Saturday, December 30, 2006

MMA welcomes ruling on Bolam test

Star: PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) welcomes the Federal Court ruling that the Bolam test can no longer be applied to decide on medical negligence cases.
MMA ethical committee chairman Dr Ravindran Jegasothy said the association welcomed the ruling and took it as a challenge for the medical profession.
“It will put people on guard. They will not do things sesuka hati (simply). The Bolam test is a long-held principle. Times have changed. The medical profession has moved away from being a doctor-centred model to one that is patient-centred,” he said yesterday.
He was commenting on the Federal Court ruling on a medical negligence suit by quadriplegic Foo Fio Na against Assunta Hospital and a surgeon.
The court also ruled that the judicial system stop using the Bolam test adopted from a 1957 negligence case in England, which freed doctors from responsibility so long as they had acted in accordance with an accepted medical practice to decide such cases.

Court punctures docs’ defence

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Doctors can no longer say that they had done their job just because they did it within the acceptable standards.
If something goes wrong, they can no longer use this reason as a defence in court when they are sued for negligence.
This was the decision of the Federal Court in a landmark decision that has raised the standards for medical professionals when carrying out their duty.
The nation’s highest court was deciding on a negligence suit by quadriplegic Foo Fio Na against As-sunta Hospital and a consultant or-thopaedic surgeon.
Doctors will now not only have to perform their jobs according to the normal acceptable standards but also to do so after seeking the best advice possible.
The three-man Bench Federal Court unanimously ruled that the Bolam test adopted from a 1957 negligence case in England could no longer be used as the yardstick to measure the degree of negligence.

(The Bolam principle, in substance, restrains the courts from scrutinising and evaluating the professional conduct of a doctor possessing a special skill and competence.
(The doctor is not negligent if he acts within a practice accepted as proper by a body of his own peers who possess similar skills and competence as the doctor in question.
(It matters not that there exists another body with a differing opinion that does not accept the action taken by the doctor.
(It is enough that he has acted in accordance with one of the bodies of opinion and the courts can never declare his action to be in any way negligent.
(This over protective and deferential approach conforms to the well-known phrase that “the doctor knows best”.)

Instead, the Bench decided that doctors here must now act within the standards of a competent professional as laid down in the 1992 Australian High Court case of Rogers vs Whitaker.
(The Whitaker case held that a doctor has a duty to warn a patient of any material risk involved in a proposed treatment.
(A risk is considered material if a reasonable person in similar circumstances will attach significance to the risk, or if the doctor is, or should be, cognizant that the particular patient will express concern about the risk.
(In that case, Maree Whitaker became essentially blind after an unsuccessful operation on her right eye caused sympathetic ophthalmia in her left eye.)

“There is a need for members of the medical profession to stand up to the wrongdoings, as is the case of professionals in other professions,” said Chief Judge of Malaya Justice Siti Norma Yaakob in her judgment.
“In so doing, people involved in medical negligence cases will be able to obtain better professional advice and the courts will be appraised with evidence that will assist them in their deliberations,” she added.
This judgment is even more significant as Siti Norma heard the appeal in 2002 together with former Chief Justice Dzaiddin Abdullah and current Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim, who was then the Chief Judge of Malaya.

Now easier to win suits against specialists

NST: PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court has made it easier for litigants to prove negligence against persons professing a specialised skill.
A landmark ruling yesterday raised the benchmark of service specialists owed to their clients.
The court made the ruling in allowing a medical negligence appeal by Foo Fio Na, who was paralysed following an operation performed by a consultant orthopaedic surgeon 24 years ago.
It said medical specialists were held to a higher standard of care when dealing with patients.
This means that specialists are no longer in the same league as ordinary medical doctors when they are slapped with medical negligence suits by their patients.
The decision is seen as departing from a 50-year English legal principle set out in the Bolam case where the standard of proof in medical negligence suits was that of a reasonable man, regardless of whether one was a medical specialist or general practitioner, and which was of a lower benchmark.
The apex court now appeared to favour the Australian case of Rogers vs Whitaker which imposed a higher standard of care on medical experts.

Foo, 47, whose cervical vertebrae were dislocated after a motor accident in Petaling Jaya on July 11, 1982, contended that as a result of the operation by consultant orthopaedic surgeon Dr Soo Fook Mun, her spinal cord was damaged, causing her to become paralysed.
She had also named Assunta Hospital in Petaling Jaya as defendants.
The then High Court judge Datuk Mokhtar Sidin, in his judgment on April 8, 1999, held that Dr Soo and Assunta Hospital were 100 per cent liable for Foo’s condition.
Mokhtar said that since Dr Soo was at the material time employed by Assunta Hospital, the hospital was vicariously liable for his negligence.
He had awarded more than RM500,000 to Foo in damages, interest and costs.
However, on April 15, 2001, the Court of Appeal reversed the High Court decision. The Federal Court reinstated the High Court’s award.

Chief judge of Malaya Tan Sri Siti Norma Yaakob, who wrote the judgment, said the facts of the case in the appeal differed vastly from the Bolam case.
"We are of the opinion that the Bolam test has no relevance to the duty and standard of care of a medical practitioner in providing advice to a patient on the inherent and material risks of the proposed treatment," she said.
She said it was for the court to set the standard of care in negligence, based on evidence presented.
"The Bolam test fails to make this important distinction between the reasonable competent doctor and the ordinary skilled doctor," she said.
Siti Norma said there was a need for members of the medical profession to stand up to the wrongdoings, if any, as in the case of professionals in other professions.
In so doing, she said people involved in medical negligence cases would be able to obtain better professional advice and that courts would be in a position to evaluate evidence to make their findings.
"On this basis, we are of the view that the Rogers vs Whitaker test would be more appropriate and viable test of the millennium than the Bolam test," she said.
Siti Norma said the well-known phrase that "doctor knows best" should now be followed by the qualifying words "if he acts reasonably, logically and gets his facts right".

This appeal was heard by then Chief Justice of the Federal Court Tun Mohamed Dzaiddin Abdullah, former Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim and Siti Norma in her capacity as Federal Court judge.
Siti Norma said this judgment was delivered pursuant to Section 78(1) of the Court of Judicature Act 1964 as Dzaiddin had retired.
Meanwhile, lawyer and lecturer Surdev Singh Gill said the ruling would have a far-reaching impact on individuals professing to be specialists.
"The expectation is now higher because clients want value for their money," he said, adding that the decision had made it easier for aggrieved parties to prove negligence.
He said doctors could resort to defensive medicine because of the risk factor or impose a higher fee to pay for their insurance premiums.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Floods: Medical teams on standby in case of second wave

Star: PENANG: The Health Ministry has placed its medical teams from other states on standby in view of a possible second wave of floods in Johor, Pahang, Malacca and Negri Sembilan.
Health Ministry parliamentary secretary Datuk Lee Kah Choon said the medical teams comprising medical doctors and nurses were ready and would be despatched to help victims if floods hit again.
He said the ministry had ample medical supplies and medical personnel would be ferried to the flood hit areas by the police and armed forces.
Lee was commenting on concerns raised over the Meteorological Department’s forecast Wednesday of bad weather for Johor and south-eastern Pahang until Sunday, and continuous heavy rain for Malacca and Negri Sembilan for four more days which may result in further flooding.
Lee said the ministry had mobilised more than 1,000 medical personnel divided into 200 teams to help the 65,000 flood victims in Johor, Pahang, Malacca and Negri Sembilan.
He said the ministry's medical personnel were monitoring the food preparations and cleanliness level at the evacuation centres daily to ensure the people received clean food and water supply.
"They will also distribute fliers to remind flood victims to clear stagnant water in their surroundings to prevent dengue outbreak,” he said.
Lee said about 50 cases of flu, cough and itchiness were reported at the flood-hit areas, so far.

Make medical tools, local firms urged

Star: PUTRAJAYA: The Health Ministry is encouraging more local manufacturers to produce medical equipment as the industry is expected to expand by 5% each year.
Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad said the RM1.2bil medical equipment industry constituted 8% of the health services industry and the demand was increasing.
He said more Malaysians and Asians were expected to face various health problems because of changing lifestyles, similar to the situation in Western countries.
“Local manufacturers should produce equipment that are suitable for Malaysians and Asians using local technology.”
He, however, added that the ministry would not give preference to any specific brand when buying equipment for hospitals but would use products that medical staff can handle easily.
Dr Abdul Latiff was speaking to reporters after launching a locally made haemodialysis machine called “Alice” produced by Chulia Facilities Management, Woodridge Life Sciences Sdn Bhd and Power Choice.
Fifty of the user-friendly machine have been sold locally and exported to India.
On kidney patients in the country, Dr Abdul Latiff said the number was increasing by 3% each year and most of them need at least 13 haemodialysis treatments a month.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Mercy sets up health camps at Johor flood sites

Star: MUAR: Mercy Malaysia has set up health camps in flooded areas to check for any outbreak of disease while the army is sending water to hospitals and homes.
A Mercy team, headed by Dr Abdul Malik Abdul Ghafur, is in Bukit Kepong, which has been cut off from the rest of the district.
Dr Abdul Malik said access was only possible by boat from Lenga or by helicopter.
The team set up camp there to check on the health of the villagers.
“After checking some 50 evacuees, we found that three children in a family had mouth ulcers and provided the necessary medication,” he said.
“The rest of the villagers seemed to be in good health but we urged them to only drink boiled water if there is no bottled water.”
Muar marine police commanding officer Asst Supt Lajis Tahir said all police boats stationed in flood areas were meant for rescuing residents, sending emergency supplies or ferrying victims to relief centres.
An army team under commanding officer Lt Col Ahmad Fareed Ariffin from Camp Batu Tiga in Kluang has been supplying clean water to the Sultanah Fatimah Specialist Hospital here.
The hospital, which has had no water supply since the district was flooded last week, made an emergency request to the army which rushed four water tankers there on Tuesday evening.
Lt Col Ahmad Fareed said the soldiers have since delivered nearly one million litres of clean water to the hospital.
He said 200 soldiers, four water tankers, 20 trucks and 16 boats were helping out in Bukit Kepong and Muar.
“Our duty is to save lives and we will do anything to serve the people in flooded areas. If the flood situation in Segamat improves, we will bring in our boats from Segamat to serve the people here,” he said in Pagoh yesterday.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Increase In Suspected Dengue Cases For Selangor, KL, And Penang

