified to teach and deal with those with specific disabilities.
Dr Haniz Ibrahim (picture), planning and research director at the Education Ministry's Special Education Department, said currently the teachers are trained on very general terms.
"They are trained to teach those with Down Syndrome and other learning disabilities, but it's not specific.
"Now we want to train them on specific areas so they would understand the different types of disabilities," he said.
Speaking to reporters after the launch of a seminar organised by the Bar Council, he said the ministry was currently training 200 teachers to become experts in specific disabilities.
Umno helps Penang Hospital overcome blood shortage

PENANG Umno’s Complaints Bureau will be organising blood donation campaigns in the State once every three months to help the Penang Hospital’s blood bank overcome its shortage.
Yesterday, the bureau conducted a campaign from 8am to noon at the Robina Park Recreation area in Teluk Air Tawar near Butterworth, and collected about 40 pints of blood from donors.
Bureau chief Azlina Mehtab Mohd Ishaq, who is also the Penang State Puteri Umno chief, said: “The public’s response has been very good and we will carry out similar campaigns once every three months.”
Azlina said the campaign was carried out with the help of 20 medical staff from the Seberang Jaya Hospital and Butterworth Health Clinic led by Dr Teoh Kean Hooi.
“The blood level at the Penang Hospital’s blood bank has apparently reached a critical level and we are glad to help boost their supply,” said Azlina.
Health Ministry Urged To Issue Guidelines On Health Care For City Folk

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 27 (Bernama) -- The Health Ministry has been urged to issue guidelines on health care for city folk if the air quality index in the Klang Valley deteriorates.
The guidelines were important to ensure the good health of the residents, Deputy Federal Territories Minister Datuk Zulhasnan Rafique said Sunday.
"If the air quality drops to a fretful level, we want the Health Ministry to give views and encouragement to the rakyat to do something so that the rakyat are healthy," he told reporters after opening a seminar organised by the Setiawangsa Umno division, here.
The air quality in the Klang Valley has registered an unhealthy level since last Friday.
Drink a lot and stay out of heat

JOHOR BARU: Drink lots of water and refrain from working under the heat for a long period – these are some of the tips for those in the high-risk group of getting heat-related illnesses during the current dry spell.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said farmers, labourers, athletes, fishermen, and those below the age of five and above 40 were prone to contracting illnesses resulting from the hot weather.
Those suffering from hypertension, diabetes and asthma should also take extra care under the present condition, he said after attending Johor MCA Youth Chinese New Year dinner on Friday night.
They were advised to drink more than six glasses of water a day, take frequent rest and avoid working under the heat for a long period.
If the air quality reached very unhealthy levels, he said people should limit their outdoor activities, stop smoking and wear a mask.
“It can cause heat rash and in certain cases affect one's concentration. One can also get heat cramps and exhaustion followed by heat stroke,” he said.
“If our body temperature is too high it can affect our organs especially the brain, heart, kidneys, and in some cases, it can lead to death,” he added.
Dr Chua said the mortality rate was between 20% and 50% for those suffering from heat exhaustion and if they failed to obtain treatment, they could go into convulsions.
He also noted that accidents in factories could increase because workers could get tired easily.

He said studies also revealed that those below the age of five and above 40 were 10 times more susceptible than others in getting heat-related illnesses.

At a press conference in Kuala Lumpur yesterday, Dr Chua revealed that the number of patients who suffered from asthma, respiratory problems and conjunctivitis had tripled from last December to January.

He said a ministry's survey showed 4,297 people, mostly children, visited the clinics in Port Klang last month compared with 1,412 in December.

“A ministry's survey shows cases of respiratory tract infection have increased from 419 last December to 1,322 cases this January while the survey shows an increase of 92 asthma cases to 124 while conjunctivitis cases have increased from seven to 32,'' he added.
Aussie Surgeons To Teach In M'sia

MELBOURNE, Feb 26 (Bernama) -- South Australian craniofacial surgeons will help train doctors in Malaysia as part of a new research and teaching programme.
Prof David David from the Adelaide-based Australian Craniofacial Institute will finalise the arrangements with Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) in Penang.
Under the memorandum of understanding, the institute will provide clinical support, education and training on the treatment of patients with craniofacial disorders to the medical team and students at its university hospital in Kubang Kerian, Kota Baharu.
Both organisations will also undertake collaborative research on Malaysian patients with craniofacial disorders.
The agreement consolidated Adelaide's reputation as a centre of excellence, Prof David told the Australian Associated Press (APP).

"I firmly believe that we should be spreading this knowledge to our neighbours and I am very pleased that this agreement is now being formalised," he said.

"We have been working with the university informally over the past four years and I believe we have all benefited from the sharing of information and knowledge," he added.


Saturday, February 26, 2005

Hospital for rehabilitative care

The Government will build a hospital for rehabilitative care for patients suffering from chronic illnesses and those requiring long-term care.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said the hospital, to be built under the Ninth Malaysia Plan, would be in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur.
"Taking into account the higher life expectancy in the country, which leads to a higher incidence of chronic diseases and also the higher number of road accidents, there is a need for such a hospital," he said after visiting the Columbia Asia Medical Centre in the Oakland Commercial Centre here today.
The country does not have a designated hospital for patients recovering from illnesses such as stroke or car accidents, which needs specialised care over a longer period of time.
Dr Chua said keeping these patients in normal hospitals for emergency care would be costly.
The Cheras Hospital will also become a training centre to equip staff with skills in dealing with rehabilitative care.
Besides the rehabilitative hospital, the Government is also expected to set up more smaller hospitals with 20 to 30 beds in low density areas such as the rural areas of Sabah and Sarawak, Pahang, Kelantan and Terengganu.
These hospitals would be tailored to the needs of the community.
The ministry will also set up a daycare centre in each State which will enable patients to come in for treatment and leave by the end of the day.
Malaysia takes steps to stem tobacco use

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Next month's Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix will be the last time cigarette companies will be able to use the romance of racing to sell their tobacco products in Malaysia.
Health activists here can at least in part thank the World Health Organization's treaty on tobacco control, which goes into effect Sunday in 40 countries, for prompting the new limits on advertising.
Malaysia is joining a growing list of nations that severely restrict tobacco sponsorship of sporting events - long a favorite publicity playground of cigarette sellers - for public health reasons.
The new anti-tobacco rules are among a slew of steps Malaysia is taking to ban promotion of cigarettes and other products as it prepares to join the WHO treaty.
About 3.6 million of Malaysia's 25 million people are smokers, and nearly half of adult men light up regularly, according to Health Ministry statistics. About 10,000 people die every year from smoking-related ailments.
"The burden of disease and the economic loss borne by the government all this while was tremendous," Health Minister Chua Soi Lek said. "If the situation is allowed to continue it will only grow worse in the near future. We must act."
A ban on most cigarette advertisements has been in place for years, but point-of-sale advertising at neighborhood coffee shops, grocery stores and supermarkets was allowed.
These ads, along with sponsorship of events such as auto racing that Malaysia hosts every year, will become illegal June 1 under amendments to the law approved by parliament in September.
Also, shops won't be allowed to sell smaller packs or single sticks of cigarettes, sales that authorities say make cigarettes affordable for teenagers.
Still, activists say Malaysia has done too little to control tobacco.
In neighboring Singapore and Thailand, some cigarette packs carry images of diseased wombs and rotting brain and heart, with slogans like "Tobacco Smoke can Kill Babies" or "Smoking Harms your Family." Nothing like that exists in Malaysia.
"The efforts against smoking is not achieving much," said Mohamed Idris of the Consumers Association of Penang. "The smoking habit is being successfully promoted and new smokers are being recruited everyday."
Idris and other activists here want a complete ban on tobacco products. No way, says the government, aware of the tax revenue the industry fetches.
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi raised taxes on cigarettes by 40 percent in his 2005 budget. The government also has launched a $26 million anti-smoking campaign.
Anti-tobacco activists say the government should also close tobacco farms - a government-supported business in some Malaysian states.
"It is ridiculous to see the health ministry fighting against tobacco while other ministries in the government encourage tobacco planting," said Idris.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Closure for schools with HFM cases

