Sunday, July 30, 2006

Herbal industry identified as a money spinner

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: The local market for herb-based products is worth about RM6.2 billion annually but 85 per cent of the products are imported.
International Trade and Industry Deputy Minister Ng Lip Yong said the Government had taken steps to rectify the anomaly.
He said the herbal industry had been identified as a potential money spinner, with small-and medium-sized enterprises taking the lead under the Third Industrial Master Plan.
"In terms of herbal production, our SMEs so far are only engaged in low value-added activities. This is set to change under the master plan," he said at the second international Women’s Health and Asian Traditional (WHAT Medicine) conference at the Putra World Trade Centre here.
The three-day conference was closed by Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Fauziah.
Ng said with the world market valued at a staggering US$80 billion (RM300 billion) and the great demand for herb- based health supplements, cosmetics, and fragrances, Malaysia should seize the opportunity to become a major player.
Conference organising chairman and Tropical Botanics chief executive Dr Rajen M. said the time had come for local herbal players to fully tap the industry’s potential.
He said Malaysia was the fourth largest producer of herbs in the Asia Pacific region and 12th globally and the industry here possessed all the "ingredients" needed for it to go big.
"We have plenty of herbs in our own backyard, the people are not strangers to using them and the Government is supporting the industry.
"What’s needed now is proper funding and facilities to further develop the industry."
Rajen said there were 15,000 species of herbs identified in the country but only 2,000 were known to have medicinal value.
He said the country should also think about "renting" foreign expertise to maintain and develop the industry.
"We should not be satisfied with merely being a herb-growing country. We should strive to commercialise them.
"We should not repeat the mistake we made with rubber where we became the largest producer but ended up paying 10 times more for tyres."
He said herb growers should also concentrate on the branding of their own products.

The harbour of last goodbyes

NST: JOHOR BARU: Shunned by society and kicked out by their families, people with full-blown AIDS often die a painful and lonely death.
But it need not be so. Dignity, a charity home here, offers care and comfort during the last days of their lives.
The project, an offshoot of the Intan Life Zone (ILZ) home for the "rejects" of society, was started in October last year and now has 17 patients.
Most of them were languishing in government hospitals, with no family support.
Staff at ILZ, who are dedicated to reaching out to the homeless, ex-prisoners and others struggling to kick their addiction to drugs and alcohol, came to their rescue.
A special facility was set up on the 2nd floor of ILZ’s shophouse premises on Jalan Tun Abdul Razak here, to provide a home, meals and medical and nursing care for those suffering from HIV/AIDS.
The idea, said project founder Abraham Prathap, was to provide a place of recovery in a drug-free environment, with counselling to try and reconcile them with their estranged families.
"Most were thrown out of their homes when they had HIV and this later developed into full-blown AIDS. They had no one to turn to," said Prathap.
"Nobody wants anything to do with them. We try and give them care, support and love.
"We offer personalised attention during the last moments of their lives. We help them die with dignity."
These people, said Prathap, would otherwise end up dying in some dark street alley.
Dignity reaches out to people of all religions, with Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and Hindus volunteering time and effort.
"When you talk about rejects in society, there is a tendency to write them off as mere statistics and forget that we are dealing with real people," said Dr Vanassa Ratnasingam, one of the volunteers. "To spend your last days alone with no loved ones to support and comfort you is a terrible thing. I try to give them hope by sharing my love and care for them."
The volunteers are assisted by two full-time workers.
The project, which is financed through public donations, is supported by a monthly grant from the Malaysian AIDS Council. But this is often short of the RM8,000 to RM10,000 a month needed to run the Dignity programme.
ILZ’s other projects, which are all housed in the same premises, includes a charity soup kitchen for the homeless, which serves between 80 and 100 a day.
Once a week, staff and volunteers distribute food parcels to vagrants, ex-prisoners and addicts who live on the streets.
ILZ has also started a harm reduction programme, financed by the Health Ministry, under which addicts can turn to the centre for treatment, counselling, testing and help with job placements.
Said Prathap: "Our work at ILZ is not about numbers. If we can reach out and help just one person to make the change for the better, that in itself is a success story.
"All they need is a little love, understanding and kindness."
ILZ is located at 26A Jalan Tun Abdul Razak, Susur 1, 80000 Johor Baru,
For telephone enquiries, call Prathap at 016-7355939 or 07-2281885.
The email address is abraham_

Chinese not too keen on nursing

Star: SEREMBAN: Chinese are reluctant to become nurses and this is cause of concern to the Health Ministry.
Deputy Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad said government and private nursing schools trained some 5,000 nurses yearly and only 10% were Chinese.
“I am not happy with the situation.
“If this continues, Chinese patients may face communication difficulties in hospitals.
“Patients feel more comfortable when conversing in their mother tongue or dialects,” he said after attending the convocation ceremony of 271 nurses at the Seremban Nursing College.
All the graduates were non-Chinese.
There are now 27,000 nurses, a ratio of one to 600 people, serving at government and private hospitals in the country.
Dr Abdul Latiff said the ministry hoped to have a ratio of one to 200 by 2010.
He said the public must change their perception that nurses only help the sick.
“Nurses also promote healthy living to help the fit-and-well maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Dr Abdul Latiff also said the Government could not stop nurses from working overseas such as in the Middle East and Europe due to the better pay there.
“It is a good sign, showing that our nurses are well trained and recognised internationally,” he said.

Heart patients as young as 15

Star: PETALING JAYA: One-third of heart patients in the country are under 45 years old.
Universiti Malaya Medical Centre's (UMMC) cardiology division head Prof Dr Wan Azman Wan Ahmad said more young people were getting heart disease compared to 30 years ago.
This could be due to an unhealthy diet, higher level of stress and a change in lifestyle.
“Thirty years ago, heart patients were aged between 50 and 55 for males and 60 and 65 for females. But today, we get patients as young as 15.
“There are various factors that cause heart disease. One of them is eating unhealthy food, which young people are doing because they eat a lot of fast food and deep fried Western food,” Dr Wan Azman told reporters after the opening of the Love Your Heart forum at UMMC here yesterday.
About 200 people attended the half-day forum, which also had free health screening.
Dr Wan Azman said heart disease was now also more common among Malays.
“This could be due to the fact that more Malays have migrated from rural areas to the city, giving them more choices of unhealthy food,” he said.
He advised the public to go to the hospital for an immediate check-up if they felt pain in their chest.
“Many people who experience chest pain are afraid to go to the hospital because they would rather not know the result of the symptom, which is usually angina (chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart)
“They would rather go to a general practitioner or traditional physician to seek treatment. But when they find out (subsequently) that they have heart disease, it might be too late,” Dr Wan Azman said.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Community rehab for addicts not working

Star: PADANG BESAR: Attempts to rehabilitate drug addicts using the community-based concept are not yielding good results.
National Anti-Drug Agency treatment and rehabilitation director Zuraidah Muhamad said this was because of lack of participation from non-governmental organisations (NGOs), parents, and community-based organisations.
She said 17 community-based service centres were set up to provide counselling for those who had completed their two-year training at drug rehabilitation centres.
“But many NGOs have yet to extend their cooperation to make this programme a success,” she said.
“Even those who have completed their training at drug rehabilitation centres do not show up at the service centres, although it is compulsory for them to do so,” she said.
She said parents and the public were also not keen to help out at the service centres aimed at helping former drug addicts return to society.
“We must find ways to get the NGOs, parents and the public interested in helping out in the rehabilitation process,” she said after opening the Dataran Keinsafan at the Bukit Chabang rehabilitation centre here yesterday.
The agency plans to set up 93 service centres nationwide by 2008, Zuraidah said, adding that they would be strategically located for easy access.
She said close cooperation between Pemadam, Pengasih, village development and security committees, rehabilitated drug addicts and their family members was important to check relapse.
Bukit Chabang rehabilitation centre commandant Nazer Mustafa said the centre was using the Islamic method to rehabilitate drug addicts.

HIV-positive GROs

Star: KUANTAN: Irresponsible nightspot operators here are hiring HIV-positive guest relations officers, an Umno Youth leader alleged.
Kuantan division chief Mohamed Suffian Awang said there were at least three HIV-positive GROs working “somewhere here.”
He said he obtained the information from the Pahang state health authorities.
He added, however, that due to the nature of the matter, he could not divulge details of those involved.
Mohamed Suffian, who is a Kuantan municipal councillor, told The Star yesterday: “This is privileged information, which I brought to the attention of the local council during a recent full-board meeting.
“What worries me is that the number of those inflicted with HIV or AIDS may be higher than expected.
“Worse, they are working in a service industry which encourages close and personal contact with the public.”
He said he was upset that unscrupulous operators were employing such people.
“By right, those who work in the services industry such as eateries, entertainment centres and barber shops, must possess a health card to certify they are fit for work and free from any sickness,” said Mohamed Suffian.
“I have proposed that stern action be taken against operators who put the health of their clients at risk,” he said, adding that at the moment those found guilty of hiring workers without a health card could be fined RM80 and could even appeal for a reduction.
Mohamed Suffian said those who know they are carrying the deadly AIDS virus should stop doing any work that requires physical contact.
“There are many job opportunities, such as being a telephonist or receptionist,” he said, adding that he was not against them earning a living, but it should preferably be a job that did not put the public at risk.

