Thursday, July 31, 2003

Herbal way to promote health tourism

MALACCA: Malaysia wants to promote health tourism using traditional herbs, said Health Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Mohamad Taha Arif.

“We are exploring ways to introduce herbal baths and traditional massage to Western tourists,” he said.

“Health tourism is not only confined to seeking Western medical treatment but it is also for a healthy person who wants to try out traditional methods,” he said.

Thailand had been successful in wooing Western tourists through its traditional massage, spa and diet, he said after opening the 16th Malaysia-Thailand Goodwill Committee meeting at the Golden Legacy Hotel here yesterday.

Also present was Inspector-General in the Thai Public Health Ministry, M.L. Somchai Chakrabhand.

Dr Mohamad Taha said the ministry would look for ways to promote health tourism, particularly in Kelantan, which shares borders with Thailand.

“We will look at safety practices and register those who are involved and conduct research,” he said.

Monday, July 28, 2003 - Ditch chopsticks, Malaysians told - Jul. 27, 2003

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Chinese diners in Malaysia are being urged to ditch centuries of gastronomic tradition and ditch their chopsticks in favor of serving spoons.

Health Minister Datuk Chau Jui Ming said diners enjoying the favored pastime of communal dining should avoid dipping in with their chopsticks in order to stop the spread of infectious diseases like SARS.

"Chinese should kick the habit of using their own chopsticks to pick up food," the Star newpaper quoted Chua as saying.

He said other types of restaurants provided common serving spoons for their dishes, greatly reducing the risk of diners spreading disease via their saliva.

The clatter of chopsticks diving into shared dishes has been a feature of Chinese dining for centuries.

According to some historians chopsticks first emerged as an eating utensil about 5,000 years ago, starting off as rudimentary twigs.

Among those thought to have influenced the development of chopsticks is the scholar Confucious, who lived from 551 to 479 BC.

A strict vegetarian Confucious said knives would remind people of slaughterhouses and were too violent for use at the dining table.

Saturday, July 26, 2003

'Say no to sex if husband has Aids'
KUALA LUMPUR - Women in Malaysia should be allowed to refuse sex if they know their husbands suffer from HIV, said a women's affairs minister.

'There have been cases of wives being forced to have sex with their husbands although they realise they run the risk of being infected with HIV,' Datuk Sharizat Abdul Jalil, Women and Family Development Minister, said.


She said her ministry was organising programmes to educate wives about their right to refuse sex, and their husbands had to accept and respect the decision.

Malaysian Aids Council president Marina Mahathir said religious leaders in mainly-Muslim Malaysia should support the proposal.

She said: 'Women are not considered as being in the high-risk group but they are subjected to Aids by various means, including contracting it from their husbands.

'The problem is that our culture does not allow wives to say no to sex and this ought to change.'

Datuk Sharizat said Health Ministry data showed that three new Aids cases were reported daily last year.

'The reported number of HIV infections among women has increased by 35 per cent from 2001 to last year. This is a cause for worry,' she said.

The ministry is willing to provide funds for the Malaysian Aids Council to publish booklets in Tamil and Mandarin on Aids, she said. -- AFP, New Straits Times

Friday, July 25, 2003

TH Group branches into healthcare with acquisition of hospital

KLSE main board company TH Group Bhd (THG), which is into plantations, contracting services and information technology-related investments, will move into a fourth core business, healthcare, with the acquisition of the Nilai Cancer Institute (NCI), the first private oncology hospital in Malaysia.

THG will acquire a 90.57% equity stake in Asiaprise Biotech Sdn Bhd, which owns the NCI, for RM38.95mil, to be paid in part by cash (RM6.35mil) and the rest through the issuance of 29.64mil new TH Group shares at a five-day weighted average price of RM1.10 each. The agreement for the remaining 9.43% equity interest in Asiaprise will be signed later.

“Although THG has been involved in life sciences for over two years, it has been as an investor, not owner,” Dr Kim Tan, founder of ABSB, told reporters after signing the conditional sale and purchase agreement with THG in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

From left: Lai Lin Thai, TH Group chairman Abu Bakar Abdul Karim and Dr Kim Tan
The healthcare industry in Malaysia, valued at RM900mil, is expected to grow to RM1.2bil by 2006, while revenue from health tourism to rise to RM390mil this year and to RM2bil in 2007.

THG group managing director Lei Lin Thai said THG's move into the healthcare sector was after carefully planned and was synergistic with the group's investments in the technology sector.

He added that returns could only be expected after five years, common for the life sciences industry.

The NCI, set up in 1998 with an initial investment of RM20mil, would see RM28mil – expected to be a mix of equity and debt – pumped in as part of its expansion plan, Tan said. He added that the research and treatment-based hospital was operating almost at maximum capacity.

THG, which obtains around 50% of its revenue from its oil palm plantations, mainly in Sabah, also provides timber extraction services, its latest project being a 145,000ha land-clearing job in Kalimantan Timur, Indonesia, began early this year.

Asia Times - Malaysia pesticide ban could be reversed

"Environmentalists told me last year that the long battle to ban paraquat has been won," Anggamah said, referring to a government announcement last August that paraquat will be banned in 2005. "We were all overjoyed." But the battle to ban paraquat is far from over.

Since the government decision was made, plantation companies and agro-chemical giants such as Syngenta have launched a campaign to get the ban reversed. They have importuned the media, plantation workers, their trade union, fruit growers and rice farmers to join forces with big business to revoke the ban.

Anggamah said: "I think it [the ban] is a lost cause."

This month, about 30 rice farmers in Kepala Batas in Penang state staged a demonstration against the paraquat ban. They claimed, in a memorandum to the government, to represent 17,000 rice farmers and argued that paraquat is cheap, effective and proven.

They quoted a now-famous Syngenta phrase attributed to John McGillivray, general manager of the giant's local unit Syngenta Prop Protection, "Paraquat is a dream product."

But "the farmers fail to mention that paraquat is a dangerous poison, not only to users but also to the environment and to everyone in the food chain", said Irene Fernandez, director of the non-government Tenaganita group.

Nevertheless, the farmers represent a powerful political force - influential enough to revoke the ban especially in an election year such as now.


Is paraquat coming back????
Private sector may face reverse effect: Sabah, Malaysia -- News Headlines
Papar: The Sabah Pharmaceutical Society fears the move to have newly-registered pharmacists serve the Government for three years would have a reverse effect on the private sector.

Its President, Chung Ke Chun, said with the new ruling taking effect tentatively early next year, there would be an acute shortage of pharmacists in the private sector for the next four years.

“In a few years to come, there will be no new pharmacists coming into the job market as no more new graduates will be filling up posts.

“Subsequently, it will slow down the opening of a community pharmacy or retail pharmacies around the country,” he said here, Wednesday.

Chung feels the shortage is inevitable given that the Government will absorb all new pharmacists into the public sector for a three-year housemanship before they are eligible for registration with the Pharmacy Board.

Nevertheless, the association supports the Government’s move as they understand and recognise the reason why the Government is introducing the compulsory service to provide good pharmaceutical care to patients.

“We also agree with the Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng that the compulsory service would make pharmacists more competent which definitely will help them in their future career in the pharmacy field,” said Chung.

“They would gain priceless experience in many areas which are not available to them in the private sector such as in regulatory, community (healthcare) and clinical pharmacy (fields), among others.”

To a question 0n why pharmacists appear to shy away from the public sector, Chung said this had to do with the private sector offering better remuneration.

“Low pay is one of the reasons why a majority of pharmacists would favour the private sector which pays much better.

“So the only way to make them serve longer in the public sector is by imposing the compulsory service. Then the pharmacists will be sent to smaller towns and districts to serve,” he asserted.

On Tuesday, Chua announced that the Cabinet gave its approval last month to amend the Registration of Pharmacists Act 1951 to set a new ruling which would take effect next year after the proposed amendments are tabled at the next parliamentary sitting.