Schools and kindergartens affected by the hand, foot and mouth disease will be closed temporarily to enable health authorities to conduct remedial measures to contain the virus.
Health Ministry Disease Control Division director Dr Ramlee Rahmat said the move was necessary to prevent the disease from reaching epidemic proportions.
According to the ministry, 412 HFM cases were reported nationwide till Saturday.
Dr Ramlee said Penang had 309 cases, followed by Kedah (24), Pahang and Perak (15 each), Selangor (13) and Johor and Malacca (12 each).
“The virus is contagious. So, parents must monitor their children and send them to clinics if they suspect any symptoms of the ailment,” he said.
Dr Ramlee said the virus could be transmitted by air, saliva and personal contact.
Among the symptoms are high fever, rashes, ulcers and blisters. – Bernama
DENGUE: Only eight premises closed

Only eight premises have been closed out of scores found with mosquito-breeding grounds nationwide in the month since the Government declared an all-out war against dengue.
Enforcement teams have continued to be lenient to owners of construction sites and factories, but that will have to change, Health Ministry's Communicable Disease Control Division director Dr Ramlee Rahmat said.
With the end of the dengue outbreak not yet in sight, enforcement teams have been told to go after repeat offenders.
All state and district health officers and local authorities have been directed to issue stop-work orders and close these premises, he said today.
"Dengue cases are rising and people are dying because of their lackadaisical attitude," Dr Ramlee said.
Send kids with HFM symptoms to hospital

Children who show symptoms of Hand-Foot-Mouth (HFM) disease such as fever and rashes that become blisters on the feet and hands should immediately be sent to the hospital to avert a major outbreak.
The other symptoms to look out for are lethargy, loss of appetite, muscle ache, flu- like symptoms and upper respiratory infection; vomiting; diarrhoea; rashes, blisters and ulcers in the mouth; and neurological symptoms like headache, stiff neck, weakness of limbs, loss of consciousness and coma.
Health Ministry's Communicable Disease Control Division director Dr Ramlee Rahmat issued this advice to parents following an increasing trend in the number of HFM cases reported nationwide.
"Outbreaks could have been averted if parents were alert to their children's illnesses. Many do not seek medical help until complications linked to the disease set in," he said.
He said the HFM disease usually affected children below five years but it could also strike older children and adults.
The symptoms appear three to six days after the virus infection and patients may feel unwell for a day.
HIV test for Muslim couples in Perak, too

IPOH: Perak will make it mandatory for Muslim couples to undergo a HIV test before their marriage – the third state to do so.
Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Tajol Rosli Ghazali said this was decided at the state Religious Council meeting chaired by Raja Muda of Perak Raja Nazrin Shah here.
The meeting has in principle agreed to make it mandatory for Muslim couples to undergo testing to help prevent the spread of the deadly virus and AIDS.
Tajol Rosli said the HIV test would be incorporated into the Perak Muslim Marriage and Divorce Enactment.
Johor and Perlis had made a similar decision earlier this year.
Tajol Rosli, however, said the enforcement date of the new ruling would be announced after the state legal adviser and religious department completed their studies on legal implications.
He said the study, among other things, would look into the methods used by other states to ensure the implementation would be standardised.
“Like other states, couples who test positive for HIV will not be barred from getting married if they still insist on doing so.
“In such cases, the bride and bridegroom need to attend counselling sessions and the families of both sides will be notified,” he told reporters after attending the state Religious Council meeting yesterday.
Tajol Rosli said besides the HIV test, the other prerequisite imposed by the council was the premarital courses.
He said that the state Religious Department would be sending all its 200 part-time enforcement officers to undergo special training from next month.
“The training is to ensure our religious enforcement officers act within their jurisdiction when carrying out their duties to prevent any controversy,'' he said.
Four more government hospitals to get MRI scanners

Four more government hospitals – in Malacca, Seremban, Kota Baru and Kota Kinabalu – will be equipped with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines by this year, bringing the total to 17.
MRI is a special technique which gives images of internal structures of the body.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said that at present private hospitals had 36 scanners while university hospitals had three.
“Although the number of MRI scanners in government hospitals is considerably lower than in the private sector, they are well distributed,” he said in his speech read out at the launch of Assunta Hospital’s MRI Centre here yesterday.
His speech was read out by Deputy Director-General of Health Datuk Dr Abdul Gani Mohamed Din.
Dr Chua said there was a concentration of MRI facilities in the Klang Valley, where 23 of the total of 52 scanners were located.
He said this gave the Klang Valley a ratio of six to seven scanners per million people, compared with three to 3.5 scanners per million in other areas.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Forced HIV test can be bad

Forcing couples to take pre-marriage HIV/AIDS tests might create a false sense of security should the results turn out negative, said an AIDS awareness group.
Instead, Community AIDS Service Penang Dr Ismail Baba said the couples should be encouraged to undergo the tests themselves and those tested positive be given counselling.
He said there was the possibility that the test results could turn out negative during the “window period”.
“Although the result is negative, the infected person is still able to pass on the virus to his or her partner,” he said.
Dr Ismail was responding to reports quoting Perlis Regent Tuanku Syed Faizuddin Putra Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Jamalullail as saying that the Perlis religious council should compel all Muslims planning marriage to take the HIV test to combat the rise of HIV/AIDS.
Puteri Umno chief Noraini Ahmad had said that the proposal should have been implemented when it was first suggested several years ago to make sure that there were fewer cases of children being born with HIV/AIDS.
Dr Ismail said there were no stopping the couples from getting married in another state or country.
He said policy-makers should have the right information on HIV/AIDS before such laws were implemented.
“If the virus is passed to a woman, she has a 30% chance of infecting her baby during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding.
“This chance of transmitting the virus to the baby could be further reduced to 15% if the mother is treated with medication,” he said.
He said people should also have easy access to HIV testing, through NGOs.
“The test should be easily accessible to the people to encourage them to take the tests,” he said.
Abdullah Says Drug Addiction Problem At Dangerous Level

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the drug addiction problem in the country has reached a dangerous level.
A total of 274,923 drug addicts were detected from 1998 to January this year, he said Wednesday night.
In view of this, Abdullah, who is Internal Security Minister, urged young people caught in the destructive lifestyle to value themselves and their families so that they could draw back from the edge and start a new life.
"I believe drug is a big danger to our country and has triggered a dangerous situation in the country. So, my hope for the young is to appreciate yourselves.
"If you do not want to love others, at least love yourselves...take care of your body to be healthy as a healthy and fit body will bring happiness," he said when launching the "Enam Jahaman" (Six Hells) Carnival at Jalan Masjid India here.
The six-day carnival is aimed at battling six types of deadly drugs in the country -- heroin, morphine, syabu, ecstacy, ganja and opium -- and building awareness that drug abuse is the country's number one enemy.
Japan-based Malaysian scientist makes medical history

A Malaysian scientist in Japan Dr Ishwar S. Parhar has made a discovery that will alter the course of future treatment for infertility and brain diseases including cancer.
Japan Nippon Medical School’s Molecular Neuroendocrinology Unit director Dr Ishwar said he and his team had identified and found ways to isolate receptors that played a role in sexual development and growth of normal and cancerous cells.
“The discovery of receptors has opened new doors for the pharmaceutical industry.
“They can now set new targets for drug development for clinical problems related to reproduction and cancerous cell growth,” he said in an e-mail interview from Japan.
Dr Ishwar and his team of researchers have developed an innovative marker-tagged laser technique to isolate single neurons.
Nursing unit needed to address the problem