PUTRAJAYA, Dec 27 (Bernama) -- Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Penang have seen an increase in suspected dengue cases while the other states recorded a decline in the past week.
Deputy Director-General of Health (Public Health) Datuk Dr Ramlee Rahmat said Selangor recorded 441 cases over one week ending Dec 23 (329 cases previously), Kuala Lumpur with 276 cases (242), and Penang with 93 cases (88).
Perak, Johor, Kedah, Sabah, Pahang and Terengganu recorded between seven and 49 cases last week, a drop of between six and 30 percent compared with the previous week, he said in a statement.
He said that of the 1,167 suspected dengue cases last week, some 290 cases were positive. No death has been reported.
The cases were reported in Setapak, Subang Jaya, Shah Alam, Cheras, Petaling Jaya, Kajang, Kelang, Ampang Jaya, Gombak, Kuala Lumpur city centre, Jalan Klang Lama, Johor Baharu, Kepong, Hulu Selangor, Kuantan, Melaka Tengah, Damansara, Selayang and North-East and South-West Penang.
To check the problem, the Health Ministry has distributed mosquito larva killers, educate the public and conduct activities to eradicate Aedes mosquitoes.

Five specialist hospitals to ease KLGH load

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Newly completed government hospitals will specialise in certain fields of medicine to help ease congestion at the Kuala Lumpur General Hospital (KLGH).
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said the Government had this in mind when it built the new hospitals.
Five new hospitals were built in the past 10 years and each of them specialised in certain fields of medicine.
Dr Chua, who was speaking to reporters after a working visit to the newly completed Sungai Buloh Hospital, said the new hospitals were to meet the ever-growing needs of the Malaysian public.
“The public should know now that it is not necessary for them to go to the KLGH as they will be referred to the hospital that specialises in that particular ailment,” he added.
Apart from the Sungai Buloh Hospital, the other hospitals are in Ampang, Serdang, Putrajaya and Selayang.
Putrajaya Hospital will eventually specialise in endocrinology and cancer treatment.
Selayang will specialise in liver, eyes and hands surgery; Serdang in cardiology and respiratory diseases and Ampang in hematology.
Sungai Buloh Hospital would also specialise in infectious diseases, traumathology, neurosurgery, plastic surgery and spinal surgery in the near future.
Dr Chua said he was happy with his visit but noted that there were weaknesses such as shortage of trained personnel that he felt would be tackled in stages.
The RM880mil hospital that opened last October has 620 beds, 32 hospitals wards and 22 operation theatres.
Dr Chua also spoke on the issue of pork sellers threatening to strike for two weeks in protest of what they felt was double standards set by the ministry.
The Chinese daily, Nanyang Siang Pau, had reported that the pork sellers were protesting against why the ministry would fine them RM100,000 or 10 years' jail if they were found selling pork with beta-agonist but would only quarantine the farms of pig breeders who used the banned substance.
They, however, said that they would seek a meeting with the minister before making a final decision on the proposed strike.
Dr Chua said he had six million Chinese to look after and that their interests were far greater than that of the pork sellers.
“I hope they understand that I am only doing my job,” he said.

Flood Victims Told To Be Hygienic To Prevent Outbreak Of Diseases

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 26 (Bernama) -- The Health Ministry, Tuesday advised flood victims who have returned home to maintain hygiene and remove water clogging in their houses and compound as they can be breeding grounds for Aedes mosquitoes.
Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said if they did not do anything about it there could be an outbreak of dengue fever in the flood stricken areas in three weeks' time.
So far the ministry has not received any report on the outbreak of contagious diseases such as dengue fever, typhoid and cholera in the flood hit states of Johor, Negeri Sembilan, Melaka and Pahang.
"There is no major problem encountered in the affected states as the hospitals are equipped with the medicines and sufficient personnel to deal with the situation," he told reporters after visiting Sungai Buloh Hospital here Tuesday.
"What is important is that the people look after the cleanliness, hygienic and sanitation," he said, adding that 400 health teams were deployed to provide medical care at relief centres in the four states.
On his visit, he said Sungai Buloh Hospital was one of the four hospitals built in the Klang Valley in the last 10 years to ease the burden at Kuala Lumpur Hospital. The other hospitals are Selayang Hospital, Ampang Hospital and Serdang Hospital.
He said each of the hospitals were given specialisation with Sungai Buloh Hospital catering for contagious diseases as well as neuro, plastic and bone surgeries.
Selayang Hospital caters for liver and eye ailments, and hand surgery, Serdang Hospital specialises in cardiology and respiratory problems, and Putrajaya Hospital focusing on endocrine and cancer.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Ministry seeks own drug test centre

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry wants to have its own centre for drug tests.
“The ministry has to deal with a large number of end users of drug substance in food and medication.
“Having our own centre will enable us to carry out a bigger volume of tests in the shortest time possible,” said Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek.
Currently, the ministry sends food and medication specimens to the Chemistry Department of the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry for drug analysis.
More difficult specimens – that are either hard to test or seldom tested – are sent to the Universiti Sains Malaysia’s (USM) dope control centre in Penang, the only accredited doping control centre in the country.
The ministry has to usually wait for two weeks before test results are returned, Dr Chua said.
The long-waiting period is due to the high volume of drugs these centres have to test since other ministries also send samples there.
He said he had directed his officers to look into setting up a drug-testing laboratory similar to the centre at USM.
He said with its own centre the ministry could reduce the testing time to three or four days and enforcement work could be more focused and be expedited.
Asked if the role of the Chemistry Department could be expanded rather then have a new centre altogether, Dr Chua said the department was not under his ministry’s jurisdiction.
“We want our own laboratory since food safety is becoming a very important issue. When we want to import or export food, we have to certify its safety."

Enough vaccines for typhoid and cholera

Star: SEGAMAT: There are enough vaccines for typhoid and cholera in Johor, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek.
He said typhoid jabs would only be given to food handlers at flood relief centres while cholera vaccinations were not normally given.
Dr Chua said that he had received a lot of complaints of “rescue” personnel demanding money for their services.
“We received complaints from the public and even local councillors that such personnel wanted as much as RM200 from flood victims.
“However, the complainants could not identify whether the culprits are from the fire and rescue department, the army or volunteers as all of them were wearing rain coats,” he said.
Dr Chua said some 600 personnel from the ministry, divided into 151 teams, were on standing by at various relief centres in the state to treat those with illness.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

High Alert For Dengue And Cholera In Flood Hit Segamat

SEGAMAT, Dec 23 (Bernama) -- The health authorities are on high alert for the outbreak of diseases, especially dengue and cholera, in Segamat, one of the districts worst hit by floods in Johor.
Segamat district senior health officer Dr Zaharah Mohd Salleh said that over the last five days, three cholera cases had been detected and the health authorities were bracing themselves for an outbreak of cholera.
"In the last five days (since the flooding began), we have treated 156 patients for various ailments. We have 10 health clinics in this district. We have also warded 30 people because of pre-natal treatment, jaundice and other viral infections," she told Bernama Saturday.
She said the three cholera cases were detected at Sekolah Menengah Tinggi Segamat, which is now used as a flood relief centre.
Some of the victims had to be flown by helicopter to the Segamat Hospital, about 5km away, because flood waters had cut off the roads connecting the school and hospital, she said.
She said interviews with the cholera victims showed that they contracted the disease after consuming untreated water.
"We are also testing blood samples taken from flood victims at the relief centre to ensure that they are disease free. We advise anyone who has fever to immediately seek treatment from nearby clinics," she added.
Meanwhile, the district health department had formed 60 teams to ensure that there is no dengue outbreak after the flood waters recede.
"During the floods dengue-carrying mosquitoes could have laid their eggs and after the waters recede, these eggs could hatch. What we want to do is to spray all flood-affected areas after the waters go down.
"We have also told the local councils to start fumigation exercise after the flood waters recede. We are not taking anything for granted. We want to put up all the necessary precautions in place to ensure that there is no outbreak of diseases during and after the floods," Dr Zaharah added.