Under the existing law, a pharmacy graduate must undergo a year’s housemanship in an institution recognised by the Pharmacy Board before he can be eligible to register with the board.

Of the 3,234 pharmacists practising in the country, only 583 or 18 per cent are employed in the public sector.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Siti Hasmah conferred honorary doctorate

PENANG: Datin Seri Dr Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali has been conferred an Honorary Doctorate in Philosophy by Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) in conjunction with its 32nd convocation.

Dr Siti Hasmah, the second recipient of the honorary doctorate after consumer activist Datuk Dr Anwar Fazal, will receive it from Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Fauziah Tengku Abdul Rashid, who is also USM chancellor, on Aug 7.

USM vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dzulkifli Abdul Razak said she was awarded the honorary doctorate for her significant contribution in helping to promote health among women, family planning, and reading among the adult population and in educating the younger generation to avoid drugs.

More from: The Star

Wednesday, July 23, 2003 Cancers More Prevalent Among Chinese?

MELAKA (Wed): The occurrence of cancers is highest among the Chinese and this is believed to have something to do with the fact that Chinese mainly live in cities and towns while other races mostly live in rural areas.

A cancer specialist said during an interview with Sin Chew Daily, that the national cancer report released by the Ministry of Health recently was the first comprehensive report on the occurrence of cancers in Malaysia. Prior to that, comprehensive statistics on cancers were non-existent in the country.

The report was compiled from data collected from government hospitals, the National Registration Department and private practitioners.

The specialist pointed out that generally, only about 45% of all fatalities in Malaysia are certified by medical doctors while the remaining 55% are documented by non-medical personnel, including the police or penghulu (village chieftains), etc.

Meanwhile, he believed that due to inconvenience in rural areas, a lot of villagers do not seek medical attention and are unaware of the presence of cancers they have contracted. Some of the cancer patients pass away without leaving behind any medical record and have not been included in the statistics.

On the contrary, the Chinese living in urban areas enjoy better medical facilities and are more ready to seek medical attention whenever they fall ill.

He believed those are the major factors contributing to the relatively high occurrence of cancers among the Chinese.
Ministry hopes to handle hiring of foreign doctors: "

KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry hopes to take over the process of recruiting foreign contract doctors, its minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng said.

“I am not quite happy at the speed in which we have been recruiting these doctors and I have directed the ministry to discuss with the Public Service Commission (PSC) the possibility of letting us recruit the doctors ourselves,” he said.

Speaking to reporters after opening the ministry’s annual health dialogue here yesterday, Chua said delays in getting confirmation of their contract to work in Malaysia was the main reason why only around 10% of the 1,149 posts created for foreign contract doctors last year had been filled.

This was despite the fact that the number of foreign doctors expressing interest in working in Malaysia had been a lot higher than the number of positions available.

“As at June 30, only 135 foreign doctors had reported for duty. Sixty-three were from Pakistan, 40 from India, 16 from Indonesia, 12 from Bangladesh and four from Myanmar,” he said.

Of the total posts available, the PSC had so far only offered 404 contracts.

Chua said foreign doctors had to wait for as long as two years to get confirmation of their recruitment from Malaysia.

Besides these delays, other reasons for the low number of foreign doctors who had taken up their posts were delays by doctors in obtaining “letters of good standing” from their respective medical councils, failure of doctors to obtain release from their employers and requests by doctors to postpone their dates for reporting for duty.

“I believe the ministry will be the most suitable body to handle the recruitment as it knows how many doctors and what skills are needed,” he said, adding that delays did not just occur at the PSC level but also at other agencies, including his own ministry and the Malaysian Medical Council.

On incentives to keep medical personnel in Government service, Chua said that the ministry was in the process of filling 1,034 posts for promotion. Of these, 365 were new posts approved by the Government.

He added that 148 people had already been promoted this year.

“We are also in the final stages of discussion with the Public Service Department (PSD) to allow public health physicians to get a specialist allowance that is at par with that enjoyed by their clinical counterparts.

“If we succeed, the various grades of public health physicians will enjoy a 43% increase in the specialist allowance they are presently receiving,” he said.

The new rates would range from RM1,300 to RM2,400 a month, compared to RM910 to RM1,680 currently.

He added that another incentive that the ministry is negotiating with the PSD for is the fast tracking of promotions for specialists and sub-specialists. This system would allow specialists to be promoted after certain years of service.

Compulsory three-year service for pharmacists

KUALA LUMPUR: Newly registered pharmacists will have to undergo a three-year mandatory service in the public sector effective early next year to help overcome the shortage faced by public health institutions, Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng said.

He said the Cabinet had approved the ministry's proposal several weeks ago to amend the Registration of Pharmacists Act 1951, which would be tabled in the next Parliament sitting in September.

"Out of the current 3,234 pharmacists practising in the country, only 583 or 18% are in the public sector, with most of them working with the ministry," he said.

He also said of the 1,845 pharmacists registered with the Pharmacy Board from 1994 to 2002, only 280 or 15.2% chose to work in the public sector, adding that there were 988 pharmacy posts available in the ministry and more than half of the vacancies have yet to be filled.

Chua said the vacancy rates were high in Sarawak (79.6%), Negri Sembilan (72.1%), Sabah (68.2%), and Selangor (61.5%). "Even the Kuala Lumpur Hospital has a vacancy rate or 63.6%," he added.

"This poses a problem as the most of the patients are in the government hospitals and clinics and not in the private sector. This affects the effective distribution of pharmaceutical services to patients," he told reporters after addressing NGOs at the second day of the ministry’s annual health dialogue here today.

Chua said to accommodate this amendment, about 3,000 new posts of pharmacists would be created by 2020, with approximately RM72mil being utilised between 2004 and 2020 on emoluments for them.

"The compulsory service will provide invaluable experience to the young people as it will expose them to a range of professional experience. These include regulatory enforcement and clinical pharmacy practices," he said.

Monday, July 21, 2003 gets over RM100 mln investments

The government has lured over RM100 million of investments from three companies to conduct research and manufacturing activities in Malaysia's biotechnology hub, BioValley.

Science, Technology and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Law Hieng Ding said the three companies were a Dutch entity, a Malaysia-China joint venture and a local company.

The companies would be involved in the neutraceutical and animal feeds production, he told reporters after launching the National Conference on Biotechnology & Life Sciences 2003 on July 21.

Neutraceutical, which comes from the combination of the words "nutritional" and "pharmaceutical," refers to food that acts as medicines.

Law said the government was still negotiating with three other companies to invest in the BioValley project in its efforts to attract more investors in biotechnology.

"We are looking at the incentives. We will work out a package with MIDA (Malaysian Industrial Development Authority)," he said. On top of its rich biodiversity, Malaysia also offered good infrastructure and living standards, Law said.

In his speech earlier, the minister said Malaysia hoped to attract 150 biotech companies and pull in US$10.5 billion in investments over the next decade in its biotechnology hub.

BioValley Malaysia - located on a 200ha site south of Cyberjaya - is expected to be ready by 2006. Besides this, designated areas in Penang, Sabah, Sawarak, Malacca and Johor have also been classified as BioValley satellites.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

Most Ipoh Hospital staff don’t believe in smiling

IPOH: Only 20% of Ipoh Hospital staff admitted in a recent survey that it was important for them to smile while on duty.

The survey conducted by the hospital between June 25 and July 5 on 182 people showed that 70% ticked “disagree'' for the question which stated that smiling was important while on duty.

Another question revealed that only 40% agreed they had to treat their patients well while only 7% agreed there was good communication among hospital staff.

About 30% of the staff also admitted to grumbling when one of their colleagues took either sick or emergency leave.

The findings of the survey were disclosed yesterday by the hospital to Health Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Mohamad Taha Arif who launched the hospital's Caring Services Campaign.

Dr Mohamad said it was difficult to believe the survey results because 80% of the hospital staff did not consider that smiling was important.

There might be some defects in the survey, he said.

“If the findings are true, I better pack my bags and leave,” he said during his speech yesterday.