The nursing profession needs an overhaul and the nurses want to accomplish this by themselves.
The Malaysian Nurses Association (MNA) acknowledged that the quality and service of nursing at Government hospitals have declined over the last 15 years.
To arrest this, the MNA wants a nursing division set up within the Health Ministry to look after matters related to the profession.
MNA president Dayang Annie Abang Narudin said yesterday that setting up a division in the Health Ministry was among several proposals they had made in 1996.
She said two years ago, the Public Service Department invited the association for discussions on the matter but nothing materialised.
“We are still fighting for it although we have been promised it would receive due attention over the years. Nothing has materialised so far,” she said.
Among other proposals the MNA had made were that a local degree programme be offered for nursing, attractive perks be introduced for those in supervisory positions, and that more opportunities be made available in the supervisory and management level.
She attributed the drop in standards to the training programme at nursing colleges.
“For instance, more than 10 years ago, there used to be two batches of student nurses, numbering between 30 and 40 a year, undergoing training from a few tutors.
“Now, there are more than 100 in a batch under the same number of tutors who are trained in teaching and not specifically in nursing.
“Therefore, the quality of tutoring should be addressed too,” she said.
Dayang Annie said the ideal ratio should be one tutor to 20 students.
She said they had expressed dissatisfaction through various meetings with Ministry officials.
“We are aware of these shortcomings and to make matters worse, students too do not have adequate clinical practice at the hospitals.
It was reported in the media yesterday that there is a shortage of 130,000 nurses in the country, with only 40,000 in the service.
Health Minister Datuk Chua Soi Lek had said the country needed to produce at least 8,000 nurses a year. However, it can hardly produce 2,000 a year due to the high failure rate among students.
Last year, only 44 per cent of the 2,000 trainees passed, compared with the 98 per cent success rate in the private sector.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

334 centres on HFM alert

All 334 sentinel centres nationwide have been reminded to be on alert for any outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease, Health Ministry Communicable Disease Control Division director Dr Ramlee Rahmat said today.
The centres include 106 private and 119 government health clinics, and 109 treatment centres.
Since HFM is an endemic disease in Malaysia, he said, they had been told to always be on the alert for an outbreak, especially among children aged below 10.
Some 352 children have been hospitalised for HFM within the first 50 days of this year. No deaths have been reported.
Penang recorded 309 cases followed by Pahang (30), Selangor (eight) and Johor (five). For the whole of last year, Penang recorded 364 cases, Selangor (36), Johor (31) and Pahang (12).
Dr Chua: More Than Half Trainee Nurses Fail Qualifying Exam

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 21 (Bernama) -- The number of trainee nurses who pass their qualifying test in nurses training colleges run by the Health Ministry is very low and worrying, Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said Monday.
Last year, only 44.4 per cent, less than half of the 2,000 trainee nurses passed the test, he said.
The ministry viewed the matter seriously as the country was still lagging behind in meeting the target set by the World Health Organisation by 2020, which requires a nurse for every 200 residents (1:200), he told reporters.
He said there were about 40,000 trained nurses working in government and private hospitals nationwide, with a ratio of one nurse to 645 people.
"To achieve the 1:200 ratio, we need to have about 170,000 nurses. From now until 2020, we've to train 130,000 nurses or about 8,000 a year.
"Now, we are only training 3,000 a year, either by the ministry or by private nursing colleges recognised by the ministry," he said.
He said the situation had been compounded by the high failure rate among trainee nurses.
Chua said a study by the Health Management Institute found most of the failed trainees did not have credits in English and Science at the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia level.
He said the high failure rate problem did not exist in the Health Ministry-recognised private colleges where the passing rate was 98 per cent last year.
There are 37 nurses training centres country-wide. Five more are to be built under the Ninth Malaysia Plan in Perak, Johor Baharu, Alor Star, Sabah and Kuching.
Chemical exposure main danger at work

KUALA LUMPUR: About 70 per cent of occupational ailments are caused by chemical exposure, resulting in skin diseases, poisoning and respiratory disorders.
National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) chairman, Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, said studies had shown the diseases and sickness were partly caused by the use of highly toxic chemicals, unapproved personal protective equipment and improper personal protective equipment.
“Social Security Organisation (Socso) statistics reveal that out of a total of 80,810 reported industrial accidents and diseases in 2002, a total of 7,903 involved the agricultural sector alone, with 44 fatalities,” he said.
According to Lee, the National Poison Centre had carried out the studies on poisoning and fatalities by chemical agents from 1999 to 2001.
The research showed that pesticides were the highest contributors, with 54 per cent of the poisoning and fatality cases due to herbicides and fungicides.
“Our concern is that these diseases are chronic and have a long-term latent period.
“Cases of occupational disease, fatal or otherwise, signify a loss to the human resource which is the country’s most valuable asset,” Lee told The Malay Mail.
The agricultural sector is one of the most hazardous workplaces in the country. It has the second highest accident rate of all industry sectors.
The use and spraying of pesticides exposes the workers to high risks in terms of exposure to chemicals, especially when safer alternatives are not used to substitute highly-toxic pesticides.
The safety and health of workers is a key issue in the agricultural sector as they can be exposed to many kinds of occupational safety and health hazards.
“As the agricultural sector contributes eight per cent to the annual gross domestic product (GDP), we need to ensure the worker’s right to a safe work environment is protected,” added Lee.
NIOSH urged employers in the agricultural sector to take heed of safety and health at the workplace and invest in safety.
Employers must realise that agriculture safety in its entirety, is an investment.
Occupational safety and health management at the workplace will bring about an increase in productivity in the long-term.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Health tourism hits a snag

The Health Ministry's plans to go big on health tourism has hit a snag as many private hospitals are dragging their feet on providing data on their foreign patients.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said here today only a few of the 31 hospitals targeted had submitted data on foreign patients, services provided, their duration of stay and revenue earned.
Such data is vital to help the ministry identify specific areas to promote health tourism.
"If we find many patients are coming from a particular country, we will focus our promotional efforts there."
Dr Chua had originally given selected private hospitals until the end of last year to submit their data.
Private hospitals that have not complied have been dropped from the ministry's list of hospitals participating in the medical tourism programme.
Health tourism has seen a 52 per cent year-on-year rise in revenue to RM54.5 million in 2003. It is expected to reach RM540 million by 2005 and go up to RM2.2 billion in 2010.
Dr Chua said the lack of response could be due to the fact that many of these hospitals were doing well and found no need to tap into the foreign market.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

A brand new way to promote health

Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek called on companies yesterday to promote their brand name as a whole rather than individual products under their stable.
“There should not be support for just one particular drink or food to promote a healthy lifestyle. Companies should stand out as a brand for health products,” said Chua at the Chinese New Year celebration with Nestle Sdn Bhd at the National Press Club in Jalan Tangsi here last night.
Also present were NPC president Ahirudin Attan and Nestle’s managing director Sullivan O’Carroll. Guests were treated to yee sang and dinner.
Chua said the ‘branding approach’ is being practised in neighbouring countries.
He also expressed his gratitude to the Press in his speech.
“The Press has helped create greater awareness during outbreak of diseases and educated people on health problems,” he said.
Chua said 800,000 Malaysians are suffering from diabetes and three million from hypertension.
He urged Malaysians to lead a healthier lifestyle as 20 per cent of the population are overweight while 15 per cent suffer from mental problems.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

