Sunday, February 29, 2004

Under attack but Chua stands by his ministry

LAST Monday, the front page report of a Malay daily screamed accusations of delay and tardiness at the Health Ministry. Parents of children requiring medical assistance slammed Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng’s earlier statement denying red tape in the disbursement of financial aid from the National Health Welfare Fund.

“There is no logic to his statement,’’ Abdul Halim Othman, a 37-year-old father, told the daily. “He is merely defending the bureaucracy in his ministry. Ask him to come to the ground to see for himself.”

The report was followed by a television poll in which a majority of viewers criticised the ministry.

The minister, at a Press conference last Wednesday, accused the daily of having a hidden agenda for its distorted report.

Holding up Halim’s “thank you’’ card, he said: “I cannot imagine why a person who sent us such a heart warming message should now turn around and accuse us of being so callous.

“I personally oversee these applications and I would know if my officers have been tardy. They were not. And as minister, I will defend my officers if they are wrongly accused.”

The National Health Welfare Fund (NHWF) was set up following public controversy over the RM350,000 collected for TV personality Ras Adiba Radzi and the death of baby Sofea Qhairunnissa Ali while awaiting a liver transplant.

It was on Sept 4, 2002, that the Cabinet announced the setting up of the NHWF with the directive that patients seeking public dona-tions for treatment must first have their cases evaluated by the Director-General of Health.

The Cabinet also directed organisations to stop collecting public donations until the case was assessed through proper channels and deemed necessary following the increasing number of inquiries and complaints from the public and the medical fraternity on the validity of requests made through the media.

“Malaysians are a very generous lot, and we do not want this to be abused,” said Chua. “That is why we want to ensure that there is transparency and accountability.’’

Under NHWF, patients who approach the media or other organisations must furnish medical documents and reports to these organisations and they, in turn, must submit these documents to Health Ministry Director-General Tan Sri Dr Mohamad Taha Arif and his committee who will evaluate each case.

“The D-G will make inquiries before deciding if the case can be treated at government hospitals, which are heavily subsidised and committed to treating those from the lower income group. He would also decide, after discussions with the relevant specialists and hospitals, on the best form of treatment. This could be either conservative treatment or surgery.’’

Once it is ascertained the treatment cannot be done in a government hospital but in a private hospital either at home or abroad, only then will the mass media or other organisations be allowed to go ahead with fundraising.

The D-G will also determine through discussions which private hospital will provide the treatment at the appropriate cost. Funds collected from the public must be channelled to the NHWF to finance the medical expenses.

“All monies will be paid directly to the hospital and health provider, and any balance will be kept for other cases.”

The Cabinet approved a RM5 million contribution to the fund. Chua said the vetting of applications was done on a “fast-track basis” by the NHWF committee.

The committee comprises Chua, who is the chairman, the ministry’s secretary-general Datuk Alias Ali, Taha and six appointed members. They are Datuk Paduka Dr Saleha Mohd Ali, Toh Puan Dr Aishah Ong, Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, Tan Sri Dr Abu Bakar Suleiman, Tan Sri Bashir Ahmad and V.M. Chandran.

The time-frame would depend on the urgency of the case and number of applications received, If it was a very urgent case, it should be processed in one day, said Chua.

Between Sept 4, 2002 and Feb 26, 2004, NHWF handled 321 applications of which 277 were referred to government hospitals.

Chua said 44 applicants suffering from chronic illnesses were given RM1.5 million to seek treatment either in government or private hospitals at home or abroad. (See graphics)

They were treated at Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (10 cases), University Malaya Medical Centre (nine); National Heart Institute (seven); Sarawak General Hospital (five); Kuala Lumpur Hospital (four); Penang Hospital and Sultan Aminah Hospital (two each) and one each at Kangar Hospital; Universiti Sains Malaysia Hospital; Australian Craniofacial unit, Adelaide; Malacca Hospital and Tengku Ampuan Rahimah, Klang. “Another 35 cases are pending approval.”

Each applicant, Chua said, is seeking between RM40,000 and RM80,000.

On delays in processing some applications, Chua said: “It happens when applications are incomplete and the applicant does not give his contact number. The delay occurs when the committee has to track down the applicant to get more details or when no specialists’ reports were attached.’’

All applicants were interviewed to ascertain their background before applications are approved, said Chua.

“We try to expedite the processing of all applications and it is sad when, in spite of all the effort taken, accusations and criticisms are hurled at the ministry.”

He said there were times when the commit-tee went out of its way to help people whose plight was highlighted in the media, even though they did not put in their applications.

Chua said he had briefed the Cabinet and it had accepted his explanation.

“I also told the Cabinet that I believe there is a hidden agenda that needs to be investigated.”

On Wednesday, Chua gave a detailed account of all the four cases the newspaper had high-lighted. He said he hoped the public would understand what had actually transpired.

The minister also said the ministry was working on developing its own liver transplant centre at the Selayang Hospital.

The ministry is working with renowned Australian liver transplant specialist Prof Dr Russel Strong and Kuala Lumpur Hospital paediatric surgeon Datuk Dr Zakaria Zahari.

He said Malaysia had excellent medical services and many specialists capable of con-ducting major transplant surgery of hearts, livers and kidneys.

“In Selayang Hospital alone, we have nine liver specialists. Why go to private hospitals when, in government hospitals, patients in a third class ward can undergo major transplants for a minimum fee of RM500?’’

Saturday, February 28, 2004

KL promotes medical facilities

A seminar on Enhancing Cooperation in the Medical and Healthcare Services between Malaysia and Negara Brunei Darussalam was held at the Mutiara Ballroom of Sheraton Utama Hotel yesterday morning.