Traditional medicine draft Bill ready by year’s end

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The Traditional and Complementary Medicine Bill 2006 draft will be ready by the end of the year, Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said.
The law will bring unethical practices and the use of low quality traditional and complementary medicine (T/CM) products under control, he said while opening the 2nd Women’s Health and Asian Traditional Medicine Conference yesterday.
The law will not only ensure practitioners are registered but also have government-approved education and training on T/CM, he added.
“We are discussing with the Public Services Department, the National Accreditation Board and the Higher Education Ministry on how to come up with accreditation and certification of courses provided in Indonesia, India and China,” he said.
“We also hope local universities will provide courses on traditional medicine which are recognised worldwide.” Such a course is conducted in RMIT, Australia.
Last year, more than 7,000 T/CM local practitioners were registered. They included 4,900 Chinese practitioners, 175 Malay, 69 Indian and 691 homeopathic practitioners and 1,200 complementary medicine practitioners. There were 219 foreign practitioners registered.
“Herbal products have great potential in Malaysia,” Dr Chua said.
“Malaysia is nestled in the oldest rainforest of the world and has a lot to offer to the world. It is listed as number 12 in the world for its biodiversity, and one in eight herbs on the planet grow on our soil.”
The Malaysian Industry Government grouping for High Technology 1999 study showed that the local market for herbal products is valued at RM4.5bil and growing at 10% to 15% a year, he said.
“Sadly, based on traditional medicine products registered with our Drug Control Authority up to last year, almost 40% of these products are imported, mainly from China and Indonesia,” he said.
To integrate T/CM into the country’s healthcare system, the ministry is carrying out a pilot test at the Putrajaya, Kepala Batas and Pandan hospitals over the next five years, at an estimated cost of RM1.8mil.

Cosmetics Law Controls Botox Use

KUALA LUMPUR, July 28 (Bernama) -- A bill on cosmetics, including the use of botox, is being drawn up and is expected to be tabled in Parliament next year, Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said Friday.
He said the draft would be submitted to the Cabinet at the end of this year.
The bill would seek to prohibit the use of equipment for the application of botox in beauty houses if they did not receive sufficient training on its use, he said to reporters after opening the Women's Health and Asian Traditional Medicine conference here, Friday.
Chua said botox use should be controlled in view of the indiscriminate use of the treatment, especially among women.
"We have no problem with people going for injection of botox. What we are worried about is that people who administer botox are not trained or qualified to do so," he said.
The National Fatwa Council said in Kota Kinabalu Thursday the use of botox as cosmetics was "haram" or prohibited for Muslims.
The council also said its use might have side-effects on the users.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Government considering recognition for courses in TCM

NST: The Government is considering giving recognition for courses in traditional and complementary medicine (TCM), Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said today.
“The ministry has held preliminary talks with the Higher Education Ministry and the National Accreditation Board regarding this matter and further talks have been approved by the Cabinet,” he said.
Dr Chua said the Government was also considering giving accreditations to several universities in China, India and Indonesia.
“The upcoming Traditional and Complementary Medicine Control Act will also enable us to better regulate the field,” he said.
“With the Act, we will be able to register TCM practitioners so that we can ensure that they have proper training approved by the Government and the code of ethics they have to follow.”
The Bill for the legislation is expected to be tabled in Parliament next year.
Chua said there were 219 foreign TCM practitioners in Malaysia, mostly in the field of Ayurvedic medicine, massage and reflexology.
Dr Chua urged local universities to offer courses in the TCM.
“Even the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia is offering courses in TCM. Local universities should look into this,” Chua told reporters after opening the Women’s Health and Asian Traditional Medicine Conference and Exhibition.
Chua also called on local companies to expand their operations in the herbal and traditional medicine sector.
“There is a big potential for this sector in Malaysia, considering that we are ranked 12th in the world in terms of biodiversity,” Chua said.
A total of 14,385 herbal and traditional medicinal products have been registered with the ministry, 60 per cent of which is local and 40 per cent imported from China, Indonesia and India.
TCM practitioners have hailed the Government’s move. Dr Thomas Ong, the president of the Malaysian Association of Chiropractic Practitioners, said there was a need for accreditation to weed out bogus chiropractors.
“At the moment, anybody can offer the service even though they do not have the qualifications to do so,” he said.
Ong said chiropractic is a well-regulated field at the international level as the World Health Organisation and the World Federation of Chiropractic only recognised chiropractors who graduated from 33 institutions worldwide.
“In Malaysia, there are only 25 chiropractors who graduated from these institutions,” he said.
Nik Omar Nik Daud, president of the Malaysian Homeopathic Medical Practitioners Association of Malaysia, called for full accreditation to be given for TCM courses.
“We want to ensure that those planning to take a course in homeopathy, for instance, are not required to get a degree in another field first,” he said.

Health, safety not taken seriously

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: They should lead by example but more than half of the government departments and agencies have been found wanting when it comes to health and safety issues in the workplace.
The result of audits done on 83 public offices in 2004 and 2005 showed that only 41 per cent had formulated a safety and health policy and only 37 per cent had established a safety and health committee.
"This means that more than half of the public offices failed to fulfil Section 18 and Section 30 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1994," Deputy Human Resources Minister Datuk Abd Rahman Bakar said in a statement.
The audits were done to assess whether department heads had fulfilled their responsibilities in ensuring that their employees were protected from workplace hazards.
"It (the on-going audit exercise) is also aimed at suggesting the steps needed to be taken to ensure that department heads fulfil the requirements of the Act," said Abd Rahman, who is also the chairman of the National Council on Occupational Health and Safety.
Among the criteria that the audit exercise is taking into account will be the management of health and safety, the condition of the workplace and the safety of the public.
The Department of Occupational Health and Safety began the audit exercise in 2003 and, up to last year, 121 government departments and agencies have been audited.
"I would like to urge all department heads to implement the Occupational Health and Safety Management System.
"This would be in line with the 2004 directive issued by the Chief Secretary which makes it compulsory for all government agencies to fulfil the requirements of the Act," Abd Rahman said.
The council awarded the 2005 National Occupational Health and Safety Excellence Award to the Selangor branch of the Chemistry Department. The department’s Perak branch received the award in 2004.
The award was given to the two departments for the implementation of a health and safety system which was effective and consistent and to which the department heads and staff were committed.

Botox fix forbidden

NST: KOTA KINABALU: The rich and famous, artistes and a growing number of young professionals will have to give up on their Botox fix.
The National Fatwa Council ruled yesterday that Muslim men and women are forbidden from reaching for this treatment to slow the ageing process, keep their skin wrinkle-free and other cosmetic purposes.
It said that Botox injections — a growing rage among the upper-middle class and rich in Malaysia — contained prohibited substances, including those from pigs.
It also said that this treatment could also result in negative side effects.
The fatwa does not carry the force of law but those who ignore it are committing a sin.
Council chairman Prof Datuk Shukor Husin said: “The council arrived at the decision after studying reports from abroad, local specialists and fatwas (decrees) made in Middle Eastern countries.”
Speaking to the New Straits Times after the council’s three-day meeting here, he noted that the use of Botox injections to treat medical conditions such as cerebral palsy was allowed.
But even in medical cases, it must be used only when the patient is in a dire situation and the treatment is provided by a specialist.
"This decision refers to situations when there are no alternatives for medical treatment.
"Since its introduction, there have also been many fake products in the market and that is another reason why it is haram," Shukor said.
Botox, a powerful neurotoxin introduced two decades ago, is widely used to cure facial problems but is best known for its cosmetic qualities. It paralyses facial muscles, giving foreheads a relaxed, wrinkle-free appearance.
Several plastic surgeons interviewed by the NST said that Muslims only accounted for between 10 and 15 per cent of their clientele. This is not surprising as many well-heeled Malaysians prefer to get their Botox injections at clinics overseas, where a whole suite of anti-ageing treatment is available. Also, obtaining treatment outside the country gives them more privacy.
Dr Angamuthu Rajoo said for every 15 Malaysians coming to see him for a Botox procedure, fewer than five are Muslims.
"Most want to improve their facial features, with the most popular treatment administered to the forehead and crows feet to get rid of lines. Some also wanted to firm up their jaws," he said.
Consultant dermatologist Dr Ko Chung Beng, said about 10 per cent of the 100 patients he sees monthly are Muslims.
Each treatment of Botox costs between RM400 and RM700.
The council’s decision to forbid the treatment for cosmetic purposes was supported by several individuals and non-governmental organisations.
Television personality Azwan Ali welcomed the council’s ruling.
"People should learn to accept their looks and come to terms with ageing instead of altering what God had given them," he said.
The Women Section of the Jemaah Islah Malaysian noted that the council arrived at the decision after much deliberation and consultation with experts.
"So the Muslim community should respect the ruling," said its president Dr Harlina Halizah Siraj.
But there were also signs that not everyone was going to toe the line.
Kalsom (not her real name), 48, said that she was going to continue getting Botox injections to keep her face wrinkle-free.
"I did it to look good and not necessarily to look young," she said.
Television personality Nurfarahin Jamsari said she did consider jumping on the Botox bandwagon.
"I did not see any problem using it. Every woman wants to look beautiful and have a face free from lines and wrinkles," she said.
But she did not take that final step after her husband told her that she already looked beautiful.