HIV/AIDS account annoys Shahidan

THE Perlis health director's statement on the rising number of pregnant women in the state with HIV/AIDS has irked the Mentri Besar, who said the information was incomplete and disclosed without his knowledge.
Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim told Utusan Malaysia that such statements made to the media without complete details like the figures for HIV/AIDS sufferers could create a negative perception of the state.
The Mentri Besar, the daily said, was also disappointed that the statement was made without his knowledge as if the director was disregarding Shahidan's role as the state Health Committee chairman.
Utusan Malaysia on Thursday quoted the director, Dr Azmi Hashim, as saying that the number of pregnant women with HIV/AIDS was at a worrying level as the figures were increasing yearly.
Dr Azmi had said that Perlis was among the states with most HIV/AIDS cases due to some of its men's unhealthy lifestyle at the neighbouring country.
However, he was unable to give the actual figures of those with HIV/AIDS, including the pregnant women.
“I don't mind if he makes the statement because he is the one with the figures. But it is not proper for him to speak without complete details and figures because it will affect people's perception on Perlis,” Shahidan said.
Dengue outbreak far from over yet

PUTRAJAYA: The dengue outbreak that killed at least 22 people nationwide in less than two months is far from over despite a drop in suspected cases for the first time last week.
Health Ministry disease control director Dr Ramlee Rahmat said the 963 cases reported last week, compared to 1,483 the week before, could even be misleading.
“There might be people who did not go to the hospital or clinic or had delayed in reporting due to the festive season last week.
“The drop must be for three to four weeks and it must reach between 400 and 200 suspected cases a week before we can consider the situation as back to normal.
“There are always between 400 and 200 suspected cases weekly because the virus is always around in Malaysia,” he told a media briefing here yesterday.
On the 22 deaths, Dr Ramlee said Kuala Lumpur topped with eight, followed by Selangor (five), Pahang (three), Perak (two) and one each in Penang, Negri Sembilan, Malacca and Sabah.
He said ensuring that there was no breeding places for the aedes mosquitoes was the most effective preventive measure, adding that the change from dry to wet weather usually sawa rise in dengue cases.
Dr Ramlee said construction sites still topped the list of breeding grounds followed by vacant land and factories.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Dr Azmi: Compulsory test to curb spread of HIV/AIDS

KANGAR: More pregnant women in Perlis are now infected with HIV/AIDS, forcing the state government to propose that Muslims undergo compulsory pre-marriage HIV tests, said state health department director Dr Azmi Hashim.
“Perlis is among the states with many such patients as a certain section of society here indulge in high-risk activities, especially when they go across the border.
“This is a worrying trend which has given rise to an even higher infection rate,” he said.
Dr Azmi, who declined to reveal the number of women infected with the disease, said the rate would continue to rise if nothing was done.
He was responding to a news report quoting Perlis Regent Tuanku Syed Faizuddin Putra Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Jamalullail as saying that the Perlis religious council should compel all Muslims planning marriage to take the HIV test as part of measures to combat the rise of HIV/AIDS.
Elaborating on the report, Perlis Mufti Datuk Mat Jahaya Hussein said the test also applies to Muslims who choose to practise polygamy.
Dr Azmi said such a move was “viewed positively by the public health authorities as a step towards combating the HIV/AIDS.”
He said if any one member of a couple tested positive and still wanted to get married, counselling will be provided.
“We would advise them on safety measures and provide a marriage counsellor to ensure that the couple understands the risks involved,” he said.
Dr Azmi said marriage partners should know the general health status of their spouse.
Fewer dengue cases nationwide

ALOR STAR: The number of dengue cases nationwide has dropped in the sixth week of its outbreak, Health Ministry parliamentary secretary Lee Kah Choon said.
He said the number of cases for this period, which ended on Saturday, was 963.
“This was a drop of 475 cases compared with 1,438 cases recorded in the fifth week, which ended on Feb 5,” he said after visiting the Kota Star District Health office here yesterday.
He said Sabah recorded an increase of seven new cases from 61 in the fifth week to 68 in the sixth week. He added that Labuan, which had no cases in the fifth week, now had five cases.
Earlier, during the briefing with the district health personnel, Lee said the ministry had conducted a pilot project for a one-call ambulance centre at eight locations nationwide.
He said the project was implemented last September.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Malaysia targets Indonesian health tourism market

"Is it ethical to profit from sick men and women?" a friend of mine asked during a recent trip to several cities in Malaysia.
"I don't know. But many of them are healthy. They are rich people coming here just for medical checkups or plastic surgery, while enjoying the tourist attractions at the same time," I replied.
Health tourism is already officially sanctioned in many countries, including Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia.
Expecting to reap huge benefits, some states in Malaysia are now targeting the Indonesian market, offering lower costs than either Singapore or Thailand.
The services range from general checkups to heart surgery, with the latest technology and equipment and overseas-trained doctors.
"Our services and doctors are as good as in Singapore and we are less expensive then they are. You see, the exchange rate for the Indonesian rupiah against the Malaysian ringgit is better than against the Singapore dollar," said Akbar Bin Ali, the director of the Melaka Tourism Promotion Board.
Akbar said the Indonesia market had great potential, with 90 percent of last year's 47,000 visitors coming to Malaysia's second smallest state for health tourism reasons being Indonesian.
He said that many of the Indonesian tourists came from Padang, West Sumatra, Pekanbaru, Riau, and Medan, North Sumatra as these cities had direct flights or ferries to cities in Malaysia as well as no departure tax.
"With Indonesia's population of 220 million people, we hope that more and more Indonesian people will come here, such as people from Jakarta or Surabaya," said Akbar.
Taiwan cheer for pharmacy graduates

SHAH ALAM: Pharmacy graduates from three Taiwan universities are now exempted from sitting for the Taiwanese government's unified examinations.
This exemption meant one less hindrance for the pharmacy graduates and would help them return to Malaysia faster, said Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek.
He said the three universities were the National Taiwan University, the Kaoshuing University and the Taipei Medical University.
“The move came into effect last month,” he told reporters at the ministry's media night here yesterday, adding that this could help to reduce the acute shortage of pharmacists in the country.
Dr Chua said, however, that while these graduates had been exempted from taking the examinations set by the Taiwanese government, they would still have to pass tests set by the universities concerned.
He said all pharmacy graduates, from local and foreign universities, were compelled to serve the ministry for three years under a directive enforced last September.
He hoped by the year 2020, there would be at least one pharmacist to every 2,400 people. This ratio would be close to the 1:2,000 set by the World Health Organisation, he said. The ratio now is 1:7,000.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Public not to be alarmed if dengue patients are warded in ICU

The public should not be alarmed if a patient suspected of dengue is warded at a hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU).
Health Ministry’s disease control director Dr Ramlee Rahmat said it was because the condition of the patient had deteriorated and there was a need for further intensive care.
“It is not they were placed at the ICU, the moment they entered the hospital,” said Dr Ramlee yesterday.
He was asked whether all nine dengue cases at ICU were critical and about their chances of recovery.
He advised the public against being unnecessarily alarmed when patients underwent treatment at ICU.
As to the hotspots in Rawang and Shah Alam where many dengue cases were recorded, the Selangor Health Department found that they occurred mostly in the past month.
“So far this month, there were no cases of dengue reported,” said department director Dr Ang Kim Teng.
She dismissed complaints of a lack of fogging or gotong royong during the period when the residents had contracted dengue - between the first and third week.
“It is uncertain whether what they are saying is correct,” said Dr Ang.
On the new housing estate in Puncak Perdana, Shah Alam, where a resident claimed mosquitoes were a menace, she said there were two dengue cases in the first two weeks of last month.
It was also reported that the Kampung Melayu Sri Kundang longhouse in Rawang had recorded 12 dengue cases.