Perak gives RM500,000 for AIMST campus

Star: IPOH: The Perak state government will give RM500,000 to start the construction of the branch campus of the Asian Institute of Medicine, Science and Technology at Tronoh, 35km from here.
Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Tajol Rosli Ghazali said locating the AIMST campus here would be in line with promoting Perak as a hub for quality higher education in the region.
The Universiti Teknologi Petronas is also sited at Tronoh. The others are Universiti Teknologi Mara in Bandar Seri Iskandar, Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman in Kampar and Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris in Tanjung Malim.
“We want to attract local and foreign students to study here,” he said at the AIMST fund-raising dinner here on Friday.
“By 2010, we expect 100,000 students to enrol and up to 200,000 to study in Perak by 2020.”
Perak MIC chairman Datuk G. Rajoo said the dinner raised RM1.5mil, bringing the total raised in Perak to RM10.3mil.
“We will start raising funds for the Perak branch campus after the launch of the university,” he said.
The MIC-owned AIMST offers science and technology-based courses such as surgery, dental surgery, pharmacy and biotechnology.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Sex education gets Cabinet go-ahead

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: After years of discussion, the Cabinet has given the green light to introduce sex education into the school syllabus at all levels, said the Ministry of Education in a statement yesterday.
Reproductive and Social Health Education is designed with various age groups in mind. The Ministries of Education and Women, Family and Community Development have produced 160 pages of guidelines covering topics as diverse as teaching a child what kind of "touching" is allowed, contraception, teenage crushes and the dangers of online sexual predators.
The ministries worked with non-governmental organisations, experts and religious groups for three years to come up with the guidelines.
The age-groups are preschoolers aged four to six; children between seven and nine; early adolescents between 10 and 12; teenagers between 13 and 18; and adults 19 and above, said the statement.
Children aged four to six will be taught how to identify and say no to the "wrong touch".
They will get a brief introduction to HIV/AIDS as "a virus that can make you easily susceptible to many illnesses if you get infected."
Older children will learn about sexual orientation and how it can change in the course of life.
The language will be neutral, and topics like homosexuality or bisexuality will include a declaration that "most religions regard homosexuality as wrong".
Teenagers whose "hormones are running wild" will be counselled on peer pressure, infatuation, platonic or exploitative relationships and love.
While the course does include a section on contraception, it will teach that abstinence is best.
The possible dangers of abortion will also be touched on.
For those 19 years and above, the course will touch on relationships, marriage, parenting and even sexual dysfunction, in addition to sexually transmitted diseases and their symptoms and the need to be tested.
The Education Ministry is reported to have been training teachers with the help of non- governmental organisations most familiar with these subjects.
The details of how the course will be implemented and when it will make its debut have not yet been announced.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Therapy for addicts bearing fruit

NST: THE Health Ministry’s methadone replacement therapy (MRT) programme to wean addicts away from hard drugs has shown encouraging results.
Its Minister, Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek, told the Dewan Negara that the programme has seen a retention rate (where those using drugs keep away from it after undergoing MRT) of 84 per cent.
He added that 1,240 drug addicts were on the MRT programme’s first phase. Under Phase Two, 5,000 addicts will be brought under it.
He said the misuse of methadone was low as it came in liquid form, as compared to another drug, Subutex.
Subutex is dispensed in the form of pills and can be obtained from any private medical practitioners.
To prevent the misuse of Subutex, the ministry has taken a number of steps, he said yesterday when replying to points raised by senators during the Budget 2007 debate.
This includes the creation of a Drug Substitution Registry to register all private practitioners involved in the substitute therapy programme, while at the same time registering drug addicts involved in such programme.
Touching on the Health Tourism sector, he said there were 35 hospitals nationwide which marketed products under the concept this year. He said 232,161 tourists sought treatment at these hospitals, generating for them RM150.9 million in revenue.
Replying to a point raised by Senator Datin Paduka Norhayati Onn, he said the current government policy was to equip all hospitals with haemodylasis centres.
The government will continue to provide financial assistance to those seeking treatment from haemodylasis centres run by non-governmental organisations.
"Out of the 4,169 patients seeking treatment in such centres, 2,132 patients are given treatment subsidies for each session," he said.

Practise good toilet habits

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has called for an attitude change towards public toilet hygiene as it reflects the culture and civilisation of the people.
“Even if we have the best-looking toilets around it would not mean a thing if bad attitude becomes the order of the day,” the Deputy Prime Minister said.
He said that in conjunction with Visit Malaysia Year 2007, the people must understand that the Government was trying its level best to ensure the cleanliness of toilets.
“Next year we are expecting at least 20 million foreigners and one of the ways an outsider can tell about the culture and civilisation (of a country) is from the condition of public toilets,” Najib said when launching the city's latest public toilet along Jalan Bukit Bintang.
The toilet is fully automated, including the cleaning of the toilet bowls. It costs RM1 to use the toilet.
Twenty-three such toilets, each costing about RM400,000, will be strategically placed around the city by next year.
Najib said Japan was now the country rated the most outstanding for clean public toilets. The focus of that country had been clean toilets in schools.
“The Japanese see this as a mid- to long-term solution and their strategy is for the children to understand why toilets are important, and how toilets are kept clean.
“I cannot see why this cannot work in schools in Malaysia, and I believe that it can work for Malaysians if (the habit) is inculcated in the children,” he said.

Klang Valley records surge in dengue fever cases

Star: PUTRAJAYA: The Klang Valley has recorded a surge in dengue cases despite decreasing trends elsewhere.
The areas surrounding Setapak such as Ayer Panas, Taman Melati, Pulapol in Jalan Semarak, Wadieburn Camp, Section 10 in Wangsa Maju, Taman Danau, Keramat Wangsa and Jalan Gombak have become hotspots for dengue cases in the city.
Director of Disease Control Datuk Dr Ramlee Rahmat said unlike places such as Penang, which only reported 86 dengue cases last week, the number of dengue infections in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor continued to chart cases in the hundreds.
Other states reported on average 50 cases a week.
“This is due to the effective measures implemented by the various local authorities, particularly in searching out and destroying aedes mosquito breeding sites.
“However, in Selangor, the number of cases has actually climbed, from 313 to 329, and in Kuala Lumpur, from 190 to 242.
“This means that the local authorities in the Klang Valley have not been very effective in eradicating the disease,” Dr Ramlee told reporters here yesterday.
“They should do more, especially at a time when the country is experiencing frequent rains, which encourages the breeding of mosquitoes.”
The country has so far recorded 1,016 suspected dengue cases, 26% of which were later found to be positive.
A nine-year-old girl in Sabah and a 53-year-old woman in Malacca were the latest cases of haemorrhagic dengue fever fever.
So far this year there had been 72 deaths.
“In comparison, we had 99 deaths last year” Dr Ramlee said, adding that the authorities would continue to distribute free larvicide to schools and health clinics.

Ministry Registers Almost All Private Clinics

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 19 (Bernama) -- The Health Ministry received 7,563 applications to register private clinics up to Dec 5, the Dewan Negara was told Tuesday.
Parliamentary Secretary to the ministry Datuk Lee Kah Choon said the ministry was sure that the figure represented nearly all private clinics nationwide.
"However, the ministry also believes there are private clinics with treatment facilities and provide health services in various forms that are not registered as private clinics," he said in reply to Senator Dr Mohd Puad Zarkashi.
Private clinics must register with the Health Ministry following the enforcement of the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998 on May 1.
"Under the Act, only qualified people are allowed to give health treatment and should ensure that patients receive quality service at reasonable rates," Lee said.

High Employment Draws More Men To Enroll In Nursing Programmes

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 19 (Bernama) -- More males in the country prefer to enrol in nursing programmes and pursue a career in the profession due to high employment in this sector.
This could be seen in the increasing number of men enrolling in the nursing programmes offered by 18 private nursing colleges over the years, Masterskills College of Nursing and Health chief executive officer Edmund Santhara said Tuesday.
"The main pulling factors are high employability due to the high market demand for qualified nurses and the better salaries paid by the government and private hospitals," he told Bernama Tuesday.
In addition, Santhara said, local qualified nurses, particularly males, were highly sought-after to serve in the United Kingdom, United States of America, Middle East and Australia, with lucrative salaries and benefits.
"Male nurses are more suitable to be placed at the Emergence Units at hospitals. They are mentality ready to face the daunting task of handling accident victims," he added.
Citing the example of the college's male undergraduate enrolment, Santhara said that this year alone 121 male students had taken up the programme compared with only four since the programme's inception in 2001.
He said that in line with the Health Ministry's emphasis on producing well-trained and qualified nurses locally, the college planned to recruit more male students beginning 2008.
The college's Diploma in Nursing, he said, was fully accredited by the National Accreditation Board (LAN). It is currently one of the private colleges with the largest number of nursing undergraduates, totalling 3,038 students from 4,702 students overall.
"The intrinsic value such as recognised and approved by the Public Service Department, Higher Education Ministry and Nursing Board Malaysia, are among the attractiveness that make this programme value-added," Santhara said.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Rosmah: Public vehicles still leaving the disabled behind

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Despite repeatedly appealing to the authorities to include them in transport development, the disabled still have little access to public transport.
“This is indeed sad. I hope the relevant authorities will look into this and give priority to the underprivileged group,” said Bakti acting president Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor.
Quoting a World Health Organisation report, she said disabled people should be able to move along in the mainstream of development with others and fully utilise the facilities available to them.
She said this in her speech at the 2nd Bakti-Mind Conference: Empowering Persons With Disabilities Through Information Provision here yesterday.
Meanwhile, a coalition of 16 non-governmental organisations championing the cause of a barrier-free environment said they had sent a memorandum to Rapid KL asking accessible buses for all, including the disabled.
Barrier-free Environment and Accessible Transport (BEAT) coordinator Christine Lee said: “We tested out the buses when Rapid KL launched its new buses in September but they were not accessible to us.”
She said the memorandum was sent on Nov 6.
BEAT assistant coordinator Peter Tan said they were not asking for just disabled-friendly buses but universally accessible buses which the elderly, children, pregnant women and adults with prams or heavy baggage could travel in with ease.

Bittergourd 'cure' in fight against diabetes

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: It takes some bitterness to fight the nemesis of those who have a sweet tooth.
And as it turns out, using bittergourd to fight diabetes is not an old wives’ tale after all.
With the ever-growing numbers of diabetics, many pharmaceutical companies are looking for alternative cures, and they have discovered that bittergourd works to control blood sugar levels.
It has been used as an Ayurvedic treatment for diabetes for centuries.
CCM Duopharma Berhad, a Chemical Company of Malaysia (CCM) subsidiary, has developed bittergourd capsules which can be used as a preventive measure to help keep diabetes at bay.
This could indirectly help to lower the number of patients with the disease.
The National Diabetes Institute (Nadi) estimates that up to 14 per cent of the adult population has diabetes.
Ninety-five per cent have Type 2 diabetes, which can be controlled with a healthy life-style, supplements, or medication if necessary.
"Assuming just 40 per cent of the population (estimated at 25 million) are 30 years and above, we should have at least 16 million adult diabetics in this country now," said Nadi executive director Datuk Professor Dr Mustaffa Embong.
He was at the launch of "Diamelon", CCM Duopharma’s bittergourd capsules.
Dr Mustaffa said that Type 2 diabetes was no longer considered a disease of middle and old age.