Blacklist plan for illegal drug sales

Star: SEREMBAN: Pharmacists and pharmacies will be blacklisted if they are found to be selling drugs, especially those listed under Schedule B, without a doctor’s prescription.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said it was not enough for them to say that the sale was made by their sales assistant.
He said the licence of the pharmacy would be revoked and it would not be allowed to employ another pharmacist.
“They should be responsible as it occurred in their premises,” he told reporters at the ceremony to rename the 38-year-old Seremban Hospital to the Tuanku Ja’afar Hospital.
He was commenting on the case of a 25-year-old clerk who was hospitalised for two months after taking antibiotic that her boyfriend bought for her from a coffeeshop in Bukit Mertajam, Penang.
He said his ministry was investigating the case.
“It cannot be denied that many pharmacies are doing this sort of thing of late.
“I acknowledge that it is difficult to control such irresponsible practice.
“We have weaknesses in enforcing the law,” he told Bernama.
Dr Chua advised the public to get doctor’s prescription before buying strong drugs and those categorised as poison from pharmacies.
He said the public must not assume that all the drugs sold in pharmacies could be purchased without proper prescription.
“The public must be aware of the risks involved in purchasing drugs without proper prescription. The consequences can be grave,” he said, adding that such practice must be stopped.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Seremban Hospital Now Known As Tuanku Ja'afar Hospital

SEREMBAN, July 27 (Bernama) -- The Seremban Hospital has been renamed Tuanku Ja'afar Hospital.
The ceremony was officiated by Yang di-Pertuan Besar Negri Sembilan Tuanku Ja'afar Ibni Almarhum Tuanku Abdul Rahman.
Present were Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan and Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek.
The hospital was built on a 85ha site in Jalan Rasah here and opened by Tuanku Ja'afar on March 19, 1969.
It is a referral centre for the Kuala Pilah, Port Dickson, Jelebu, Tampin and Jempol hospitals and the biggest hospital in Negri Sembilan with 850 beds and 393 doctors including 75 specialists in 16 medical fields.
It is equipped with various modern facilities including the Magnetic Resonance Imaging facility that was obtained last year at a cost of RM5 million.
Tuanku Ja'afar Hospital also gains benefits as a training hospital for the International Medical University.

Medicines In M'sia Dearer Than Even In Developed Countries: Survey

KUALA LUMPUR, July 27 (Bernama) -- The price of medicines in Malaysia is much higher than even in developed countries, according to a survey by two local universities.
The survey covering branded drugs and generic medicines at 20 public hospitals, 32 private retail pharmacies and 20 dispensing doctors found the price of these medicines to be higher by between 10 and 16 times than the International Reference Price (IRP) under the World Health Organisation methodology.
"In the private retail pharmacies, we found that the prices of branded medicines could be as high as 16 times the IRP and 10 times for generic drugs," said Zaheer Ud-Din Babar of the University College Sedaya International's School of Pharmacy who headed the survey team.
The survey covered Penang, Johor Baharu, Kota Baharu and Kuala Lumpur.
Government hospitals are also not spared of high medicine prices.
"Although medicines are free to patients in the public sector, the procurement prices were collected and analysed, and our conclusion is that the prices of some of the medicines are still much higher than the IRP," he told Bernama.
"We are concerned that medicines such as for hypertension and depression which are patented, are highly priced when there are no generic alternatives available. For generic drugs, the Median Price Ratio is still about six times that of the IRP. There is no obvious reason why the Median Price Ratio should exceed two times that of IRP, as it has proven that generic drugs can be lower than two times in Sri Lanka and India."
Zaheer said the team was also surprised with its finding that for Innovator Brand fluoxetine (used for curing depression), the highest Median Price Ratio is 31.06 that of the IRP while the antibiotic ciprofloxacin, in the retail pharmacy has a Median Price Ratio of 111.63 times of the IRP.
"This is beyond our imagination," he said.
The survey was approved by the Health Ministry in an effort to control the pricing, quality and effectiveness of medicines in the market.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said recently that his ministry would regulate and monitor the prices of medicines used for the treatment of hypertension, diabetes and flu.
"There have been many complaints that medicines are getting more expensive, and prices differ from state to state. Thus, it is time we have a policy to safeguard the public's interests," Chua had said, adding that pharmaceutical companies would have to submit international market pricing when they register new drugs.
Dean of UCSI's Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy, Prof Datuk Dr Roslani Abdul Majid, suggested that a more comprehensive regulation was necessary to control the price of medicines in the interests of the general public who had to pay more for doctors' prescriptions.
"In countries like India, the generic drugs are manufactured locally and the prices are controlled. With proper quality control, generic drugs are equally as effective as branded ones," he added.

Don't Buy Medicines Without Doctor's Prescription Says Chua

SEREMBAN, July 27 (Bernama) -- A lot of pharmacies dispensed medicines, including those categorised as poison, without doctor's prescription, Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek revealed Thursday.
"It cannot be denied that so many pharmacies are doing this sort of thing of late.
"I acknowledge that it is difficult to control such irresponsible practice. We have weaknesses in enforcing the law," he said but added that some pharmacies have been blacklisted for flouting the law.
He was commenting on the case of Goh Yee Ling, 25, who was hospitalised for two months after taking antibiotic that her boyfriend bought for her from a coffee shop in Bukit Mertajam, Penang.
He said his ministry was investigating Goh's case.
Chua advised the public to get doctor's prescription before buying strong drugs and those categorised as poison from the pharmacies.
He said the public must not assume that all the drugs sold in pharmacies could be purchased without proper prescription.
"The public must be aware of the risks involved in purchasing drugs without proper prescription. The consequences can be grave," he said, adding that such practice must be stopped.

Medical & Health Insurance Premiums Up 15 Pct In Q1 2006

KUALA LUMPUR, July 27 (Bernama) -- Gross premiums registered by the medical and health insurance sector reached RM114 million in the first quarter of this year, up by 15 percent over the same period last year.
The General Insurance Association of Malaysia (Persatuan Insurans Am Malaysia or PIAM) said the medical and health insurance sector is expected to expand at a significant rate, underpinned by consumers' increasing demand for private health insurance to finance their healthcare expenditure.
PIAM said according to government statistics, the public healthcare cost increased from RM1 billion in 1983 to RM6.3 billion in 2003 and is expected to exceed RM10 billion by 2010.
"With increasing concern over rising healthcare costs, consumers should not overlook the importance and utility of health insurance," PIAM chairman Hashim Harun said.
"Many consumers think that they would not need health insurance, but they do. The possibility of unexpected medical emergencies at some point in our lives are a reality that we cannot and should not ignore," he said.
With escalating healthcare cost and increasing incidence of lifestyle-related diseases, PIAM is embarking on a three-month Healthy Living Campaign to mark this year's Insurance Day.
The campaign, officiated by Health Ministry's Parliamentary Secretary Datuk Lee Kah Choon Thursday, is aimed at encouraging the practice of good health habits among consumers to ensure physical well-being.
Apart from promoting healthier lifestyles, the campaign also seeks to raise public awareness of the benefits of health insurance.
Lee said the government has budgeted about RM30 million to promote the campaign.

National health insurance study ready within 18 months

The EdgeDaily A study on a proposed national healthcare insurance scheme would be ready within 12 months to 18 months, the parliamentary secretary to the Health Ministry, Datuk Lee Kah Choon said.
The study was undertaken by an Australian company and a local consultant, he said on July 27.
"We (the ministry) need to look at it from a few angles, the mechanism, positive and negative aspects of a national health insurance,” Lee said.
He said a new statutory body would be set up to regulate this scheme, if it was implemented. As heath care costs were rising, he said the financing for any national insurance should be sustainable.
Lee was speaking after launching the General Insurance Association of Malaysia's (PIAM) three-month "Healthy Living" campaign in Kuala Lumpur.
He said a new national insurance premium payment would be community rated, making it cheaper compared with current private health care insurance where its risks were individually adjusted.
PIAM chairman Hashim Harun said government healthcare cost increased from RM1 billion in 1983 to RM6.3 billion in 2003 and was forecast to exceed RM10 billion by 2010.
He expected the medical and health insurance sector to expand at a significant rate underpinned by consumers' increasing demand for private healthcare isurance to finance their healthcare expenses.
"Gross premiums registered by the medical and health insurance sector in the first quarter of 2006 reached RM114 million, up 15% from the corresponding period in 2005," he said.

Malaysia plans US$100m vaccine facilities in Nilai

Business Times MALAYSIA, which aspires to become a global pharmaceutical and biotechnology player, plans to build its first US$65 million (RM240 million) influenza vaccine manufacturing plant.
The country will also see the birth of its first and the world's fourth systems biology centre dedicated to all sorts of vaccine research and development at a cost of US$35 million (RM129 million).
To be based in Nilai, Negri Sembilan, both facilities will be owned by newly set up biotechnology firm Medusa Biotechnology Corp Sdn Bhd.
Both plants are expected to start operations in three years once it has sealed agreements with investors. Medusa will also build a US$35 million measles rubella vaccination plant in Catania, Sicily, in Italy.
Medusa is 51 per cent owned by Malaysian individuals and is expected to be part of BioNexus, a hub for local and foreign biotechnology firms.
BioNexus is managed by the sector's watchdog Malaysian Biotechnology Corp Sdn Bhd. More details of BioNexus such as tax incentives, guidelines and other goodies will be announced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi today.
Medusa chairman Andrew Moore said the firm is currently seeking foreign and local investors to participate in the venture by funding a total of US$135 million (RM498 million) for the two vaccine plants and for working capital.
"Once the plants are up and running, the company forecasts a revenue of US$250 million (RM923 million) a year which will mainly be for the local and global markets. We are talking to three parties to own a stake in Medusa, of which two are Malaysian entities," Moore told Business Times.
Moore said the influenza vaccine plant in Malaysia will enable Medusa to be among the world's five influenza vaccine manufacturers, and will have a capacity to produce 30 million doses per season (winter and summer).
"Rather than just produce generic drugs, Medusa also wants to be an innovative vaccine company," said Moore, who is also Novartis Malaysia's former chief executive officer.
According to World Health Organisation estimates, the world's five influenza vaccine makers are only able to produce one third of the world's 1 billion vaccine shots requirement.
World health authorities have developed some 30 vaccines compared with thousands of diseases still affecting the global population.
Moore said Medusa is working closely with Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia to comply with the halal certification standard so that its vaccines can also be sold in Islamic countries.
He said Medusa, which is an acronym for Malaysia Drug and Science Europe, USA, Asia and Africa, decided to build its measles rubella vaccination plant in Italy due to a grant provided by the Italian Government.
"This could possibly mark the first foray by a Malaysian-owned biotechnology and drug firm into Europe, and Malaysians will own a minimum of 60 per cent stake," said Moore.
The Italian plant, which will be among seven such plants in the world, will produce 60 million doses a year. It is expected to be ready in three years.
Moore said most of the vaccines will be sold on a government-to-government basis via state contracts because it has no budget for sales and distribution.
Previously a shelf company, Medusa has a paid-up capital of RM100,000 and its establishment was inspired by Abdullah's call in April last year at the 10th Organisation of Islamic Conference for the need by Malaysia to embark on self-sufficiency in vaccine production.
Germany's University of Aachen Institute for Molecular Biology head, Professor Dr Rainer Fischer, said Medusa has many plans in the pipeline.
Malaysia is striving to trim expensive drug imports partly supplied by the world's top five drug and pharmaceutical firms like the US-based Pfizer, France's Sanofi-Aventis, the UK's Glaxo Smith Kline, the US-based Johnson & Johnson and the Switzerland-based Novartis.