Dr Mohamad, however, agreed that there were many complaints against hospitals.

He reminded staff to improve counter service and use discretion in allowing the sick to jump queue to see the doctor.

He asked senior doctors to set a good example to younger doctors.

Dr Mohamad also advised hospitals to acknowledge complaint letters before starting investigations.

Earlier, state health director Datuk Dr Abdul Razak Kechik said the findings of the survey were a wake-up call for all hospital staff.

He agreed the department had received many complaints.

He called on all district hospitals to organise similar campaigns, adding that Taiping Hospital launched its campaign last month.

Friday, July 18, 2003

BMJ  2003;327 (19 July)
School exam results predict success in medicine
Medical students' A level results predict their postgraduate medical qualifications and choice of career, whereas intelligence tests do not. McManus and colleagues (p 139) followed a cohort of students of a London medical school who started their clinical course between 1975 and 1982. They found that A level grades predicted performance in undergraduate training and in postregistration house officer posts, and time to achieve membership qualifications. No previous prospective studies relating postgraduate careers to A level grades have been conducted, and these results suggest they are valid selection criteria. The authors state that more study is needed to clarify whether the predictive value of A levels results from assessing knowledge, motivation, or study habits. Other factors such as personality may also play a role.
Computerworld Malaysia - - Hospital goes fully wireless

Spotted this recently but I don't know how old the news is:

Doctors at Selayang Hospital get remote access to test results, x-rays and other patient information.
By Computerworld Malaysia staff

DOCTORS and healthcare experts at Malaysia's Selayang Hospital can now view patients' x-rays and test results as they become available by "logging on" to electronic bedside charts and other media.

This is the result of a new wireless networking project at the hospital, the Total Hospital Information System (THIS). The system will also give doctors access to medical records, financial and administrative information through a variety of tools including electronic charts located at the foot of every patient's bed. This enables care givers to do realtime drug reaction monitoring, access drug references and check clinical histories. X-ray images are also digitised so that they can be transmitted over the system, made possible with networking tools provided by netowrking vendor 3Com.

Selayang Hospital is a 960-bed facility, with experts in 20 clinical disciplines. Said to be the country's most technologically advanced hospital, it is located 15 kms north of Kuala Lumpur. Similar systems to THIS are already in place in hospitals in the US states of Michigan and Illinois.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Malaysia puts muscle behind biotech in bid to lift economy

SINGAPORE — With its manufacturing sector slumping as foreign investors flock to mainland China, Malaysia is turning to biotechnology as an engine for growth. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has committed $40 million to build a biotechnology center with state-of-the-art research institutes and training facilities on a 500-acre site near Kuala Lumpur International Airport to lessen the country's dependence on manufacturing.

The BioValley Malaysia project is planned for 2006, and Malaysia hopes to attract $10.5 billion to $12.2 billion of investments within a decade in such fields as agro-biotechnology, genomics and molecular biology. A $13.1 million campus also is planned to train researchers and biotech entrepreneurs with the help of experts from overseas, including China. The government hopes the investments will launch 150 biotech firms and create 30,000 jobs within 10 years.

Malaysia has reported that its manufacturing investment shrank by almost 36 percent in 2002 from 2001. Trade Minister Rafidah Aziz blamed it on the postponement of several large projects that were stalled by the uncertainty of the global economy. In addition, capital investment by the Malaysian American electronics industry fell to $420 million last year from $605 million 2001. This was blamed in part on dwindling foreign investments and the greater competitiveness of China as a manufacturing locale.

Analysts see recent pump-priming measures by the government as insufficient to jump-start manufacturing or the electronics sector. A $1.92 billion stimulus package announced last week by Prime Minister Mahathir to arrest the impact of SARS and revive an economy dependent on foreign investments, tourism and international trade may be too little, too late, said Nagulan Narendran, a retired market analyst from Frontline Investments Sdn. Bhd.

With SARS, the Iraqi war and continuing economic sluggishness worldwide, Malaysia's gross domestic product is estimated to fall from 6.5 percent to 4.5 percent this year. The fiscal incentives were deemed necessary to stimulate the economy while raising competitiveness. Close to 90 measures were announced. In addition, the government separately unveiled a $263 million package to act as a tax relief fund for the tourism sector and to assist traders that needed fresh funds for their businesses. Bank Negara, Malaysia's central bank, is also expected to cut its interbank interest rates to a low of 4.5 percent.

Malaysia tries to catch up with biotech center

KUALA LUMPUR -- Malaysia launched a $26 million biotechnology center on Tuesday, hoping to attract homegrown and large foreign firms to a cluster and help it narrow a knowledge gap with neighbours Japan and Singapore. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said his country might be late entering the biotech scene, but could catch up fast because its rich and diverse natural resources. "Other countries are already ahead," Mahathir told a news conference. "But we think we have great potential."

Sited on 2,000-acres of flat, former tin-mining land, the government-backed center is called BioValley Malaysia and located just south of software development town Cyberjaya. Two firms -- Dutch-based nutriceuticals Improser Technologies Sdn Bhd and biofoods INS ZHEN-AO Biotech Corp. Sdn Bhd -- signed up as pioneer tenants. "I don't care if this turns out to be a white elephant," Wong Kin Nam, INS ZHEN communications director, told Reuters. "We appreciate the government support. It helps small firms like us develop our products at affordable costs and that improves our chances of making it in the overseas markets." Companies which set up stall at BioValley will be given at least five years free of rent, be eligible for tax incentives and get to use advanced laboratory facilities built by the government, Wong said.

"We think the government needs to give a greater boost to advanced areas like biomedicine, where the payback takes longer," said Henry Low, director of clot blood bank CryoCord Sdn Bhd. Low, a UK.-trained biochemist, said Malaysia was a leader in several specialized palm oil-based research niches, but was on the whole about 10 years behind Singapore and Japan. "But creating a BioValley helps to narrow the gap," he said. Three more centers in Penang, Malacca and the eastern state of Sarawak on Borneo island are planned. Malaysia has huge bio-resources. It is estimated to have some 12,500 species of flowering plants and more than 1,100 species of fern.
Male menopause 'down to laziness'

The male menopause is a myth, the symptoms more likely to be caused by laziness and an unhealthy lifestyle, researchers have claimed. Some men claim symptoms such as hot flushes, depression and a lack of libido - similar to those experienced by women going through the menopause - are due to hormonal changes. But US researchers said they were more likely to be caused by men's unhealthy habits, such as weight gain, smoking and too much drinking. Conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and depression probably also have more of an impact on levels of testosterone than ageing, they said.

Professor John McKinlay, dismissed the male menopause as a "myth", and said drug companies were cashing in on some men's belief that they need hormone replacement therapy. He told the British Fertility Society conference in Aberdeen he had carried out research which showed men did not suffer the same drop in hormone levels as women in middle age.

Professor McKinlay, from the New England Research Institutes in Watertown, Massachusetts, looked at data from the Massachusetts Male Ageing Study (MMAS) which looked at 1,700 men. He said male hormones levels only declined gradually with age, by about 1% a year, and there was no evidence for the existence of a syndrome. Around 5% of men showed signs of hypogonadism, a clinical loss of hormones which is not connected to middle age. Professor McKinlay said: "The notion of a male menopause, mid-life crisis or andropause has been discussed for several decades. "Worldwide, male ageing is generating public interest and also, incidentally, a lucrative market. " He added: "Pharmaceutical involvement is producing new treatments, such as testosterone replacement, in search of a disease." Professor McKinlay added that many "non-scientific" books had been written about the male menopause, but warned they used self-selected data and misrepresented research to back up their ideas.

But Dr Malcolm Carruthers of the Andropause Society, who runs a clinic which offers testosterone treatment attacked the study.
He told a daily newspaper: "The academics who come up with these findings are deluded, and really it is only by seeing and talking to the patients that you can find out what is happening after testosterone treatment - not looking at some laboratory treatment."
New Straits Times Online :Not ready for such liver transplants

KUALA LUMPUR, July 16: Malaysia is not ready for living unrelated donor liver transplants in adults, especially in terms of possible complications for the donor.

