Thursday, March 31, 2005

TH Group invests RM40m in NCI expansion

Sabah- based TH Group Bhd has invested RM40mil in the expansion of the NCI Cancer Hospital (NCI), group general manager Angie Ang said.
She said the investment was for both the expansion of the hospital building and equipment.
“Our capacity at the moment is probably about 500 to 700 patients per year. With the expansion, we hope to increase it to several thousand,” she told reporters after the signing of a collaboration understanding between Asiaprise Biotech Sdn Bhd and Health Scan Malaysia Sdn Bhd in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
Asiaprise Biotech, a subsidiary of TH Group, is involved in pharmaceutical trading/distribution, and investment in biotech/healthcare-related activities. The expansion of NCI is expected to be completed in September.
Asiaprise Biotech executive chairman Dr Kim Tze Tan said that through the collaboration agreement, the two parties would work together to provide optimum medical care to patients from both centres, particularly in the disciplines of oncology and cardiology.
He said NCI would provide follow-up care for Health Scan Malaysia's patients who required further diagnosis or treatment in respect of cancer.
“NCI will leverage on Health Scan Malaysia's expertise in the area of cardiology to provide follow-up care for its patients who may be diagnosed with cardiac complications,” he said.
NCI is Malaysia's first private cancer centre that offers cancer treatment and clinical research, while Health Scan Malaysia was conceived as a premier medical centre to offer comprehensive health screening using the most advanced technology. – Bernama
Malaysia postpones ban on small packs of cigarettes?

Malaysia's government has postponed by one year a proposed ban on the sale of small packs of cigarettes, a senior government official said Wednesday, provoking an outcry from anti-smoking groups.
The ban on packs of less than 20 cigarettes was supposed to come into effect on July 1, 2005, but the government has decided to hold off until July 1, 2006, said Ramlee Rahmat, director of disease control at the Health Ministry.
Some cigarette manufacturers made an appeal to postpone the ban, and "the (health) minister has taken this into consideration," Ramlee told Dow Jones Newswires.
The rationale for the proposed ban is that small packs make cigarettes affordable for teenagers, the most vulnerable group among new smokers.
S.M. Mohamad Idris, president of the Consumers Association of Penang, which had lobbied for the ban, said he was shocked by the decision.
It appears the government is "putting the interest of companies above health," he said. "What is the point of all your anti-smoking campaigns if the tobacco companies are allowed to get away with this?"
But other anti-tobacco measures are expected to go ahead as part of Malaysia's efforts to restrict smoking. Among the steps are a ban on point-of-sale advertisements at stores beginning June 1. Also, tobacco companies will not be allowed to sponsor events such as Formula One racing this year.
Sponsorship of soccer matches and other sports is already illegal.
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 government raised taxes on cigarettes by 40 percent in its 2005 budget. The government also has launched a US$26 million (�20 million) anti-smoking campaign.
Shares of cigarette makers British American Tobacco (Malaysia) Bhd., the industry leader in sales, and JT International Bhd. have suffered in the past few months due to steep tax and price hikes.
As a result, cigarette sales fell 3 percent in 2004 to 19.4 billion cigarettes, industry data show.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Better health care services: New D-G

Kuala Lumpur: The public can expect better and improved health services in the country over the next few years as major efforts have been taken to enhance them.
Not only that, there would also be more locally-produced medicines with more efforts to commercialise natural products as health supplements.
This is the vision set by the newly-appointed Director-General of Health, Datuk Dr Ismail Merican, who assumed office on March 5. He was, prior to his promotion, the Deputy Director-General of Health (Research and Technical Support).
"I want to concentrate on the healthcare services and enhance the delivery system. I also want to rebrand the Health Ministry's existing services, so that they can contribute to the national economy," he said when contacted Monday.
Dr Ismail, better known as "Dr Sars" among the media circle, said the nation was now facing a growing threat from diseases and increasing health care cost.
In view of this, he said there was a greater need for the healthcare provider in the country to improve the healthcare delivery system.
As such, the department must inculcate a more humanitarian corporate culture, teamwork spirit, a more caring society and professionalism among the existing medical staff, he said.
"For this purpose, we are going to benchmark ourselves to the world standard," he said, adding that public had expected better healthcare services from the Government for some time.
"We want the doctors and other medical staff to listen to what the patients have to say and to be more humane. We want the staff to take this as an opportunity to do better," he said.
The Penang-born Dr Ismail has been dubbed "Dr Sars" because of his frequent appearances in the print and electronic media two years ago to give updates on the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) cases when there was an outbreak of the disease in Malaysia.
The appointment of Dr Ismail, a former Penang Free School student, to succeed Tan Sri Dr Mohamad Taha Arif, who retired on March 4, was announced by Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek on Monday.
Dr Ismail is an expert on hepatology and had served at the district and state levels before being assigned to the Ministry.- Bernama
System to detect blindness early

KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry is drawing up a system to help medical practitioners and nurses detect complications in the early stages of diabetes and hypertension.
This is because medical practitioners do not have a satisfactory control and monitoring system, causing patients to suffer complications like blindness, said Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek.
“We have observed that although the patients are receiving treatment, whether at private or government hospitals, they are referred to the ophthalmologist only at the end stages.
“And at this stage, the treatment is more complicated and not very effective,” he told reporters yesterday after opening the 20th Asia Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology Congress.
Diabetics can suffer from diabetic retinopathy, which can cause decreased vision and blindness.
Dr Chua also said that the practitioners would simply “repeat” medication when the patient goes for follow-up sessions.
“We are in the early stages of discussions on how to make sure complications such as visual impairment or blindness can be controlled,” he said.
200 ‘unrecognised’ docs get chance to enter govt service

KUALA SELANGOR: The 200 medical graduates from non-government accredited universities abroad have been given a chance to practise medicine in the country.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said they would be absorbed into the medical fraternity after undergoing a six-month attachment and passing an examination prepared by the ministry.
The Cabinet approved the recommendation by the ministry to allow the 200 graduates to be attached with government hospitals, he said.
They would be paid a monthly allowance of RM500 during the six-month stint, Dr Chua said during a visit to the Tanjung Karang Hospital near here yesterday.
He said a committee made up of experts from Universiti Malaya, Universiti Sains Malaysia and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia would co-ordinate the examination.
“If they pass the exam, the graduates would be offered a housemanship,” said Dr Chua.
He added that they would be allowed to take the examination a second time if they failed.
With regard to a recent report that 30 medical graduates from universities not recognised by the Government were taking the Malaysian Medical Council to court, he said that those who initiated a legal case against the Government would not be given this alternative.
Dr Chua advised students wanting to pursue a medical degree not to enrol with universities that were not recognised by the council.
“We feel it’s a waste of money to pursue a medical degree at non-recognised universities as they would end up jobless. Check with us. We have 300 universities in our list which are recognised,” he said.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Mobile clinic to provide treatment for rural folk

KUALA LUMPUR: Medical advice and treatment will be made available to disabled people in rural areas through the Semai Bakti Pusat Pemulihan Dalam Komuniti (PDK) programme.
Bakti (Association of Wives of Ministers and Deputy Ministers) yesterday received a van which would be converted into a mobile clinic to service the rural areas.
DRB-HICOM group chairman Tan Sri Saleh Sulong handed over the van to Bakti president Datin Paduka Seri Endon Mahmood.
The programme, conducted by Bakti and Gabungan Wawasan Generasi Felda, hopes to train, guide and aid the disabled, especially those in rural areas.

Monday, March 28, 2005

New Salary Scheme For Nurses With Higher Qualifications Approved

LANGKAWI, March 27 (Bernama) -- The government has approved a new pay scheme for nurses in government hospitals who have taken further courses or have degrees.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek, who announced this Sunday, said he hoped the new scheme would motivate nurses to upgrade their knowledge and seek higher qualifications.
The date of implementation had not been decided, he said during a visit to Langkawi Hospital.
At present, nurses who wish to specialise are required to take further courses after which they will receive the same salary as ordinary nurses despite shouldering more duties.
Nurses who are degree holders are also paid the same as those who pass out from the basic nursing course.
On another matter, Dr Chua said the ministry would reveal the findings of a survey on waiting time for patients at government hospitals next month.
He said the ministry was sorting out the data from the survey which would include information on the hospitals with the longest and shortest waiting time for patients.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Malaysian Medical Students Find Australia Exciting

MELBOURNE, March 26 (Bernama) -- Fifty-two medical students from Monash University's Malaysia campus have arrived in Australia to begin their studies.
The students, from Malaysia and Singapore, will be the first group to graduate from Malaysia with the newly created Bachelor of Medicine/ Bachelor of Surgery degree.
Dean of Medicine Professor Ed Byrne said the undergraduate students would spend the next two years studying with their Australian counterparts before heading home to complete the remaining three years of their degrees in Malaysia.
"This is a fantastic opportunity for the students," he said.
"They will follow exactly the same curriculum as Australian students and gain valuable practical experience."
Malaysian student Hakimah Yusop, from Serdang, Selangor, said she was excited to be studying in Australia.
"This course is much more hands-on than those in Malaysia.
"It will give us a lot more practical experience than other students back home.
"Studying abroad is attractive to me because I think it will give me a wider range of experience and ultimately make me a better doctor," she said.
Afif Jamaludin, from Gombak, Selangor, agreed that the strong clinical emphasis was an attractive element of the Monash course.
"In Malaysia, there is a more traditional method of teaching so here in Australia we will gain an enormous amount of experience in just two years, which is great," he said.
"My first week has been very enjoyable, I have particularly enjoyed group discussions which are quite different from the predominantly lecture format of teaching in Malaysia. I look forward to the next two years in Australia."
Hawa Yasir, 21, from Ipoh, Perak, said she was lucky to be studying in Melbourne.
"The lecturers and Australian students are very helpful and friendly," she said.
Hawa said the lectures were easy to follow, but the tutorials were more difficult because the supervisors spoke too fast and she was still not used to the Aussie accent.
She said she was making every effort to improve her spoken English and get a better understanding of Australian traditions and culture.
Dialysis centres to be audited to ensure quality of service

KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry will start conducting audits on dialysis centres mushrooming in the country to ensure the quality of their services.
Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said the technical and medical audit checks were part of the measures being considered by a new committee set up to ensure that the over 300 such centres in the country maintained the highest standards of dialysis care.
“Our officials have already conducted inspections on three dialysis centres in Sri Manjung and one in Seremban this month and found several deficiencies, although they complied with most of the requirements under the ministry’s guidelines,” he said at the 3rd Annual Dialysis Meeting on Nutrition in End Stage Renal Disease here yesterday.
The deficiencies included inadequate floor space for patients undergoing dialysis, the required three-monthly blood screen on patients with HIV and hepatitis not being done and lack of emergency trolleys and treatment rooms on each floor to cater for emergencies.
“Specific machines for the use of HIV, hepatitis and infectious patients were also not set aside on the excuse that there are no such patients under treatment,” Dr Chua added.
The audit, based on the ministry’s “Guidelines on Standards for Haemodialysis Treatment” would cover the centres’ physical facilities and equipment, professional staffing, monitoring of dialysis patients, adequacy of haemodialysis treatment and cross-infection control measures, among others.
He said it was important for dialysis centres to provide proper rehabilitation, including nutritional considerations, as patients could return to gainful employment and to normal and gratifying lifestyles.
He said the National Renal Registry recorded 316 dialysis centres last year of which 112 were Government-owned, 91 were run by non-governmental organisations and the remaining by the private sector.
Meanwhile, Dr Chua said a state-of-the-art scanner that enables early detection of cancer will be available next week at the Penang Hospital Nuclear Medicine Services Unit.
The hospital will be the first hospital in the country to be equipped with a PET-CT (positron emission tomography – computed tomography) scanner.
PET-CT scan is a sophisticated diagnostic technique using radioactive material or isotopes that have a short lifespan which transmits very low radiation effects.
“It is able to detect diseases especially growth or cancers at an early stage, even before there is any structural changes in the cells,” he said.
MPharm in Malaysia

THE University of Nottingham Malaysia campus will be offering a four-year pharmacy programme leading to the honours degree of Master of Pharmacy (MPharm).
The MPharm degree is offered under a 2+2 arrangement, with students taking the first two years at the Malaysia campus after which they will transfer to Nottingham to complete their third and fourth year. The first intake will be based at the new purpose-built campus in Semenyih.
The modular course aims to inculcate core pharmacy skills and knowledge as well as look into the clinical and legal aspects of the profession. In their final year, students will have the opportunity to engage in pharmaceutical research and work under the supervision of an academic staff member.
Originally established in Nottingham in 1925, the School of Pharmacy is one of the latest additions to the Malaysia campus. It is also the first school in the newly-created Health and Biological Sciences faculty.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Action plan for healthy living

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysians tend to overeat, don't exercise enough and become fat and unhealthy.
This has prompted the Government to draw up a National Plan of Action for Nutrition.
In its plan to control obesity and its related diseases, the Government will outline several 10-year targets beginning this year.
The aim is to encourage breastfeeding, healthier eating habits and reducing child obesity through educational activities and healthy lifestyle campaigns, Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said.
Speaking at a press conference after the launch of the Nutrition Society of Malaysia’s scientific conference here yesterday, Dr Chua said Malaysians were eating out more often and were skipping meals due to their busy schedules.
“Malaysians could eat up to 24 hours,” he said.
The lack of physical activity was evident as the ministry’s survey in 1996 showed that only 11.6% Malaysians exercised adequately,” he said, adding that the figures would not have changed much today.
He said the data also showed that the prevalence of overweight and obese adolescents in urban areas was high at about 40%, while about 8% of urban primary schoolchildren could be overweight.
Dr Chua said being overweight and obese were major risk factors for diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.
He also said that strategies under the action plan included educating the public on the new Recommended Nutrient Intakes for Malaysia (RNI), which was launched at the same function.
The new RNI was drawn up based on local research and data.
Nutrition Society vice-president Prof Dr Mohd Ismail Noor said the information from the RNI, which was a revision of the 1975 Recommended Dietary Intake, would be made available to the public through pamphlets and consultations by the country’s 450 nutritionists and dieticians.
“In the new RNI, Malaysians are encouraged to eat more dietary fibre and reduce calories intake through fatty foods and oils.
“The RNI also gives guidelines on recommended nutrient intake based on the degree of physical activities,” he said.
Malaysia looks for new approach to reduce AIDS cases

KUALA LUMPUR, March 24 (Xinhuanet) -- Malaysia is looking for a more effective approach to reduce the AIDS infection rate in the country as the number of AIDS cases continues to escalate, a health official said here Thursday.
Health Minister Dr Chua Soi Lek said that his ministry would have a dialogue with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and relevant government agencies next month to find a new approach to tackle the problem.
"Compared to Australia, which has nearly the same population asMalaysia, the number of people infected with HIV/AIDS in this country is thrice theirs," he told reporters after opening the 20th Scientific Conference of the Nutrition Society Malaysia here.
He said the number of people infected with HIV and AIDS in Malaysia now stood at 60,000, compared with only 20,000 in Australia, a developed nation that had a wider network to detect the disease.
He also said that presently the ministry did not propose to make it compulsory for couples who intend to get married to undergo HIV/AIDS tests.
The ministry preferred to look at the prevention aspects as such tests were not so effective in ascertaining that a person wasreally free from HIV and AIDS, he said.
"This is because each patient has a 'window period' where HIV and AIDS cannot be detected if his antibodies don't reach a certain level," he said.
A total of 7.9 billion ringgit (2.08 billion US dollars) were allocated in 2005 budget to upgrade health services to the Malaysians.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Malaysians neglect their teeth

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysians generally neglect their teeth until it is too late.
This carelessness prevails although good dental care is widely available, said Malaysian Dental Association (MDA) president Dr Teo Choo Kum.
He regretted that Malaysians did not take preventive action to avoid cavities and gum diseases.
According to Dr Teo, Malaysians between 35 and 44 years old have the worst teeth, with more than 90% suffering from tooth decay, as they neglect dental health due to their hectic lifestyle.
“These people are busy with work and do not spend time on dental check-ups. Time and financial constraints, as well as fear of pain, are also some of the factors Malaysians hardly visit dental clinics,” he said.
Dr Teo said although the DMFT (decayed, missing and filled teeth) index showed that Malaysia is ranked fourth after Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand, Malaysians should not ignore their dental health.
He said that three-quarters of 16-year-olds in Malaysia have tooth decay. It was worse among 12-year-old schoolchildren with more than 80% affected.
However, dental health in Malaysia has improved slowly in the last three decades due to increasing awareness and easy access to dental clinics.
Dr Teo was speaking at a conference yesterday while briefing the media on a large-scale free dental check-up programme to be launched at 1 Utama Shopping Complex on April 1 here.
Some IJN staff losing heart

PETALING JAYA: The plan to make the National Heart Institute (IJN) a world-renowned heart specialist centre could hit a roadblock following a disagreement between its new management and long-serving clinical consultants.
The plan, which included raising bonds to form a special purposed vehicle (SPV), restructuring IJN into several new subsidiaries and initiating changes to its non-medical management and clinical structure, has ruffled feathers among IJN staff.
It is understood that several long serving senior consultants are planning to leave and this has caught the attention of the Government as IJN consultants have long been associated with monitoring the health of the country’s leaders.
The recent resignation of one of IJN’s top consultants has also raised questions.
IJN personnel, who spoke to The Star on condition of anonymity, said they were not consulted on most management decisions affecting the running and direction of the heart centre.
They feared that the some of the new developments could change the core objective of IJN, which was to help the public get quality cardiac treatment at an affordable price.
“We are concerned about the social aspect of IJN, which may take a backseat should IJN become too commercialised,” one consultant said.
Staff members had also queried the management over the “sweeping and rapid” changes which they felt could affect local patients and bring about a shortage of qualified personnel such as doctors and nurses.
One consultant also questioned a management move to hire nearly 20 non-medical staff, saying their jobs were previously handled by just three people.
“IJN is currently making money and it should continue its main objective of serving the public,” said another senior staff member, pointing to the more than RM100mil in cash that IJN currently has. The staff also said it was inappropriate to expand IJN now in view of the shortage of critical personnel.
IJN chief executive Mohd Radzif Mohd Yunus, who was appointed in Sept 2003, had brought in two advisors on contract to deal with human capital organisational development and strategic management.
Staff at the centre also contend that some of the changes by the management were unnecessary and had eroded the consultants clout.
IJN was formed in July 1992 as part of the Kuala Lumpur General Hospital and was corporatised two months later, the first government hospital to do so.
Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was instrumental in its establishment following his coronary bypass surgery in 1989 at KLGH.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Pakistani workers to be screened for leishmaniasis

THE Health Ministry will be on the lookout for various contagious diseases that may be brought in by the 100,000 Pakistani workers expected next month, reported Utusan Malaysia yesterday.
The National Health Services Department’s Disease Control Division director Dr Ramlee Rahmat said his department would closely monitor diseases not found in Malaysia but common in Pakistan like leishmaniasis.
If untreated, the parasitic disease transmitted by the bite of certain sand flies found in Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan could be fatal, he added.
“Apart from monitoring for diseases like tuberculosis (TB), Hepatitis B, syphilis, gonorrhoea and HIV infections, we will look out for diseases not normally found here.
Apart from causing skin cancer, syphilis and TB, Dr Ramlee explained that leishmaniasis could also cause limb and bone marrow complications.
Children and adults who contract the disease would suffer from high fever, diarrhoea and cough, he added.
Dr Ramlee said about 10,000 of the Pakistani workers would undergo random checks at the country's main entry points like the KL International Airport.