To officiate the auspicious event, the High Commissioner of Malaysia to Brunei Darussalam, Tan Sri Mohd Jamil Johari in opening remarks said that last year, Malaysia gained RM85 million from overseas patients who came to Malaysia seeking treatment for various diseases.

He said Brunei and Malaysia share a common ground in terms of stability and security. He felt that these last few years, tremendous changes had occurred in social welfare and provision of medical and health services in both Brunei and Malaysia.

According to him, both countries possess world-class medical and health facilities and although there are some countries leading in other specialised medical field, Brunei and Malaysia are not far behind. Through this seminar, he hoped that people would be aware of the medical facilities and services available in both countries which may lead to further cooperation in personnel training and exchange of ideas in any medical field.

Representatives from the Association of Private Hospitals of Malaysia, Ministry of Health from Malaysia, National Heart Institute of Malaysia, Selangor Medical Centres Sdn Bhd, Pantai Holding Berhad, Kumpulan Perubatan (Johor) Sdn Bhd, Mahkota Medical Centre and Columbia Asia Medical Centre, Miri, Sarawak, were also present to make presentations about their organisations.

More than 30 people from Brunei's Ministry of Health and prominent health companies attended the seminar. The seminar ended with a business meeting between interested private and public organisations of both countries.
Cipla to ship AIDS drugs to Malaysia in 2 months

Mumbai , Feb. 27

CIPLA Ltd expects to ship its consignment of anti-AIDS drugs or anti-retrovirals (ARV) to Malaysia in a couple of months, the Joint Managing Director of Cipla, Mr Amar Lulla, told Business Line.

This follows the issuance of a compulsory licence by the Malaysian Government for the supply of ARVs to Government-run or public hospitals in Malaysia.

The ARVs that Cipla will be exporting are generic or chemically-equivalent versions of Didanosine 100 mg and 25 mg tablets, produced originally by Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) and Zidovudine 100 mg capsule and the combination drug Lamivudine 150 mg + Zidovudine 300 mg tablet — both from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

Unwilling to divulge the size of the order, Mr Lulla said that it was a "significant" order. But, the royalty to be paid to the original patent-holders of these drugs, i.e. BMS and GSK, is yet to be worked out.

"The payment of compensation shall be made to the patent holder(s) within two months of each import of the said drugs. The rate of compensation is to be determined at a later date," industry sources familiar with the development said.

However, Mr Lulla said that the royalty issue would be taken care of by the Malaysian Government and it would not stop Cipla from going ahead with its supplies. The authorisation is valid for two years, commencing November 2003, and analysts said that Cipla's execution of the order would be closely watched by other countries and companies.

"If the royalty issue is resolved and Cipla is able to supply soon enough, then more countries would be encouraged to adopt similar measures. It is possibly the first compulsory licence issued by any Government after the August 30, 2003, decision on Para 6 and it could provide an interesting test case to assess whether the decision is workable or needs modification," observe industry analysts.

Trade negotiations last year had allowed countries to issue compulsory licenses in the event of public health emergencies and the onus was on local governments to decide what was a health emergency that was serious enough to invoke a compulsory licence.

A compulsory licence allows a country to over-ride an existing drug patent and get other companies to supply the same drug at a cost decided upon by the Government. A royalty payment was to be made to the innovator company, whose patent would be "broken" when a compulsory licence was issued.

However, the issue has always generated debate, since generic companies felt that governments would use it to haggle over price. Multinational pharma companies felt that the triggers for governments to issue a compulsory licence were too low and that generic companies would, in fact, divert the drugs into other high-margin markets.

Trade bodies had tried to address some of these issues by asking generic companies to package their drugs and colour them differently, so that they could not be sold in the open market or diverted to other regions.

And while Cipla may have undertaken a similar order to Nigeria in 2001, the present order generates interest also because it comes at a time when the Indian Government is trying to get its act together on working out similar procurements to supply ARVs to HIV/AIDS patients in the country, observe analysts.

MC-selling doctor uncovered

A DOCTOR in Johor Baru has been selling medical certificates to patients without giving them a check-up, Nanyang Siang Pau reported yesterday.

The daily reported that it received a lot of complaints from employers who doubted the accuracy of medical certificates issued by the doctor.

A journalist from the daily, who was to the clinic on an undercover assignment, reported that the doctor asked how many days he needed when he told the doctor he needed to go on sick leave.

The journalist asked for three days but the doctor said he could give only two as three days would be too long.

However, the doctor agreed after the journalist told him he needed to go back to his hometown.

The doctor then asked the journalist to state which days he wanted for the sick leave and the type of illness to state in the medical record.

The doctor asked for RM15 but issued a receipt for RM25 for the journalist to claim from his company.

When the journalist said his friend had paid only RM10 for the medical certificate, the doctor replied: “Other people asked for two days only.”

According to the daily, the doctor did not give the journalist a check-up or provide medication.

China Press reported that a 42-year-old woman was forced to strip in front of a policewoman to prove her gender as the last digit of her temporary identity card was an odd number.

Low Mooi Leen said she was visiting a friend in a hotel in Malacca when police carrying out an operation asked her to produce her identity card.

Low, who complained to Durian Daun state assemblyman Betty Chew, said she was taken to Malacca police headquarters as police doubted the authenticity of her identity card.


This was blogged by Dr. Liew

Friday, February 27, 2004

Buyers of health plan in the lurch

PENANG: Fifty-eight people are worried that they may have been cheated by agents of Koperasi Serbaguna Pekerja-Pekerja (M) Bhd who sold them Kop MediCare medical cards.

Businessman Gopal Krishnan Samy, 48, from Taman Bersatu, Sungai Petani, said there are 38 people in his neighbourhood who bought the cards.