Health deputy director-general Datuk Dr Ismail Merican said this was the consensus of the workshop on clinical practice guidelines on liver transplants held recently in conjunction with the Fifth Liver Update.

The workshop was organised by the Health Ministry and the Malaysia Liver Foundation with the collaboration of the Academy of Medicine of Malaysia, Malaysian Society of Gastroenterology and Hepatology and the Malaysian Society of Transplantations.

Dr Ismail said there was a lot of concern about living unrelated liver donors.

"Although world-renowned liver surgeon Professor Fan Sheung Tat, who had conducted living donor liver transplants, had talked about his experience and techniques used in the surgeries at the recent Fifth Liver Update, there were apprehensions on the repercussions on the living donor," he said in an interview.

Dr Ismail, who is also the president of the Malaysian Liver Foundation, said it was strongly felt that living donor liver transplants, especially if opened to unrelated donors, might lead to room for abuse and commercialisation.

He said there was no problem accepting genetically-related or emotionally-related living donors provided they were vetted by an independent professional committee comprising senior clinicians, psychiatrists and medical social workers.

"For the moment, we will stick to cadaveric organ transplantations," he said, adding that the ministry would soon release the much-awaited Liver Transplantation Guidelines.

The proposed guidelines, in the final stage of drafting, are expected to be submitted to the ministry for approval in two weeks.

"Depending on cadaveric organs alone may not be feasible in view of the acute shortage of such donors despite intensified efforts to get people to donate their organs upon death. That is why there is growing interest in living donor liver transplant to offset this acute shortage." He said the ministry was not against living unrelated liver donor transplants and might allow it, especially in children, because of the shortage of cadaveric donors.

"As for children, it is accepted, provided the liver is donated by those who are genetically or emotionally linked." In adults, he said, living unrelated liver donor was still a new area and needed to be studied further.

"We do not want the donor to die or become sick after donating part of his liver." As for those donating to children, he said, an independent vetting committee comprising, among others, senior surgeons and psychiatrists, would interview the donor and the recipient to evaluate their knowledge of the whole process and the implications of the transplant, its risks and impact.

When the liver transplant guidelines come into force, Dr Ismail said liver surgeons must be present at the hospital for at least 48 hours after surgery.

Only hospitals that meet criteria under the guidelines, which include, among others, having good infrastructure, international credential specialists, pathologists, and hepatologists, will be allowed to conduct transplants.

At present, the Selayang Hospital fulfils all the criteria to function as the National Liver Transplant Centre.

Dr Ismail said anyone qualified to carry out liver transplants could do so at the hospital.

He said the hospital, which has four liver surgeons and five hepatologists, handled acute liver failure and difficult cases.

Selayang Hospital, a tertiary centre for liver diseases, handles some 50 cases a month with two liver transplant patients awaiting implementation of the guidelines.

The proposed guidelines, drafted jointly with the Malaysian Society of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Academy of Medicine Malaysia and Malaysian Society of Transplantation, will indicate who should go for liver transplantation.

It will also indicate timing of referrals and potential patients for transplants.

As for living liver donors, the guidelines stipulate that this is an effective life-saving procedure for selected patients with end-stage liver disease.

But such operations must have an expert surgical team and appropriate selection of recipient and donor.

Unrelated donors may be allowed provided they are vetted by an independent professional body.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Computerworld Malaysia - Vol. 13 Issue No. 8, 7 July - 10 August 2003 - HKL achieves telemedicine first

HOSPITAL Kuala Lumpur (HKL) celebrated a historic telemedicine first when it announced a successful first year of operations of its Telemedicine Command Controls Centre (TCCC) in the Urology department recently. HKL is the first hospital in the region to install a TCCC on the premises, which utilises info-communications technologies to enable monitoring of the individual operating theatres simultaneously and separately, and conferencing between doctors and these theatres. Provided by local healthcare sector technology provider Intuitive Controls this system also offers the setting for an interactive classroom. It has been up and running since August 2002 after an initial planning and implementation period of about three years.
Malaysia today is facing an acute lack of trained medical experts and medical service providers. The medical industry, until recently, was facing a brain drain from the government sector to private or other international options. In Malaysia currently, the general hospitals and universities have been the main centres that are responsible for training specialists.

"As such, telemedicine presents a real opportunity to address this fundamental issue by enabling training to be conducted in-house and more frequently for specialists on a wider scale," stressed Prem Kumar, managing director of Intuitive Controls. "In addition, the cost savings in training these doctors is very attractive as the training is conducted on the job."

Prem added that telemedicine relies on the ability to administer medical care over different locations as well as to transfer electronic medical data, such as high-resolution images, live video, sound and patient records.

Jason Chung, Intuitive Controls' marketing manager, said that with telemedicine facilities a doctor could, for example, monitor a patient's heart condition remotely and alert the patient to visit a hospital when necessary. In other examples, an ambulance equipped with the latest imaging technology and telecommunications equipment could be turned into a mobile hospital, where information can be sent to a designated hospital prior to the patient's arrival or even have the patient treated in the ambulance itself.

The TCCC at KLH combines tele-monitoring with tele-collaborative systems to enable surgeons and specialists to work together with experts located around the world to conduct operations, training and conferences. This sets the platform for surgeons in the operating theatre to remotely control the endoscope via voice controls, while surgeons based at another location are able to remotely access peripheral devices and key surgical information.

This in turn opens the door for implementation of Robotics Aided Minimal Invasive Surgery, which is commonly used in procedures such as radical prostectomy in urology, appendectomies and cardio vascular procedures. Besides a shorter rehabilitation period, minimal invasive surgery allows for zero infection, less cosmetic damage, shorter hospital stays and lower costs.
Ill-prepared to stop a growing AIDS epidemic

NEW YORK: There are only about 10 doctors throughout Malaysia who have significant experience treating HIV/AIDS and the country will be ill-prepared to thwart a growing epidemic, with indications that the infection rate is going up.

According to a report in the latest issue of TREAT Asia Report, a quarterly newsletter published by the American Foundation for AIDS Research on behalf of TREAT Asia (Therapeutics Research, Education, and AIDS Training in Asia), the rate was rising, especially among injection drug users and female sex workers in urban areas.

The report said that presently, compared with many South-East Asian countries, Malaysia, however, had a relatively low prevalence of HIV/AIDS.

UNAIDS (Joint United Nations programme on HIV/ AIDS) in 2001 estimated that only 0.4% of the adult population was infected with HIV and about 42,000 people were living with HIV/AIDS.

The quarterly featured the University Malaya Medical Centre’s (UMMC) infectious disease unit as a premier referral service for HIV/AIDS patients in Kuala Lumpur and is a participating site in TREAT Asia. The other site in Malaysia is the Kuala Lumpur Hospital.

TREAT Asia is a network of clinics, hospitals and research institutions working to ensure safe and effective delivery of HIV/AIDS treatment in Asia and the Pacific.

Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman of UMMC, a top health expert on HIV/AIDS, attributed the shortage of experts in Malaysia to doctors tending to shy away from specialising in infectious diseases and opting instead for more lucrative fields like dermatology and ophthalmology.

Another reason was the high level of stigma associated with HIV/AIDS. She said that Malaysians traditionally condemned activities that could lead to the transmission of HIV, including intravenous drug use, premarital, extramarital and homosexual sex, and sexual relations with sex workers.

Dr Adeeba, a member of TREAT Asia’s steering committee, said her unit had three physicians to treat all cases of infectious disease, including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, typhoid, malaria and dengue fever.

The unit runs HIV/AIDS-specific programmes three days a week and currently serves about 300 patients, mostly men in their mid-30s showing symptoms of AIDS-related disease like tuberculosis.

While injection drug users represent the majority of the cases, Dr Adeeba said they made up only 15% to 20% of patients who came to the unit. Most of her patients contracted HIV through heterosexual sex.