Monday, March 21, 2005

All states to operate one-call ambulance network

PENANG: The Health Ministry will soon extend its “one-call” ambulance services networking system to all states, following the success of its pilot project in eight states.
Its parliamentary secretary Lee Kah Choon said the system enabled the general hospital’s emergency unit to be linked to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that provided ambulance services.
“Using high capacity walkie-talkies, the general hospitals can now contact the Civil Defence Department, St John’s Ambulance Malaysia (SJAM) or the Malaysian Red Crescent Society (MRCS) for back up ambulance services,” he said when closing Penang SJAM’s first aid and home nursing competition here yesterday.
Lee said the ministry had given out grants worth RM800,000 to eight state governments to set up a radio transmission station and to buy the necessary communication tools.
“Penang, which received this grant, had set up its transmission station on Penang Hill, providing radio frequency coverage throughout the island.
“This system proved to be highly effective, especially during the tsunami last December, when the walkie-talkies were used to co-ordinate the ambulances ferrying victims and the dead to hospitals,” he said.
Under the system, he said, ambulance drivers would radio to tell the hospital’s base station their destination and the emergency situation, which can also be heard by those manning the Rescue 991 call centres as well as by Red Crescent and St John’s officers.
All government hospitals to get hi-tech facilities

KUALA LUMPUR, Sun. - Government hospitals nationwide can be expected to give private hospitals a run for their money from next year, with state-of-the-art equipment on the cards.
A large part of the RM24.5 billion allocation for the Health Ministry sought under the Ninth Malaysia Plan will go towards upgrading state and district hospitals.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek (picture) said the emphasis would shift from building hospitals to installing sophisticated equipment equal to what was available in private hospitals.
"The time has come for the Government to provide state- of-the-art facilities in all hospitals," he said in an interview.
Dr Chua said this was because the 124 hospitals nationwide with 32,000 beds were sufficient to meet the needs of Malaysians.
The upgrading had been planned under the Eighth Malaysia Plan, he said, but had to be postponed when emphasis was given to building new hospitals.
He said more than 50 per cent of the RM862 million allocation under the 8MP had been channelled to new hospital projects.
"This is why the ministry is shifting the emphasis to upgrading hospitals nationwide under the 9MP."
The ministry will also upgrade rural clinics and build halfway houses for mental patients.
Another priority will be to resolve the shortage of doctors, nurses and supporting healthcare staff. This would be done in stages from this year until 2020.
"I intend giving emphasis to human development programmes and training to overcome the shortage."
To this end, the ministry may outsource training programmes for nurses.
He said 10 hospitals slated for construction under the 8MP would be carried over to the new plan.
One of the priority projects will be the Rehabilitation Hospital in Cheras, which will act as a centre for training, research and education in rehabilitation and disability management. It will also provide rehabilitation for neurological disorders..

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Site update

I have removed the commenting system from now on and replaced this with a Feedback link to me as email as I find it difficult to keep track of too many commenting systems.
Where relevant, feedback comments will be posted in the Malaysian Medical Resources
Drink More Water And Stay Indoors During Equinox

KUALA LUMPUR, March 18 (Bernama) -- Drink more water and stay indoors during the hot spell, especially during Monday's equinox.
This is the advice of Disease Control Department director Dr Ramlee Rahmat.
"Firstly, people should avoid hot areas. If they feel hot, they should consume more fluids. If there is a need, people can take a bath to cool down their body.
"If possible, stay indoors during the hot spell. Good ventilation is also important to keep the body cool," he told Bernama Friday.
The spring equinox on Monday, when the sun is directly over the Equator, might result in excessive heat causing blackout of vision, nausea or heatstroke, but Dr Ramlee said only those exposed to heat continuously for a long period of time would experience such symptoms.
He said those who experienced such symptoms should be given ample ventilation and should be admitted to hospitals to avoid further complications such as oxygen-deprivation which might lead to damaged organs.
The spring equinox falls around March 21 and the autumnal equinox around Sept 23, the dates varying during leap years.
Meteorological Services Department Director-General Chow Kok Kee was quoted by the media Friday as saying that Malaysia would not experience any significant temperature change during the equinox as the country is already located near the Equator.
However, the weather in the country had been hot and dry in recent weeks.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Little Research On Cures For Diseases

IPOH, March 18 (Bernama) -- It is unacceptable that so litte research has been devoted to vaccines or cures for diseases that kill millions each year in poor countries while vast sums are spent on producing drugs to fight baldness and erectile dysfunction, Raja Nazrin Shah said Friday.
The Raja Muda of Perak said it was common these days to speak of medicine as a business and the pharmaceutical industry was one area where commercial considerations often came into conflict with humanitarian concerns.
"Today, only 10 per cent of health research is devoted to diseases that occur for 90 per cent of the global disease burden. These are diseases that occur primarily in the more underdeveloped parts of the world," he said in the "Sultan Azlan Shah Oration" at the opening of the 4th Asean Conference in Primary Health Care, here.
Perak's Sultan Azlan Shah opened the four-day conference which started yesterday. Among those present were Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Tajol Rosli Ghazali and more than 352 delegates from Malaysia, Singapore, India and Brunei.
Raja Nazrin said that developing treatment for diseases like malaria, sleeping sickness and tuberculosis was an unprofitable venture for multinational companies.
"Even when cures are available, high prices put these drugs beyond the reach of the majority of the disease's victims worldwide. In focusing on research at the top end of the market, pharmaceutical companies are merely responding to the incentives of the market place," he said.
He was therefore happy to note that a new initiative known as "Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiatives" had been formed to undertake drug development for neglected diseases such as malaria.
He also said that the art of listening to the patient was sadly curtailed, which leads to a concentration on the physical symptoms and prompt, standardised diagnoses.
"Doctors and nurses may be restricted not only in the units of time afforded per patient but in a more restricted range of treatments readily and conveniently available. However unfairly or indiscriminately, doctors are oftentimes accused of treating diseases or "cases" instead of treating people," he said.
He said clinical practice should always operate within ethics as science alone was not equipped to resolve these difficult moral questions and "we need the humanities to guide us towards a solution".
"I do not believe that compassion need to be constrained by time. It need not be sacrificed because the physician has only five minutes with a patient. Our compassion allows us to share the human experience," he said.
RM724,000 'medical benefit' for foreigners in S'kan

Sandakan: The Duchess of Kent Hospital here is saddled with outstanding unpaid bills of RM724,000 owed by foreigners seeking treatment, as accumulated up to 2004.
In contrast, the hospital generated revenue of RM500,000 from other sources during the same period.
Disclosing this here, hospital director Dr Zorina Khalid said despite the fact that the foreigners could ill afford to pay for the high costs of treatment, particularly child births costing RM300, the hospital had no choice but to render them assistance based on humanitarian grounds.
She was still hopeful the hospital could get additional allocations from the Government to provide the necessary facilities, including extra beds.
On another note, she was also optimistic that the six-storey ward project under the 7th Malaysia Plan, implemented in September, 2001, could speed up, after having been postponed twice.
The second outpatient clinic, scheduled for completion in 2004, was still in the process of construction, she said.
Even the construction of eight units staff quarters was still in progress, thereby forcing the personnel to rent houses for the time being.
Dr Zorina also said the hospital was still waiting for the RM2.4 million CT Scanner that had been approved by the Health Ministry.
She was hopeful that these facilities could be serious considered for earlier delivery.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Nurses Required To Attend More Courses, Training Programmes

PUTRAJAYA, March 16 (Bernama) -- Nurses will be required to attend more courses and training programmes so that they can become more professional, Health Ministry parliamentary secretary Lee Kah Choon said Wednesday.
He said that with the hospitals now being equipped with advanced and sophisticated clinical equipment and other peripherals, nurses had to be taught periodically how to operate and use them.
While the ministry was scouting for more people to join as nurses, it could not ignore its important duty to meet the people's demand for better service, he told reporters here.
He said there were also plans to improve the communication skills of nurses for better interaction with patients.
"By the year 2020, in the process of the country becoming a developed country, it needs to have a certain standard in healthcare. So, we are moving towards this target," he said.
Lee said nurses were an influential force in the ministry as they currently represent 30 per cent of its total staff strength of 120,000.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Health Ministry To Upgrade Rural Medical Infrastructure Under 9MP