"Another 20 are new clients of the agent. All complained of the same problem," he said.

Gopal said two agents made door-to-door visits in his neighbourhood in November last year.

"They were selling Kop MediCare cards which offered hospitalisation benefits at selected specialist centres.

Gopal said he had paid RM2,120 in cash for his card and was told he would receive his card within 30 days.

"But until today, I have not seen it," he said, adding that queries to the agent had been futile.

He claimed that he had tried to call the Kop MediCare headquarters in Bandar Puchong Utama but was given the run-around as his calls were never put through to anyone in authority.

Frustrated, Gopal sought the help of friends in Kuala Lumpur to check out the office.

Fed up with the way things were going, Gopal said he approached the agent again and asked for a refund as he wanted to cancel his purchase "The agent asked for all the documents and I obliged but until today, I have not got a single sen back," he said.
Chua: Fund has benefited 44 chronic illness patients

Forty-four patients suffering from chronic illnesses have benefited from the National Health Welfare Fund, Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng said today.
Refuting allegations that bureaucracy had delayed disbursement from the fund, he said, the ministry had dealt with 321 cases — almost one a day — since the fund was launched in September 2002.

Chua said RM1.5 million was disbursed to the 44 patients for treatment in government or private hospitals as well as overseas.

"Another 277 applicants who also sought financial assistance from the NHWF were referred to government hospitals," he said when commenting on reports in a Bahasa Malaysia daily that the ministry had failed to fulfil its objective of helping the lowincome group.

Chua said another 35 cases, each seeking a sum of between RM40,000 and RM80,000 for chronic illnesses, were pending approval.

"All applications sent to the fund are vetted immediately by the NHWF committee headed by Director-General of Health Tan Sri Dr Mohamad Taha Arif. If applicants deserve the aid, approval is given without undue delay." Chua gave a detailed account on each of the four cases highlighted in the newspaper.

He also said he had asked the Cabinet to waive some of the stringent conditions for applicants of the Chronic Disease Special Fund, which is different from the NHWF.

This includes the condition that only people with income less than RM600 can benefit from it and that they must raise a dollar for every dollar given by the ministry.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Chua disputes claims of red tape in aid distribution untrue

UTUSAN Malaysia and Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng have been engaged in a battle of words in the past few days over the distribution of financial aid to chronic patients.

It began with the paper carrying Chua’s statement denying that bureaucracy was causing problems in the distribution of aid from the RM5.4mil National Health Welfare Fund and the RM100mil Special Chronic Diseases Fund.

The paper then carried a report the following day disputing Chua’s statement, quoting parents of patients with liver diseases who had encountered many problems in applying for the aid.

It said Abdul Halim Othman, 37, whose 15-month-old son Aliff Hambali suffers from the disease, had to make follow-up calls almost daily for nearly a month to the ministry to check the status of his application.

Abdul Halim had said that the secretariat would always tell him that his application was incomplete before finally telling him that he was not eligible for the fund since he was a civil servant.

It also said that Mohd Ezani Yaacob, whose daughter Nurnesa Uzma suffers from a critical liver disease, faced problems in submitting his application since the doctors and staff of the Kuala Terengganu hospital did not know the procedure of applying for the aid.

The paper said that despite Mohd Ezani having submitted the forms personally and having been given an acknowledgement slip, the secretariat told Mohd Ezani on Jan 19 that they had not received his application.

In a Bernama report carried by the paper yesterday, Chua said that his statement was misconstrued.

“Utusan Malaysia has an agenda because it keeps raising untrue reports like this. This is not responsible journalism,” the report quoted Chua as saying.

Chua said it was the paper and not the patients’ parents who criticised the Health Minister, adding that in his meeting with the paper in Muar, he did not comment on alleged problems caused by red tape in the aid distribution to chronic patients at all.

He also said that the paper did not give a true picture of the situation to the public and portrayed the ministry as cold towards the plight of the public.

“The ministry takes care of 50 million patients each year at its hospitals and clinics while charging the lowest cost in the world and giving high quality professional service,” said Chua.

He, however, admitted that there was a delay in Nurnesa Uzma’s case and it was being investigated.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Landmarks provides health screening in Indonesia

Landmarks Bhd's healthcare units MediScreen Sdn Bhd and Qualitas Medical Group Sdn Bhd have inked an agreement with an Indonesian group to provide medical screening services for Malaysia-bound Indonesian workers.

Under a memorandum of understanding with Indonesian Manpower Services Association (APJATI), MediScreen and Qualitas will bring its medical expertise in the health screening of foreign workers in Malaysia to the republic.

Indonesian workers in Malaysia would also benefit from preferential rates for medical check-ups and treatments at both the MediScreen and Qualitas panel of clinics and hospitals, Landmarks managing director M.A. Halim Ahmad said.

Speaking to reporters yesterday after the signing ceremony in Kuala Lumpur, Halim said it was still too early to give a projected revenue from the venture.

APJATI chairman Husein A. Alaydrus said about 8,000 Indonesian workers came to Malaysia monthly. APJATI represents almost 400 licensed manpower agencies in Indonesia.

"Healthcare is a growing business that is not affected by economic fluctuations," Halim said, adding that people would still need healthcare services despite negative economic conditions.

Meanwhile, Halim said healthcare now contributed less than 5% to Landmarks' total revenue, but the company planned to grow the business.

Qualitas' network comprises 68 outlets in the Klang Valley, Johor and Perak. Halim said it had expanded to Chennai, India, with a screening and family centre for foreign workers coming to Malaysia.