Govt Quarantines 30 Pig Farms Found Using Beta-Agonist

PUTRAJAYA, Dec 18 (Bernama) -- Thirty pig farms nationwide have been placed under a one-month quarantine for injecting the animals with beta-agonist, which contaminated 16 per cent of pork in the market.
"They will also not be allowed to slaughter or relocate their animals during the quarantine period," Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek told a press conference, here Monday.
"The abuse of beta-agonist was discovered following checks by the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry on 415 pig farms nationwide," he said.
He said most of the errant farms are located in Melaka, Selangor, Perak and Penang. Pig farms in Johor and Kedah are free of the drug.
Beta-agonist is a bronchodilator medicine that opens the airways by relaxing the muscles around airways that may be tightened during an asthma attack or in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The medicine was jabbed into pigs to reduce their fat and make their meat more lean.
Chua said the beta-agonist content in pork at the 30 farms had reached 6,500 parts per million (ppm), which is among the highest in the world.
"We have to be strict in this matter as these errant farmers will kill the RM1.5 billion industry," he said.
He said several pork sellers will be charged in court for selling meat containing beta-agonist and face a fine of up to RM100,000 or 10 years jail or both upon conviction.
He also said that all pig farmers would be required to make a statutory declaration they would not inject their animals with the beta-agonist drug.

Address Mental, Health Issues At Workplaces, Says Lam Thye

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 17 (Bernama) -- The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (Niosh) wants action be taken to address mental and health issues at workplaces involving employers, employees and relevant authorities.
Niosh Chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said the neglect of mental health and psychological factors at workplaces was not only detrimental to an individual worker but also directly affects efficiency, effectiveness and output of any enterprise.
"Mental health issues at workplaces must be given due attention as the productivity of staff of any organisation depends on their mental health," he said in a statement Sunday.
Lee said more can be done for the mentally-ill in the country, not only in terms of treatment, counselling and care but also support for their next-of-kin and other benefits.
He suggested more benefits to the mentally-ill such as insurance coverage which is now denied to them.
He also proposed income tax relief be given to parents or relatives taking care of the mentally-ill and better health care services for such patients in government hospitals.
Most importantly, he said, all forms of discrimination must be removed against people who have recovered from mental illness so that they can be successfully reintegrated into society.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Fighting fakes with new hologram labels

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Registered medical products will soon carry new holograms with enhanced security features as fake holograms on several prescription drugs and over-the-counter (OTC) medicines have been detected.
The Pharmaceutical Services Division of the Ministry of Health was notified of two cases of medicines bearing fake Meditag hologram labels recently, in Kedah and in the Klang Valley.
One was an OTC ointment and the other was a cholesterol-lowering drug.
The fake holograms were reported to the enforcement authorities by the product owners, who found them on sale in small pharmacies.
Principal assistant director of the division’s enforcement unit, Ahmad Nozrin Taharin, said that a syndicate is believed to be faking these security holograms, which were solely licensed to Mediharta Sdn Bhd.
"We are carrying out surveillance and we have narrowed down our list of suspects," he said, warning that licensed pharmacies which sold products with the fake labels risked having their licences revoked.
In May last year, Mediharta was given the sole licence by the Health Ministry to sell hologram labels to drug companies to beat the booming trade in counterfeit and unregistered medicines.
The holograms, which are imported from France, are affixed on the packaging of all registered drugs, including traditional medicines, sold in the country.
The labels, among others, bear the name of the Drug Control Authority under the Health Ministry, serial number, a hibiscus (national symbol) security feature, and Meditag logo.
Mediharta chairman Datuk Dr Mohd Nordin Mohd Nor said the new security-enhanced Meditag hologram was introduced to enable consumers to check the authenticity of the medical product at the point of sale.
"It comes with a polaroid optical security feature which will enable the purchaser to distinguish the fake from the genuine using a polaroid-detecting gadget," he told the New Sunday Times.
All licensed pharmacies will have the gadget.
The consumer can immediately verify the authenticity of the product by placing the Meditag hologram under the gadget and turning it back and forth at a 90-degree angle.
"When they do that, they will see the security feature appear and disappear. This is just one of the new security features that have been added."
Dr Nordin said pharmaceutical companies could continue to use the old holograms until they exhaust their stock.
He said the security features in the old holograms were mainly to assist the ministry’s enforcement officers in weeding out fake and unregistered medicines. However, it was not easy for the public to differentiate between fake and genuine labels.
"This new security feature has been included to build consumer confidence in the product they are buying.
"We are aware that cheats will never stop trying to beat the system, so we will continue to enhance the security features in the hologram from time to time."
The Pharmaceutical Services Division seized 12,242 counterfeit and unregistered medical products last year.
In the first nine months of this year, it seized 23,263 such products, worth RM5.5 million.
To fight the problem, the ministry will soon amend the Control of Drugs and Cosmetics Regulation 1984, to make it an offence to also possess such products.
Under the existing regulation, individuals found selling such drugs risked being fined up to RM25,000 or jailed for up to three years, or both companies faced a maximum RM50,000 fine or three years’ jail or both.

Keep homes free of aedes breeding grounds

Star: MUAR: The Health Ministry wants every Malaysian to look after cleanliness in and around their homes to get rid of the Aedes mosquito's breeding grounds.
Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said the people should not depend only on the Government, especially his ministry and the local government authorities, to eradicate the menace.
“If every family can see to the cleanliness of their homes including the surroundings and get rid of any potential breeding spot for mosquitoes, we can reduce the dengue menace.
“However, until the people change their attitude, the dengue outbreak will continue in the country,” he said at the ground-breaking ceremony for a new building of SK Chung Hwa Tiga here yesterday.
On another issue, Dr Chua, who is also MCA vice-president, said the party had always adopted a low-key approach when discussing sensitive issues such as education.
He said the party gave more emphasis on results rather than going for political mileage.
He said that between 1999 and this year, 22 schools out of the 52 Chinese schools under the relocation programme had been completed and 11 new schools had been built to cater to the growing demand for such schools.

Plan to screen all newborns for metabolic disease

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry hopes to screen all newborn babies for Inborn Errors of Metabolism (IEM) or inherited metabolic diseases.
Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Abd Latiff Ahmad said with a small investment many lives could be spared from agony, deaths and costly treatment in the future.
He said the ministry would ask for more budget allocation from the Government to provide the screening after the on-going two-year pilot project on screening of babies for IEM is completed in 2008.
“It only cost RM3 for a child to be screened for the inherited metabolic disease and the small investment could save a lot of lives from agony, deaths and costly treatment in future,” Dr Latiff said at the Metabolic Camp II yesterday.
The pilot project, that started in September, is being carried out at government hospitals in Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Selayang, Alor Star, Penang, Kota Baru, Kuching and Malacca, said geneticist Dr Choy Yew Sing, who is the chief investigator of the pilot project known as Newborn Screening for IEM.
Dr Latiff said it would cost the Government RM1.5mil to screen an estimated 500,000 babies born each year in Malaysia.
“It is a small investment compared with the cost saved in future because with early detection, the right diet and treatment, many can lead normal lives,” he said.
IEM comprises a large class of genetic diseases involving disorders of metabolism such as mitochondrial disease, organic academia, urea cycle defects, glycogen storage disease, lysosomal storage disease and fatty acid oxidation defects.
It is due to defects in genes producing enzymes, which are essential in many biochemical reactions or metabolism in the body.
If untreated, they may cause mental retardation, physical handicap and even death. If both parents carry the same defective gene responsible for one particular IEM, they run 25% risk of giving birth to a child with the particular inborn error of metabolic disease, said Dr Choy.
During a question and answer session, he said the lack of Q10 drug for mitochondria patients was due to difficulty in getting approval for the drug.
“We lack report on the effectiveness of the drug. We are trying to obtain health technology assessment from other countries and also compile our own report,” he said.
He said the drug had been effective on one-third of his patients, however, for another third, there were still some problems while it was not effective at all for the rest.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Health Care Workers Should Strictly Adhere To Hand Hygiene

KUCHING, Dec 15 (Bernama) -- Health care workers should strictly adhere to hand hygiene to reduce infections and the spread of anti-microbial resistance, Sarawak State Health Director Dr Yao Sik King said Friday.
She said health care associated infection was a major global issue concerning patient safety as it affected millions of people and complicated a significant proportion of patient-care deliveries.
Infections also contributed to patient deaths and disability besides promoting resistance to antibiotics and generated additional expenditure to those already incurred by patients' underlying disease, she added.
"Hand hygiene remains the primary measure to reduce infection but health care workers' adherence is extremely low. They should not be the culprits. They should promote the highest standards of practice and behaviour to reduce the risks of health care associated infection," she said.
Dr Yao said this when launching the state-level Hand Hygiene campaign to reduce healthcare associated infections and to promote safety for patients, healthcare providers and community at the Sarawak General Hospital (SGH) here.
The launching, initiated by Infection Control teams of SGH, was in response to the World Health Organisation Global Patient Safety Challenge 2005-2006 with the theme: Clean Care is Safer Care.
"Healthcare campaign launch should not be a minute campaign. There should be an intensifying campaign to promote hand hygiene in all levels. Keeping hand hygiene is part and parcel of daily life," Dr Yao said.