KAJANG, March 15 (Bernama) -- Using a proposed budget of RM24.5 billion under the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP), the Health Ministry plans to upgrade the hospital infrastructure in rural areas.
"There some 10 million people living in rural areas and we will upgrade and build more hospitals in rural areas like in Sabah, Sarawak, Terengganu and Pahang because there is a need in these areas," Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek told reporters after visiting the Kajang Hospital.
Built in 1889, it is considered one of the oldest hospitals in the country.
Dr Chua said the ministry had requested for the billion ringgit budget for the next plan, which would stretch from 2006 to 2010, to ensure quality, equitable and accessible health care for all Malaysians.
The focus would be on upgrading infrastructure, including building more community clinics, instead of hospitals.
There are 134 hospitals nationwide with 35 new hospitals built under the 8th Malaysia plan.
Dr Chua said it was pointless to build new hospitals when the country was facing a serious shortage of medical professionals ranging from doctors to nurses and pharmacists.
He said the budget would also be used to upgrade existing district and state hospitals, as studies showed that most of these hospitals were using outdated equipment.
"In most hospitals the equipment are more than 10 years old and they are behind time because of the rapid development in medical technology," he added.
The ministry would also focus on creating awareness on mental health, another threatening illness which is on the rise in the country.
Upgrading of mental institutions and building of half-way-homes for those suffering from mental diseases are in the pipeline.
In addition, human resources development in the medical sector would be given priority under the 9MP.
On another issue, Chua urged Malaysians not to abuse the emergency units in hospitals as this would deprive genuine patients in need of urgent medical treatment.
"Our studies show that 80 per cent of those who go to the emergency units are patients suffering from cold, cough and headache because they can get early treatment and obtain medical leave.
"Emergency treatment is for emergency cases and not for cold cases. It has been abused," he said.
Malaysians Exposed To Burden Of Eight Main Illnesses Last Year

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak said Tuesday night many Malaysians were exposed to the burden of eight main chronic illnesses last year.
He said a Health Ministry study last year showed that these illnesses, in the order of the more severe to the less severe, were heart ailments, mental illness, stroke, road accident injuries, cancer, asthma, chronic lung disease and diabetes melitus.
He said the people were also exposed to contagious diseases such as dengue and HIV or Aids.
"Based on the same study, it is estimated that on the average an individual will fall ill about 41 days in a year," he said when opening the Fourth National Health Conference 2005, here.
He said the burden of the illnesses would translate into losses for the nation of about RM46 billion (based on the per capita income in the Gross Domestic Product) this year and RM56 billion in 2010.
Najib said sufferers of heart ailments, stroke and diabetes melitus, all in the category of non-contagious illnesses, shared the risk factors -- meaning they were overweight, subjected themselves to a low level of physical activity, consumed alcohol and underwent stress.
He said all these chronic illnesses could be overcome with one special rehabilitation programme.
"Therefore, the challenge facing the nation was to determine a suitable method of modifying the high-risk behaviour that can prevent an illness in the initial stage," he said.
Najib said many health indicators had shown an improved performance that the nation had attained since independence.
"(Among them) the life expectancy of both the sexes, which is 71 years for men and 75.5 for women," he said.
"The crude death rate has also dropped, from 12.4 for every 1,000 live births in 1957 to 4.5 in 2002," he added.
The infant mortality rate, he said, had also dropped, from 75.5 for every 1,000 live births in 1957 to 6.2 in 2002, Najib said.
As a comparison with several Asean countries, the World Health Report 2004 of the World Health Organisation (WHO) showed that the infant mortality rate for every 1,000 live births for Malaysia was eight compared with 39 for Indonesia, 27 for Thailand and 28 for the Philippines, he said.
This improvement in the level of health showed that the medical services system in the country had achieved a state of maturity and more determined efforts should be made to improve the status further, he said.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Health Ministry: Illegals bring diseases to Sabah

KOTA KINABALU - The Health Ministry confirmed the existence of contagious diseases in Sabah especially in the east coast brought in from neighbouring countries by illegal immigrants entering through the "back door".
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said the foreigners could have contracted the diseases, such as dengue, malaria, fever and AIDS virus, in their countries prior to entering the state illegally.
"My ministry had taken drastic measures by positioning medical personnel at every entry and exit point in the state to examine foreigners arriving or departing. However, the state's long and porous coastline makes it difficult to detect illegal immigrants and therefore, those with these diseases could slip in easily, undetected," he said.
In this respect, Dr Chua urged employers, particularly those in the plantation sector, to stop hiring illegal immigrants whose presence in Sabah could spark many problems including health-related ones.
He also said his ministry had taken the necessary steps with the Philippine and Indonesian counterparts to address the possible spread of contagious diseases through the movement of people.
The minister assured that the situation in the state and the country against major outbreaks of diseases is under control, and the ministry will be taking the necessary measures to prevent such diseases from spreading.
It was reported that the districts in the east coast often experienced an outbreak of disease within 14 days after an outbreak was reported in southern Mindanao and Tawi Tawi island.
Health authority in a survey revealed that most of the patients afflicted with such diseases were illegal immigrants.
"Most of them were reluctant to seek medical treatment while their illnesses were still in the early stages for fear that they would be caught and handed over to the police or immigrant authorities."
Dr Chua said some were noted to have succumbed to their illnesses upon arrival at the rural clinics, following deterioration of their health conditions. The Sabah Health Department recorded 13-16 AIDS/HIV cases in Sabah yearly, with an increasing trend and 20 per cent of them involved foreign sex workers.
End to services of foreign docs in 9th Plan

Federal Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek disclosed that Sabah will be allocated RM1.2 billion to upgrade rural hospitals in the State under the 9th Malaysia Plan.
At the same time, the Malaysian Government would no longer require the services of foreign doctors in the country.
Presently, there are 960 foreign doctors serving in Malaysia under contract, with an option to extend their stint if they wanted to continue working in the country.
In this respect, hospital directors should allocate at least 10 hours a week to ensure the smooth running of their services, while the retirement age of existing doctors would be extended from 55 years to 65 to overcome the acute shortage of doctors in the country, he said.
Furthermore, local higher learning institutions should strive to encourage more students taking up courses in medicine. Dr Chua said this during a visit to the Keningau district hospital here, Saturday
Mobile clinic to complement Flying Doc Service

The Health Ministry has decided to continue with the Flying Doctor Service given the still-not-satisfactory level of road communication in some parts of interior Sabah.
Its Minister, Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek, the Ministry felt the service should be continued considering that many villages, albeit thinly populated, are far from hospital health facilities.
"The Sabah Flying Doctor Service had existed in Sabah since the seventies. We will continue to provide this service daily and during the daytime. For security reasons, the service will not be available at night.
"We are aware that this service requires a huge financial allocation. We spend about RM1 million to RM1.5m just for the rental only," he said.
Dr Chua explained that the scope of service covers treatment for outpatients and other areas of concern such as antenatal and postnatal care, immunisation, health education and assistance for contagious disease control. Such diseases are dengue, measles and malaria.
"Under the Sabah Flying Doctor Service, we have treated a sizeable number of diseases. Our records show that for 2003 alone, 23,660 people received outpatient treatment, 1,704 mothers had antenatal care, another 200 were given postnatal care and between 750 and 800 babies and children were immunised. Immunisation is important," he said.
The Minister, however, noted that service to villages is already on the decline as reflected in the reduction from more than 70 villages to only 45 that are being served by the service.
Dr Chua attributed this to improvement in infrastructure in the rural areas, particularly road communication. He also revealed that discussions are under way on how best to start the mobile clinic service in Sabah under the Ninth Malaysia Plan.
"The mobile clinic will move from one town to a smaller town in the rural areas, particularly in the interior." This vehicle would be equipped with facilities for immunisation, blood and urine tests and also medicines.
On the estimated cost of the programme, he said: "We have to look into the logistics of it."
On the shortage of oncologists (doctors who specialise in the treatment of tumours in the body) in Malaysia (as reported in the media), Dr Chua said the country faces a shortage of all doctors, not just oncologists.
Responding to the claim that very few opportunities are offered to doctors interested in taking up oncology for their Master degree programme in Universiti Malaya, in particular, he said:
"The number of training posts for this field of speciality is very limited. It does not mean that 20 postgraduate doctors apply and 20 will be accepted. It does not work that way.
"The money for training posts must be approved by the Public Service Department (JPA). It is not just a question of saying there is a shortage and we need to train, and then tomorrow, we have it.
"It does not work out that way in the medical line."
Asked how then the Ministry was going to meet the people's needs, he said:
"We want to train more. But the problem is, for medical training, we need the facilities for training. I can say I want to train 100 oncologists. But there are no facilities, not only in this country, for that matter, in the world. There is a shortage of doctors everywhere, not just in Malaysia."
On why all five psychiatrists in Sabah prefer to be at Hospital Mesra Bukit Padang (thus depriving hospitals in other major towns of the services), he said: "It is hard to answer your question."
Dr Chua said pensioners can appeal against having to buy medicines outside, which they cannot afford.
"You must understand that in one year, we spend RM7 billion in health but in return, we collect RM128 million from patients."
He was asked to comment on Sabah pensioners' complaint that while they receive free medical treatment, very often they are asked to purchase specialist drugs outside. The excuse is that there is no stock in the hospital pharmacy.
This was among the issues raised in a memorandum to the Chief Secretary to the Government, Tan Sri Samsudin Osman from the Sabah Pensioners Association headed by Dr Florentius Epin Banaik in January this year.
Most of the pensioners find it very difficult to make ends meet as they receive pension as little as RM380 per month and it is even lower for some others. Dr Chua said Malaysians are so used to everything free that when they are asked to pay for a nominal sum, they make a lot of complaints.
"Nowhere else in the world can you get medical treatment for RM1. And they have been having so good that they forgot that this cannot continue forever."
According to him, the Ministry of Health spent only about RM280 on drug supplies in 1996.
"Last year, expenditure on drugs alone soared to RM850 million for the whole country."
The Minister said the entire Ministry's operating budget is RM7 billion a year "but we collect only RM1 (registration fee) each from Malaysian patients and this amounts to RM128 million."
"Which means 98 per cent of the cost is subsidised. Therefore, Malaysians must also be aware that the Government cannot continue to subsidise at such a high level."
Dr Chua, however, assured that the Government would always give priority to the poor, government servants, schoolchildren, unemployed people and the pensioners.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Entry Of New Drugs Leads To Increase In Number Of Addicts