Qualitas is expected to open between 15 and 18 new centres in Penang and up to 25 centres on the east coast within 18 months.
Pay heed to public's views, Ministry told

PUTRAJAYA: Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the Health Ministry should give serious attention to all views from the public including those on financial aid for chronic patients.

The Deputy Prime Minister said he believed Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng was already doing this.

“I’m sure the minister will give serious attention to any views from the people,” he told reporters yesterday after receiving Turkish Defence Minister Mehmet Vecdi Gonul, here.

Najib was asked to comment on a news report in a Malay daily on complaints by the family of a patient suffering from biliaryatresia that they had difficulties dealing with the Health Ministry to get financial aid.

They were reported to have criticised Chua for his statement that there was no red tape involved in the distribution of aid to chronic patients.

In Kuala Lumpur, Chua criticised the paper for distorting his statement.

“The patient's parents did not criticise the Health Minister. It is this newspaper which has,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the China-Malaysia Economic conference here. – Bernama

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

New dean for IMU medical faculty

PROF Victor K. E. Lim (pic) has been appointed Dean of the International Medical University’s Faculty of Medicine, from Feb 1. He is also Professor of Pathology.

Prior to this appointment, Prof Lim was director of the Infectious Diseases Research Centre at the Institute for Medical Research, having been seconded to the Health Ministry from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM).

His impressive career in the field of medicine began in 1974 when he obtained his MBBS from Universiti Malaya, before getting an MSc in Medical Microbiology (with distinction) at the University of London in 1978. Three years later he was admitted to the Royal College of Pathologists in 1981.

Joining UKM’s Faculty of Medicine in 1976, Prof Lim was made an associate professor in 1982 and a full professor in 1989. During his tenure with the medical faculty, he was head of the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology and deputy dean for academic affairs.

He is at present president-elect of the Western Pacific Society of Chemotherapy and scribe of the Academy of Medicine of Malaysia. Prof Lim has also been president of the Malaysian Society for Infectious Diseases and Chemotherapy. He became a fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists in 1992 and a founding fellow of the Academy of Medicine in 1996.

IMU president Tan Sri Dr Abu Bakar Suleiman said that he is confident that Prof Lim will contribute to the growth of IMU. “His experience as Professor of Microbiology and as deputy dean in UKM coupled with his leadership at professional societies at the international level will bring strength to IMU. Prof Victor’s standing as an expert on infection control and anti-microbial chemotherapy in international circles will contribute to research in these fields,” he said.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Donors respond to SMS plea for AB+ blood

PETALING JAYA: A week ago housewife Chuwa Siok Hong was at a loss over how to get donors with AB+ blood type for her nine-year-old son's bone marrow transplant.

However, e-mails and text messages via short messaging service which originated from Chuwa's friend relating the plight of her son Ang Boon Kit, diagnosed with leukaemia, had brought relief to the family.

Many who received the messages responded to Chuwa's appeal.

At the University Malaya Medical Centre yesterday, Boon Kit's father Ang Chek Chau said they now had seven donors on standby for the operation next month.

“We would like to thank those who spread the news and those who responded,” said Chuwa.

Pact with Brunei to develop six health sectors

MIRI: Health authorities of Malaysia and Brunei have identified six health and medical sectors to be given greater emphasis in terms of joint venture research and information sharing.

Senior health officials of both countries yesterday gathered here to convene their first bilateral technical working committee conference and agreed that both parties would formulate a joint plan to develop these six sectors.

The six areas earmarked for joint co-operation are communicable disease, health surveillance, food safety control, tobacco products control, cosmetic products control and cross-border movement of patients.

Malaysia’s Deputy Director-General of Health (public health) Datuk Dr Shafie Ooyub said the health authorities of both countries would be able to enjoy tremendous mutual benefits if they could come up with a blueprint for joint co-operation in these sectors.

“This first bilateral meeting of the technical working committee was convened to discuss ways to resolve bilateral issues on health that affect both countries. Whatever health issues in Malaysia will affect Brunei and, likewise, what happens in Brunei also affects us because we share a long border with Brunei.

“The health ministers of Malaysia and Brunei held a meeting on Dec 4 and Dec 5 in Brunei and agreed that both countries should work out a joint formula to resolve health issues on a bilateral basis,” he said after the meeting.

He stressed that the main objective of the meeting was to enhance exchange of information on health services and medical facilities, training to develop human resources, and sharing guidelines and experience in dealing with communicable diseases between both countries so that one would be able to help the other in such matters.

“Both countries have also agreed that we should share our laboratory facilities and services, especially in Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei,” he said.

Anti-Smoking Campaign A Hard Sell In Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR, February 17 ( - hoping to convince smokers to drop this habit by highlighting the dangerous consequences of smoking, Malaysia has launched an anti-smoking campaign.

Though the campaign - launched Februay 2004 - has rallied anti-smokers with a “Tak Nak” (Say No) slogan, there are fears that all the efforts may fall into deaf ears.

“The campaign is aimed at a large spectrum of the population, including teenagers who are attracted to smoking at an early age, however, there are no certainty of the results of this campaign,” a member of the campaign told Tuesday, February 17.

“We do not want this campaign to fizzle out and the government has stepped in to ensure that it gains enough publicity. Smoking can be stopped if people are pressed to do so,” said Azizuddin while distributing anti-smoking literature at a shopping complex in Kuala Lumpur.

However, it was obvious that those supporting the campaign were mainly people who do not smoke and to reach them is the easiest thing, according to a shop owner who sells cigarettes.

He told IOL that his main business was cigarettes which were selling well despite the price hike registered during last year’s budget presented by Malaysian Premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

The five year national anti-smoking campaign was launched by the Prime Minister a week ago with a big bang, yet the impact is still hard to be gauged.