Monday, February 14, 2005

A home for HIV patients

THERE are 25 residents at the Welcome Home in Rawang, a home for critically-ill HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) positive patients who are left alone to tend to their own miseries.
The home, set up seven years ago, has become a sanctuary for full-blown AIDS victims who have nowhere else to go.
"Their families have rejected them and they have no one to turn to," said Alex Arokiam, head of the home.
Many bed-ridden patients seek treatment and support from the caretakers, who are themselves HIV-positive.
Some are literally skin and bones lying in bed, unable even to feed themselves.
"We give them as much courage and support as possible so that their remaining days will be happy," said Arokiam, who runs the home with the help of his wife, Ivy.
The home is an old colonial mansion on a 1.2ha site that houses drug addicts and HIV positive patients.
They are referred to the home by government hospitals in Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Sungai Buloh and Seremban.
According to Health Ministry figures, about 58,000 Malaysians are infected with HIV and 6,545 have died of full-blown AIDS. It is estimated that another 4,000 people will be infected with HIV this year.
The four caretakers at the home were trained by a Frenchman, Mark Rogers.
"The home plays an important part because we deal with those who have been rejected by society," said Arokiam.
The home is a pilot project of the National Office for Human Development that is run by the Catholic Church of Malaysia.
Its founder, Brother Anthony Rogers, realised that people with AIDS, especially the drug addicts, were mostly rejected by society.
Arokiam lamented that only three out of 10 families visited these "patients" regularly.
The home is also paying for the residents' medication, which costs RM5,000 a month.
"It is very expensive and we hope organisations will come forward to bear at least 50 per cent of the cost," Arokiam said.
The medication for each patient costs anything from RM70 to RM248 per month.
Arokiam has also appealed to Substance Abuse counsellors to volunteer their services at the home.
"We also need volunteers who can teach arts and crafts to the residents so that they may occupy their time effectively."
Those interested in volunteering their services can call 03-60351463 or 019-2287750 (Arokiam).

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Varsity to take in 3,000 in May

SUNGAI PETANI: About 3,000 students will be placed at the Asian Institute of Medicine, Science and Technology (AIMST) main campus in Semeling, near here, when it is ready in May.
State MIC chairman Datuk V. Saravanan said construction work was 85% complete and the RM450mil MIC campus would be ready in three months time.
He said water and power supplies had been installed and landscaping work was under progress.
He said the campus, located on a 92ha site, could accommodate 10,000 students but only 3,000 would be taken in for now.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Perlis to make HIV tests a must for Muslim marriages

PERLIS will follow Johor's move to make it compulsory for couples to take HIV/AIDS tests before they get married, Utusan Malaysia reported.
The paper quoted the Regent of Perlis, Tuanku Syed Faizuddin Putra Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Jamalullail, as saying that the matter was discussed at a recent meeting of the state religious and Malay customary affairs council.
The state government would study the proposal in depth and come out with the guidelines and regulations, he said.
Administrative matters such as the cost of carrying out the tests and confidentiality of the couples involved would also be worked out, he said when opening the Al-Saadah Mosque in Santan, near Kangar, to mark the state-level Maal Hijrah celebrations on Thursday.
The paper said Johor had enforced the ruling since 2002 to help couples to be sure of their prospective marriage as well as to bring about a long-term solution to curbing the spread of the HIV virus.

MMR Comment

Friday, February 11, 2005

Call for no-fault compensation of accident victims

KUALA LUMPUR: The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has called for the establishment of a Motor Vehicles Accident Compensation (MVAC) Fund for road accident victims on a no-fault liability basis.
Its chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, in a statement, said that under the proposed no fault liability scheme, motorist injured or killed in motor accidents will be automatically compensated from the Motor Vehicles Accident Compensation (MVAC) Fund.
Lee said that the current motor accidents claims take years to be settled and compensation is also paid late.
The proposed MVAC will compensate victims automatically as soon as they are injured or their families if the victim is killed in a motor accident.
The scheme proposes that all motorists contribute annually to the fund at a rate determined by the Government.
Motorists would be able to contribute to the fund when they obtain or renew their driving licenses.
He suggested the fund be managed by Socso in view of its expertise and long years of experience in this field.
Cuban expertise sought in control of dengue

Malaysia is seeking Cuban expertise to effectively control dengue, Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said.
Cuba is the only country in the world to have had success in controlling dengue and hepatitis-B, he added.
"Malaysia can learn from the Cuban experience.
"Clearly, Cuba has the advantage in handling the two contagious diseases and Malaysia should benefit from this. Even Singapore, better known for its strict enforcement, is not as successful as Cuba," he told reporters at the MCA Chinese New Year open house at Wisma MCA here yesterday.
Dr Chua said the matter was brought to his attention when he accompanied Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on his official visit to Cuba.
The minister said dengue cases had been rising cyclically, from 600 cases to 1,000 cases and now stood at 1,400 cases. The number was expected to rise within the next two to three weeks.
As for hepatitis, Dr Chua said between 10 and 20 per cent of Malaysians have hepatitis-B, which is caused by a virus that attacks the liver. The virus can cause lifelong infection, cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, liver cancer, liver failure, and death.

MMR Comment

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Five-year plan to halve death rate on roads

A five-year plan will get under way soon to reduce the death rate in road accidents by more than half through better signs, lighting and road design.
To take off by the middle of the year, the "rehabilitation programme" will see the newly-set up Road Safety Department identifying and rectifying such problems along major highways and roads nationwide.
"If the area has poor lighting, then we will brighten it. If signage is wanting, we will improve it. And if the design is poor, we will rectify it," its director-general Suret Singh said in a interview.
He said the department would identify corrective measures to be carried out and forward its proposals to the relevant authorities for implementation.
Suret said initial investigations had showed that poor signs, lighting and road design had contributed to the high accident death rate.
While agreeing that the remedial cost will be immense, he said the department would prioritise measures to be carried out.
"We will do so by looking at the number of deaths in specific areas and the urgency for corrective measures to be taken," he said.
The department hopes to reduce the current accident rate of 4.5 deaths per 10,000 cars to two deaths per 10,000 by 2010.
"This will take us to the level of the United States, United Kingdom and Japan," he added.
Suret said the department planned to reduce the number of accident-prone areas from the current 200 nationwide to a more acceptable figure.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Measles Outbreak In Belaga Under Control

KUCHING, Feb 9 (Bernama) -- The situation in the measles-affected Penan community in Long Urun and the Sungai Asap resettlement scheme in Belaga is under control, Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan said Wednesday.
"I haven't heard any (new cases) and already told them (Health Department) should there be new cases, they have to inform us. It should be OK (now).
"There are no new cases so far," he told reporters when met at the Sarawak United People's Party (SUPP) Chinese New Year open house held at its headquarters here.
Chan, who is also Sarawak Disaster Relief Management Committee chairman, said he was also informed that those hospitalised had been discharged.
As of Feb 3, there were 18 deaths -- 17 children and one adult -- since it was first detected on Dec 26. A total of 11,975 people has been screened and 93.4 per cent of them given the measles vaccine by the 17 health control and preventive teams which visited 66 locations in the affected area.
Study: Only 15 per cent of children wear helmets

The legislation making it compulsory for motorcyclists and pillion riders to wear helmets was introduced more than 30 years ago. But some will never learn.
Yesterday, The Malay Mail reported that only 85 per cent of motorcyclists and 75 per cent of pillion riders wear helmets when riding in the city. In residential areas here, only 60 per cent of motorcyclists and 40 per cent of pillion riders wear safety helmet.
These figures were compiled in a recent study by the Road Safety Research Centre of Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), which revealed that only 15 per cent of children are made to wear helmets.
Doctor escapes death at clinic