KUALA LUMPUR, March 13 (Bernama) -- The entry of various new drugs and the shortage of narcotics officers are the main factors hampering police efforts in tackling the problem of drug abuse in the country.
"The problem now is that there are many new drugs surfacing compared to the traditional drugs," said the Director of the Police Narcotics Department, Datuk Mohd Najib Abdul Aziz in the Premier Debate entitled "Fight Drug Abuse: Between Law and Implementation" aired on RTM1 Sunday night.
He said the entry of new drugs such as syabu and ecstasy pills had led to the rise in the number of addicts in the country.
He also said that there were 3,000 officers and men in his department which was tasked with checking the growing problem of drug abuse.
"There is certainly a shortage of officers in the Narcotics Department, but we are assisted by 85,000 police personnel," Mohd Najib said.
Despite the shortage, the number of addicts arrested had increased each year.
Mohd Najib said that in 2002, the Narcotics Department arrested 98,345 addicts but as of 2004, the number had risen to more than 100,000.
He said the approach used to tackle the problem was still not in order and it needed the involvement of the whole community to tackle the country's number one enemy.
"Our action is still not insufficient, we need a holistic approach," he said.
Kuala Lumpur Still Faces Dengue Threat: Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, March 13 (Bernama) -- Concerned with nine deaths due to dengue since early this year, the Federal Territories Ministry has placed its officers on the alert and intensified its anti-aedes efforts.
The number of deaths in the last three months was similar to that of the whole of last year.
Its Minister Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad said despite the decline in the number of cases since early this month, preventive measures must be intensified.
"It is too early to say that the dengue threat is improving as the trend fluctuates and we don't know what will happen next month," he told reporters after launching a gotong royong and anti-aedes campaign here Sunday.
He said 1,932 cases had been reported since early this year and this figure was still considered high.
Of these cases, 1,805 were dengue and the rest were haemorrhagic dengue fever.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Keeping baby safe at home

With the heatwave that we have been experiencing, stringing a hammock for a bed seems a cool alternative. That was what many of us had as infants – swaying to the breeze in our sarong cradles. However, paediatricians like Dr Zulkifli Ismail are now advising parents not to use these sarong cradles, or “buai”, as they can cause brain damage to our infants.
Dr Zulkifli, who is the President of the Malaysian Paediatric Association (MPA), says they have found that most cases of sub-dural haemorrhage (bleeding beneath the skull) in babies that are not directly related to non-accidental injuries, such as child abuse, to be associated with the use of the buai. He adds that they have also documented cases where the buai was pushed, hitting the baby's head against the wall.
In one case, the infant's two-year old sibling loved to swing the buai, not realising the baby's head was hitting the wall. The baby's head was resting on a pillow inside the buai and there were no obvious signs of bleeding and, as is so often the case, the injury went undetected until much later. Dr Zulkifli says that internal bleeding is not visible but is found during a medical examination. Such an injury is referred to as a "contra coup", a French word for an injury caused when the brain moves within the skull, tearing blood vessels that join the surface of the brain to the skull causing sub-dural haemorrhage. The up-and-down movement of the sarong cradle can cause the same kind of injury, as it is almost like shaking the baby vigorously in your hands. Zulkifli explains that the brain of the baby is actually floating within the skull and when you move the baby vigorously, the brain moves in the opposite direction of the head, resulting in brain damage "If it is done gently, that is fine, but the bouncing movement of a sarong cradle with a spring is enough to injure your baby. There have been cases where the buai with the metal stand fell over and the stand hit the baby. This is why the MPA says it is not safe to put your baby in it." The best bed for the baby is a baby cot, not a sarong cradle or your bed.
Baby walkers are also dangerous and Dr Zulkifli advises parents not to use them: "A child usually falls off the baby walker in a very awkward manner resulting in more injuries.
"Walkers give a baby mobility before he is ready and can make him more prone to potentially fatal injuries such as falls, burns and scalds. Baby can walk into the kitchen and pull on dangling wires. We had a case where the child pulled the kettle wire and scalded himself. Walkers do not make baby walk earlier or faster, it should be noted." Children below the age of four are at a higher risk of injuries at home compared to even motor vehicle injuries. Some of these home injuries, which in some cases can be fatal, can be prevented.
Perlis Government to offer aid to medical students abroad

The Perlis Government will offer financial assistance soon to students from the State wanting to study medicine abroad.
Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim said many top students failed to get spots in local medical faculties.
"Due to the limited places offered in local universities, they are forced to go abroad. This is costly."
He was speaking to reporters after presenting between RM300 and RM500 to students who excelled in their Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia examinations.
"We will help Perlis students by subsidising their fees so that they can continue their studies there."
The State's top student, Chew Ying Dee of Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan (SMK) Derma, received RM1,000 for scoring 13A1s.
Her schoolmate, Ahmad Shahir Jamil, who scored 9A1s, received RM1,000 for excellence in both studies and co-curriculum activities.
Shahidan said the State Government would assist the top students in securing seats at the foreign universities recognised by the Public Service Department.
Appeal for medicine, pensioners advised

KOTA KINABALU: Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek has advised pensioners who cannot get medicine from government hospitals to appeal to the ministry.
However, he pointed out that the ministry spends some RM7bil a year to provide healthcare services but the returns were only RM128mil.
“The people must realise that this is a heavy burden for the Government,” he said.
He was responding to complaints that some pensioners had been told to buy medicine from private pharmacies.
Sabah’s flying doctors are here to stay

KOTA KINABALU: The “flying doctor”, the medicine man who flits from place to place in a plane across the vast landscape of Sabah, will continue to be a familiar sight among the state's rural people.
Their service is needed, as there are still villages that could not be reached by road, said Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek.
He added, however, that the number of kampungs covered by the flying doctor service had reduced because roads already connected many villages.
At present 45 villages are being served by flying doctors, compared with about 70 in recent years.
In 2003, more than 23,660 people received outpatient treatment through the flying doctor service while 1,704 rural women were provided antenatal treatment and 200 others received postnatal treatment. A total of 750 people were also immunised,
The ministry spends up to RM1.5mil annually to maintain the service, largely on aircraft charter, Dr Chua, an MCA vice-president, told reporters at the party’s 56th anniversary dinner here on Friday.
The minister said better healthcare services were in store for the state's rural communities with the provision of mobile clinics under the Ninth Malaysia Plan.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Big boost for Labuan hospital

LABUAN: The Health Ministry will upgrade the services at the Labuan Nucleus Hospital here.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said the ministry had given an immediate allocation of RM500,000 to the hospital for the purchase of various equipment.
Speaking after visiting the hospital yesterday, he said, the ministry would send a paediatrician to the hospital.
Dr Chua said that the move to further equip the hospital and increase manpower was necessary as Labuan was a fast growing international financial centre and tourist attraction.
“Furthermore, there is no private hospital here that is more advanced than the government hospital and people – including tourists – have to rely on the government's services,” he said.
Dengue: Number of cases continue to dip

The Health Ministry continues to record a drop in dengue cases, with 666 in Week 9 (between Feb 27 and March 5), compared to 956 the previous week.
“Our efforts seem to be bearing fruit as the number of cases has reduced by 30 per cent compared to the previous week,” the Health Ministry’s director of Disease Control, Dr Ramlee Rahmat, told The Malay Mail yesterday.
“Out of the latest 666 cases, only 20 to 30 per cent are expected to be dengue cases.”
He said no death was recorded recently. The figures of the latest outbreak remained at 25 deaths.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Pharmaniaga sees earnings boost from Indon unit

PHARMANIAGA Bhd sees double-digit growth in revenue for the financial year ending December 2005, boosted by earnings contribution from its 55%-owned Indonesian unit PT Millennium Pharmacon International (MPI), said managing director Azhar Hussain.
For 2004, the pharmaceutical firm’s pre-tax profit rose to RM81.8mil from RM66.8mil a year ago, while sales increased to RM800mil from RM632.6mil previously. Net profit for 2004 stood at RM50.8mil compared with RM40.8mil a year earlier.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Cigarette firm sends out strong message on health hazards