The government launched the program in a bid to bring the public to understand the dangers of smoking while cigarettes are now considered by the authorities as the ‘gateway’ to Malaysia’s drug abuse problem.

“The country has a huge drug abuse problem and cigarettes are bound to be classified as part of the problem if not the vehicle that makes the problem a persistent one,” said Azzizudin, who told IOL that he successfully helped his own father and brother to give up smoking.

Despite the huge banners and the screaming television debut of the anti-smoking campaign, youth smoking in hiding after school and women seen smoking in public have yet to diminish in Kuala Lumpur.

Evidence of more smoking hazards in Kuala Lumpur frequently comes into the picture when a taxi driver pulls over at a shopping complex, puffing a cigarette and asking a potential passenger where he was heading to.

In busses along the Jalan Ampang, people are still seen smoking quietly in the back seats while others would protest silently.

Before the “Tak Nak” campaign, the authorities took several steps to make smoking in public places, taxis, trains and lifts as well as shopping complexes and restaurants illegal.

A minor campaign to prevent shops from selling cigarettes to teenagers kicked off with mild success and it did not prevent young students from primary or secondary schools to puff their cigarettes behind shop houses in Ampang or in Kuala Lumpur, said Azizzuddin to IOL.

“Virtually all drug addicts are cigarette smokers, and this is a bad situation. I am afraid smoking can lead to other habits, such as (additicting) drugs,” said Zeti, another member of the campaign.

She added that it was high time the country cleaned its act on smoking and the impact it was having on the younger generations.

“Cigarette advertisement too has an impact on children. Though we are lucky that we have regulations against aggressive ads in this industry, we still have a problem on our hands,” she added.

“Wherever we turn our attention to, there is evidence that anti-smoking campaigns are not easy to sell in Malaysia because cigarettes are available everywhere in this country, even in the remotest village,” said young Zeti, a female graduate from a local university.

The tobacco industry in Malaysia earns huge rewards with its sales of cigarettes and despite the high price and the usual warnings by the ministry of health that smoking is hazardous the health, cigarette smoking remains a national sport.

“I will never stop smoking, it’s so fun and I find it crazy that the authorities are going against it,” said a university student who was smoking at a bus stand.

Another pro-smoking citizen told IOL that it was important to crack a pot while busy at work or after having had a bit of a quarrel with his wife.

“It’s a need, an important thing. I wonder why some people says its “haram” - illegal in Islamic terms,” said the businessman who is married to three wives.

Most of the smokers in the country believed that cigarette smoking will not be reduced and that’s it’s a phenomenon that will stay, how much the authorities campaigns against it.

“Whether the “Tak Nak” campaign will be a success or not, we will never know. One thing is certain, the number of smokers are never going to be lesser since each year there are thousands who take up smoking,” said another shopkeeper in Ampang.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Childhood cancers doubled in past 10 years

Childhood cancer cases in Peninsular Malaysia have more than doubled over the past 10 years, Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng said.

He said figures from a report conducted between 1993 and 1995 recorded 475 cases of childhood cancers, compared to 1,163 new cases in 2002 as shown by the National Cancer Registry.

Chua said parents should seek early treatment for cancer and give full co-operation to the medical staff for their children to undergo treatment.

“Childhood cancer is a curable disease, but it is best cured if treated early,” he said.

He said although the diagnosis of cancer was often associated with the grim prospect of death, the good news was that experience in treatment of those illness was remarkable.

Childhood cancers had an average of above 70% chances of being completely cured, compared to a rate of between 20% and 30% in adult cancers, he said yesterday after launching a book entitled Children with Cancer – A Parent’s Guide.

Chua added that in some forms of childhood cancers, 90% of children suffering from the disease could expect a cure.

“It may sometimes take up to two-and-a-half years of treatment but once cured a child may live like any other child, go to school and be successful in life,” he added.

He said the ministry was in the process of studying the feasibility of setting up a National Institute for Cancer and planned to make the proposal in the Ninth Malaysia Plan.

“We know the importance of setting up a specific institute and will have to train our local specialists to conduct research and development for treatments,” he said.

He said the Government would also be upgrading the treatment facilities in Penang, Johor Baru, Kota Baru and Kota Kinabalu in the next few years to turn them into regional centres for treating childhood cancers.

He pointed out that the registry found that blood cancer or leukaemia constituted nearly half of all childhood cancer cases in both sexes.

“The second most common childhood cancers are those of the brain for boys and the eye for girls,” he said.

Among the early signs to look out for are unexplained fever, weight and appetite loss, easy bruising and bleeding for leukaemia, while for eye cancer signs include white spots in the eyes, blindness and bulging eyeballs.

70% Cure Rate Among Malaysian Children With Cancer

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 14 (Bernama) -- Malaysia has achieved an average of more than 70 per cent cure rate among children with all types of cancer who are treated at an early stage, Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng said.

He said this rate was on par with those of developed countries, and in some cases, the cure rate was as high as 90 per cent.

'The good news that we want people to know is that childhood cancer can be cured if we can get them early. If the parents and children cooperate during the treatment regimes, then the cure rate is high.

'Generally the cure rate in Malaysia now is 70 per cent completely cured compared with 20 to 30 per cent among adults,' he told a media conference after launching a parent's guidebook on Children with Cancer, here.

Chua said that once cured, these children could go on with their life as normal persons and have families of their own.

He said that although the cancer rate among children in peninsular Malaysia for the past 10 years had increased 150 per cent, the important thing for parents was to ensure tat their sick child went for the early treatment.

'Leukaemia or blood cancers constitute half of those chilhood cancers, and then, for boys, cancer of the brain is the second highest and the second highest for girls is eye cancer,' he said.