As part of the TREAT Asia/HIV/AIDS Observational Database, the unit will start to compile anonymous patient data. It hopes to help develop effective national data collection practices and ultimately, effective AIDS prevention and treatment strategies.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

MTUC wants action against disappearing medical centre

A medical centre in Selangor which ceased operations overnight after 10 months in business has not only left its staff in limbo, but may have also breached some laws, said trades union secretary general G Rajasekaran today.

Rajasekaran said that the Teluk Panglima Medical Centre had suddenly ceased operations on June 23 without informing its workers - two doctors, eight nurses and three administrative staff - who have since lodged a complaint to the Labour Department.

"And more importantly, the action of the centre could also be in breach of law as they have failed to abide by the Employment Act to inform the nearest Labour Department of their impending closure," Rajasekaran told malaysiakini.

National Food Safety Policy launched

KUALA LUMPUR July 14 - The Government on Monday launched the National Food Safety Policy and its action plan with a view to protecting people's health and the national economy.

Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng said the policy covered all aspects of the food network from the time it left the farm to the point where it was served on the table.

The policy would also help improve the system of production, distribution, food promotion and boost economic activities in the country, he said when launching the policy at the Pan Pacific Hotel here

The action plan would help indicate the level of achievement of the various agencies of the policy objectives, Chua said.

The food industry had a turnover of about RM20 billion last year with food imports totalling RM12.4 million and exports amounting to RM7.6 billion.

Chua said Malaysia's food industry could suffer a setback if food items meant for export were polluted and affect health if consumed.

By way of example, he said Malaysia's pork exports were badly affected when the Nipah Encephalitis virus hit parts of the country in 1999 and Malaysia on it part banned beef imports from Europe at one time because of the brain-wasting Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy or mad cow disease.

The national food safety policy envisaged good aquaculture, agricultural and livestock farming practices as well as clean and excellent production practices, he said.

The policy contained elements to detect the origin of the food product in the network chain using real time information communication technology.

The policy would be supported by effective enforcement, supervision and monitoring, Chua said.

Twenty government agencies and non-governmental organisations were directly involved in the implementation of the policy and the existing 14 public health laboratories would monitor the food safety aspect, he added.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Easier HIV screening through anonymous testing programme
KOTA BARU: Voluntary screening for HIV infection has been made easier by the Health Ministry with the launch of a campaign on anonymous testing, which allows the public to be tested without fear or shame.

Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Suleiman Mohammad said both high-risk and non-high-risk groups could take the 15-minute test at 329 clinics nationwide without identifying themselves.

“All they need is to provide their age, ethnic group and sex. The tests are free of charge, with the cost borne by the Government.

“It is envisaged that with the launching of the hassle-free programme, many will come forward to check whether they are free of or infected by the virus,” he said after launching the national-level Anonymous HIV Screening Campaign at a hotel here yesterday.

Among those present were Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Mohamad Taha Arif and campaign organising chairman Datuk Dr Ahmad Razin Ahmad Mahir.

The deputy minister explained the importance of the campaign since it was felt that many people did not know if they were HIV carriers.

“It is important that individuals know that they are carriers as it will help reduce the chances of the virus from being transmitted to others,” he said.

Dr Suleiman noted that many were either shy or afraid to take the tests because they feared repercussions.

“I urge high-risk and non-high-risk groups to take the tests because it will help in the long run to help combat the spread of the disease,” he said, adding that the campaign had started in February but was not widely publicised.

He said another objective of the programme was to reduce the chance of HIV-tainted blood being transmitted to patients seeking treatment at hospitals.

Dr Suleiman also said individuals found to be infected would be given counselling on being an HIV carrier and that any information on them would be kept confidential. Additional tests to confirm HIV-carrier status or AIDS infection would also be borne by the Government, he added.

Dr Suleiman said 51,256 people were infected by the HIV virus as of last year, out of whom 7,218 had contracted AIDS, while 5,424 had died of the disease. Based on statistics, an average of 19 people were identified as HIV carriers every day, he said. He also said the public had a role to play in helping the Government fight AIDS.

Malaysia File - JULY 13, 2003

DEPUTY Health Minister Suleiman Mohamed said yesterday that the government was alarmed by the rising number of HIV and Aids infections in the country.

Without giving comparative figures, he said his ministry was detecting a daily average of 19 new HIV carriers.

More than 51,000 Malaysians had the virus last year and it was vital for people in high-risk groups to go for checks, he said. -- Bernama

Saturday, July 12, 2003

Concern over Sabah child cancer cases

Kota Kinabalu: Women and children in Sabah, who constituted main cancer patients referred to the National Cancer Council (MAKNA), would be accorded financial assistance for their medical treatment. Most of the cancer cases among children involved blood-related afflictions such as leukaemia, while women were found to be suffering from breast and cervical cancer.

MAKNA President, Datuk Mohd Farid Ariffin, disclosed this in a press conference after receiving a total donation of RM50,000, raised by Proton Edar Dealers’ Association Malaysia (PEDA) and Shell Malaysia, at Sutera Harbour Resort and Spa here Friday.

According to him, the cases were referred MAKNA by the general hospital here.

He noted that cancer cases in Sabah have reached an alarming stage, with the number of cases increasing, but did not elaborate.

Last week, MAKNA approved seven new cancer cases from Sabah for financial assistance and medical support.

Those cases referred to them involved patients who could not afford the costs of treatment, he said. He said MAKNA would strive to process the cancer cases referred to them within 14 days to enable the money to be remitted into the patients’ bank accounts.

“The seven new cases were referred to us from the welfare officer at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital here. This is the normal procedure throughout the country.

“We investigated the economic background of families in each case and found that most of them were living below the monthly income level of RM500,” he said.

Most of these patients were unable even to go to the hospital for treatment due to financial constraints, he added.

“Normally, cases that have been approved by MAKNA would receive assistance for over one year, including paying for their fares and medication, depending on the doctor’s recommendations.

“We would even give RM3,000 a year for the transportation cost or RM200 per month to meet the expenses, including medical treatment,” he said. According to him, national non-profit organisations have helped 6,000 to 7,000 cancer cases so far.

Apart from that, Farid said MAKNA also conducts researches with universities and medical associations in a joint effort to detect cancer causes and seek remedial solutions.

Launching the First National Cancer Registry Report early this month, Federal Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng revealed alarming facts about cancer cases in Malaysia, saying one in four Malaysians would suffer from cancer in his or her lifetime, with an annual increase of 40,000 cases.
Doc: Herbal medicine laced with viagra

KUALA LUMPUR: People who turn to herbal medicine to solve their erectile dysfunction (ED) problem are not aware that some of the medicine had been laced with sildenafil citrate for effectiveness.

Pfizer Malaysia medical director Dr Kok Seng Wong said traditional medicine was not a problem in itself but those adulterated with viagra were harmful.

He said many people who bought the counterfeit product thought the remedies were effective but were not aware that some had been laced with sildenafil citrate.

“Imitation viagra is being sold in the market and also traditional medicines laced with sildenafil citrate after the manufacturer obtained the Health Ministry's approval for the herbal remedy,” he added.

A cross-national study conducted between 1997 and 1998 showed that 1.7 million men suffered from ED but less than 6% of those with moderate or complete ED had sought any sort of treatment.

National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN)’s Dr Ismail Tambi estimated that the current figure of those with ED to be at 2.2 million.

He said people who turn to herbal cures expose themselves to danger as many of the easily available medicines were counterfeits.

The LPPKN Specialist Reproductive Research Centre's head of specialist clinic said the study interviewed men who were 40 and older but there was a trend of men in their 20s and 30s having ED.

“Most do not seek medical attention due to the reluctance to admit to this disorder because of pride and shame. They would rather ask their friends how to increase their tenaga batin (sexual ability) and then they will go for massage or use massage oils.

“When their friends ask if it works, they would say 'yes' for fear of admitting they couldn’t have an erection,” Dr Ismail said.