Every Marlboro cigarette pack of 20 now comes with a leaflet warning smokers of the health hazards.
The folded leaflet can be found inserted behind every pack as part of the company’s third phase communication programme to warn that smoking is an addictive and dangerous habit.
It also explains the meaning of the various terms, such as light, mild and ultralight, of its cigarettes.
Philip Morris (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd communications and public affairs manager Eliza Mohamed said adult smokers should not assume that lower tar cigarettes are safer or better.
“The message is clear. Smoking is addictive and causes serious diseases to smokers,” she said during a media tour to its manufacturing facility here yesterday.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

HIV awareness for NS trainees

KUALA LUMPUR: Having an awareness programme on HIV/ AIDS as a module for national service trainees is being considered by the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry.
The ministry’s parliamentary secretary Chew Mei Fun said: “We want to have a more focused awareness programme on the issue. It will be a right move to increase awareness in reproductive health.”
She said this yesterday after receiving a survey report from the Malaysian AIDS Council on Women, Girls and HIV/AIDS in conjunction with International Women’s Day.
She said the ministry would submit a report to the Cabinet after it had worked with relevant parties like the Health Ministry and the Malaysian AIDS Council to draw up a proposal for such programmes.
“We are looking for suggestions from the Malaysian AIDS Council to include this in the Ninth Malaysia Plan as AIDS is one aspect that concerns family health,” Chew said.
The survey found that almost 40% of respondents agreed that they would not be at risk f contracting HIV if they stayed faithful to their partners.
Some did not know that a woman has the right to refuse to have sex with her partner if she suspects him of engaging in high risk sexual behaviours.
Factory workers and unemployed women had the lowest level of knowledge.
On the results of the survey, Chew said that people living with HIV/AIDS needed the help of others to build a support system.
“Men are also in danger and they need to be aware of the need for a healthy lifestyle. Women need to be alerted to the wrong perception that they will not be infected if they were faithful,” she added.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Online healthcare service launched

JOHOR BARU: Rural folks in Johor and Sarawak can now look forward to being treated by specialists without having to leave their hometowns, thanks to the online healthcare service provided by the Health Ministry.
The Teleprimary Care (TPC) service, which took nearly nine years to develop, was jointly launched yesterday by Mentri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman and Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek at the Kempas Health Clinic near here.
Dr Chua said 28 clinics in Johor and 17 in Sarawak had been chosen for the pilot TPC project.
He said the Sultanah Aminah Hospital in Johor Baru and the Sibu Hospital would be the referral centres.
“Much time and money will be saved with this service as one does not need to go to the referral centres just to get consultation or even treatment from specialists.
“All a patient needs to do is just go to the nearest clinic that has the TPC service and health problems which require specialists attention will be taken care of using the online service,” he said.
Dr Chua said the service would also enable patients to enjoy follow-up checks by specialists.
“It uses a borderless system which we dare say is the first in the region. However, we are being pragmatic about the public's response as Malaysians are still not responsive to online services,” he said.
Dr Chua also said about 800 medical personnel had been trained to manage and provide the service.
Ministry To Take Back Hospital Only After It's Considered Safe

JOHOR BAHARU, March 7 (Bernama) -- The Health Ministry will only take back the Sultan Ismail Hospital (HSI) which was closed last September due to a fungal attack after it is satisfied that it is safe for patients and staff, according to Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek.
He said contractors and the Works Ministry were still carrying out fungal cleaning work at several sections and a garden believed to be the source of the problem at the RM500 million hospital.
Asked when the work would be completed, Chua told reporters: "I cannot say for sure. JKR (Public Works Department) initially said it will take about three to six months; it is five months now."
HSI, a 300-bed hospital was forced to be closed about two months after it was opened following fungal attacks believed to be from a defective air-conditioning system.
Earlier, the minister launched a pioneer Tele-Primary Care (TPC) health project at the Kempas Health Clinic which was also attended by Johor Menteri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman, here.
Last year, the Cabinet decided that remedial works costing RM14 million be carried out at the hospital so that it could be reopened to the public.
On the TPC, Chua said the project, the first of its kind in the region, had two unique features in that patients could be continuously helped by staff at local clinics and specialists at hospitals, through tele-consultation which was built into the system.
Under the pioneer project, 45 health clinics -- 28 in Johor and 17 in Sarawak -- are linked directly to the Health Ministry in Putrajaya through an information technology network.
The Sultanah Aminah Hospital in Johor Baharu and Sibu Hospital in Sarawak act as reference hospitals.
The project aims to help patients get initial specialist treatment locally without having to travel too much to specialist hospitals, which is costly and burdensome for them.
Stricter Health Checks For Indonesian Workers

KUALA LUMPUR, March 7 (Bernama) -- Health checks for Indonesian workers returning to work in Malaysia in the post-amnesty period ended have been tightened, Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latif Ahmad said Monday.
He said the step was necessary because of doubts on the health check information issued in Indonesia and that from now every Indonesian worker must undergo a health check within 30 days of coming to Malaysia.
"The Cabinet has ordered for it to be mandatory," he told reporters after witnessing the signing of an agreement between the Health Ministry and Universiti Islam Antarabangsa (UIA) to allow UIA's pharmacy students do their practical at government hospitals.
The Health Ministry was represented by its Secretary-General Datuk Ismail Adam and UIA by Acting Rector Prof Ismawi Zen.
Previously, Indonesian and other foreign workers only underwent health checks in Malaysia once a year when renewing their work permits.
"We had to wait for 12 months before detecting any disease in the worker. In that period many of us might have been infected," said Abdul Latiff.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Healthcare tourism to bolster Pantai

PANTAI Holdings Bhd aims to fully tap its healthcare tourism business, which lately has been experiencing healthy growth in Malaysia.
Group chairman Datuk Dr Ridzwan Bakar is optimistic over the prospects of healthcare tourism, given the anticipated robust growth in the private healthcare industry, which can be seen via the expansion of existing hospitals and setting up of new purpose-built hospitals nationwide.
“We expect the healthcare tourism business to help expand the revenue base of the Pantai group as part of its long-term strategy,” he added.
According to Dr Ridzwan, the Malaysian health tourism industry has grown by leaps and bounds from a mere 59,926 patients generating RM22mil in revenue in 1999 to 102,938 patients in 2003, with revenue of RM48.9mil.
In fact, in the first nine months of 2004, the country recorded 129,318 foreign patients with RM75.5mil in revenue, he said, adding that: “This figure, however, is under-reported as data from some hospitals is not forthcoming.”

Sunday, March 06, 2005

UiTM To Take More Medical Students In July

JERTIH, March 5 (Bernama) -- The Medical Faculty of the Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) in Shah Alam, Selangor, will take 100 medical students during the third intake in July this year.
Its Vice Chancellor Datuk Seri Prof Ibrahim Abu Shah said its medical faculty took 20 students in the first intake in July 2003 and 63 students in July last year.
The faculty now offers courses in Pure Medicine, Pharmacy, Radiography, Physiotherapy and Environmental Science.
He told this to Bernama after speaking on "The Challenge and Survival of the Malays" to the local community and students at the Sekolah Kebangsaan Pangkalan Nyireh here Saturday.
Health professionals may need certs to practise

Physiotherapists, nutritionists and dieticians are among a number of health professionals that may have to obtain annual practising certificates (APCs) under the proposed Allied Health Professional Act.
Health Ministry Medical Development Division director Dr Norimi Murad said this was one of the many aspects being finalised in the draft of the Act.
She said this group of medical professionals were not subjected to assessments for APCs, unlike doctors or specialists.
“This is to help regulate the service and quality of these professionals to ensure patient safety,” she told reporters after opening the Malaysian Physiotherapy Association 42nd Annual Conference and Annual General Meeting 2005 yesterday.
Hospital Kuala Lumpur Physiotherapy department/service head Asiah Mohd Hashim said at present, after physiotherapy students obtain their diplomas or degrees, they have to undergo a one-time qualifying exam under the ministry before practising.
The Act is aimed at controlling all sub-medical professionals who provide service to the public, including occupational therapists and physiotherapists.
Dr Norimi said under the Act, a standard operating procedure or some guidelines would also be formulated.
She, however, declined to comment on when the Act would be tabled in Parliament.
She added that the ministry was looking at similar legislations from countries such as the United Kingdom for reference.
Association president Marc J. Daniel said the Act should also touch on the protection of these professional titles to prevent bogus medical practitioners from duping the public
Health D-G calls it a day

After devoting 31 years of his life to the Health Ministry, director-general Tan Sri Dr Mohamad Taha Arif will now be dedicating his retirement to his family.
“I have to look after my growing children. I still have to work hard to earn some money so I can educate my children,” said Dr Mohamad Taha who has five children aged between 17 and 10.
“But I am going to take a long break for now. I leave with mixed feelings because I leave behind so many friends and acquaintances,” he said.
“But I have done my part and I am going to devote myself to my family now. To balik kampung, tanam jagung (head for home) in Kuching,” he said at his farewell party on Friday night organised by the ministry. His successor has not been announced yet.
The soft-spoken and amiable Dr Mohamad Taha obtained his degree from Universiti Malaya and Masters in Public Health from the University of Glasgow.
Among the positions he held were health director at various states including Sarawak and Negri Sembilan. He is also Malaysian Medical Council president.
“I came up through rank and file. It has been 31 years of hardship. But it has been interesting and challenging,” said Dr Mohamad Taha who became director-general in Feb 2001.
Wanted: Good grades and aptitude