Mental Hospitals Play A Significant Role

IPOH, July 27 (Bernama) -- Tanjung Rambutan, near here, and Tampoi in Johor are known more for the wrong reasons, namely the presence of Hospital Bahagia and Hospital Permai respectively, two of the biggest and earliest mental hospitals in Malaysia.
The negative perception is not only among children but they are also the subject of jokes among adults, who often refer to the two institutions in glee when poking fun at friends.
The recent statement by Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek that the government would not increase the number of mental hospitals in the country under the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP) should give the public something to think about of the significant role these two hospitals have played in the country's history.
"We will not be building new hospitals specially for treating mental cases, instead we will upgrade the existing facilities at Hospital Bahagia and Hospital Permai," he told reporters after visiting Hospital Bahagia Ulu Kinta recently.
With the ever-increasing challenges around us, including family problems, work and environmental pressures, almost anyone can have mental problems.
According to statistics, there are about 2.6 million people with mental problems in the country and this is a good enough reason for the hospitals to be accorded due respect.
Hospital Bahagia, known in those days as the Federal Lunatic Asylum was built in 1910 and completed in November 1911 at a cost of RM20,000.
It evolved from a small psychiatric institution into a fully-fledged mental hospital that has treated thousands of people.
The name Federal Lunatic Asylum was changed to Central Mental Hospital in 1928, before being changed to the current name in 1971.
Perhaps many may not know that Hospital Bahagia was one of the few buildings that was never bombed or entered by invading Japanese soldiers during the Second World War because it was declared a "war free zone".
Meanwhile, the origin of Hospital Permai started when the Mental Asylum in Johor was built in 1915 at Batu 3, Jalan Skudai.
Less than 100 patients were treated at that time and its name was changed to the Lunatic Asylum in 1929.
In 1936, Sultan Ibrahim of Johor ordered that the hospital be moved to Tampoi where it stands tilll today.
The new hospital became known as the Johor Mental Hospital and was completed in 1937 at a cost of RM1,618,100 and its name was changed to Hospital Permai in 1972 by the then Health Minister (later Tun) Sardon Jubir.
Unlike Hospital Bahagia, Hospital Permai went through a bloody time during the Japanese Occupation when the medical superintendent Dr Perinbam and his brother-in-law Dr S.D. Luther were killed in cold blood in front of their staff by Japanese soldiers who turned it into an army base.
In 1992, a former Japanese soldier, Takehawa Kyoichi wrote in his book entitled "The Story of Flies, Rats, Pests and Germs" about the bacteria research at the hospital for war purposes.
Dr Chua's announcement that 50 state and district hospitals, which would complement Hospital Bahagia and Hospital Permai besides 800 government clinics for follow-up treatment, will certainly give a boost to the image of the two hospitals.

Coffeeshop antibiotics horror

Star: A Clerk was warded in two hospitals for 52 days after experiencing an allergic reaction to antibiotics, reported Nanyang Siang Pau and China Press.
The dailies front-paged the story of Wu Yi Ling, 25, who suffered from skin ulceration and looked as if she was scalded all over the body.
Wu, who is from Bukit Mertajam, Penang, had taken the antibiotics on April 1 after coming down with fever while she was with her boyfriend in Kedah.
She said the boyfriend had bought the pills from a coffee shop.
The next day, Wu said, pus started to ooze out from various parts of her body, including her tongue and lips.
After seeking treatment at a clinic in Sungai Petani, Kedah, Wu was referred to Seberang Jaya Hospital and Penang
Hospital. She stayed for 52 days at the two hospitals until May 25.
According to the reports, Wu's condition had improved but she would get rashes whenever the weather turned humid.
Bukit Mertajam MP Chong Eng, who highlighted Wu's case at a press conference, urged the public not to purchase antibiotics without a prescription from a doctor.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

10 eye injury cases daily

Star: PETALING JAYA: At least 10 eye injury cases happen at the workplace nationwide each day, according to claims submitted to the Social Security Organisation (Socso). There were 3,305 cases reported in 2004.
Although the number was lower than the 3,791 cases in 2003 and the 4,643 in 2002, it did not include cases that were not reported to Socso.
The Tun Hussein Onn National Eye Hospital has lined up a month-long eye-care programme beginning next month, in conjunction with its 20th anniversary celebrations.
All activities have been geared towards upgrading eye-care professional standards, creating awareness to prevent blindness and raising funds for community service projects by the hospital.
The chairman of the anniversary celebrations organising committee S. Kulasegaran said the celebrations would kick off on Aug 15.
This will be followed by a seminar, Occupational Hazards and Eye Injuries, on Aug 19.
On Aug 20 and Sept 10, the hospital will hold free eye screening for senior citizens.
A charity golf tournament will be held on Aug 27 at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club to raise RM80,000 to fund cataract surgeries for some 160 needy people.
The Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Syed Putra Jamalullail is expected to take part in the tournament.
For further details, contact Ding Soo Ling at 03-7956 1511.

Baby dies of HFMD in Sibu

Star: KUCHING: A seven-month-old boy died in Sibu Hospital on Monday from suspected hand, foot and mouth disease. If the case is confirmed he would be the 12th fatality in the state this year.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan said the baby was admitted to Bintulu Hospital on July 19.
As his condition worsened, he was airlifted to Sibu Hospital on Saturday but died two days later.
Dr Chan said 92 new cases were reported statewide yesterday with 16 admitted to hospital.
Miri division had the highest number of cases with 20, followed by Kuching and Bintulu with 19 each and Sibu with 12. The total number of cases now stands at 12,584.
“I’m a bit worried, but hopefully the number of new cases will drop,” he said here yesterday.
He added that there had been a steady weekly increase in the number of cases in the “second wave” of the disease.
“Last week, which was the 29th week of the outbreak, there were 397 new cases, in the 28th week 412 cases, and in the 27th week 403, compared with 253 in the 25th week,” he said.
He added that the state Health Department had intensified its disease control operations to check the rise in new cases, including carrying out active case detection, health education and closure of kindergartens and primary schools with two or more cases.
So far five kindergartens and one primary school had been slapped with two-week closure orders during the “second wave.”
The department has also requested 20 medical officers to be sent here to beef up its manpower in tackling the spread of the disease.
In addition, a team of infectious disease experts from the Health Ministry in Kuala Lumpur is expected to arrive here next week to investigate the “second wave” of the disease.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Sex education to be incorporated into other subjects

Sun2Surf: KUALA LUMPUR: Sex education will not be introduced as a subject in schools, the Education Ministry has said.
Its parliamentary secretary Komala Krishnamoorthy said it would instead be incorporated into existing subjects, namely health education, science, biology, Islamic studies and religious and moral studies.
"Even though sex education will not be a subject of its own, it will nevertheless be included in other subjects," she told reporters outside the Dewan Negara today (July 24, 2006).
Komala said certain elements of the subject have already been a part of the primary schools curriculum since 1994 and secondary schools curriculum since 1989.
She said a study on the expanded scope of the subject is being carried out with the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry.
"It is in its final stages, with the guidelines already completed."
Komala said the National Sexuality Education Guidelines is divided into six main areas - human development, relationships, marriage and family, self-independency skill, health and sexual habits, and society and culture.
"The guidelines are targeted at five age categories: Level 1 for ages four to six years, Level 2 (seven to nine), Level 3 (10 to 12), Level 4 ( 13 to 18) and Level 5 (19 and above) ," she said.
Komala said the ministry's Curriculum Development Centre had obtained feedback from several non-governmental organisations and experts in the relevant fields.
A memorandum on the study conducted by the two ministries will be submitted to the cabinet for approval and implementation.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Learn to say NO