Chua said there were now three cancer treatment centres dedicated to treating children in the country. One is the Paediatric Centre in the Kuala Lumpur and the others are Ipoh and Kuching.

'We are planning to upgrade four more treatment facilities in the next few years, namely in Penang, Johor Bahru, Kota Baharu and Kota Kinabalu, for this purpose.'

As for specialists, he said there were now 13 paediatric haematologist-oncologists, five of whom are with the ministry, six in the universities and two in the private sector.

The ministry also planned to propose the setting up of a National Cancer Institute under the Ninth Malaysia Plan.
Bird Flu twice as deadly

Now this is scary.

HANOI (Reuters) - Up to 70 percent of people who have contracted bird flu in the latest Asian outbreak have died from the virus, making it twice as deadly as the last outbreak in 1997, a Hong Kong doctor said Sunday.

Eighteen people have died so far -- 13 in Vietnam and five in Thailand -- and the virus has been reported in 11 countries.

China confirmed the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu had been detected in a further six provinces Sunday, while Japan banned chicken imports from the United States after a milder strain of bird flu was discovered in Delaware.

"The data suggests it (mortality rate) is in the range of 60 to 70 percent, so we are quite shocked by this," David Hui, a specialist in respiratory medicine at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told Reuters Television. "Last time (in 1997), the mortality rate was 30 percent."

Hui said there was little evidence that the virus was being spread by anything other than contact with sick poultry, but it was unclear why the H5N1 strain was this time more lethal or why only two countries had reported human deaths.

"This is a puzzle...we are trying to find out: Is the virus changing in structure? Is it becoming more virulent? Is the clinical spectrum different from 1997?" he said.

Hui is one of four experts from Hong Kong who arrived in Vietnam Sunday to join World Health Organization (WHO) efforts to contain the bird flu outbreak.


Let's hope this outbreak never reaches Malaysia
Malaysia's Human Resource Ministry checks farm workers at 75 poultry farms

MELAKA : Malaysia's Human Resource Ministry inspected 75 poultry farms nationwide over the last two weeks to ensure the health and safety of farm workers following the outbreak of the bird flu in surrounding countries.

Dr Fong Chan Onn said his ministry was cooperating closely with the Health and Agriculture ministries to ensure that the bird flu virus is kept out of poultry farms and aviaries.

"My ministry has provided guidelines and the procedures that employers should follow to ensure farmhands are not affected by the bird flu virus, if any," he told reporters after opening a health seminar on Saturday.

He said the Department of Safety and Occupational Health (DOSH) would continue with its farm inspections in collaboration with the relevant ministries. - CNA

Saturday, February 14, 2004

SARS cost Malaysia $3 billion

According to this report - Economic losses from SARS - quoting the Asian Development Bank :

Singapore lost some $8 billion in business revenue; South Korea, $6.1 billion; Taiwan, $4.6 billion; Thailand, $4.5 billion; Malaysia, $3 billion and Indonesia, $1.9 billion. Vietnam lost only $400 million.
China and Hong Kong, which were hit the worst, lost $17.9 billion and $12 billion in business revenue, respectively.
Ensuring poultry farm workers are protected


To ensure workers at poultry farms are not ex-posed to possible avian flu, the Cabinet has roped in the Human Re-sources Ministry.

Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr Fong Chan Onn said his ministry would work closely with the Agriculture, Home, Health and Defence ministries.

"Our role will be to protect workers against the disease," he said after chairing the ministry's post-Cabinet meeting today.

He said all workers at bird farms must strictly abide by the directive issued by the Department of Occupational Safety and Health to wear protective gear at all times when handling birds.

"This directive also applies to those in wet markets, zoos and shops," he said, adding that so far, the depart-ment had checked 75 farms and all had adhered to the guidelines and directives.

He said DOSH enforcement offi-cers in all States have been told to check bird farms and shops and submit a report.

Fong said complacency over the threat of bird flu and other such contagions could lead to a RM50,000 fine and three-year jail term under the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1994.

"No one can afford to be complacent. It's important that everyone co-operate to ensure that our farms and workers are free of the deadly disease," he said.

He said anyone entering a bird farm or pet shop must adopt protective measures, irrespective of whether they were members of the public, enforcement officers or operators.

The deadly H5N1 strain of the disease has killed five people in Thailand and 14 in Vietnam, but so far health experts believe humans there have only been infected through contact with sick birds.

Until today, 11 countries — the United States, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, China, Japan, Laos, Pa-kistan, South Korea, Taiwan and Indonesia — have reported outbreaks of avian flu.

Meanwhile, the Veterinary Ser-vices Department said it would con-tinue checks at bird farms until the avian flu outbreak was contained.

"We will still place Malaysia on high-risk alert," Veterinary Services Department director-general Datuk Dr Hawari Hussein said.

He said the focus was on the bor-ders and entry points, including airports and ports.

Malaysia has banned imports of all livestock, meat, eggs and poultry-re-lated products from countries affected by avian flu.

Importers have been advised not to import the banned items. If found doing so, the items would be confis-cated and disposed of.

Until yesterday, Dr Hawari said, the department had checked 3,968 establishments — chicken farms (2,612), layer farms (388), cross-bred chicken farms (75), duck farms (195), pet or bird shops (123), bird sanctuaries (five), quail and all other bird farms (237), wet markets (300), and chicken abattoirs (33).

Friday, February 13, 2004

Penang Hospital starts first patient-run cafe

PENANG: The Perak Road Psychiatric Ward of Penang Hospital has started a cafe run by its patients – the first of its kind in Malaysia.