He said that while the media had highlighted the problem of ED some quarters were giving out false information about ED.

“The only way to treat ED is to consult a doctor to adopt appropriate treatment,” he said.

Approved treatment for ED, he added, was not male energy enhancers, hormones or aphrodisiacs.

In fact even Tongkat Ali could not treat ED as it was a traditional remedy for overall health.
Guide on organ transplants in final stage

GUIDELINES for organ transplants are in the final stage and are expected to be completed in a month, reported Berita Harian.

The daily quoted Health Deputy Director-General Datuk Dr Ismail Merican as saying the guidelines were aimed at eliminating controversy on the issue of organ transplants with details on ethical aspects and problems related to organ transplant between unrelated persons.

He said the guidelines could prevent commercial-oriented organ transplants and transplants done under threat.

The criteria would be discussed with the Health Ministry and National Committee on Organ Transplant before approval, he added.

Dr Ismail, who is also Malaysian Liver Foundation chairman, said a committee would be set up to assess every application for organ transplant based on the guidelines.

He said the Health Ministry had agreed to make the Selayang Hospital the national centre for liver transplants.

He urged interested parties to carry out organ transplants in government hospitals.

Dr Ismail said 50% of Malaysians aged below 30 had no antibodies to fight hepatitis.

“This has put them in high risk of getting infected with hepatitis, especially those who have travelled to countries with inferior quality in health, “ he said.

Utusan Malaysia front-paged a story quoting the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar University in Egypt Dr Mohamed Sayed Tantawi as saying Malaysia is an exemplary Islamic state.

He said Malaysia conformed to the criteria of an Islamic state because Islam was concerned about bringing development to its followers.

He also said Islam did not condone intruders and attackers. Islam, he said, recognised the rights of its followers in religion and material aspects.

As a keynote speaker at the three-day world conference of Multaqa Ulama with the theme “The true religion in the globalisation era,” he agreed with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad that Muslims should co-operate with each other.

S'pore-KL collaboration on diseases to continue - JULY 12, 2003

PUTRAJAYA - Malaysia and Singapore will maintain the framework of collaboration and cooperation drawn up during the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) crisis, for future disease outbreaks.

Health Ministry Secretary-General Alias Ali said they would also continue monitoring emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases.

'Both countries look forward to further strengthening bilateral cooperation on Sars and any other health issues that may arise,' he said during the Third Malaysia-Singapore Bilateral Meeting on Sars.

His delegation included the ministry's director-general Mohamad Taha Arif and senior officials from the National Committee on Sars Control.

Singapore's team was led by the Health Ministry's Permanent Secretary Moses Lee and the Home Affairs Ministry's Permanent Secretary Tan Guong Ching. -- Bernama

Friday, July 11, 2003

Minister seeks explanation on intake of private medical students in UM: Malaysiakini

The Education Ministry has requested Universiti Malaya (UM) to explain the claim that students from a private college have been admitted into its medical faculty.

Saying he was unaware of the matter, Education Minister Musa Mohamad called on the university to act immediately and clear the doubt.

"If the university do not want to comment, I will respond on the matter once I have the correct information," he told a press conference in Kuala Lumpur this morning. The university and college had refused to clarify the claim.


Comment: You really believe the Education Minister was unaware????

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Medical students refute Education Ministry’s meritocracy claim

From Malaysiakini

The recent claim by Education Minister Musa Mohamad that meritocracy is practised in the local university admission system has been questioned by medical students.

They pointed out that no common system exists for the selection of students, who mainly enter the Universiti Malaya medical faculty based on either STPM or matriculation results.

Additional students have been admitted to the faculty via a twinning programme with the privately-run Perak College of Medicine (PCM), although its admission standard is allegedly not on par with that of the central processing (UPU) system.

Director of the Education Ministry’s higher education department, Prof Dr Hassan Said, and PCM CEO Abu Bakar Hashim were both unavailable for comment today.

UM officials refused to respond to repeated requests for clarification.

Foreign doctors spurn job offers

THE number of foreign doctors willing to work in the country is still low, despite attractive salaries, Malaysia's Health Director General Mohamad Taha Arif said.

Of 1,000 available positions nationwide, only 200 had been filled, even after recruitment officers went to Indonesia, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. -- Bernama

My thoughts:
Is the salary really "attractive" compared to other countries?
What are the real reasons? Perhaps capital controls - making it difficult to repatriate what you earn? Working conditions?

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Cost-cutting system on healthcare financing

Kuala Lumpur: The Health Ministry will introduce a case-mix system as soon as possible to reduce costs in healthcare financing in the country.

Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng said that under the system, patients would know in advance the costs and the duration of the treatment as everything would be laid down.

The government and other healthcare financiers would have a structure of disease conditions and would be able to determine the costs and funding a hospital needed to attend to each type of disease, he told reporters after opening the first international case-mix conference, organised by Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (HUKM) here Monday.

He said the system would also help hospitals to be more appropriately funded in the future and to better manage their care costs.

Chua said the present system of funding hospitals was based on bed strength and the previous year’s budget.

“We realise that we have to find ways to control the costs, over-usage of medication and over-servicing of patients in the private and public hospitals,” he said.

He said, for example, the Health Ministry’s budget increased to RM7.6 billion or 7.1 per cent of the national budget this year compared to RM1 billion or 3.6 per cent of the national budget in 1983.

HUKM took the initiative to implement the system in July last year to improve its services and resource management, and the outcome had been reported to be good, he said.

The pilot project of the system would be tested soon in 12 hospitals in the country, and if found effective would be extended to other hospitals, he said.

The hospitals are the three university hospitals of UKM (Cheras), USM (Kubang Kerian, Kelantan) and UM (Petaling Jaya) and nine government hospitals throughout the country.

Chua said the mechanism of the case-mix system was first started by Prof Bob Fetter and Prof Jon Thomson from Yale University in 1980 before spreading to Europe, Australia and Asian countries of Singapore, Thailand and Japan.

The government first studied the system in 1996 under a RM2.2 million research project, he said.

The research was carried out by a team from the Health Ministry, Universiti Malaya, Universiti Sains Malaysia and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.- Bernama

Monday, July 07, 2003

Chua: SARS control measures to cease

KUALA LUMPUR: All control measures put in place to control the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in Malaysia will cease immediately as the World Health Organisation has declared the world free from the disease.

Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng said with WHO’s latest decision to lift Taiwan from the SARS-affected list, it has declared that the chain of person-to-person transmission of the SARS virus was now broken.

“The fact that there are no SARS cases recorded in any country is good news for us and the world,” he told a press conference after officially opening the First International Case-Mix Conference in Kuala Lumpur on Monday.

Chua said the Cabinet has agreed that all screening measures at the checkpoints of the country (at the airports and the Causeway) will come to an end.

All SARS isolation wards set up in hospitals will also return to their original purposes while travellers arriving in the country would not have to fill the declaration forms anymore.

“The scanners purchased to screen travellers will be used for telemedicine projects and for video-conferencing purposes to enable patients in district clinics to contact their specialists in general hospitals. They can also be used for fever scanning purposes,” he said, adding that the machines would be placed in selected government hospitals.

“But we will continue to monitor the developments of this disease and maintain the research and surveillance agreed by the Asean+3 meeting held in Cambodia recently,” he said.

Efforts to put Pandan Hospital project back on tracks
From Utusan News brief

In JOHOR BAHRU, the Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng said his minisry will hold discussions with the Public Works Department (PWD) to find ways to end further delay of the project to build the Pandan Hospital here.

He said the RM557.8 million cancer referral hospital for the southern part of the peninsula was supposed to be completed in July last year.

"Works to build the hospital started in May, 1999 and so far, it has been delayed twice," he told reporters after attending the Johor MCA annual convention here.

Chua said that the discussions hopefully would find ways to resolve the problems.

He said the government wanted the 704-bed and ultra-modern hospital to be operational as soon as possible to provide facilities for the increasing number of cancer patients.