MATCHING aptitude and interest – that is what the Government is striving to do in its selection of doctor wannabes. To kick-start this is a pilot project that involved about 3,200 STPM and matriculation students last week. They were randomly picked to sit for the first Malaysian Medical Schools Admissions Test (MMSAT).
The project, which comprises the test, a hospital visit and interview, is mainly for research purposes.
“This is for the consumption of our researchers only,” Prof Hassan told reporters recently. “The students were randomly selected.
We want to study the correlation between their interest and aptitude,” says a senior ministry official.
All public universities have been roped in to help in its implementation. They provide lecturers for the hospital visits that expose potential medical students to the life of a house officer and the academic staff also form the panel of interviewers.
This new admission procedure, developed by the ministry’s Quality Assurance Division and conducted by the Malaysian Examinations Council, will have no bearing on these students’ chances of securing a place in one of the country's six medical faculties should they apply this year, says the official.
After last year’s fiasco where 128 students with a maximum 4.0 Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) were denied medicine due to limited places, the Higher Education Ministry decided to impose more stringent pre-equisites for selection of students instead of going strictly by grades.
This will only be applicable next year. When the results are announced soon, STPM and matriculation may have to slug it out again this year. The only difference is there are 200 additional places this year compared to last.
Minister Datuk Dr Shafie Mohd Salleh says the number places for medicine in public universities will be increased incrementally so that its resources, especially lecturers, will not be overstretched.
His deputy director-general Prof Datuk Dr Hassan Said, however, acknowledges that if the number of 4.0 achievers increases, the ministry would not be able to cope.
“We may have to bring in the private sector (again). We need to know how many 4.0 scorers there are to be sure if all can be accepted into medical school,” he said in a recent interview, referring to private institutions opening up more places last year to accommodate those who failed to gain places at public universities.
Meanwhile, public universities have been busy creating more places to cater to the demand. UPM, for example, is increasing the number of first year medical places by 15 to a total of bout 120 seats for the coming intake.

Two hundred medical seats are allocated in UM this year compared to 160 last year.

“The increase is not unmanageable. We will need to buy a bit more equipment and there will be one or two extra students per group,” says Universiti Malaya (UM) medical faculty dean Datuk Prof Dr Mohd Amin Jalaludin.
Currently, tutorial groups in the medical programme consist of about seven students and the number will be increased to about nine or 10 students in the coming year.

But does the country need so many doctors? Health Ministry parliamentary secretary Lee Kah Choon says: “For the time being, yes”.
At present, there is a vacancy for 4,000 doctors in the public sector with 13,500 positions available and only 9,500 filled. The doctor to student ratio stands at 1:1,400 respectively compared to 1:500 in Japan, 1:700 in the United Kingdom, 1:650 in France and 1:750 in Singapore.
“Our target is to achieve a 1:500 ratio by 2020. More importantly, we want a better balance in the number of doctors serving in urban and rural areas.
Also, it is not just doctors that the country is short of but also nurses, medical assistants and other support staff.
“My personal view is that students need to go for counselling before studying to be doctors.
People tend to venture into the profession thinking it is glamorous but there is more to it than that,” Lee adds.

Deputy Higher Education Minister Datuk Fu Ah Kiow agrees, saying that students must not confine themselves to one university or one course. Students must know how to choose a course that will increase their chances of being selected.
“There are other medical related courses like bio-medicine, bio-technology and others in the allied health sciences that are useful,” he adds.

While agreeing with the government’s move to promote the allied health courses, Universiti Putra Malaysia medical and health sciences faculty dean Prof Dr Azhar Md Zain understands students’ reluctance in taking up such courses.
“What is the career path for these graduates? What are their chances for promotion and self-improvement? In a sense, they are stuck because a physiotherapist is always going to be a physiotherapist, whereas at least a doctor can move up to consultant status,”he says.
“The government will also have to create posts to take in these graduates.”
He feels that the focus should be more on dentistry, which also faces a shortage in the country and offers a good career path.
Be prepared to lose subsidies, Malaysians told

Malaysians must be prepared to lose subsidies gradually and pay more for fuel and certain services eventually.
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said this was the reality as the government was losing heavily because of the fuel subsidy, escalating health costs and poor repayment of higher education loans.
However, he said any changes would have to be done gradually so as to not cause a “shock” to the people.
“We have to condition the minds of the people first before doing any review,” he said when launching the Barisan Nasional Backbenchers Club retreat attended by about 130 MPs and Senators at the Nexus Karambunai Resort here.
“These are among the financial challenges we have to deal with,” Najib said in explaining that for fuel, the government was losing RM5bil in subsidies and foregoing RM8bil to RM9bil in taxes.
Later at a press conference, Najib said that the government had no intention of completely removing the fuel subsidy but was studying how to adjust it without burdening the people.
“In any subsidy, it is the people who finally have to pay for it,” he said, adding that those who deserve the fuel subsidy would get it but abuses must be avoided.
In this regard, Najib said the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry had imposed a quota system for diesel retailers and the move had saved the government RM600mil, adding that the government’s policy on the matter was a right one but was not efficiently implemented.
On the health care system review, he said the government was considering a scheme that would provide quality service on a sustainable basis amid increasing costs and demands on the nation’s health care system.
“The question now is whether we can continue with the present situation or have some sort of scheme,” Najib said adding that he would explain more about the health care system review soon.
Move to upgrade government doctors

Doctors in government service will soon have to attend continuous medical education to help them stay abreast with new developments in medicine.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said the programme would be linked to the Government Efficiency Level Assessment Test.
“Those who do not attend the course will lose some marks in the test. Taking it will enable doctors to continue upgrading themselves with information on the latest technologies and treatment procedures.
“If a doctor does not attend the course, I am afraid he will just be a doctor who cannot give the best to patients,” he told reporters after launching the Living Skills Pillar under the MCA Lifelong Learning Campaign at Wisma MCA here yesterday.
He said Deputy Health Director-General Datuk Dr Mohd Ismail Merican had been directed to work out the course details.
Dr Chua said the course was in line with the human capital development strategy emphasised by the Prime Minister.
On whether doctors in private practice would have to take the course, he said there was no mechanism to monitor them at the moment.

MMR Comment

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Ministry wants a stop to sale of small-pack cigarettes

THE Health Ministry has reminded traders to retract all sales and advertisements of small-pack cigarettes from July, Nanyang Siang Pau reported.
All cigarette-selling outlets must also ensure that they put up signs indicating that those below 18 years of age are not allowed to purchase cigarettes, failing which they will be liable for up to RM10,000 in fine or up to two years in jail, the daily reported.
Quoting ministry parliamentary secretary Lee Kah Choon, the daily reported that studies showed that in developed countries the number of smokers dropped by 4% with every 10% cigarette price increase.
Lee said the ministry hoped that the increase in cigarette prices would help smokers curb the unhealthy habit.
Call to counsel the carriers

The Health Ministry’s best target group for counselling and tests for thalassaemia (excessive build-up of iron in the body) carriers are Form Four students, said Federation of Malaysian Thalassaemia Societies president Ramli Mohd Yunus.
This way, he said, the number of thalassaemia sufferers, could be reduced from the current 2,500 reported nationwide.
Ramli said as Form Four students have no major examinations to prepare for, they will have time for counselling sessions on the consequences of the disease which could be passed on to their children.
“It was reported in local dailies yesterday that the Government has allocated RM25.5 million for treatment of the disease, including tracking down the three to five per cent of Malaysians who are carriers.
Another RM19.9 million has been set aside as one-off aid to help the poor buy equipment and obtain medication.
The Ministry’s mission is also to advise carriers about the hazards of the disease which involves lifelong and expensive treatment.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek had said the Ministry is tracing the three to five per cent of Malaysians who are carriers, which is likely to be more than 600,000.
As part of that exercise, he said the Ministry would also check secondary schools for genetic carriers, with a view to counsel them on the anaemic disease.
Ramli said the federation will support the Ministry’s efforts to visit schools to conduct blood-screening in schools.
The federation, comprising members of the respective thalassaemia societies, parents, patients and paramedics will continue to hold talks and counselling sessions.
Ramli said, treating thalassaemia patients is a costly affair and treatment can come up to RM1,000 a month.
“For instance, the drug, Desferal costs RM13.40 per vial and this requires a RM2,000 infusion pump,” he said.
Failure to tender medical report delays sentencing