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Sexual predators targeting children watch out: The children are onto your dirty tricks.
A total of 1,400 Form One students from six schools have been taught to distinguish, among other things, between a safe and an unsafe touch and other forms of sexual abuse.
The pilot programme, an undertaking by P.S. (Protect & Save) The Children, is expected to be expanded nationwide over time.
P.S. The Children director Madeleine Yong said there were also plans to introduce the programme to primary and pre-school pupils.
"We also intend to reach out to children with learning disabilities as they are four to 10 times more vulnerable to sexual abuse than normal children," she told the New Straits Times.
But the non-profit organisation’s plans, sponsored by the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry and supported by the Education Ministry, will depend on the success of the pilot project and the availability of funds.
Yong said the programme, which began in April, had made tremendous headway in educating students on the dangers of sexual abuse and its many forms.
"Some children had been abused but didn’t know what was happening to them," she said.
Yong said the number of children abused in Malaysia was almost similar to the United States, where 30 per cent of children were sexually abused.
Sexual abuse of children involves visual (voyeurism), verbal (such as obscene phone calls) or physical (including oral sex).
"From teaching personal safety and giving talks to adults, I would say that the figures here are almost similar to the United States and the Philippines, with half of the victims being boys," Yong said.
The personal safety programme is being taught at Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Taman Desa, SMK Taman Connaught, SMK Seri Permaisuri, SMK Maxwell, SMK Dharma and Victoria Institution.
On safe and unsafe touch, she said students were not specifically told what it was.
"We don’t tell them but we ask them to list out what they think it might be. From here, we can pick out the child’s experiences and from the second lesson, gauge where they’re coming from, without judging them."
The focus was on sexual abuse, but by teaching children assertive skills, they could learn how to say "no" to many other things like peer pressure, bullying and drugs, said Yong.
Module three is on boundaries and violations.
"How do you know that your boundaries have been invaded? We give children different scenarios so that they can identify and know what to do if they find themselves in such a situation."
The other modules are on how to ask for help, how to help a friend and support networks.
"Through the programme, we hope that a better reporting system can be established, where children will feel comfortable about reporting cases of sexual abuse to their teachers or friends."
The idea for the project came about after a group of teachers underwent a training course on sexual abuse with P.S. The Children.
Victoria Institution counselling teacher Nirmala Arunasalam, who conducts the programme at the school, said the personal safety programme was an excellent way for students to learn to protect themselves from sexual predators.
"In the beginning, they weren’t aware of their rights but from my observation, students later realised they could speak up."
Nirmala added that although there was still fear, at least there was awareness.
"When we first started, there were a few giggles, but overall they were very responsive. The programme was very interactive and the barrier is breaking. I feel they will be able to talk to me if there is something wrong."
Student Mohamad Faris Aiman Moner said the course gave him the courage to say "no" to something he disliked.
"I feel more confident about myself, thanks to my teacher’s guidance. I also feel I will be able to help a friend who is being sexually abused. I can give them options."
His counselling teacher, Nik Norhaizan Nik Yusoff, said talking about private parts could be uncomfortable but it became easier after several lessons when both teacher and students were more open.
"The words we use are important. We have to control what we say because incest involves parents and we don’t want the children to become paranoid," she said.
Brian J. Lariche, associate partner of project manager, The Liaison Combination (M) Sdn Bhd, said a survey was conducted among the students before the modules were taught.
"This is to gauge how much they know (about sexual abuse). After the modules are taught, we will test how much they have learned.
"Three months down the road, we will test them again to see how much they remember."

Don explains suicide trends

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Suicide cases were highest among the Indian community and the main reasons were poverty, alcoholism, physical abuse and high school dropout rates, said a university professor.
Suicides were three times higher in the Indian community with 30-35 per 100,000 cases compared with the national average of 10-12 per 100,000, said psychiatry professor Dr T. Maniam of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia after a roundtable talk organised by MIC on community response to suicide.
Quoting from several past studies, he said suicide cases among the Chinese were 15 per 100,000 and Malays six per 100,000.
The Indian community's attitude towards suicide also contributed to the high number, he added.
“In some communities, suicide is forbidden but such taboo is not strong in the Indian culture,” he noted.
Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk G. Palanivel said the ministry was prepared to fund studies on suicide.
He said society had to think about coming up with a good detection system for early intervention.
Dr Maniam said the reasons that drove people to suicide were many and complex.
“People may be suffering from mental disorders such as depression and anxiety and stress-related disorders. They may also face problems in relationships, substance abuse, poverty and failures in life,” he added.
In summarising the talk attended by 70 MIC members, NGOs, religious groups and professional groups, he said the immediate answer was to mobilise lay counsellors to provide support to those in distress and to make people aware that there was such a support.
He said the long-term goal was poverty eradication, reduction of access to pesticides and improve marital relationships and parenting skills.
Yayasan Strategik Sosial executive director Datuk Dr Denison Jeyasooria said among the roundtable proposals were the setting up of early detection systems and early treatment, and increasing awareness among people to seek help.
He also said there were also proposals to make counsellors more accessible and drawing up media guidelines on suicide reporting.
Yayasan Strategik Sosial would be working with the National Population and Family Development Board to carry out some of the proposals, he added.

Sungai Petani Hospital Handed Over To Health Ministry

SUNGAI PETANI, July 23 (Bernama) -- The new Sungai Petani Hospital, which is now named Sultan Abdul Halim Hospital, was Sunday handed over to the Health Ministry after its construction was completed.
The hospital, on a 10-hectare land, would operate from November, and could provide better medical services with its new facilities.
At the hospital handing-over ceremony, the contractor THUB-BDB JV, a consortium company of TH Universal Builders Sdn Bhd and Bina Darul Aman Berhad, was represented by its Chairman Abdul Wahab Abdul Hamid who gave a symbolic key to the Works Ministry, represented by Public Works Department Deputy Director-General Datuk Mohamed Gading who later gave it to Health Ministry Parliamentary Secretary Datuk Dr Mohd Nasir Mohd Ashraf.
Sungai Petani Hospital Director Dr Harif Fadzillah Hashim said the hospital, built at a cost of RM450 million, was equipped with 498 beds. The hospital also practised the Total Hospital Information System.
The eight-storey hospital was also built with facilities like residential quarters, nurses' hostel, nursing college, visitors' lounge and recreational rooms.
The existing Sungai Petani Hospital would be converted into the Out Patient Department and the District Health Office once the new hospital beings operation.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Donate blood, women urged

Star: KUCHING: The Malaysian Red Crescent Society wants more women to come forward to donate blood.
Kuching chapter blood donors’ recruitment chairman Ayub Abdul Rahman said statistics showed there were just 1,189 women among the 11,801 donors here last year.
The number of women donors peaked at 1,404 in 2002, he told reporters at the chapter’s annual blood donors’ awards presentation at the City South Council building here yesterday.
Urging the womenfolk to volunteer as blood donors, Ayub said: “You are no longer the weaker sex. The equality of men and women in today’s society should encourage more of you to come forward as donors.”
Chapter vice-chairman Dr Chou Chii Ming said the MRCS Kuching has a pool of about 45,000 registered donors and for the past five years had won the national award as the top blood collection centre.
Chapter patron Datuk Amar Laila Taib, wife of Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, offered a challenge trophy several years ago to organisations which recruited the most number of women donors.
In her speech, Laila, a blood donor herself, said she was worried about the drop in the blood collection over the past two years.
She said MRCS Kuching collected 12,990 pints, which was a 1.33% decline from 13,163 pints in 2004.
If the trend was not reversed, it could cause problems, as there was increasing demand, said Laila. The text of her speech was read out by Kuching chapter adviser Datuk Abang Abdul Karim Tun Openg.
On a more positive note, she said the number of first-time donors had jumped to 3,519 last year from 2,552 in 2004.
Bidayuh Marcus Raney Dios, 54, who has given 147 pints of blood, led some 500 recipients of the chapter's annual awards who have each given at least 25 pints to the blood bank.
Raney, who gave his first pint in 1972, said he would continue to donate blood until he is 60.

Provide proof, researchers told

Star: TANGKAK: Researchers on health-related subjects have been urged to provide scientific proof together with their findings before announcing their results.
Deputy Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Azizah Mohd Dun said researchers should not announce any findings without scientific proof.
“Those involved in research projects related to health should not give their conclusions hastily,” she said after launching the Tangkak women district councillors' recycling campaign yesterday.
Commenting on a research by a university team on the dangers of re-using plastic bottles on grounds that the material could dissolve, Azizah said there was no scientific proof to support the conclusion.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Kindergarten closed over HFMD

Star: KUCHING: Sarawak has closed another kindergarten because of hand, foot and mouth disease.
Sedidik Muara Tebas here was ordered to close for two weeks from Wednesday, becoming the third kindergarten to be shut in the past two weeks. Early last week, two kindergartens in Miri were ordered to close after five HFMD cases were detected in their premises.
Also last week, Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan had said the state was experiencing a “second wave” of the disease.
He added that any kindergarten or pre-school with two or more suspected cases would be closed for two weeks to prevent the disease from spreading further.
Meanwhile, 61 new HFMD cases were reported throughout the state yesterday with nine children admitted to hospital.
Miri division had the highest number of new cases with 22 cases, followed by Kuching (17) and Sibu (8), Dr Chan said in his daily update on the disease.
The cumulative total of cases now stands at 12,285 while a total of 2,452 children have been admitted to hospital so far.
At present, 17 HFMD patients remain warded.

Dramatic rise in dengue cases

Star: PETALING JAYA: The number of dengue cases has risen dramatically in the week to July 15, and the Health Ministry is urging the public to take preventive measures.
According to Health Ministry Communicable Disease Control director Datuk Dr Ramlee Rahmat, dengue cases for the week was 26.8% higher than in the corresponding period last year.
“The highest number of cases, 329, was recorded in Selangor, up from 238 last year, while the Federal Territory had 192 cases, compared with 80 last year,” he said in a statement.
Dr Ramlee said a number of areas showed an increase in cases. They include Bandar Sri Putra, Taman Koperasi Cuepacs, Taman Cuepacs, Seksyen 4 Bandar Baru Bangi, Taman Setapak Jaya, Cheras and the city centre.
“On our part, we have mobilised our health officers and are also receiving help from other states,” he said.
“What we need is for the public to be responsible and to give their assistance to health officers who may visit their homes.”
Dr Ramlee said the public also needed to do more to arrest the dengue problem.
“Breeding grounds in and around the house should be identified and destroyed. Action should also be taken to keep the playgrounds clean and not always leave it to the local council.”
Dr Ramlee added that the public should also share information about neighbours who might have been admitted to hospital for suspected dengue or illegal dumpsites.
On the whole, dengue cases fell. Only 18,484 cases were reported up till July 15 this year, against 21,011 in the corresponding period last year.
There were fewer deaths – 35 this year compared with 54 last year.