Colleges Offering Nursing Courses Told To Toe The Line

ALOR GAJAH, Dec 15 (Bernama) -- The Health Ministry warned colleges which offer nursing courses to follow the student intake criteria to the letter.
Its Deputy Minister, Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad said currently, there were colleges that did not follow the criteria, hiring unqualified tutors and not meeting the tutor-student ratio.
"This will affect the quality of nurses churned out," he told reporters after witnessing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signing ceremony between the ministry and Kolej Teknologi Islam Antarabangsa Melaka at Kuala Sungai Baru, near here.
Dr Abdul Latiff said nursing colleges must have all the facilities like laboratories that met the standards of the Malaysian Accreditation Board and the Malaysian Nursing Board.
"The nursing course differs slightly from other courses. They have to do practical training as well that is linked to what they learn. They are professionals. They need wide exposure and not just theories," he said.
He also said that the government was concerned about the nursing career, and it had taken a new approach in treating the profession such as raising the salary grade from U40 to U54 for those with a first degree.
Nurses who fulfilled all the conditions would be given the opportunity to become a hospital director, he said.

Tragic wait for ambulance

Sun2Surf: KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 14, 2006): The indifferent and callous response of those responsible for saving lives may have cost an accident victim his life.
At 1.30pm on Wednesday, businesswoman Zara Davies Abdul Rahman came across an accident near the Batu Tiga toll booth on the Elite Highway, Shah Alam. A victim with serious injuries was lying motionless on the road, surrounded by a crowd.
Zara said when she approached him, he was still alive and grabbed her hand.
"I tried to calm him and asked bystanders if an ambulance had been called. I was told it had not," she said at the Parliament lobby today, while accompanied by Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang.
Zara said she told the driver who knocked into the motorcyclist to call for an ambulance but it took three attempts to 999 before there was a response, and the phone passed to her.
She said she disclosed her contact details and the accident's location, and told 999 that Klang Hospital was the closest hospital.
Subsequently, the hospital's ambulance control centre rang, and she had to repeat the information, stress the urgency of the situation and convince the caller that the hospital was the closest.
She called back at 2.06pm and was told the ambulance had not been sent. She was also asked to repeat the information she had given earlier. Frustrated, she called an aide to the mentri besar for help.
When she called the hospital again at 2.36pm, the ambulance had still not been sent.
Finally, the driver who knocked into the motorcyclist decided to drive him to the hospital with Zara leading the way.
But when they arrived, no one came to their aid, and the victim had died.
Zara said there were about eight ambulances parked at the hospital.

She called on the authorities to:
* locate emergency response centres and ambulances at strategic locations;
* provide proper road signs and directions to hospitals;
* provide special emergency exits at tolls, exit signs and emergency telephone numbers;
* highlight highway names at various locations so road users would be able to identify the location in case of emergency;
* have professionally-trained personnel;
* have emergency stations at hospitals that are staffed at all times; and
* implement a 15-minute response time for SOS calls.
Lim said he would write to the sultan, the Health Minister and the prime minister about the incident.

Stop your whining, housemen told

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Housemen who claim to be overworked and deprived of basic comforts should listen to Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek.
The Health Minister said things were far worse when he was a houseman, but yet he and those of his era persevered.
Thirty-six hour work days were not uncommon with no place to sleep while on call.
Dr Chua said housemen today had all the basic comforts and facilities.
Showing reporters the room at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital where housemen slept, he said this was nowhere near what he and his peers had to endure.
He said housemen unwilling to work hard and wanting 8am to 4pm jobs should not become doctors.
"If housemen are not willing to work hard and go through the process which is mandatory anywhere, then they do not have what it takes to be a doctor. I am very frank about this."
Pointing to Datuk Dr Jeyaindran Sinnadurai, Dr Chua said the Kuala Lumpur Hospital’s head of Department of Medicine was a consultant pulmonary and critical care physician and yet worked very long hours.
"He does not work from 8am to 4pm.
"As a specialist, he puts in long hours, besides making VIP house calls. He cannot say he worked long hours and did not sleep and not treat VIPs," he said.
He denied that the ministry did not care for housemen or their welfare.
"We care for housemen and that is why we have ensured that they have proper facilities to sleep while on call and have increased their on-call allowance," he added.
On the quality of housemen, he said five to 10 per cent of the 1,300 housemen annually had to continue housemanship even after a year as they did not meet the criteria set to become qualified medical officers.
"The percentage not qualifying is high," he added.

36 hospitals threatened with shutdown

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Thirty-six private hospitals, including some well-known ones in the Klang Valley, will be shut down if they do not renew their operating licences within a month.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek, in issuing the warning yesterday, said the hospitals that failed to comply would also be taken to court.
Private hospitals must renew their licences with the ministry every two years.
The errant hospitals are mostly located here, Selangor and Johor.
"These hospitals have not even applied for their licences to be renewed," he said.
Dr Chua said this at a function where the Kuala Lumpur Hospital (HKL) was given the Malaysia Society for Quality in Health (MSQH) Accreditation Status from July, 2005 to July 22, 2008.
After getting private clinics to register, his ministry is now turning to the country’s 237 private hospitals to ascertain if they were licensed and adhering to the requirements stipulated in the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act.
He said discussions were also in progress to appoint members for the visitors boards in private hospitals as it was through these boards that the ministry could get feedback from the community on the hospitals’ services.
Dr Chua said private hospitals must have the visitors boards to hear public complaints from next year.
"We have lots of complaints on private hospital charges and payment demands," he added.
Earlier in his speech, Dr Chua said 60 out of the 129 government hospitals had been conferred the MSQH accreditation status compared with only 17 out of the 237 private hospitals.
He said the accreditation status was another feather in the cap of the 136-year-old HKL.
Last year, 124,570 patients were admitted to the hospital. It also gave outpatient treatment to 700,806 people.
"Malaysians strongly believe in the hospital’s 64 services which also comprise sub-specialisations," Dr Chua said.
MSQH board member Datuk K. Kulaveerasingam said one of the objectives of the accreditation programme was to ensure that the quality of health services nationwide was continuously upheld and service management competency was improved.

Health laws to be enforced on imports

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia will soon begin enforcing certain health regulations to restrict the import of food and agricultural products into the country.
This is to reduce the widening deficit in the balance of trade, especially in the agricultural sector, as well as to prevent the dumping of cheap, low-quality food on the local market.
However, Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin allayed fears that Malaysia would impose tariffs on food imports.
“We can’t do that because we are a member of the World Trade Organisation as well as the Asean Free Trade Area.
“Health regulations, which call for food products imported into the country to adhere to standards in sanitation, food safety, quality, packaging and labelling, quarantine and expiry date, already exist under the Food Act.
“But for some reason these were not enforced strictly. Maybe this was due to Malaysians not taking seriously concerns over food safety and quality.
“Beginning next year, we will start enforcing these rules with cooperation from the Health Ministry.
“We will give adequate notice to all food importers when this happens,” he told reporters after handing over the ministry’s annual report to department heads here yesterday.
Muhyiddin said the dumping of these imported food products had also led to competition with local farmers.
“Many developed countries already have very stringent regulations regarding food imports.
“For instance, Malaysia had to negotiate with Australia for eight years before it could export its food products there due to prevailing high standards of hygiene.
“Similarly, whenever one wants to export foodstuff to Japan, the government there imposes very stringent food quality rules to protect consumers. It’s time Malaysia does the same,” he added.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

M'sian Eye Doctor Is First Asian In Elite American Programme

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 14 (Bernama) -- A Malaysian eye specialist has done the country proud by being the first Asian to be selected for the Leadership Development Programme conducted by the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), the world's largest association of eye doctors and surgeons.
Dr Wong Jun Shyan, a consultant ophthalmologist and part-time lecturer in retinal services at Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, is in fact the only international participant among the 19 selected doctors for the 2006-2007 programme which began in Las Vegas last month.
His candidacy for the programme was proposed by the Ophthalmological Society of the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) to the Asia Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology, which after considering a field of other eye specialists throughout the region, picked Dr Wong as the sole Asia Pacific representative.
"This is a great opportunity for any ophthalmologist who wants to continue building his skills," Dr Wong was quoted by the MMA in a statement today.
"I hope to use what I'll learn to bring the practice of ophthalmology to the next level in Malaysia," added the specialist who has published more than 20 articles in scientific journals.
The Leadership Development Programme identifies and prepares ophthalmologists with the skills they need to lead their society in future. Nominees must have demonstrated a commitment to their society and have shown potential to lead their organisations.
A recognised leader in his field, Dr Wong had also been a clinical fellow at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital in Melbourne, Australia as well as at the Beetham Eye Institute at Joslin Diabetes Centre, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School in Boston, United States.
He is also the only Malaysian to join the ranks of the Retina Society and is a founding member of the International Retina Foundation.
The Retina Society is an exclusive US-based organisation that promotes the education and professional interaction of vitreo-retinal specialists, providing optimal patient care and encouraging -- through clinical and basic research -- the discovery and development of new means to further patient care.

Higher intake for professional courses

NST: With the rising number of students applying for critical courses yearly, places in the medicine, dentistry and pharmacy faculties will be increased by three per cent every year until 2010.
Higher Education Ministry Parliamentary Secretary Datuk Dr Adham Baba said the government realised the three courses were popular among students.
He told Senator Chua Kim Chuan that since this was the case, the ministry decided to offer more seats for the courses in public universities.
It was also aimed at producing more doctors, dentists and pharmacists to meet the country’s needs.
However, he said the ministry could not simply add more seats without jeopardising the quality of the courses and graduates.
"We cannot increase enrolment without referring to the professional bodies which set high standards, like on the ratio of teachers to students and facilities," he said.
For private institutions of higher learning, factors such as infrastructure and teaching strength were taken into consideration before more students could be admitted.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

No Plan To Streamline Medicine Prices

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 13 (Bernama) -- The government has no plan to standardise or control the prices of medicine in the market, particularly at private clinics, says Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Abd Latiff Ahmad.
He said although the medicine prices in the market were more expensive compared to the World Health Organisation's International Drug Price Indicator Guide, they are still manageable.
Replying to a question from Senator Fatanah Datuk Ahmad at the Dewan Negara, here today, he said the prices suggested by the guide were median averages of wholesale prices that excluded additional costs like insurance and delivery.
He said the factor that differentiated the market price for medicines was the consulting cost charged by medical specialists.
The public had the option to buy the medicine at the clinics or the pharmacies, he said.
"For now, we let the market forces determine the price," he said.