He was in tsunami-ravaged Aceh saving lives, only to have his life hanging on the edge of a parang when he returned.
The 54-year-old doctor, who declined to be identified for fear of his safety, is still in shock from the parang-swinging robber who wanted his wallet.
The attempted robbery occurred at the doctor's clinic in Tampoi last Friday about 11.30pm, as he was closing the clinic for the night.
"My nurses were in the clinic and I was outside when I noticed two men arriving on a motorcycle across the road," he said.
He said he glanced at the men to see what they were doing, but they had their backs towards him.
He said he then sat down on a chair in front of the clinic to read the newspapers when one of the men, wearing a full-faced helmet, approached him.
He whipped out a long parang and swung it at him, he said, but the doctor managed to escape the blow.
"I have no doubt he was prepared to severely injure or kill me."
He said the man continued to threaten him with the parang and indicated he was after the wallet.
"I then decided to lure him to the door where a closed-circuit TV camera (CCTV) was installed, but I tripped and he cut me on my right thigh," he said.
He said he then started screaming which sent the robber fleeing.
"He got on the motorcycle with his accomplice and they both rode away empty- handed."
The doctor, a member of the Malaysian Red Crescent Society, said the attack took place in a well-lit area.
Children infected with virus at nursery recover

All six children from a nursery in Subang Jaya infected with the hand, foot and mouth disease virus have recovered.
A teacher from the nursery said the children were infected more than two weeks ago and were treated and are now well.
She confirmed that Health Ministry officials had inspected the nursery and sent a team to spray the premises with disinfectant.
"We have also intensified our own cleaning regime as we do not want this to recur," the teacher said.
The nursery plans to resume operations after Chinese New Year, although this would depend on a final examination by health officials.
State Health Committee chairman Datuk Lim Thuang Seng, who revealed the closure of the nursery yesterday, said although most cases of HFMD in the country were "sporadic", when it cropped up in areas such as nurseries, swift and preventive action needed to be taken.

Illegal Drugs From Malaysia Disguised As Vitamins

MELBOURNE, Feb 8 (Bernama) -- A gym owner in New South Wales has been jailed for importing large quantities of illegal drugs from Malaysia disguised as vitamin supplements.
The Australian Customs Service today said Lawrence Butler, 57, of Albury, was sentenced in the District Court in Bathurst to 27 months in jail.
A Customs spokesman said Butler pleaded guilty to six charges of importing steroids, ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, and one charge of possessing steroids.
Steroids are performance-enhancing drugs while ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are stimulants used in the manufacture of methylamphetamine, also known as speed.
Butler was arrested after Customs officers intercepted eight packages from Malaysia containing 56,000 pseudoephedrine tablets.
Reps ticked off for not acting to fight dengue

KUANTAN: The Pahang Government has ticked off state assemblymen and community leaders for not showing any leadership in tackling the dengue epidemic.
State Health, Welfare and Orang Asli Affairs Committee chairman Datuk Ishak Mohamad said they seemed to be waiting for the authorities to “make a move.”
He said although the Tengku Mahkota of Pahang, Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, had launched the state anti-dengue campaign with a gotong-royong at Taman Tas here, state assemblymen had yet to follow up in their constituencies.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

No law against 'shisha', says Dr Chua

The Health Ministry's tough anti-tobacco stance does not include the shisha which was banned by Thailand two years ago for containing toxic substances.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said the tobacco used in shisha was not classified as regular tobacco.
He said shisha had not been categorised as smoking and there was no law against teenagers smoking it.
"Youngsters smoke shisha at foodstalls all night, hoping to look cool and hip. We have more pressing issues, but the ministry will look into this soon," Dr Chua said when asked about the shisha-smoking fad which has caught on here.
Then Thai Health Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan had stated that the habit was harmful and would make it easier for the young to graduate to cigarettes.
There is also an on-going debate in some Middle Eastern countries on shisha.
It is an offence for anyone under 18 to buy cigarettes or indulge in smoking under the Control of Tobacco Products Regulations 1993 (Amendment 1997).
Those found smoking or chewing tobacco or in possession of cigarettes in a public or private place can face fines of not more than RM1,000.

MMR Comment

Monday, February 07, 2005

Government hospitals to get Cuban Hepatitis B vaccines

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will import the vaccine for Hepatitis B from Cuba, which will be made available in government hospitals on March 1.
Cuban Ambassador to Malaysia Pedro Monzon Barata said children should be given the priority to get the vaccine.
“We have had the vaccine for 10 years in Cuba but it needed to go through clinical trials before it was registered in Malaysia,” he said at the soft-launch of the 30th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Cuba and Malaysia here on Saturday.
Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said Cuba had expertise in pharmaceutical and biotechnological products, adding:
“We have been working on bringing in some Cuban products but it took time to get acceptance and approval. I'm happy that the medicine will be available in March.”
First spray vaccine for livestock

Two local scientists have developed the first "pneumonic pasteurellosis" spray vaccine for livestock.
Associate Prof Effendy Mohd Wahid of Kolej Universiti Sains Teknologi Malaysia (Kustem) and Prof Mohd Zamri Saad of Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) spent nearly eight years developing this pneumo-spray vaccine.
This product, known as KUSTEMvax, has been tested on livestock and proven more effective than injections, which are painful, cause lameness in some animals, and waste of syringes and needles.
From a commercial standpoint, the new method also saves time: it takes 1,000 goats a week to be vaccinated, whereas with the new method, the same number can be vaccinated in two days,
Effendy, in an interview at Kustem today, said the project to develop the vaccine started in UPM.
He said KUSTEMvax offered a cheaper and more effective solution as farm owners would not have to spend money on syringes and training workers to inject animals.
"It also offers extra protection to animals, especially when the spread of a disease is at its peak," he said.
He added that tests had been conducted on livestock at Mardi farms in Negri Sembilan, Johor and Perak for the past year.
KUSTEMvax is expected to be commercialised within the next five months.
Panel: Conduct raids to get blood samples from illegals

PENANG: The health authorities want blood samples to be taken from illegal immigrants following the death of a 68-year-old woman from malaria.
State Health, Welfare and Caring Society Committee chairman P.K. Subbaiyah said blood samples from illegal immigrants had to be taken to ascertain if they were carriers of the deadly disease.
Foreigners working legally in Malaysia are required to undergo mandatory medical tests for screening of various diseases.
Subbaiyah said this was the first recorded case of a malaria death in the state this year.
He said state health authorities have asked the police and the Immigration Department to conduct raids on illegals in order to get blood samples to curb a possible malaria outbreak.
“We found that a substantial number of Myanmar and Bangladeshi workers are staying in the Bukit Gambir area, where a local Chinese woman died of malaria on Jan 30.
“The health authorities have taken blood samples from more than 30 foreigners, who are working at a construction site near the woman’s house,'' he added.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Mercy Malaysia To Rebuild Nursing, Pharmacy Schools In Aceh

Mercy Malaysia will rebuild and manage the nursing and pharmacy schools here which were destroyed by the Dec 26 earthquake and tsunami.
Its president Datuk Dr Jemilah Mahmood said Mercy would work with Universiti Sains Malaysia to build the first phase of the two schools soon.
Mercy expected to spend about RM8 million on the project to meet the pressing need for nurses and pharmacists, she told Bernama here Sunday.
She said many nurses and pharmacists died in the twin earthquake and tsunami disasters while some who survived were too traumatised and unable to carry on working.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

MRCS Drawing Up Post-Tsunami Programme

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 4 (Bernama) -- The Malaysian Red Crescent Society (MRCS) is drawing up a post-disaster programme to help the affected people in the countries hit by the Dec 26 tsunami, MRCS Vice-Chairman Datuk Dr Noordin Abdul Razak said Friday.
He said the programme would be carried out with the co-operation of other international voluntary organisations.
The programme, which had a span of six months to a year, was still under discussion, he said.
A team of seven MRCS volunteers would leave for Aceh Saturday to hand over humanitarian aid to the tsunami victims there, he told reporters at the presentation of donations amounting to RM252,798 from 14 companies and organisations at the MRCS headquarters, here.