Private Nursing Schools Cheated, Says Deputy Health Minister

PETALING JAYA, July 20 (Bernama) -- Many privately run nursing schools lied about their teaching strength, Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad revealed Thursday.
He said the ministry discovered that these institutions had cheated their way through in obtaining accreditation from the Malaysian Nursing Board (LJM).
"They used the names of retired government nursing tutors when applying for accreditation from the nursing board because they do not have enough qualified tutors.
"The sad thing about this is many of the retired government tutors did not know that their names have been used by these private institutions," he said.
He was speaking to reporters after witnessing the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Health Ministry and Vast Option Sdn Bhd here.
Private nursing schools are required to fulfil the 20 students per one tutor ratio before their certificates can be recognised by LJM. However, most of these institutions are unable to meet the requirement.
"The fact is they don't have enough tutors. The tutor-students ratio in most of these colleges are 1:40. So how can they meet the professional standard required of them?" he said.
He said some 5,000 nurses graduated with diploma qualification from various government and private nursing colleges in Malaysia annually.

Haze Worsens In Klang Valley

KUALA LUMPUR, July 20 (Bernama) -- Air quality in the Klang Valley, home to about two million people, reached moderate level Thursday due to the worsening haze condition.
But elsewhere in the country, the air quality was generally good.
According to figures released by the Department of Environment, the Air Pollutant Index (API) reading in Country Heights in Kajang, Selangor was 93 as compared to 57 Wednesday.
In Kuala Lumpur, the API jumped to 85 Thursday from 63 Wednesday and in Petaling Jaya, it rose to 80 from 66.
The API climbed to 85 from 83 in Port Klang but the smog did not affect shipping activities as visibility was good.
Air quality level is good if the API reading is below 50; moderate (50-100); unhealthy (101-200); very unhealthy (201-300); and dangerous (301 and above).
Overall, air quality in 24 places is good and while 26 places reported moderate API.

Extension Of Service For Doctors Only For Specialists

KUALA LUMPUR, July 20 (Bernama) -- The proposal to extend local doctors' services at government hospitals to the age of 65 only applies to specialists, said Director-General of Health Tan Sri Dr Mohd Ismail Merican.
"The truth is we will give the retired local specialists the opportunity to extend their services to overcome the shortage of these experts," he told reporters here after officiating the Annual Scientific Meeting, organised by the Malaysian Association of Gastroenterology and Hepathology.
Dr Mohd Ismail was asked to comment on a report by a local daily Thursday that quoted him as saying that more local doctors would have their services extended until the age of 65 to overcome the shortage of medical practitioners following the postponement in the hiring foreign doctors.
He said, however, a normal doctor could apply to the ministry to have his or her services extended after retirement but the appointment would be made on contractual basis.
Specialists and doctors who apply for service extension would be evaluated based on their capabilities and contribution to the medical healthcare when they were in service.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Cloud seeding in hazy areas

Star: PETALING JAYA: Cloud-seeding in haze-affected states will start at the end of the week.
However, the west coast can expect scattered showers over the next two days, but it would not do much to clear the haze.
The Department of Environment (DOE) Air Pollutant Index (API) at 5pm yesterday showed Sri Manjung in Perak as being the only area with an unhealthy air level.
Meteorological Services Department director-general Dr Yap Kok Seng said cloud seeding would be carried out over Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Perak, Kedah and Penang.
“We are now preparing the aircraft, and should start the operation at the end of the week,” he said yesterday.
Dr Yap said scattered showers and thunderstorms are expected in the west coast in the afternoon over the next two days, but it would be temporary.
“The rain will be just for a short while as July is the month with the lowest rainfall and we are now in the dry season,” he added.
“More rain can only be expected around mid-August to the end of the month.”
He said Penang and Kedah were more affected by the trans-boundary haze from Indonesia, but wind conditions could change.
The Meteorological Services Department recorded 3km visibility for Prai and Butterworth in Penang, 4km in Ipoh and 2km in Sitiawan in Perak. Visibility in the Klang Valley was at its normal 10km.
A total of 13 areas had healthy air but areas with moderate API readings increased from 31 on Tuesday to 35 yesterday.
The air over Seberang Jaya 2 and Prai, in Penang, and Port Klang improved to the healthy level yesterday.
The haze continues to linger on in the Klang Valley although the air quality remains at the moderate level.
Selangor DOE director Che Asmah Ibrahim said open burning had been detected in Johan Setia in Klang and Sungai Belangkan in Sepang, and efforts are being made to put them out.
She warned land owners that they could be charged if there was open burning on their land.
“If we can’t get the person who set the fire, then we will go after the land owners as it is their responsibility,” she said.
On another matter, Dr Yap said SMS rumours that a tsunami would hit Malaysia yesterday were false.
“No tsunami warning was issued. Any tsunami threat here will be issued through official channels like the national TV,” he said in a statement.

Miri quiet due to HFMD scare

Star: MIRI: The reported second wave of hand, foot and mouth (HFM) disease outbreak in Sarawak has once again emptied the crowds in this border city.
Shopping complexes, food outlets, recreational parks and playgrounds throughout this coastal resort city have seen a marked decline in the number of visitors.
A survey by The Star yesterday found that even the clinics had shown a drastic drop in the number of child patients, probably due to fears that those stricken with HFMD would most likely be among those seeking treatment.
A popular private specialist clinic was empty yesterday morning, a far cry from normal days when patients had to wait up to three hours.
A senior nurse said the sudden decline followed last week’s announcement by Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan that the state was facing a second wave of the HFM disease.
The first wave hit earlier this year.
“People seeking treatment for their children would usually call up first and ask if there were many children at the clinic,” the nurse said.
“They want to make appointments when there are no patients around. It seems they are exercising extreme caution, probably due to greater awareness that the disease can spread quickly,” she added.
Miri is one of the areas badly affected by the outbreak.
In Kuching, Dr Chan said 78 new cases were reported in the state yesterday, bringing the total to 12,224.
Kuching recorded 28 cases, followed by Miri with 19, Bintulu with 12, Mukah with six, and Samarahan and Sibu with four each. Two children were admitted to hospital, bringing to 17 the number of patients warded, said Dr Chan.
None is critically ill.

Less Sugar Intake Campaign On The Cards

PUTRAJAYA, July 19 (Bernama) -- The Health Ministry will organise a grand-scale campaign to encourage Malaysians to consume less sugar.
Its Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said this was because on the average, Malaysians consumed 125 milligrammes of sugar daily against a healthy dosage of 50 milligrammes a day.
He said excessive sugar intake was not good for health.
"On a daily average, Malaysians consume 125 milligrammes against 50 milligrames that a body needs.
"The truth is that the body does not need that much sugar as the energy can come from other food substances containing carbohydrate," he said here today at the soft launch of the Health Ingredient Promotion in conjunction with the 'Let's Eat Healthy 2006' campaign that was launched last July 1.
The Let's Eat Fruits campaign was also held to promote healthy eating habits of various vitamins, mineral and high fibre food.
Visitors of the event were served with various fruits including durian, rambutan and mangoes.
Chua said the adopted eating habits must be balanced with a healthy lifestyle such as exercising, no smoking and no excessive alcohol consumption.
"When drinking alcohol, do it in moderation. Drink according to body weight," he said.

Nation's First Medical Prison In Alor Star

KAJANG, July 20 (Bernama) -- The Alor Star Prison is to be turned into the first medical prison in Malaysia providing treatment and care for prisoners with critical ailments like AIDS, cancer, tuberculosis, apart from physical deformities and mental conditions.
The Prison Department's Security Division officer Supri Hashim said prisoners in need of medical attention, rehabilitation and constant monitoring on their health would be put there.
"Based on the Prisons Department record, there are 1,800 inmates who are HIV positive, 150 with tuberculosis, 10 hepatitis B, 280 mental problems and 100 physical deformities," he told Bernama here, Thursday.
The Alor Star Prison was chosen partly because it is beside the Alor Star Hospital and the prisoners can undergo emergency treatment there when the need arises.
The prison is to undergo renovations for the purpose under the Ninth Malaysia Plan.
Supri said the setup conforms to the Prison Regulations that allows sick inmates to receive medical attention.
He said the idea was mooted after a visit to a medical prison in Thailand recently.
"Then, we exchanged ideas with the Thais on the staffing aspects and other facilities for the first medical prison in the country," he said.
Among the new positions to be created are medical officers, health officers and prison officers who would run the medical prison.
"The prison procedures too will see changes to facilitate medical care for prisoners," he said.
Male and female prisoners are to be segregated.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

No vaccines for babies in Perak

NST: IPOH: Babies brought in for triple antigen shots in the State are being turned away from government clinics because of a shortage of the vaccine.
It could not be ascertained how bad the shortage was, but a random check of several government clinics here showed that at least three had run out.
One had run out in May and two others early this month. Staff at other clinics declined to comment on their stock.
Triple antigen is a combination of three vaccines against diptheria, pertussis (whooping cough) and tetanus. The vaccination is given free of charge to babies aged over three months under the National Immunisation Programme.
Karanjit Kaur, 28, who has a six-month-old son, said: "I was asked to leave my contact number and the clinic staff said they would call when the vaccine became available."
The shortage was brought to the attention of the New Straits Times by Perak People’s Progressive Party deputy chairman Naran Singh yesterday.
He said several close acquaintances, who had taken their babies to a government clinic in Simee, had rung him up because they were told the triple antigen was not available.
State Health, Science and Environment Committee chairman Datuk Tan Ching Meng said he was not aware of a shortage of any vaccine.
He said he would have to meet with State Health Department officials before making any comments.