He said some 40,000 new cancer cases were detected in the country each year and it was for this reason that the government wanted to set up the referral hospital.

"We will find out what is causing the project to be delayed," he said.

On the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), he said the ministry would hold a meeting on the matter in Kuala Lumpur on Monday.

"So wait for tomorrow (Monday) ... it will be a complete report," he said.

Sunday, July 06, 2003

'One in 5 Malaysians would get cancer'
Alarming findings of study show that nose, throat, breast and lung cancers are the most common
KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia has the world's highest rate of nose and throat cancer for females and the second-highest rate for males, according to a study here.

It also found that almost 20 per cent of the population would suffer from at least one form of cancer.

Describing the trend as 'disturbing', Health Minister Chua Jui Meng said a Cabinet paper would detail the findings of the first National Cancer Registry report, as well as strategies to combat the disease.

Among the other findings of the report are:

Breast cancer remains the most common cancer in all ethnic groups in women aged 20 and above;

Lung cancer is the most common cancer among males of all three major ethnic groups;

Chinese have the highest risk of getting cancer, followed by Indians and Malays, with ratios of 1:4, 1:5 and 1:7 respectively, while the risk is 1:4 for Malaysians when unregistered cases are taken into account;

82 per cent of all new cancer patients will be aged 40 and above - about 40,000 new cases are reported yearly;

One in 19 Malaysian women will get breast cancer but Chinese women have a risk of one in 14; and

Chinese are most vulnerable to breast, lung or nose cancers, Indians to mouth, larynx, oesophagus and tongue cancers, and Malays to thyroid cancer, lymphatic leukaemia and lymphoma.

In Peninsular Malaysia last year, 26,089 cancers were diagnosed in 11,815 males and 14,274 females.

'However, an estimated 10,656 cases were not registered,' Datuk Chua said. 'We are trying to ascertain whether the alarming finding of cancer among Malaysians is due to food, environment, lifestyle in the workplace and at home, or some other reasons.'

The clinical cancer research unit will prepare a Cabinet paper on its findings and formulate strategies to help prevent the disease, he said.

Among the programmes would be no-smoking campaigns, screening programmes for early detection, breast self-examination and other lifestyle initiatives.

Malaysia is chronically short of cancer specialists. It has only 16 clinical haematologists and 11 paediatric oncologists but 120 are needed in each field.

The 37 clinical oncologists available are at least 60 fewer than the number needed. -- New Straits Times, The Star/Asia News Network

Saturday, July 05, 2003

Public health lab to be built in KK

Kuala Lumpur: Three more public health laboratories will be built under the Eighth Malaysia Plan (2001-2005) in Kota Kinabalu, Kuching and Kota Baru.

Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng said currently there is a national public health lab in Sungai Buloh and two regional labs in Tampoi, Johor and in Jelapang, Perak. The three new labs would be regional ones.

“The challenge for these labs is to support research on contagious diseases,” he told reporters after launching the Sungai Buloh national public health lab, here Thursday.

Chua said an Enhanced Biosafety Level 3 lab complex costing RM10 million would be set up in the national lab to improve on dangerous disease research.

“This facility can handle high risk patogens from level three onwards - that spread through breathing and cause serious or fatal infections.

Chua said the Government allocated RM10 million to develop the information system in the existing three public health labs and connect all the labs in the Health Ministry hospitals.

“The project now under tender will enable national lab-based surveillance to be implemented electronically and online. This will enable the Health Ministry to act fast in facing emerging epidemics,” he said.

The RM30 million national public health lab would also act as training and monitoring centres to guarantee the quality of all labs under the public health programme.

The national lab has three units - a food unit to study food and water borne diseases; a disease unit to monitor contagious diseases and identify disease causing agents; and an epidemiology unit to study research from labs nationwide.

Chua said the national health lab was actively developing tissue culture techniques, and molecular and serology isolation and identification methods.- Bernama

Friday, July 04, 2003

Doctors take aim at 'poor people's diseases'

Geneva - The aid group Médecins Sans Frontires and five partners have launched a campaign to develop medicines against tropical diseases.

They want to target scourges such as sleeping sickness that have been largely neglected by drug companies.

The Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDI) aims to invest millions into finding treatments for sleeping sickness, leishmaniasis and Chagas' disease.

These threaten about 350-million to 500-million people a year, Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders, MSF) said yesterday.

Barely 10% of research is directed at diseases which cause 90% of cases of illness in the world, according to the World Health Organisation.

MSF said "neglected diseases" affect people who are so poor that they do not form an attractive commercial market for research into new drugs.

The other partners in DNDI are France's Pasteur Institute, India's Medical Research Council, Malaysia's Health Ministry, Kenya's Medical Research Institute and Brazil's Oswaldo Cruz Foundation.

MSF said DNDI would seek agreements with pharmaceutical companies on expertise, as well as private donations, and would focus on encouraging greater public sector health care. - Sapa-AFP
Grace period for college
SUNGAI BULOH, July 3: The Cabinet yesterday gave Malacca Manipal Medical College three years
to overcome weaknesses in its medical programme and strictly comply with recommendations of the Malaysian Medical Council.

Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng said the Cabinet had also directed the college to change its duration of medical programme from the Indian system of four-and-a-half years to five years as required by the Malaysian Government.

"I have spoken to the college owners and they have agreed to comply with the Cabinet directive," he said after opening the RM30.4 million National Public Health Laboratory here today.

When the issue was raised yesterday, Chua said the Cabinet agreed that accreditation be extended to three years to allow the college to adhere to the council's recommendations.

"This is to avert problems in future. The college also assured me that it would advise students to complete five years as directed by the Cabinet," he added.

At present, the college follows the Indian system practised by its parent college, Kasturba Medical College in Manipal, recognised under the Malaysian Medical Act.

Chua said students who followed the Indian system tend to lose out compared to their peers who did their five-year course here.

The students do two-and-a-half years of studies in Manipal and another two years in Malacca, after which they have to do a year's internship before registering for another one year of housemanship.

Chua said those who completed five years went straight for housemanship.

The Cabinet yesterday also decided that in the case of Malacca Manipal Medical College students, hospitals should not evaluate an internship, a pre-requisite for registration to practise under the Medical Act.

It was also decided that if at the end of the internship, the supervising specialists felt the student lacked clinical skills, the internship would be extended to another two months before the person registers for housemanship.

The two-month internship is done either at Malacca or Muar hospital.

Chua said the first batch of students from the college had already graduated, done their internship and housemanship while the second batch was into their internship.

"The third batch of medical students will be asked to do the five years so that they can go straight into housemanship," he added.

Chua also pointed out that the assessment presently done at the end of the internship was clinical based, not based on written examination as alleged by some people.

"I must stress that the government and council want to ensure that right standards are set for medical colleges and they produce quality graduates." He said the problems relating to the Malacca Manipal Medical College was brought to the attention of the council earlier and proactive measures were taken to rectify the problems and weaknesses.

"The council went to the college to ascertain the merits of accrediting the degree and found weaknesses in the system and gave the college one year to correct all the weaknesses, including course structure and clinical exposure during internship." Chua said henceforth, the five-year compulsory medical course must be strictly adhered to by all public and private medical institutions to avoid problems.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad had asked Chua to settle the plight faced by students from the college following new conditions set by the council for the recognition of its degrees.

Some 1,227 students from the college are in a dilemma after the council imposed new conditions for the recognition of the degree courses they are pursuing.

Fast approval policy may encourage more doctors to return home
In CHUKAI, the government's move to give speedy approvals to Malaysian-born science and technology experts wishing to return from abroad will encourage more medical practitioners to also come back and serve the country, Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Suleiman Mohamed said on Thursday.

Applauding the move by the government, he said the announcement by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was timely as the country was seriously in need of doctors and specialists.

The medical sector currently needs about 6,000 staff, including doctors, to serve in hospitals nationwide, Dr Suleiman said.