RM1m fines collected for letting Aedes breed

NST: PUTRAJAYA: The obvious health risks aside, not maintaining one’s compound and allowing Aedes mosquitoes to breed has financial consequences. This year alone, health authorities have collected close to RM1 million in compound fines.
That’s a lot of breeding places, considering the maximum fine is RM500.
Last week, four schools — one each in Penang, Kedah, Perak and Kuala Lumpur — were slapped with fines ranging from RM150 to RM300.
Selangor and Kuala Lumpur have the most number of dengue cases. Both areas, and Penang, will be the main focus of the fight against the Aedes mosquito in view of Visit Malaysia Year 2007, said director of disease control Datuk Dr Ramlee Rahmat.
During the Health Ministry’s weekly dengue update, he said that last week, nine construction sites, 149 homes and shoplots, and four factories in Selangor were penalised. In Kuala Lumpur, five construction sites and six shopping centres were fined.
Hot spots in the Klang Valley include Setapak, Shah Alam, Subang Jaya, Kajang, Petaling Jaya, Gombak, Cheras and Ampang Jaya, he said.
Last week, Selangor had 313 cases, up 23 over the previous week, while in Kuala Lumpur there were 13 more cases than the week before, with 190.
In Penang, the number of cases went down from 116 the week before last to 102 last week.

Dengue Still Under Control Despite Up By 20 Cases

PUTRAJAYA, Dec 12 (Bernama) -- Despite suspected dengue cases up by 20, bringing the total to 917 on Dec 9 compared to 897 on Dec 2, the situation is still under control, says the Health Ministry.
Of the total, 863 are suspected dengue fever cases (94.1 per cent) and 54 are suspected dengue haemorrhagic fever (5.9 per cent), says the ministry's Disease Control Division director Datuk Dr Ramlee Rahmat.
As of the 49th week ending on Dec 9, he said, there were 34,386 cases of suspected dengue fever as compared to 37,153 in the same period last year, with only 9,775 cases (28.4 per cent) confirmed as dengue positive.
"Since early this year, there were 70 dengue-related deaths compared to 99 in the same period last year," he told a press conference.
Dr Ramlee said the increased reported cases showed the public had begun to realise the importance to seek early treatment for the fever and to prevent it from becoming contagious.
Dr Ramlee said Selangor and Kuala Lumpur Federal Territory were the two states which registered increased dengue cases.
Selangor recorded 313 cases compared to 290 in the 48th week ending Dec 2 while the Kuala Lumpur Federal Territory had 190 cases, he said.
Dengue cases in Penang showed a decline from 116 on Dec 2 to 102 on Dec 9, he said.
To control and prevent the spread of dengue fever in high-risk areas, he said the ministry had open national dengue operation rooms from 8am to 4.30pm.
Public wishing to get further information on dengue fever can call the rooms at 03-88 88 6252 or fax no 03-8888 6251/8861.
Dr Ramlee also said the ministry was distributing larvae-killing insecticide called "Temephos" for free to the public.
He said arrangements have been made with the Kuala Lumpur Federal Territory and Selangor health departments and Islamic Religious Affairs Councils to include dengue fever and precautionary measures in their Friday sermons.

Health Ministry Seals Three Clinics

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 13 (Bernama) -- The Health Ministry has sealed three private clinics for offering services without permits and employing unqualified medical practitioners.
Health Director-General Tan Sri Dr Mohd Ismail Merican said the ministry's enforcement officers raided one of the clinics in Seremban at 11.30pm on Nov 17.
The clinic was run by a former medical assistant of the defence forces from 10pm to 8am over the past several months, he said in a statement today.
In another raid at 11am on Dec 9, the ministry sealed two clinics in Klang.
One was the clinics was operating without a permit and run by a foreigner without a valid travelling document.
The police who accompanied the ministry's enforcement officers in the raid, arrested the illegal immigrant.
The other clinic was run by a retired medical assistant.
Dr Mohd Ismail said the Health Ministry viewed the incidents as serious as they showed the stubbornness of the private healthcare facility owners in not complying with the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998.
Their irresponsible acts would greatly endanger the people, he said.
Owners of the premises, if convicted, are liable to a RM500,000 fine for companies and RM300,000 or six months in prison or both for their directors or individual owners.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Ministry: We need to improve

Sun2Surf: PENANG (Dec 12, 2006): The Health Ministry will have to look into ways to improve its health services system and develop its human resources capacity to avoid possible cases of negligence.
Health Ministry parliamentary secretary Datuk Lee Kah Choon said the ministry will have to seriously look into complaints and reported cases of negligence against government hospitals or medical staff.
"We will have to look into why it happens and if need be, change the way of doing things to solve the problem," he said.
Lee said the ministry is looking at how it can upgrade and improve its complaints mechanism so that complaints can be solved faster.
"We want reported cases to be immediately investigated and we want to involve both parties during the investigation," he said.
At present, a complaint goes directly to the hospital director first, after which an independent committee is formed to investigate the case.
"If the complainants are unhappy with the final outcome of their complaints, they can always send their complaints to the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) if the complaint is against a doctor or to the Health Ministry if the complaint is against a hospital and other medical staff," Lee said.
MMC will conduct a thorough investigation into the doctor concerned and take disciplinary action if the doctor is found to be negligent in his duty, he said.
He added the ministry will do the same if the complaint is against nurses or other medical staff.
Lee was commenting on the case where a baby became semi-paralysed after delivery at the Seberang Jaya Hospital on Dec 5.
R. Santhanavaly and J. Sivananthan, both 30, claimed their son's condition could have been avoided if the staff and doctor on duty that day had delivered him via Caesarean section.

Malaysian scientists seek cures from nature

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Malaysian scientists are looking to nature for cures where chemical or synthetic drugs have failed.
They have joined a worldwide partnership that is fighting pathogens that developed a resistance to modern drugs.
The Health Ministry and the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry have started working with the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi) on the matter.
Central to their efforts will be identifying new compounds in marine, plant and other biological material.
Malaysian Institute of Pharmaceuticals and Nutraceuticals director Prof Datuk Dr Mohamed Isa Abd Majid said the problem in conventional medicine was the resistance that pathogens developed to them over time.
"In order for us to come up with new and effective drugs, we have to go back to natural resources. It is like taking one step back to move two steps forward," he said at the start of a DNDi conference here yesterday.
DNDi works with governments and the pharmaceutical industry to identify potential new cures for development.
The institute, which is under the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry, is one of the participating agencies in the three-day conference, which will discuss neglected diseases and identify natural substances that can be used in their treatment.
Dr Mohamed Isa said Malaysia decided to collaborate with DNDi as the country is one of 12 mega-biodiversity sites in the world and could offer its natural resources for medical cures.
The collaboration will also help Malaysia’s own goals under the National Biotechnology Policy to enhance capacity in research and development.
Neglected diseases refer to those diseases which threaten the majority of the world’s population but for which little research and funding has been invested.
The term also refers to a disease for which treatment is available but not affordable due to the high cost, such as HIV/AIDS.
Other neglected diseases include sleeping sickness or the Human African Trypanosomiasis (HAT), which threatens populations in sub-Saharan Africa, Kala-Azar disease or visceral Leshmaniasis which affects the Indian subcontinent, Brazil and Sudan; and the Chagas disease or trypanosomiasis, which is common in South America.
These diseases are fatal and most often afflict poor communities.
Dr Mohamed Isa said "only 10 per cent of global research and development funding have gone into 90 per cent of the world’s problems".
The majority of research and funding has gone into "first world" diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and neurological problems, he added.
He said in Malaysia, malaria, dengue and HIV/AIDS were considered the major neglected diseases.
Although these have been around for some time, little research has gone into developing new treatments while in the case of HIV/AIDS, the medication available is still costly for large segments of the population.

Monday, December 11, 2006

China's Traditional Medicine Experts For Integrated Hospital

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 11 (Bernama) -- Traditional medical specialists from three renowned universities in China will help out in the implementation of the Integrated Hospital Concept, a special hospital offering a combination of western and traditional medicine treatments, here next year.
The three universities are the University of Beijing, University of Shanghai and University of Nanjing, which are actively involved in herbal research and giving out support for well-established and closely monitored integrated hospital around China.
Health Minister, Datuk Seri Chua Soi Lek said during last month's meeting with the republic's Health Ministry, the Chinese had agreed to Malaysia's proposal to send Malaysia's western-educated doctors to attend short-term courses on traditional and complementary medicine at these universities.
"In exchange, the Chinese will send their experts in traditional medicine from the three universities to help out the Malaysian government in implementing the integrated hospital concept here," he told reporters after presenting a government grant amounting to RM2 million to the non-profit making Tung Shin Hospital, here, Monday.
Besides that, he said the universities' experts would also be roped in to introduce traditional medicine modules at the medical faculties of local universities.
"Traditional medicine will be introduced as a subject for medical undergraduates. Upon completion, these would-be-doctors will have sound knowledge about traditional medicine," he said.
Chua also said that the Integrated Hospital Concept would be implemented after the Traditional and Complementary Medicine Bill was gazetted next year.
"The government has identified three government hospitals, namely, Kepala Batas Hospital, Putrajaya Hospital and Sultan Ismail Hospital (Johor Baharu) as the pilot project for the Integrated Hospital Concept," he said.
"In these hospitals, traditional medicine complementary treatments will include pain management (acupuncture, massage and reflexology), complementary treatment to build up cancer patients' immune system, health and wellness program involving enhancing mental health, and dieting," he added.