Penang Hospital consultant psychiatrist and head of department Dr Lau Kim Kah said yesterday that current and former patients running the cafe had been given proper training by the hospital staff.

He added that the cafe, called Kafe Penyayang, was under the Circle of Care programme sponsored by Janssen-Cilag.

The programme conducted in collaboration with the Malaysian Psychiatric Association is organised at psychiatric departments in major hospitals.

“We have two helpers from the hospital guiding the patients to cook and serve customers.

“At any one time we have about four to five patients working in the cafe that is opened from 8am to 1pm,” he told reporters after the hospital’s director Dr Zaininah Mohd Zain launched the cafe yesterday.

Also present were Penang Mental Health Association president Datuk Mary Ritchie, and Janssen-Cilag product specialist Albert See and sales manager Ching Feei.

The cafe, formerly known as the hospital’s Psychiatric Welfare Canteen Body, was tendered to outsiders before the programme was introduced in May.

Dr Lau said patients who worked in the cafe were paid RM5 to RM6 daily, depending on their work functions.

“This cafe would help patients earn some income after they are discharged, when society does not give them a chance to secure a job outside.

“Therefore we want to help them as much as we can,” he said.

He added that by giving the patients a chance to work at the cafe, it also exposed them to a work environment and at the same time allowed them to sharpen their communication skills with others.

See said that under the Circle of Care programme, the Malaysian Psychiatric Association had received US$15,000 (RM57,000) from Janssen-Cilag to carry out national-level programmes.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

French team develop trial Nipah vaccine

PARIS, Feb 10 (AFP) - French scientists, working with Malaysian colleagues, announced Tuesday they had developed a trial vaccine for Nipah virus, a new and deadly disease, which had worked successfully in lab animals.

Nipah, which induces flu-like symptoms that often lead to encephalitis and a coma, jumped the species barrier from fruit bats to pigs and then to humans in Malaysia in October 1998, and there have since been outbreaks in three other Asian countries.

The prototype vaccine induces an immune response by expressing two glycoproteins located on the surface of the Nipah virus that the agent uses to enter human cells.

Hamsters injected with the experimental vaccine developed neutralising antibodies that prevented infection, a press statement issued by the National Institute for Health and Medical Research (Inserm) said.

In addition, blood serum taken from immunised hamsters that was then injected into other hamsters also gave them immunity, which is a good sign of a strong response.

"The results open the way to the potential development of new vaccines to protect human populations living in risk areas where the virus holes up," Inserm said.

The virus draws its name from Nipah, a village near Kuala Lumpur, where it was first detected.

In 1999, 256 people in Malaysia fell sick with the disease, and four out of every 10 patients died.

More than a million pigs, the direct source for transmission to humans, were slaughtered to help curb its spread.

The virus has since been detected in Bangladesh and northern India, in 2001 and 2003, and in Cambodia in 2002.

The vaccine work was carried out by teams from Inserm and France's Pasteur Institute, as well as from the University of Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur.

The study appears in the January issue of a specialist publication, the Journal of Virology.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Stricter watch on fags sales

PUTRAJAYA: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi launched a nationwide anti-smoking campaign Monday and called for stricter enforcement of the law to prohibit the sale of cigarettes to those under-18.

Abdullah said that the anti-smoking habit should be instilled among the young right from school to ensure that they were aware of the negative effects of smoking to prevent them growing into adults who were smokers.

“My message (to our children) is, take care, don’t be easily influenced into taking up smoking by your peers. Don’t be ashamed to say no.

“The adults too should stop smoking as it will not do them any good,” he said when launching the campaign which carries the slogan ‘Say No!’ at the Putrajaya Convention Centre here.

Abdullah advised parents who smoke to try to stop the habit as it serves as a bad example to their children.

Abdullah said that the role of teachers and parents was vital in guiding the younger generation to stay away from cigarettes as it would affect their studies and their health.

Statistics reveal that about 8 per cent of the estimated 4.6 million smokers in Malaysia represents students. It was found that 50 to 60 teenagers start smoking every day.

The government has allocated RM20 million a year for the next five years for the anti-smoking campaign to prove its commitment to curb the smoking habit among Malaysians.

Abdullah said that he and former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had managed to stay away from cigarettes altogether.

“But I dare not say that anyone who does not smoke will become Prime Minister,” he said in jest at the launching, attended by some 3,000 students.

The Prime Minister said he hoped that by not smoking, the younger generation would emerge as outstanding students, sportsmen and also workers and leaders who could contribute towards the nation’s success.

Later, asked at a media conference on the rampant sale of cigarettes to teenagers, he said: “We have to improve our enforcement to be more effective.”

Abdullah said that the campaign was not only aimed at reducing the number of smokers, it was also to discourage non-smokers to remain that way.

“The campaign is for all levels of society and students are the main target,” he said.

He said that the anti-smoking campaign should continue to be held to ensure that there were fewer smokers in the country.

“If we were to continue with the campaign, like prohibiting smoking in certain places by putting up signs, we hope the number of smokers among Malaysians will be reduced eventually,” he said.

Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng told the media conference that the persuasion approach would be adopted in the campaign through direct education based on scientific facts.

Earlier in his speech, Chua said that women and teenagers account for an increasing number of smokers as a result of promotion by tobacco companies in expanding their respective marketing network.

“Unfortunately, smoking is regarded as stylish and in keeping with the lifestyle of a section of the society.

“It’s true that the public must be explained clearly pertaining to smoking so that they can make a wise choice when faced with the pressure to smoke,” he said.