A hospital's failure to tender a medical report has delayed the sentencing of a security guard who threatened to kill his wife.
S. Kannan, 39, of Desa Petaling, was supposed to be sentenced yesterday for intimidating his wife Janet @ Woo Mei Ling, 26.
He has been charged with saying “Macam mana pun saya mahu bunuh awak. Masuk penjara pun tidak apa (I want to kill you no matter what. I don't mind being jailed)” to her at a house in PPR Desa Petaling about 7.30pm on Dec 13 last year.
Kannan, who was arrested on Dec 24, also faces a second charge of causing hurt to Janet, a housewife, by kicking her head at the same place and time.
He had admitted to committing the offences when charged on Dec 31 in a magistrate’s court here.
At the court yesterday, he maintained his guilty plea.
However, prosecuting officer C/Insp Zakaria Alias said he still had not received Janet’s medical report.
Magistrate Nazran Mohd Sham then set April 28 for sentencing.
Later, C/Insp Zakaria said two reminders on the medical report, dated Dec 16 and March 1, had been sent to Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.
“This has affected the prosecution’s efforts to clear the case fast. It has also wasted the court’s time,” he told reporters after the case was adjourned.
Child Obesity Threatening Asia, Warns US Expert

KUALA LUMPUR, March 5 (Bernama) -- Children in developing countries, especially in Asia, are falling victim to obesity, a worrying trend as it leads to severe health complications at a tender age, warned an expert.
"The United States (US) is very involved in obesity but now it is definitely spreading to Southeast Asia and in particular we are seeing it in younger people, they are getting diabetes," Dr Norman Samuels, a surgeon with the Florida-based Centre For Severe Obesity, told Bernama here Saturday.
"It is becoming a worldwide problem and it has increased in recent years because of fast food and the advent of television and computer games.
"Children are not going outside to play or have an active life any more. Most of the time they sit in front of computer games or television.
"As a result, from an early age they eat a lot of wrong food and don't burn out the calories. So they get heavier and heavier," he said.
In countries like China and India, two fast growing economies in the world, and even in West Asia, more children were prone to obesity, due to changing lifestyle but this was a very unhealthy trend, said Dr Samuels.
Overweight children are prone to high blood pressure, diabetes and degenerative arthritis, which eventually affect their quality of life.
To combat the rising obesity cases, doctors are now performing gastric bypass, found to be more effective compared with traditional weight reduction methods like taking slimming pills.
"On average, at least 70 per cent of the excessive weight in a person can be removed and there is permanent weight loss if patients follow procedures," Dr Samuels said, adding that in the US, about 100,000 such surgeries were performed in 2004.
Dr Samuels is in Malaysia to introduce obesity surgery to local hospitals and he said that several hospitals were keen to learn about it.
"There is a problem in Malaysia and it is a service to the public because it is not cosmetic surgery but it is done against diseases.
"We will help set up the whole programme, train the surgeons and nurses, and we will bring dieticians, psychologists and trainers," he added

Friday, March 04, 2005

More than RM40m allocation for thalassaemia registry and treatment

PUTRAJAYA: More than RM40mil will be allocated to provide treatment and start a registry for thalassaemia patients in the country, Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said.
He said out of this amount, RM19.9mil would be provided to purchase equipment and other aids as a one-off allocation, adding that this was a Cabinet decision after its meeting on Wednesday.
"We will also start a census to register all patients in the country beginning with secondary school students this year.
"We will also prepare the logistics to allow couples to test for thalassaemia prior to getting married," he told reporters at the ministry on Thursday.
There was currently no proper registry of the number of thalassaemia patients, Dr Chua said.
He said they estimated that between 150 and 350 babies are born with thalassaemia each year, who need blood transfusions to treat this genetic disorder.
He said aid would be distributed beginning in the Federal Territory and Kuala Lumpur and would be expanded to the northern, southern and eastern states, adding that Sabah was included as it has the highest number of thalassaemia patients in the country.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Bird flu: Call for tight surveillance

Malaysia should ensure its avian flu surveillance system is tight enough to prevent the entry of diseased birds into the country.
Veterinary Services Department director-general Datuk Dr Hawari Hussein said this was one of the most important ways of keeping the disease at bay.
"The main reason for the spread of the disease is the movement of diseased birds," he said.
Dr Hawari, who returned recently from a regional conference on bird flu in Ho Chi Minh City, said the primary focus of the surveillance system was to foil the smuggling of diseased birds.
He said the department was aware of such attempts in the recent past.
"One diseased bird is enough to cause an outbreak. We will also check on ducks which are said to be carriers of the disease."
He said the department had taken samples from duck farms, especially in Perak. All were free of the disease.
Dr Hawari said another concern was to maintain the nation's high alert status in the wake of the death of millions of chickens and some humans in Asia.
Dengue Cases In Malaysia Drop 12.1 Per Cent

PUTRAJAYA, March 3 (Bernama) -- Dengue cases in the country have dropped 12.1 per cent in the last week of last month, with no death reported.
Disease Control Director in the Health Ministry Dr Ramlee Rahmat said between Feb 20 and 26 the cases declined to 956 compared to 1,087 the previous week.
In Selangor, the drop was from 427 to 370 cases, Sabah (58 to 29), Perak (125 to 101), Kuala Lumpur (172 to 151), Penang (63 to 54), Kedah (36 to 29), Melaka (20 to 14), Johor (43 to 41), Pahang (50 to 48) and Labuan (3 to 0).
However, the cases recorded an increase in Terengganu (from 16 to 28), Negeri Sembilan (15 to 22), Perlis (3 to 9), Kelantan (34 to 36), Sarawak (17 to 18) and Putrajaya (5 to 6).
One death was reported on Jan 2 in Pahang, bringing the number of deaths to 25.
On Selangor recording the highest number of dengue cases, he said the state department had met with the local councils yesterday to identify the source of the problem and rectify the situation.
Perak Sells Medical College To Universiti Kuala Lumpur

IPOH, March 2 (Bernama) -- The Perak government has agreed to sell a 75 per cent stake in its wholly owned Perak Royal College of Medicine (PCM) for RM60 million to Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UKL).
Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Tajol Rosli Ghazali said the PCM campus near Ipoh Hospital was priced at RM45 million while the shares in the college were valued at RM15 million in the deal.
"The state government through the State Secretary Incorporated will still retain a 25 per cent share in the college," he said after the Executive Council meeting, Wednesday.
UKL is owned by Mara's Universiti Teknikal Mara Sdn Bhd.
Tajol Rosli said the name of the college, which opened in 1999, would be maintained as that was one of the conditions for selling it to Mara.
"This is in recognition of the Sultan of Perak Sultan Azlan Shah's contribution towards the college's development. As the Chancellor of Universiti Malaya (UM), he had played a significant role in establishing a strategic alliance between the university and PCM," he added.
He said when Britain's Sheffield University stopped issuing its degree to PCM students few years ago, UM stepped in to help the students.
Tajol Rosli said the college could take in 100 first-year students who each pay RM50,000 annually for the first two years and RM55,000 each year for the remaining three years.
"Mara actually saved the college by buying it. PCM was losing students, especially from overseas, when Sheffield stopped giving its degree," he said.

MMR Comment

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Docs need to know Occupational Safety and Health issues

KUALA LUMPUR: There is an urgent need to enhance doctors’ knowledge of Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) issues, says National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) chairman, Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye.
He said the ratio of Occupational Health Doctors (OHD) to workers in the country is one to 30,000.
The role of OHDs is to help industries conduct medical surveillance required under the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1994.
“Medical surveillance is necessary to detect adverse health effects on workers as a result of occupational exposure. Besides medical surveillance, surveys must be conducted to assess the occupational hygienic conditions of a workplace,” said Lee.
He said the Social Security Organisation (Socso) had made it a requirement that all its panel doctors be trained in occupational health by this year.
Currently, only 456 of the 40,000 Socso panel doctors have attended workshops on occupational health organised by NIOSH.
“NIOSH runs a certificate programme for OHDs which has a syllabus governed by the Use And Standards Of Exposure Of Chemicals Hazardous To Health Regulations 2000,” he said.
“We have also set up an Occupational Medicine Centre at our head office in Bandar Baru Bangi to provide advice and laboratory services in occupational health.”
Chance for the disabled to work again

KUALA LUMPUR: Some 3,000 permanently disabled workers who suffer from back and cervical pain will get a chance to be rehabilitated and work again, said Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr Fong Chan Onn.
They would get a chance to be rehabilitated through the Social Security Organisation (Socso) “Return to Work” rehabilitation programme, which was launched by Dr Fong yesterday.
Socso is partnering with DBC Back to Health (M) Sdn Bhd to provide the workers rehabilitation, which would be fully borne by Socso.
Dr Fong, said that of the over 9,000 permanently disabled workers, some 30% had back and cervical injuries.
“Most in this category get these injuries not just in factories but in offices (as well).
“The aim of the rehabilitation programme is to get workers to resume their work. The injured worker will also be given motivation and counselling to help them regain their confidence to work again,” he said yesterday.
He said employers should give the injured worker a chance to work again or, if this was not possible, reassign them to another position.
Socso chief executive officer Dr Soh Chee Seng said they had identified two situations in which cases may be referred to the centre for rehabilitation.
“Firstly, those who suffer from chronic cervical or back pain and have been recommended by the Medical Board to undergo rehabilitations.
“Secondly, insured persons who suffer from acute back pain and have been on medical leave (temporary disablement) for more than three months,” he said.
The workers could seek treatment at two DBC rehabilitation centres – one in Plaza Ampang, Jalan Tun Razak, for the Klang Valley and the other in 135 D&E, Jalan Datuk Lao Phak Khuan, Taman Ipoh, Perak.
Dr Fong said the pilot project might be expanded nationally if response was good.