TMC Stemcells A Strategic Move For TMC Life Sciences

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 11 (Bernama) -- TMC Life Sciences Bhd has established a wholly-owned subsidiary, TMC Stemcells Sdn Bhd, dedicated to cord blood and adult stem cell banking, therapy, application, and research and development.
In a statement Monday, the company, the parent company of TMC Fertility Centre, said TMC Stemcells will primarily be in the business of harvesting, processing, and storage of umbilical cord blood stem cells and peripheral blood stem cells.
"The incorporation of TMC Stemcells is a strategic step for the group, and part of the group's long term plan to provide stem cell therapy and banking to local and foreign patients," its chairman, Professor Khalid Abdul Kadir said.
In short term, TMC Stemcells is expected to be a direct beneficiary of TMC Fertility Centre's growing business.
In long term, the healthcare services to be provided in the upcoming Tropicana Medical Centre would also be advantageous to TMC Stemcells, the statement said.
Tropicana Medical Centre is expected to be operational in 2008.
"We are optimistic that TMC Stemcells will indeed contribute positively to the group in the coming years," Khalid added.

Niosh draws up safety induction programme

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (Niosh) has drawn up the Niosh Safety Passport Programme to provide safety induction courses to contractors and their workers.
Its chairman, Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, said the latest programme was initiated last month with Telekom Malaysia (TM).
The safety induction course is for workers who are hired by TM's contractors to do maintenance work and other non-routine work in a confined space or that involved heights.
He said in a statement issued here yesterday that the safety programme had a steering committee comprising representatives from TM and Niosh to oversee its implementation and co-ordination.
He said TM contractors who were awarded the passports could renew them after successfully attending a refresher course.

Study shows heart disease is No 1 killer of women

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: A study by the Health Ministry from 1990 to 2005 has revealed a 135% increase in heart disease among women, said Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor.
She said that last year, 22.5% of deaths among women were due to cardiovascular heart disease.
“Heart disease is the number one killer of Malaysian women, not breast cancer,” she said at the launch of the website, which aims to create more awareness about heart disease among women.
Rosmah, who is patron of the Go-Red Campaign, pointed out that 46% of women around the age of 50 suffered from heart disease compared with 10% from breast cancer. Also 31% of women around that age had died of heart disease while only 3% died from breast cancer.
“I hope the Health Ministry will lay out more aggressive campaigns to create greater awareness on this issue,” she said.
National Heart Institute consultant cardiologist Datuk Seri Dr Robaayah Zambahari, who is the Go-Red campaign advisor, said the lack of awareness about heart disease among women was not just among the general public but also healthcare providers.
“As a result, women tend to receive less treatment than men,” she said.
Dr Robaayah said while men tended to experience pains on the left side of the chest during a heart attack, women mostly had difficulty breathing and experienced pain on the upper part of the abdomen, which is sometimes mistaken for gastritis.
Among the women, who have a higher risk of getting heart disease were those who had reached menopause, led a sedentary lifestyle, were obese, diabetics and smokers.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Teenager to return home minus 3kg facial tumour

Star: ALOR STAR: SPM school-leaver Hong Siew Hui who went to China in May to remove a facial tumour will return to Malaysia on Tuesday – minus the 3kg growth.
The tumour was successfully removed at the Fuda Cancer Hospital in Guangzhou where she had been warded since May 15. She had the condition since birth.
Hong, 18, from Taman Bersatu in Simpang Empat here, is scheduled to arrive at the Penang International Airport on Dec 12, Kedah Chinese Assembly Hall (KCAH) president Datuk Wong Gin Chee told a press conference here yesterday.
She will be accompanied by another Kedahan, Tan Kia Khim, 25, who also had a facial tumour removed at the same hospital earlier.
The surgeries were made possible by KCAH which set up a special medical fund to send them to China to remove the tumours.
Tan, a coffeeshop assistant from Alor Star, had returned to Malaysia on July 18 after his tumour was removed but returned to the same hospital on Nov 11 to have his face “touched up.”
Wong said KCAH would charter a bus to bring family members of both patients from Alor Star to welcome them at the Penang airport.
He thanked the public for contributing to the fund to enable both youths to have “new faces.”
Hong and Tan would be accompanied by several officials from the Fuda Hospital as well as television journalists from Guangzhou.
Their surgery had involved many steps such as cutting the tumour skin, removing the tumour, a “cryoablation procedure” to freeze the tumour, stitching back the wound and repeating the cryoablation procedure.
There was also a “Transarterial Intervention Therapy” to prevent excessive bleeding until the hard-core tissues were completely destroyed and removed.

No HIV Screening For Those Tying The Knot

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 7 (Bernama) -- The government has no plans yet to make it mandatory for couples intending to get married to go through HIV screening, Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Abd Latiff Ahmad said.
He, however, said those in the "high-risk" groups were encouraged to do blood screening for HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), the virus that causes the deadly AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) disease.
"Sreening and diagnosis will allow for early treatment to be administered to HIV carriers and ensure that patients do not spread the disease to their partners through sexual contact.
"The public, including those who plan to get married, should go for HIV screening in any government clinic," he said in reply to Abdul Halim Abdul Rahman (Pas-Pengkalan Chepa) in the Dewan Rakyat Thursday.
He said some states such as Johor and Perak already made it mandatory for Muslim couples intending to marry to go for HIV screening.
Abd Latiff also revealed that in the first eight months of this year, a total of 1,790 patients reportedly experienced side-effects from medicines administered to them. There were 2,363 cases last year.
He said the Malaysian Adverse Drug Reaction Advisory Committee (MADRAC) was set up to monitor the adverse effects of medicines among patients in Malaysia.
"The focus is on adverse effects that are life threatening, can cause hospitalisation, needing long treatment, and babies to be deformed."
He said that the Drug Control Authority would review the registration status of fatal or dangerous medicines.
"The authority can order these medicines to be suspended or banned," he added.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Buy drugs online at your own risk

Star: PETALING JAYA: Buying medication online is extremely risky because the source of the medicine is unknown, said pharmacists and doctors.
Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society president John Chang said that while it might be convenient to buy the products online it was tantamount to cheating oneself.
“Some of the medication for chronic illnesses like diabetes is supposed to be prescribed by doctors,” he pointed out.
“There are people buying such medication without any medical attention or advice.”
Chang added that the harm was made worse by the fact that the suppliers were unknown, and the medication sold sometimes did not even contain medicine.
“They could just be blank tablets. The perceived savings is not worth the high risk,” he said, adding that buying drugs online was one way of promoting counterfeit medicine.
He said some medication required professional advice on its usage and follow-up.
Malaysian Medical Association president Datuk Dr Teoh Siang Chin said buying on the Internet was akin to “putting your hand in a bag of worms.”
“It is like putting your hand into something and not knowing what you’re taking,” he added.
For those buying drugs online for their sexual problems as they were too shy to consult doctors, Dr Teoh said people have to realise that such problems were multi-faceted.
“Most of these problems have a psychological component which needs counselling. Medicine alone is not enough,” he said.
Chang said being shy was not a good reason to buy drugs online as the buyers were taking the risk of bypassing the healthcare professional, who could provide good advice.

Dengue count includes suspected cases

Star: PUTRAJAYA: The number of reports on dengue cases is high in Malaysia because it also includes suspected cases as well. Confirmed cases only make up a fraction of the statistics.
Disease Control director Datuk Dr Ramlee Rahmat said that other countries reported only confirmed cases.
“The actual number of positive cases of dengue (in Malaysia) is rather small,” he told reporters here yesterday.
“We decided that we should also report suspected cases because this will help us put in place surveillance and preventative measures in the areas concerned,” he added.
Dr Ramlee was commenting on a Hong Kong newspaper report cautioning its residents against visiting Malaysia due to an alleged dengue outbreak.
Besides the media report, the Hong Kong Travel Health Services website also stated that a 34-year-old traveller from Hong Kong had “imported” the disease from Malaysia. It stated that the woman had been in Malaysia from Oct 10 to 24.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Pharmaniaga to bank on new products

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Pharmaniaga Bhd is banking on the introduction of new products and the streamlining of its core business to boost revenue next year.
Chairman Datuk Mohamed Azman Yahya said the integrated healthcare solutions provider would also continue to reduce its dependence on Government's procurement for growth.
“Our focus next year will be on growing the three core businesses: logistics, medical equipment and services, and pharmaceuticals. We are looking at double-digit growth from our overseas operations, particularly Indonesia.
“Domestically, our growth will be in line with the overall industry growth of 8% to 10%,” he said after the launch of the Clinisys clinic management system by Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad here yesterday.
Besides Indonesia, Pharmaniaga markets its products to 16 other countries, including China, Brunei, Singapore, Papua New Guinea, Hong Kong and Iraq.
Overseas sales contributed about 24% to its total revenue in the first quarter of this year.
Managing director Azhar Hussain said Pharmaniaga's dependence on Government's procurement was as high as 95% of total revenue a few years ago.
He said the figure dropped to about “60% to 65% last year” and was expected to drop further as the company's operation locally and overseas expanded.
He said Pharmaniaga planned to launch 80 new products over the next five years.
Pharmaniaga holds a 15-year concession (ending 2009) to supply drugs to government hospitals, with an option for the authorities to extend the concession by another 15 years.
Commenting on Clinisys, Azman said the software would be made available to all its customers free-of-charge.
“Clinisys will help increase efficiency and productivity in clinics and enhance patients' experience,” he said, adding that about 100 clinics had adopted the system since its introduction in May.