Air quality in three areas reaches unhealthy level

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: We’re back to hazy days again.
As of 5pm yesterday, the Air Pollutant Index (API) in three areas breached the 100-moderate mark to enter the "unhealthy" level.
This was much lower than last year when a state of emergency was declared in Port Klang and Kuala Selangor when API readings breached the 500 (hazardous) mark.
The areas affected yesterday were Sri Manjung in Perak, Seberang Jaya in Prai and Port Klang in Selangor.
However, weather changes were expected to alter the API readings, Meteorological Services Department Central Forecast Office principal assistant director Mohd Helmi Abdullah said.
Rain is expected over the next three days as the current south-westerly wind changes direction to a south-easterly one.
"There should be temporary relief based on the changing weather conditions," he said.
The change in wind direction was why the north-western states were being affected by the haze.
Department director-general Dr Yap Kok Seng said cloud-seeding would begin in areas posting a continuous API reading of between 100 and 150 over a 72-hour period.
He said dry weather in the coming months would also worsen the haze caused by open burning in Sumatra.
Reduced rainfall was expected in most parts of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore in coming months, Yap said.
He added that drier conditions were also expected in central Sumatra, Kalimantan and Sarawak.
Helmi said there were 12 hotspots in Sumatra, 64 in Borneo and none in Peninsular Malaysia as at 5pm yesterday. This was an improvement over the 29 in Sumatra, 134 in Borneo and one in the peninsular on Monday.
Though the hotspots were reducing in number, Helmi cautioned that the lower readings could be due to cloud cover.
He said visibility levels were falling in certain northern States with Butterworth and Alor Star recording visibility of two kilometres as at 1pm yesterday.
Visibility in Chuping, Perlis, stood at four kilometres, six kilometres in Perai, eight kilometres at Bayan Lepas and three kilometres in Sitiawan, Perak.
In most other places, visibility was more than 10 kilometres.
"The slight haze we are experiencing now is the transboundary haze from Indonesia. Open burning locally also contributes to the problem," Helmi said.
Visibility in Penang was eight kilometres at 2pm yesterday, an improvement over a three-kilometre reading at 8am.
Forecasts by the State Meteorological Services department indicate the southwesterly winds which cause dust from Sumatra to be blown here, will weaken as the week progresses.
Its director S. Santhiran said the department expected the haze to lessen due to weaker winds.
At the Bayan Lepas International Airport, a spokesman said airport operations were proceeding smoothly with flights taking off and landing on schedule.
Yet despite the fears of a repeat of last year, open burning is still being carried out locally.
This was evident during an air surveillance over Selangor conducted by the Department of Environment (DOE) yesterday.
The New Straits Times team that tagged along found open burning in peat ground areas of Johan Setia in Klang as well as Sungai Belankan and Ulu Chuchuh in Sepang.

No ban on teenage drinking

NST: PUTRAJAYA: The Health Ministry does not plan to ban alcohol consumption among those below 18.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said that while teenage drinking was a growing problem, there was little the ministry could do to prevent them from drinking.
Regulation 361 under Food Act 1983 only prohibits the sale of alcohol to those below 18, an offence punishable by a RM5,000 fine or two years’ jail. However, the Act is silent on a minimum age for alcohol consumption.
"It can be interpreted that they (those below 18) can drink. A ban on selling and a ban on consumption are different. And we think it is not feasible or practical as yet to prohibit drinking for those under 18," Dr Chua said yesterday after presenting excellence service awards to 316 ministry staff.
He was clarifying a report in a newspaper on Monday that the ministry would consider drafting new laws to ban alcohol consumption by minors, following an expose on the ease with which minors could buy alcohol.
"So, it is not true that we are considering a ban on consumption. It will be difficult to enforce," he said.
The ministry last month commissioned an eight-month study to be carried out by a local university on health habits, including drinking. "The study will cover Muslims and non-Muslims. We understand it is a sensitive issue, but the ministry feels it is better to obtain the information."
He said the last study on alcohol consumption was 10 years ago, and did not include Muslims. "The study 10 years ago no longer reflects the true picture."
The reasons why youths picked up drinking were likely peer pressure, following the habits of their parents and the "cool" factor similar to smoking, he said.
Asked about campaigns to discourage excessive drinking, he said the ministry had issued the "Code of Practice on Prevention and Eradication of Drugs, Alcohol and Substance Abuse in the Workplace", a set of guidelines to help employers tackle such habits at work.

Malaysia’s first oncologist dies

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's first oncologist, founder member and president of the National Cancer Society Malaysia (NCSM) Datuk Dr S.K. Dharmalingam passed away on Monday. He was 77.
Dr Dharmalingam, remembered by many for pioneering cancer treatment in Malaysia, suffered a heart attack in March and was in a coma until his death.
NCSM vice-president Anthony Skelchy, who had worked with Dr Dharmalingam for 40 years, said: “He is synonymous with the NCSM. From nothing, the NCSM now has a Cancer Treatment Centre in Tung Shin Hospital, Women's Cancer Detection Clinic, the Nuclear Medicine Centre and a home for children with cancer.”
“He left a wonderful legacy,” he said.
Head of the Malaysian Oncological Society Dr Gucharan Singh said when Dr Dharmalingam headed the Hospital Kuala Lumpur radiotherapy/ oncology department from 1962 until he retired in 1982, the hospital was on the select list for training of the Royal College of Radiology of Britain.
He established the first Mammography Screening Centre in South-East Asia and introduced uterine cancer screening.
Dr Dharmalingam was also founder president of the Malaysian Oncology Society, vice-president of the Asian-Oceanian Clinical Oncology Society and founder president of the Malaysian Radiological Society.

Fewer docs leaving service

Star: PUTRAJAYA: In what has been described as a positive development, the Government has noted that fewer doctors and specialists are leaving the civil service.
Although it is too early to release any statistics now, Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said that was the indication.
He said private practice had become more competitive and was no longer a goldmine, and this was one of the reasons for the change.
“Coupled with that, the ministry has introduced various measures to make the salary scale for doctors and specialists more attractive,” he told reporters after giving out the ministry’s excellent service awards to 316 staff members here yesterday.
“We can’t release any statistics yet because it’s still too early and we will need a year in order to tell the difference. But we can see this trend already.
“Our feeling is that the resignation of our own specialists and doctors from government service will be reduced.”
Dr Chua said the ministry had decided not to employ any more foreign doctors because the work performance of some of them was unsatisfactory.
“Certain doctors don’t turn up for work, or don’t come back to hospitals even when they are on call. There are also those who face health problems with some not reporting for work as scheduled. Some are skilled in areas that we do not require.
“Many of them can’t even communicate with their patients as they are not conversant in Bahasa Malaysia or any of the local Chinese and Indian dialects.
“They have to resort to hand gestures and this affects the quality of healthcare,” he said.
There are currently 698 foreign doctors employed on a three-year contract. Between 2003 and June 30 this year, the Government has terminated the contract of 118 of these medical officers – 43 of whom are from Pakistan, 36 from Egypt, 20 from India and the rest from other countries.

Govt No Longer Keen On Hiring Expatriate Doctors

PUTRAJAYA, July 18 (Bernama) -- The government is no longer keen on hiring expatriate doctors on a contract basis following the poor performance of some hired to complement the health service.
Disclosing this Tuesday, Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said besides the unsatisfactory performance, poor language proficiency, either in English or Bahasa Malaysia among them, was also a factor.
He said the contracts of 118 such doctors hired by the ministry were terminated between 2003 and June this year, involving 43 from Pakistan, Egypt (36), India (20) and the rest from other nations.
"Besides their inability to learn the local languages or English fast enough, their contracts were also terminated due to poor performance or other reasons like tardiness, being irresponsible when called to come for duty after "on-call" hours, not adhering to their rostered schedules and not having sufficient expertise," he told reporters after presenting excellent service awards for 2005 to 316 ministry staff, here.
"That's why we are no longer keen on employing them. Although we are entitled to employ another 600 more, we are not going to do it," he said, adding that there were still 698 expatriate doctors serving the ministry throughout the country.
However, he said the government was not freezing their intake as it was meant to alleviate a shortage, especially in Sabah, Sarawak and rural areas in the peninsula.
"We do not intend to freeze. Freeze means an official policy, which means that if we want to, we cannot do it.
Chua was confident that following the move (not hiring expatriates), less Malaysian doctors would resign from government service, thus not affecting the ministry's services adversely.
He said the contract period of the foreign doctors was usually three years but they could be let go anytime, if there were valid reasons.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

High on teen spirit

Malay Mail: A STUDY on teenage drinking habits in February 2003, revealed that out of 635 respondents, a shocking 45.7 per cent confessed to consuming alcohol.
Another 16.2 per cent admitted to consuming alcohol 30 days before the survey.
The respondents were Upper Six students, both male and female, from 12 Government secondary schools, located in four districts in Selangor.
The study, by Dr Hejar Abdul Rahman — a lecturer at Universiti Putra Malaysia’s Department of Community Health of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, also revealed that the respondents perceived drinking as one of the ways to relax, have fun and unwind.
Hejar said it was also revealed that they did not know that alcohol is addictive.
"They were also unaware that drinking for fun could lead to addiction," she said.
Hejar said women are more susceptible to the effects of alcohol.
"So it’s not surprising to see young girls get drunk easily," she said, adding they also throw up easily.
She explained that women are easily affected because of their lower average body weight, higher average body fat and other endocrine and biochemical differences.
"Alcohol becomes more concentrated and stays longer in a woman’s body, that’s why women get drunk faster than a man on the same amount of alcohol.
"Women also feel the effects of alcohol far longer than men," says Dr Hejar.