Friday, February 04, 2005

USM’s Well Women Clinic to offer cancer screening

WOMEN who wish to go for breast and cervical cancer screenings can visit Universiti Sains Malaysia's Well Women Clinic (WWC) in Taman Bertam Indah, Kepala Batas, Butterworth.
The university’s Advanced Dental and Medical Institute (AMDI) have set up the clinic.
AMDI's director Prof Abdul Rashid Ismail Abdul Rahman said the public needed not wait long to get screened.
"With the expertise that we have, patients will get the best service available. Also with the Health Ministry's help, cases can straight away be referred to the Kepala Batas hospital for treatment using the latest treatment methods," he said in a statement.
Temerloh Hospital now a benchmark

The new Temerloh Hospital will become a benchmark model for all hospitals to be built in the country.
Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu said the RM480mil hospital, which was the first “e-hospital” to be built under the Seventh Malaysia Plan, was constructed with specially-designed materials to ensure the building was user-friendly and that staff and patients could get easy and immediate access to medical facilities.
“The Temerloh Hospital is one of 33 e-hospitals that will be built in the country, which will have world-standard facilities.
“Its construction materials, such as the floor tiles, walls and ceiling had been specially designed to provide a calming effect for everyone,” Samy Vellu said in his speech at the ceremony to officiate the completion of the project here yesterday.
His speech was read by the ministry’s deputy secretary-general (I) Datuk Syed Jamal Syed Jaafar.
Samy Vellu said e-hospitals of the future would have fully automated equipment handled by a computer system called “Total Hospital Information System.”
Health Ministry secretary-general Datuk Ismail Adam told reporters later that the hospital’s design concept took into consideration that hospitals should have a pleasant and therapeutic environment for the staff and the public.
He said 750 doctors and staff of Mentakab Hospital would be transferred to the Temerloh Hospital in stages.
“The Mentakab Hospital, which has been in operation since the 1920s, will be converted into a training centre and a polyclinic,” he added.
Dirty hospital canteen in Klang shut

KLANG: The canteen at the Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital here has been closed by officers from the Selangor Health Department after it was found to be unhygienic.
Officials made a surprise check at the premises at 4pm on Wednesday and issued a closure order to the operator with immediate effect.
State Health Committee chairman Datuk Lim Thuang Seng, when contacted, confirmed that the canteen had been closed for a minimum of 14 days.
Lim said at the end of the closure period, the canteen operator would be allowed to re-open for business “but only if the place has been cleaned up”.
“He must meet all the requirements and the department must be satisfied that it is clean before the premises can be reopened for business,” he said, adding that the operator had neglected two previous clean-up warnings issued by the department.
“We are serious in our efforts to clean up eateries in the state. We will not compromise over this.
“I hope it will serve as a deterrent to others, especially canteens operating in government buildings,” he said.
Dengue On The Rise In KL, S'gor, Perak, Johor

The number of dengue cases in the fourth week of this year rose in Kuala Lumpur and three states - Selangor, Perak and Johor compared to the previous week, Health Ministry Diseases Control Division Director Dr Ramlee Rahmat said Thursday.
He said the number of cases reported throughout the country had also risen 28 per cent or 304 cases to 1,387 cases in the fourth week, from Jan 23-29, compared to 1,083 the week before.
"Kuala Lumpur recorded the highest number of cases, at 336 compared to 176 in the third week, followed by Selangor which showed an increase of 126 cases, from 423 to 549, Perak from 70 to 103 and Johor from 62 to 78 cases," he told a press conference here.
Ramlee, however, said Sabah, Penang, Pahang, Melaka, Kedah, Kelantan and Putrajaya had shown a drop in the number of cases.
"Sabah's 50 cases of the previous week dropped to 27, Penang's 64 to 55 and Pahang's 64 to 57," he said.
He said four cases of dengue deaths had also been reported in the fourth week, three of them in Selangor and one in Negeri Sembilan, bringing the total fatalities this year to 13.
He said the number of cases was still at a high level as more than 1,000 cases were reported a week and added that control measures would be further intensified to tackle the menace.
The enforcement unit had inspected 63,419 premises throughout the country in the fourth week compared to 58,253 the week before. Of these, 561 premises were found to be breeding the Aedes mosquito.
"The unit also issued notices to 237 premises and fined 268 which were found to be breeding the Aedes larvae," he said.
Ramlee added that 21,870 premises which had stagnant pools of water had abate added and high-risk areas were fogged.
Among the places inspected were shophouses, construction sites, schools, government offices, abandoned houses and recreational parks.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Aussie and Chinese experts for Sarawak biotech project

MIRI: Renowned scientists from Australia and herbal medicine specialists from China will be coming to Sarawak soon to help the state government set up a biotechnology park here.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam said Sarawak was venturing into this “exciting industry in a big way” and was bringing in established foreign experts to help.
The Australian scientists are from five companies specialising in researching and producing biotech products.
The Chinese herbalists are from several renowned pharmaceutical manufacturers in China.
The biotechnology park, located on a 485ha site near the Sarawak-Brunei border here, would be a joint venture between the Sarawak government and Curtin University of Technology Sarawak campus, Dr Chan, who is also state Industrial Development Minister and Agriculture Modernisation Minister, said.
Dengue: MPAJ spends RM1 million on campaign

The Ampang Jaya Municipal Council (MPAJ) spent almost RM1 million on its three-month anti-dengue campaign last year.
Council president Ahmad Shafii Saidin said the money was spent during the last three months of 2004 when a high number of dengue cases was reported.
“The money was used for preventive measures and to educate the public at ‘hotspots’ in Pandan Indah,” he said.
The council also plans to repair all broken drains and other facilities which are potential mosquito breeding grounds.
The allocation is part of the RM4.5 million beautification projects in Ampang Jaya.
Combined Anti-Dengue Operation From Feb 21

PUTRAJAYA, Feb 2 (Bernama) -- A combined health and safety operation aimed at preventing dengue will be held for four days from Feb 21, Deputy Human Resources Minister Datuk Abdul Rahman Bakar said Wednesday.
He said the operation, which would focus on dengue breeding grounds, was originally scheduled for May but was brought forward to expedite the battle against the disease.
Occupational Safety and Health (JKKP) officers would issue notices under the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1994 to owners of premises found breeding aedes mosquitoes to clean them up, he said in a statement Wednesday.
Abdul Rahman, who is also the Occupational Safety and Health Council (MNKKP) chairman, said action could also be taken against the owners of such premises under Section 25 of the Vector Borne Diseases Act 1975 (Amendment) 2000.
Health Ministry Moves To Woo M'sian Specialists Abroad

PUTRAJAYA, Feb 2 (Bernama) -- The Health Ministry will shorten the three-year compulsory service in government hospitals in a move to attract Malaysian specialists to return to serve in the country.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said the relaxation offered to specialists with degrees and qualifications recognised by the Malaysian Medical Council was among steps taken to overcome shortage of specialists in certain disciplines.
Easing of the condition was agreed to by the Cabinet in its weekly meeting Wednesday, he told reporters.
Dr Chua said a special committee comprising health ministry secretary-general, health services director-general and his deputy would be set up to evaluate the specialists' qualifications.
Bone marrow transplant and liver transplant surgeons and oncologists are among the specialists needed, he said.
He, however, said the relaxation would be given on a case-by-case basis.
Dr Chua said his ministry would also cut short the compulsory housemanship period at government hospitals to Malaysian specialists with advanced medical degrees from the United Kingdom from 18 months to six-and-a-half months.
He said Malaysian specialists aged 45 and above who returned to serve in the country would be exempted from the three-year compulsory service with government hospitals.
"To those below 45, relaxation of the compulsory service period will be decided by the committee," he said.
Dr Chua explained the relaxation was only for Malaysian specialists currently serving in foreign countries and not for local medical degree graduates.
Dr Chua also explained the Bahasa Malaysia examination for 300 government doctors who did not have a credit in the national language would be held twice.
"We have a special module for them so that they will be proficient in BM but not at Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia level, so long they can speak and write BM at an accepted level," he added.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Sarawak Health Dept Told To Prepare Report On Measles