Government hopes to reduce HIV/AIDS cases by 20%

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The Government hopes to see a 20% reduction in HIV/AIDS cases by 2008 as a direct result of comprehensive preventive efforts.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said although 16 to 18 new cases were reported daily, there would be a reduction with a “change in behaviour.”
”If what should not happen still happens, the result from our efforts will be limited,” Chua said after attending the national-level World AIDS Day celebration at the Health Management Institute here yesterday.
His confidence of reducing the cases stemmed from the National HIV/AIDS Strategic Plan which focused on treatment, harm reduction and the training of paramedics.
“The Cabinet has allocated an extra RM100mil over five years on top of the RM40mil yearly allocation,” he said.
Dr Chua said 100 paramedics were also being trained at a cost of RM600,000 to counsel and administer anti-retro viral drugs to patients.
“The drugs are not like normal medicine and the personnel are trained to understand the intricacies involved in treating HIV/AIDS,” he said.
Dr Chua added that the target was to treat up to 10,000 patients by 2010, and to prolong the lives of at least 80% of them.
He said that with the expansion of the ministry's needle/ syringe exchange programme and methadone replacement therapy to include all states in the country, more people would receive help.
“We hope to involve 15,000 drug users in methadone replacement therapy and 15,000 to 25,000 intravenous drug users in the needle/ syringe exchange programme by 2010,” he added.

Chua: Don’t buy drugs online

Star: SUBANG JAYA: Malaysians have been told to stop making online purchases of medication because the products may be fake.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said the ministry was concerned with the new trend which has seen the number of online medicine sales and purchases growing by the day.
“We are advising the public not to be so naive as to believe all that is stated about the product in online advertisements. Using these drugs involves high risks because the information on the effects might be false, while the medication might be fake,” he said.
He said the medication available over the Internet included prescription drugs meant for those suffering from diabetes and hypertension, anti-histamines and painkillers.
“But a large number of products that are bought online are lifestyle drugs such as sexual performance enhancers for men, and for the women it is beauty and anti-ageing products,” he told reporters after launching the Seminar on Counterfeit Pharmaceuticals: A Global Perspective here yesterday.
Dr Chua said the ministry suspected that people bought the drugs over the Internet out of convenience as they did not need to visit a doctor or pharmacy or require a prescription to buy the medication, which are also usually cheaper.
He said the ministry had not received complaints from those who had bought the products, but suspected that this was because of the nature of Malaysians who did not complain even when they were cheated.
He said although the ministry had adequate provisions under the law to take action against those selling drugs over the Internet, it was difficult to trace the owners of the websites, who were often based overseas.
Pharmaceutical Services Division director Datuk Mohd Zin Che Awang said enforcement officers under the division traced one website operator each in Kedah and Penang about two years ago and took action against them.
“The two sites used ‘dot com dot my’ at the end of their URL and we were able to trace them from there, but all the companies that we have checked on the Internet since then use ‘dot com’ and we cannot trace them,” he said.
Mohd Zin said the division was also worried that the companies involved might also be trading in psychotropic pills, andthere was nothing to stop their illegal activities.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Perks raised to 50pc for Sabah docs

Daily Express: Kota Kinabalu: The Health Ministry has acceded to the Malaysian Medical Association's (MMA) request for an increase in the critical allowance from 10 per cent to 50 per cent for all doctors serving in East Malaysia.
The critical allowance, also called hardship allowance, is for both local doctors and their counterparts from the peninsula.
President-elect of MMA, Dato' Dr Khoo Kah Lin, disclosed this when officiating the 23rd Installation and Annual Dinner of MMA Sabah branch at Shangri-La's Tanjung Aru Resort (Star), Saturday.
"Previously, the doctors were only given 10 per cent critical allowance following numerous requests from doctors working in East Malaysia. "But now, the Ministry has agreed to a 50 per cent such allowance," he said.
Dr Khoo said the Ministry has been very kind in deploying its officers to gauge the feelings on the ground. The Ministry has a Human Resource Division to look after the welfare of doctors.
"Sometimes, the Director-General, Permanent Secretary and other people at the top level may not understand the difficulties faced at the lower rung. We are happy to note that the officers have responded positively to the needs of doctors serving in Sabah and Sarawak."
He, however, clarified that once a peninsular doctor goes back to West Malaysia, the doctor is no longer entitled to the critical allowance.
"So long as the doctor is working in East Malaysia, the doctor must be given the allowance, and that was totally agreed to by the Ministry."
On locum work (in the private sector) carried out by government doctors, Dr Khoo said the doctors concerned need not write to the MOH.
"All they need to do is contact the Head of Department for the permission required. That is another problem sorted out."
Touching on the National Health Financing Act, he said experts had come in from Australia to study the health situation generally and how much money can be used before recommending several models to the Government.
These include the United Kingdom Model, Australian Model and Singapore Model. "Like any Model, there will be benefits as well as flaws." Meanwhile, Dr Khoo said MMA is in the process of making some changes to the Medical Act 1981.
"I hope to get some feedback from doctors in the country during my term of office next year. They can convey their 'feelings' about the proposed changes, which we will pass to the respective branch chairmen."
He concurred with MMA Sabah Branch Chairman, Dr J.S. Sidhu that challenges would become easier to surmount if doctors have the strength and strength comes from numbers.
"Numbers are strength, and since we are the biggest body representing all doctors, both in the Government and private sector, the Ministry is quite willing to listen to us, and do call us up on important issues.
"Being a strong body of several thousand doctors, they do pay some attention to us. The only thing you (Sabah branch) can do is to improve our numbers. With the numbers and the strength, we are able to negotiate," he pointed out.

Bill On Safe Drinking Water Being Enacted, Says Dr Latiff

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 5 (Bernama) -- A bill on safe drinking water is being drawn up to protect consumers and to ensure the people received water supply whose quality is better guaranteed, the Dewan Rakyat was told Tuesday.
Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad said the Bill would ensure a monitoring system backed by a law to be more effective.
"The implications from the Bill is that the people will receive water supply whose quality is better guaranteed and it will give the confidence to consumers on the quality of water supplied to them," he said when replying to Loh Seng Kok (BN-Kelana Jaya) during question time.
Loh had asked Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek to state the water quality standard being used, control and supervisory procedures and frequency of water quality checks and whether the Government was prepared to enact a law on safe drinking water.
Dr Latiff said the water quality level adopted now was based on the guidelines set by the Geneva-based World Health Organisation and the water quality standards from several countries.
It is divided into four main groups -- physical, bacteria, chemical (organic and non-organic) including heavy metal and insecticide residues.
Dr Latiff said the physical and bacteria levels were checked every week at water treatment plants and every month at water distribution centres while the chemical levels (non-organic) were taken monthly at water treatment plants and every six months at distribution areas.
Currently, control and supervision were done by the water regulatory bodies in every state under the Energy, Water and Communications Ministry, while the Health Ministry only acted as a monitoring agency by carrying out sampling and providing advisory services to the water supplier, he said.
"We conduct frequent checks, for instance, every week to ensure the water we drink is clean. For example, in 2005, we carried out 115,000 water samplings," he said.
"With the standard of water sampling being carried out, the ministry gives an assurance that the drinking water piped to consumers is safe and of quality," he added.

Cheap prescription drugs on-line

Malay Mail: Any Malaysian with an e-mail account would have had the displeasure of receiving e-mail with such headings or similar ones in their inbox.
Most of us would normally mark it as spam and banish it to the trash folder, never to be seen again.
But not all of us do. An increasing number of Malaysians, weary of visits to the doctor, are resorting to buying their prescription drugs on-line, and as a result, putting their lives in danger.
Sent under headings such as ‘Cheap medicine, Worthy Effect’, ‘The Best Cure for Men’s Health’ or ‘Save Your Money and Buy Pills Here’, the on-line ads offer drugs which target just about every kind of medical condition from diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma to poor stamina, depression and sexual dysfunction.
They lure customers with the promise of medicine which can only be prescribed for use by a doctor and at supposedly affordable prices.
The problem begins when some consumers, desperate for a cure, get taken in by the promise of a remedy without the hassle of going to the doctor, signalling the beginning of a potentially dangerous habit.
The Consumers Association of Penang admits that on-line advertising involving prescription drugs are gaining in popularity, having come across on-line banners as well as print ads which refer readers to the websites.
Its president, S.M. Mohamed Idris, said the print ads are above board and do not violate any laws, but infringements were found upon checking the websites.
“We brought these to the attention of the Ministry of Health and they have taken action,” he said.
Prescription drugs are classified as Group B Poisons under the law and can only be prescribed by a doctor, said Mohamed Idris.
This, he said, is for very good reasons. The drugs require more caution in use and may also give rise to serious side-effects or adverse reactions.
Some consumers might also have pre-existing conditions such as kidney or liver problems, making it dangerous for them to consume certain prescription drugs.
“Patients are endangering their lives when they self-medicate using medicine from this group.
“Saving a few ringgits simply isn’t worth the risk of serious side-effects, injury, added illness or even death.”

Unfortunately, there are patients who are willing to compromise on quality to save money, said Malaysian Medical Association president Datuk Dr Teoh Siang Chin.
These patients shop on-line for the cheapest prices for their drug supplies without a doctor’s prescription and thus, place themselves at a real risk of receiving fake goods.
“It is often almost impossible to distinguish a fake drug from locally manufactured genuine generic drugs, as both do not carry any logo or the name of the manufacturer,” said Teoh.
Only after treatment fails do doctors become alerted to the possibility that patients are taking fake drugs.
“Even if we suspect that it is a case of fake drugs, we cannot do anything as we have no proof. Furthermore, it is expensive to send these drugs for analysis,” said Teoh.
The consequences of consuming fake medicine can range from adverse reactions to death, explained Pfizer Malaysia medical director Dr Wong Kok Seng.
Counterfeit pharmaceuticals are highly unsafe as manufacturing sites are not regulated or inspected. The conditions are often unsanitary and equipment is not properly cleaned thus increasing risk of contamination.
“The products are not tested or approved and they may contain toxic ingredients or unlisted ingredients which again, put people's health at risk,” said Wong.
“Patients must see a doctor to obtain prescription medicine and medical practitioners must buy only from authorised distributors.
“As long as patients and medical practitioners adhere to this, it would be a major step forward in combating this problem,” he said.