Although the government had allowed the intake of 1,000 foreign doctors, only 200 had agreed to work on a contract basis in the country.

"We hope this opportunity will be fully made use of to lure them back to serve the country," he said after launching the state-level "Healthy Lifestyle Campaign" here.

The campaign is aimed at educating the public on the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle to avoid diseases.

Only one dengue death in Sabah
Kuala Lumpur: Between January and June 14 this year, Malaysia recorded a total of 6,260 cases of dengue fever and 21 deaths.

Of the figure, 116 cases were reported in Sabah with only one death.

Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng provided this additional information on Wednesday in replying to Sabah’s Senator Datuk Christine Vanhouten at the current sitting of the Upper House (Senate).

During question time, she expressed concern over the rise in the number of victims who had succumbed to dengue fever and haemorrhagic dengue fever.

She wanted to know the measures undertaken by the Ministry to curb the threat of a dengue epidemic in the long-term.

Chua said one such measure was to intensify checks on houses and other buildings by members of the Health Ministry and local government authorities to identify and destroy the Aedes mosquito’s breeding-grounds.

“Checks of this nature also cover construction sites, abandoned housing projects, rubbish dumps, factories, schools and vacant land,” he said.

In addition, he said action is taken to raise public awareness and that of target groups like students, housewives and construction workers through health education activities, the mass media, talks, distribution of posters and leaflets as well as gotong-royong.

Other measures include mass-abating activities carried out in areas with an outbreak of cases and those with a high rate of Aedes breeding, anti-Aedes mosquito campaigns and reinforcing legal enforcement action by imposing compound fines, closing premises concerned and taking court action.

The Minister explained the various breeding control and Aedes mosquito eradication programmes implemented by his Ministry, such as the large-scale use of insecticide and biological control (using the bacteria known as Bacillus tharingiensis israelensis or Bti), Rapid Test Kit Insecticide Resistance Test (to monitor the effectiveness of the insecticide), preventive fogging in high-risk areas, dengue-free programme in schools and health provision facilities, and Communication for Behavioural Impact (COMBI).

To seek specialist advice, the Ministry’s Vector-borne Disease Control Division has created an “Expert Group” made up of specialists in specific fields, serving in the Ministry, local universities and other relevant agencies.

Thursday, July 03, 2003

Manipal degree recognised for three years

SUNGAI BULOH: The Government has decided to recognise the degrees conferred by the Malacca Manipal Medical College for an initial three years while also requesting the institution to change its course structure, Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng said.

He said the college had been asked to do away with the present four-and-a-half-year course followed by a one-year internship, which followed the Indian structure, to a five-year Malaysia-style programme.

“This requirement will benefit the students as they will complete their studies within five years instead of the five-and-a-half years,” he told reporters today after opening the National Health Laboratory here.

Chua also said students would not need to sit for an exit examination but those found to be weak in the clinical assessments by their supervisors from next year would be required to undergo an extra two months of clinical training.

“This requirement will not be imposed on students graduating this year as they have completed their internship,” he said.

The Government, he added, recognised that the students and their parents were not to be blamed and should not be penalised.

“The Government practises a policy of keeping to its decisions and does not believe in making retrospective decisions,’ he said.

MMC mum on conditional recognition of local medical degree
From Malaysiakini

Two opposition parties want the government to explain its decision to impose condition recognition of the degree awarded by the Melaka-Manipal Medical Institute.

Keadilan and Parti Rakyat Malaysia are demanding to know the "academic and professional basis" for introducing an exit examination - a new condition imposed by the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) on June 10.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Samy Vellu to brief Cabinet on college

KUALA LUMPUR: MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu is expected to explain to the Cabinet today the quandary faced by Malacca Manipal Medical College following new conditions set by the Malaysian Medical Council for the recognition of its degrees.

He said the college had given its side of the story to him, adding that its managing director, Dr Ranjan Pai, had briefed him on the allegations raised against it.

However, he declined to go into the allegations.

Speaking to reporters after handing over prizes to SM Taman Medan students who had excelled in their studies yesterday, Samy Vellu said several ministries were expected to give their feedback on the matter during the Cabinet meeting. “I will submit the college's side of the story.”

He said he hoped the Cabinet would make an appropriate decision.

About 1,200 medical students of the college are caught in a dilemma after the council imposed new conditions to recognise the degree courses they are pursuing.

It is believed that final year students would be required to pass an exit examination before they could undergo their housemanship.

On Monday, Samy Vellu said the college was set up by the late Datuk K. Pathmanaban, a former MIC vice-president, with the approval of the relevant authorities.

He said that the council should have outlined the conditions before the Government approved the college.

Dr Pai explained that the National Accreditation Board had visited the campus in Malacca and its India-based foreign partner, Kasturba Medical College, earlier this year before it met with the council in June.

He urged parents and students not to worry about the degree not being recognised, as the Education and Health Ministries, as well as the MIC, were supportive of the college.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Public health lab gets RM5m to fight newly-emerging diseases

From the NST

DEWAN NEGARA, June 30: THE Health Ministry has allocated RM5 million to upgrade facilities at
the National Public Health Laboratory to deal with newly-emerging diseases.

Health Ministry Parliamentary Secretary S. Sothinathan said the facility would be equipped to handle epidemics.

Replying to Wee Kok Tiong, he said the Government had formulated protocols to deal with the outbreak of contagious diseases.

Sothinathan said a document, entitled "National Infectious Disease, Preparedness and Rapid Response", would be used in dealing with such an outbreak.

To a supplementary question from Wee, he said Malaysia had only five probable Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome cases which was 0.06 per cent of the number reported globally.

Of the five cases, with the last reported on April 24, four were Malaysians. There were also two deaths.

Sothinathan said all five cases were categorised as "imported" — victims contracting the disease during their visits to other countries.

ICRC drivers in Iraq do Malaysia proud

KUALA LUMPUR: The eight Malaysian drivers hired by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to ferry relief supplies to Iraq have made Malaysia proud.

Despite the language barrier, the drivers managed to project a good image of Malaysia through their pleasant attitude and behaviour to the Iraqis, said an ICRC delegate, Isabelle Buorgeois, in an e-mail to Bernama from Kermanshah, Iran.

Besides bringing assistance, medical supplies, food and other essentials like tents, blankets and wheat flour to the people, the Malaysian drivers also act as couriers for two ICRC Sri Lankan employees, one in Kermanshah and the other in Baghdad.

Buorgeois quoted Mohamad Zamri Sairen, one of the Malaysians, as saying about the Sri Lankans: “They wrote to each other to cheer up when they felt homesick and when we gave them the letters, they kept thanking us.”

She quoted another driver, Mohammed Khalid, as saying: “People think we are Afro-Americans, Koreans, Afghans, Indonesians, Filipinos, Israelis or even Japanese! We’ve heard everything – except Malaysians!”

Another driver, Sher Mohamed Feroz Din said: “The first time we crossed the border, the American troops checked our trucks. After that they let us go without administrative procedures.

Driver Abu Bakar Khalid recalled being swarmed by a crowd while uploading medical supplies.

“They thought I was a medical doctor and begged me to provide them with medicines,” he was quoted as saying.

The other four drivers are Mohd Nazri Mohd Nor, Mohamad Fuzi Abu Bakar, Aslam A. Bus and Rosli Abu Hanipah. – Bernama

Mental patients start first car wash

IPOH: The “Fountain Care Wash”, Malaysia’s first car wash operated by mental patients, is now open at the Tanjung Rambutan psychiatric hospital near here.

It is managed by 12 patients who are nearly cured and awaiting discharge. The service is available daily from 8am to 7pm. They charge RM6 for cars and RM2 for motorcycles.

Hospital director Datuk Dr N. Raman, who was present at the launch by Tambun MP Datuk Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah on Saturday, said the project was part of efforts to ease the sense of isolation felt by patients and to increase their work ability.

“It is also to create awareness among the people that the cure of these patients could be successful if they are given a chance. This will prepare them to return to their families and society,” he said. – Bernama