Age limit idea brewing

Malay Mail: A MINIMUM age bar for alcohol consumption is in the offing. The Health Ministry is already working on the framework for the implementation of this ruling, which will see those 18 and below prohibited from drinking alcohol.
Currently, outlets are only prohibited from selling alcohol to teenagers.
The Ministry’s Health Education division principal assistant director, Chandran Kanniah, told The Malay Mail that once the new ruling comes into effect, it will be illegal for teenagers to consume alcohol — even in private.
If that is not enough, the Ministry is also looking into making it illegal for teenagers to have alcohol in their possession.
"This will include situations like parties and social gatherings," he said.
Chandran said the Ministry is aware of the seriousness of the problem and is tackling the issue in the same way they are cigarette smoking.
"We will use the same platform we are using to curb smoking among minors," he said.
Chandran added that this year, the Ministry included alcohol prevention as a fifth component in its ‘Healthy Lifestyle’ campaign.
The other four components are healthy eating, exercise, anti-smoking and stress reduction.
"Our aim is to highlight the effects of alcohol to the public.
"As part of alcohol prevention, laws related to alcohol will be reviewed and amended," he said.
Details on when the ruling will come into effect could not be obtained.
Once implemented, Malaysia will join a long list of other countries prohibiting minors from consuming alcohol.
The legal age for the consumption of alcohol in countries across the world varies, between 16 and 21 years old.
Currently, according to the figures released by the Health Ministry, 47.3 per cent of the population are "drinkers".
A study conducted last October also revealed that 2.1 million Malaysians who consume alcohol risk suffering chronic diseases.
The Weekend Mail, in its July 15-16 edition, front-paged a report on how easy it was for the underaged to get their hands on alcoholic drinks at entertainment outlets and shops.

Malaysia's Columbia Pacific In JV To Set Up Hospital

COLOMBO, July 17 (Bernama) -- A Sri Lankan-Malaysian joint venture company is planning to build a 100-bed private hospital just north of this capital city.
It will be owned by Swastha Health Services (Pvt) Ltd which was set up by Hemas Holdings Ltd, one of Sri Lanka's biggest conglomerates, and Columbia Pacific Healthcare Sdn Bhd of Malaysia, Hemas said in a statement Monday.
It said Columbia Pacific is a regional healthcare provider with operating facilities in Malaysia, India and Vietnam.
The company focuses on providing affordable, high quality health services to fast growing suburban communities.
Hemas said Swastha Health Services is in the process of securing the land and obtaining necessary regulatory approval for the project.

Number of new drug addicts continues to rise

NST: PUTRAJAYA: The number of drug addicts in the country continues to increase, with 4,814 new users and 6,103 relapse cases reported between January and May.
This brings to 295,989 the total number registered by the authorities as of May.
Some 10,470 new addicts were reported in the same period last year, indicating a 4.5 per cent increase this year.
Deputy Internal Security Minister Datuk Fu Ah Kiow said yesterday that Penang, Kedah, Perak and Kelantan had the highest number of addicts, most of them aged between 16 and 44.
Fu said a study by the National Drugs Agency revealed that 61 per cent became addicted due to the influence of peer groups, while 24 per cent got hooked out of curiosity.
"This shows the importance of the role of parents in keeping tabs on their children’s activities. Parents must know who their friends are, where they go, which discotheques they patronise. There is nothing like taking care of your children yourself," he said.
Among the addicts caught last year were 185 civil servants, mainly from the lower ranks.
"Although the number is small, the Government will take stern action against them, including having their services terminated. How can you discharge your duty as a responsible civil servant if you are hooked on drugs?
"If you are involved in the keeping of classified documents and you are an addict, you can threaten the nation’s security. The Government will not keep quiet. Those involved will be dealt with strictly."

More students having HIV

Star: THERE is an increase in the number of tertiary students infected with HIV due to casual sex, said Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek.
Nanyang Siang Pau quoted Dr Chua as saying that many youngsters thought the chances of them contracting the disease through one-night stands were very slim and thus, did not use protection.
Dr Chua said 73,000 people had contracted the disease currently, with an average of 19 people infected with HIV daily in Malaysia.
China Press quoted Wanita MCA chief Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen as saying that women should insist their husbands use condoms if they suspected their husbands had other partners.
She said this was to prevent them from contracting HIV from unfaithful husbands.

Haze Worsens In Northern Peninsular Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR, July 17 (Bernama) -- The haze has worsened in northern Peninsular Malaysia and southern Thailand Monday with the air pollutant index (API) reaching the moderate level.
The API reading was 65 Monday, rising from below 50 Sunday.
According to a report posted on the Department of Environment (DOE) website, visibility was poor in Prai, Butterworth, Bayan Lepas, Sitiawan, Batu Embun, and Cameron Highlands.
Bintulu town in northern Sarawak also experienced poor visibility.
However, air quality was good in 15 areas and moderate in 36 areas nationwide.
Satellites at the Asean Special Meteorological Centre detected 188 hot spots in Sumatra, 148 in Kalimantan and 27 in Malaysia.
Meanwhile in PERLIS, State DOE director Aminudin Ishak said the API reading in the State was 65 but the air quality was good Monday.
"We are monitoring open burning activities which could aggravate the haze in the State," he said.
In KEDAH, API readings were between 60 and 79. Visibility was also good, which was more than three kilometres.
News report from Bangkok said some parts of southern Thailand especially Songhkla were shrouded in thick smog, forcing drivers to use headlights due to very poor visibility.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Cure-all holy water classified as botanical drink

NST: IPOH: The purported cure-all holy water manufactured by a company need not be sent for clinical testing as it is only classified as a botanical drink by the Health Ministry.
The manufacturer, Annusyrah Malaysia Sdn Bhd, claimed that it received a certificate from the ministry last month after samples of their products were sent for a series of tests early this year.
"We sent several samples for tests on their lead, plumbum and steroid contents and results showed that they are safe for human consumption," said its chief executive officer Abdullah Mohd Yusof Abu Hassan.
He also stressed that the company had never promoted its products as a medicine or cure for numerous ailments ranging from diabetes and stroke to kidney stones.
"Our products are marketed based on the (known medicinal) properties contained in saffron which is used as ink during the annusyrah process and one’s faith in the effectiveness of the Quranic verses," he said after the official opening of its factory here yesterday.
(The annusyrah process involves the writing of selected Quranic verses on a white plate with a yellow ink made from the saffron plant. Water sourced from the reverse osmosis technique and a small quantity of Zam Zam water (holy water) are then poured over the plate.)
A day earlier, National Medical Practitioners Association president Prof Dr Abdul Latif Mohd said that a product must undergo clinical testing before it could be accepted as a medicine.
On whether the company’s products actually worked on those who have consumed them, Abdullah replied in the positive.
However, he did not rule out the possibility of faith playing a major role in these ‘success’ stories.

Munching on ‘cat whiskers’ for health

NST: PASIR PUTIH: Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mahmood loves having "cat whiskers" with his rice while his wife usually puts them in her fried popia.
No, this is not an episode of the Fear Factor reality television series and neither is the couple consuming tactile hairs on a feline’s face.
Instead, the "cat whiskers" which Nik Abdul Aziz and his wife are munching on are actually a type of medicinal herb which is native to Southeast Asia and tropical Australia.
Better known as "misai kucing" in Malay, it is believed to have anti-allergic, anti-hypertensive and diuretic properties.
It is also known as java tea and kidney tea. It has been used by traditional medicine practitioners for many centuries to treat kidney ailments, bladder stones, urinary tract infection, liver and bladder problems, diabetes, rheumatism and gout.
It is also used to treat high cholesterol and blood pressure.
"Misai kucing" may not be as well known as ginseng or "tongkat ali", but there is a growing demand for the plant. Its flowers have long, pinkish-white filaments that resemble a cat’s whiskers, hence the name.
Nik Abdul Aziz, a retired headmaster, is one of those who swears by the purported health benefits of "misai kucing".
The 56-year-old, who eats it regularly as "ulam" with his rice, is the sole private harvester of "misai kucing" in Kelantan.
He operates a one-hectare farm near his house in Kampung Bukit Tanah, here, and has a contract to supply the herb to a factory in Shah Alam that processes the plant into tea.
Initially, the pensioner had not planned to go into large-scale farming after his retirement from SK Pak Badul in Bachok last year.
"A friend told me about the contract but he did not have enough capital to start the business, so I took up the offer," he said at his farm here.
After securing the contract, he contacted the Mardi station in Telong, Bachok, and it trained him for three days in the techniques of cultivating the herb on a large scale.
Beginning in April with a start-up capital of RM100,000, Nik Abdul Aziz planted 10,000 seedlings that he bought in Cherating, Pahang.
The plant grows to about one metre and it is cut about 20cm from the ground every two months.
"I can produce about 300kg of ‘misai kucing’ each harvest and I hope to get about one metric tonne once all my plants have grown," he said.
Nik Abdul Aziz plans to expand his farm by renting plots of land nearby and installing a machine that processes dried plants into powder.
"The Shah Alam factory needs about four metric tonnes of powdered ‘misai kucing’ from each harvest.
"So there is plenty of room for me to expand.
"At the same time, I can provide jobs to villagers," he said.
At present, he employs six villagers to help him.

Be careful of ‘miracle milk’

Star: DON'T be fooled by direct-selling agents making claims about an imported “miracle milk product” containing colostrum which can purportedly cure ailments such as diabetes, heart disease, kidney failure and even AIDS, Kosmo! reported.
The agents, the daily said, distributed brochures and VCDs about the product with misleading information.
According to the report, the Health Ministry has never approved the distribution and sale of such a product and its halal status is also doubtful because it is imported and does not have accreditation from the Islamic Development Department (Jakim).
The ministry's Food Quality and Safety Division director Dr Abdul Rahim Mohamad was quoted as saying that that no complaints on the matter had been received as yet.
However, he added, producers and distributors must adhere to regulations on the giving of accurate information to consumers.
“It is an offence if any company makes claims that their product can cure all sorts of diseases,” he added.
Malaysian Muslim Consumers Association project manager Noor Irwandy Mat Noordin disclosed that a woman had recently complained that she suffered severe swelling in her hands and feet as well as a bloated stomach after drinking the product.