KUCHING, Feb 2 (Bernama) -- The Sarawak Health Department will be asked to submit a detailed report to the state government in the near future on the measles outbreak in the Penan settlement.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri George Chan said it would enable the government to get a clearer picture on the outbreak and to identify steps that could be taken to help the affected community.
"I would ask the Medical Department to give full briefing on the outbreak and on what needs to be done. If there is any need for them to be assisted, obviously the state government will come up with the fund needed," he said.
He said this to reporters when asked on steps taken by the government to help the community affected by the outbreak.
The measles outbreak was detected in a Penan settlement in Long Urun in Belaga since last December and had killed 13 children and one adult.
Chan, who is State Disaster Relief Management Committee Chairman, said the latest cases involved a one-and-a-half-year-old girl and a six-year-old boy who were admitted to a hospital Tuesday.
The two victims were from Long Menapa, not far from Long Urun, he said.
"The cumulative total admitted to the hospital since day one of the outbreak is now 121 people, but only five remain in ward," he said.
Avian flu checks not necessary

PETALING JAYA: The latest outbreak of avian flu in Vietnam does not warrant checks on passengers arriving from that country, Health Ministry disease control director Dr Ramlee Rahmat said.
“Unlike SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which was highly contagious, there has been no evidence that the avian flu can spread through humans,” he said when commenting on the recent outbreak in Vietnam.
He said the World Health Organisation had not issued any travel alerts or checks on incoming passengers from affected countries.
However, he said clinics and hospitals nationwide were on the alert to monitor for any increase in diseases that show flu-like symptoms.
“We have given guidelines to all the clinics and hospitals to check the patient's history if they come across anyone with flu-like symptoms,” he said yesterday.
“If we find out that the patient has been to an affected country, we will have to see if he or she has been exposed to poultry,” he added.
Dr Ramlee said the only known mode of transmission of the deadly flu was if the person had handled infected poultry or had been exposed to it.
Checks with the KL International Airport’s Health Department revealed that the department was conducting checks on cargo to ensure that poultry was not imported from affected countries.
Medical check within a month

Foreign workers will have to undergo a mandatory medical examination within a month of their arrival here, the Cabinet has ruled.
Those found with infectious and communicable diseases will be deported immediately.
The decision by the Cabinet on Wednesday was prompted by the re-emergence of several diseases in Malaysia such as tuberculosis and leprosy.
Under the existing system, foreign workers are only required to undergo compulsory testing after staying for 12 months.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said Malaysia had managed to significantly reduce the prevalence of certain diseases over the years. But there has been an increase in Malaysians suffering from the diseases recently, he noted, identifying the influx of foreign workers as a cause.
"We have to stop the transmission of diseases by foreign workers," said Dr Chua.
Out of the 716,000 foreign workers who underwent medical examination in 2003 after a year's stay in Malaysia, 18,562 had to be deported because they were infected with communicable diseases.
Among this group, 4,505 were found with Hepatitis B, 1,278 had tuberculosis, 665 with syphilis and 122 had contracted HIV.
"This is a significant figure. These workers could have transmitted diseases to locals at workplaces, houses, and other places," he added.
Furthermore, he said, the number of foreign workers being detected with diseases was increasing significantly every year.
In 2002, out of the 500,133 foreign workers tested, 9,264 were found with communicable diseases.
In 1999, 8,586 out of the 435,279 tested were found with diseases.
The Cabinet also ruled that the foreign workers will have to undergo medical examination at the Foreign Workers' Medical Examination Monitoring Agency (Fomema)'s approved panel of clinics and hospitals.
Dr Chua said the Cabinet had decided that foreign workers can do their medical examination in any clinic approved by the Government in their home country.
He said Malaysia will accept the medical certificates issued by these clinics but the workers will have to undergo another round of medical examination within a month of their arrival here.
The second medical examination for foreign workers would be on the 13th month of their stay here.
Dengue: Number of cases in Shah Alam still high

The Selangor Health Department has stepped up efforts to fight the spread of dengue as the number of cases in Shah Alam remains high although the situation in other areas in the State has improved.
Department director Dr Ang Kim Teng said there were 89 cases in Week 2 of January this year, and 76 cases the following week in Shah Alam alone.
“Areas in Shah Alam with the most number of cases are sections 17, 18, 25 and 28. So we will be intensifying efforts jointly with the Shah Alam City Council (MBSA), to break the cycle of transmission,” said Dr Ang.
Generally, she said, the dengue situation in Selangor saw a decrease in the number of cases — from 654 in Week 2 to 423 in Week 3.
Cases in Gombak, another badly affected area, have come down from 203 in Week 2 to 79 in Week 3.
Dr Ang appealed to residents in badly-affected areas to cooperate by keeping their premises and surrounding areas clean and free from receptacles that collect water.
Chua: Try Selayang Hospital for liver illness

KUALA KUBU BARU: Patients seeking liver transplants should go to the Selayang Hospital as it has the best facilities and skilful doctors for liver-related illnesses, Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said.
“Although the hospital has achieved much success in this type of surgery, not much publicity has been given to it compared to private hospitals.
“If I’m not mistaken, there have been six successful liver transplants at the hospital,” he said after distributing ang pow and foodstuff to the poor in Kampung Chuang, Rasa, here yesterday.
Dr Chua was asked to comment on the case of 14-month-old Mohd Yohit Mohd Farhan.
After undergoing a liver transplant operation at a local medical centre recently, Yohit developed complications and was admitted to the Gleneagles Hospital in Singapore, where he died on Saturday.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Flying doc service covers 13 Penan settlements

KUCHING: Thirteen Penan settlements in the Belaga district are being served by the flying doctor service operated by the Sarawak Health Department.
The settlements include Long Urun, where a recent measles outbreak killed 14 Penans, and Long Ketuat.
The department said its clinic in Long Urun serves six longhouses with 241 residents while the one in Long Ketuat caters for 203 villagers.
“Although the flying doctor service visits both settlements every month, there are occasions when visits had to be cancelled due to bad weather, mechanical problems and diversion of the helicopter for emergency evacuation of seriously ill patients,” it said in a statement.
The statement was in response to a comment by Ulu Rejang MP Billy Abit Joo, who urged the department to be more proactive in treating the Penans.
He said medical teams should make more visits to the interior settlements.
The department said the flying doctors visited Long Urun nine times and Long Ketuat five times last year to provide treatment, immunisation, child health and maternal care.
An average of 84 patients in Long Urun and 75 in Long Ketuat were treated during each visit.
“It is possible that the semi-nomadic Penans may not have come to the flying doctor service clinics as scheduled,” said the department.
It said a “mopping-up” exercise was organised from time to time to seek out the absentees.
Move to ensure M'sia is FMD disease-free

KLUANG: The Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Ministry wants cattle breeders to upgrade their farm management systems to enable Malaysia to be free from the foot-and-mouth disease.
Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said his Ministry would study the prospect of further tightening the quarantine control procedures to ensure the disease did not spread to other areas.
The Ministry took a serious view of the disease and had taken appropriate measures for the country to be declared free of the disease, he told reporters at the signing of agreements for modern agriculture projects, here, Saturday.
Muhyiddin, who did not specify the deadline to realise the objective of the country to be declared foot-and-mouth disease-free, said as part of efforts to upgrade farm management systems, cattle rearers would be asked to prepare periodic reports on the health status of their livestock.
This would ensure frequent checks on the animals' health condition to ensure they were free from any disease, he said.
He said tightening of existing quarantine control procedures was to ensure there was no "leakage" of infected farms to other areas.
On Monday, the Johor Veterinary Services Department discovered a calf to be infected with the foot-and-mouth disease at an oil palm estate at Km 1, Jalan Renggam to Simpang Renggam.