A series of anti-smoking advertisements will be aired by the electronic media to outline the negative effects of the smoking habit like lung cancer, heart disease and stroke which may lead to death.- Bernama

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Nationwide campaign on gastric cancer

IT is the fifth most common cancer in Malaysia but the mortality rate is as high as cervical cancer. Yet, stomach cancer or its clinical term, gastric cancer, is relatively unknown due to a lack of awareness of its symptoms and causes.

Recently, a nationwide campaign on gastric cancer was held in four cities — Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh, Johor Bahru and Malacca.

It was jointly organised by the National Cancer Council (Makna), the Academy of Family Physicians and the Malaysian Society of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. Also taking part was Abbot Laboratories (M) Sdn Bhd.

Ling Hea Sieng, Abbot’s division manager of pharmaceutical product division, says the campaign was aimed at increasing public awareness on the seriousness of the illness, which can be prevented with early detection.

"People do not realise that stomach cancer can be treated if they seek early treatment. Because of this, the mortality rate is as high as that of cervical cancer."

She says that based on research, chances of stomach cancer patients leaving the hospital alive are lower than these of any other diseases.

In 2000, the discharge rate of stomach cancer was at seven per cent compared to other forms of cancer. The rate was even lower in 2002, at 5.6 per cent. Many stomach cancer patients are diagnosed and treated when the cancer is already at stage three or four, she says.

"Often, the early symptoms of stomach cancer mirror that of heartburn, indigestion or ulcer. They would then take some form of medication to ease the pain.

"As a result, many of the cases had reached the advance stage, spreading to the other parts of the body before it is discovered," says Ling.

According to the National Cancer Registry, the risk of stomach cancer starts to increase after the age of 40. The rate in males was about 1.5 times higher than in females. Chinese had the highest rate, more than four times that of Malays, who had the lowest. Indians rated about three times that of Malays.

However, among Indians, the men had an incidence rate of only 10 per cent more than women.

Gastric cancer can develop in any part of the stomach and may spread throughout the stomach and also to the liver, pancreas and colon. It can also spread to the lungs, the lymph nodes above the collar bone and the ovaries.

Ling says a lack of awareness that stomach cancer can be prevented by simple treatment and diet has lead to the high mortality rate.

One of the major causes of stomach cancer is the infection of helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria.

"Sixty per cent of stomach cancer cases have been associated with H. pylori infection. The bacteria has been classified as a class one carcinogen."

Class One status is reserved for the most dangerous carcinogens, most likely to be connected with the development of cancer in humans.

H. pylori, which lives in the stomach lining, is found in 20 per cent of people aged 40 and younger, and 50 per cent of those who are 60 or older.

In his study, Professor K.L. Goh from the Gastroenterology & Hepatology Division in Universiti Malaya, says that H. pylori infection causes inflammation of the stomach lining which may result in gastric, ulcers and stomach cancer.

He adds that H. pylori infection is likely to spread from person to person through the mouth, saying that eating practices in some countries may be the reason, such as the use of chopsticks.

Communal eating, the sharing of food from the same bowls and eating with hands may also be factors for spreading H. pylori.

Other risk factors for stomach cancer include consumption of salted, smoked or pickled foods, smoking and family history.

Research shown that stomach cancer is more common in China, Japan, Korea, parts of Eastern Europe, and Latin America because people in these countries eat foods that are preserved by smoking, salting or pickling.

"We believe that Chinese are more prone to stomach cancer because of genetics and food. The Chinese like to eat pickled food. The H. pylori infection is very high in China until today," says Ling.

On the campaign, Ling says it has increased public awareness on stomach cancer, adding that many realised that a simple check could determine if they are infected with H. pylori.

"The best thing to do if you are suffering from stomach pain is to have doctors do a H. pylori test. It is a simple and inexpensive test. And if you are infected, a simple treatment would help get rid of the bacteria."

Research by the Universiti Malaya faculty of medicine has found that H. pylori infection can be successfully eradicated with triple therapy, based on antibiotics plus an acid blocker.

It said that a 90 per cent eradication rate was achieved with a one-week treatment of the triple therapy.

A total sum of RM23,516.30, which was raised during the campaign, was donated to Makna for its cancer education efforts.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Pet store owner in Malaysia tests negative for bird flu

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: A Malaysian pet store owner who has been quarantined in a hospital and is being tested for possible avian flu, has tested negative for the disease.

Malaysian officials had earlier said that the 40-year-old man who lived in Kota Bahru, a northern city close to Malaysia's border was hospitalised recently with flu symptoms.

"The man is being warded for observation and to determine whether he is a victim of the deadly virus. It is just a precautionary measure," said director of communicable diseases at Malaysia's Health Ministry, Ramlee Rahmat, of the man who breeds birds.

Veterinary Services Department Director-General Hawari Hussein said the store in Malaysia had been closed temporarily and initial results indicated none of the birds there were infected with the virus. More comprehensive test results were expected on Monday.

If the case is confirmed, it would be Malaysia's first case of bird flu, which has swept through Asia, killing 13 people in Vietnam, five in Thailand and prompting the slaughter of tens of millions of chickens in the region.

Malaysia has reported no cases of bird flu so far, and has stepped up checks at entry points with affected countries, including Thailand, to prevent infected people or animals coming in. - CNA

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Health Experts Seek Help in Combating 'Neglected' Diseases in Developing Countries

Some hundred health experts from two dozen countries met in Penang, northern Malaysia in an effort to draw attention to what is seen as inadequate research on disease treatments in the developing world.
Delegates are concerned millions of people are dying each year from illnesses that modern science could cure.

Delegates belong to the Neglected Diseases Group and they say governments and researchers need to devote more resources to finding new cures for diseases common in the developing world.

These diseases kill millions of people each year. They include malaria, tuberculosis, meningitis, sleeping sickness, dengue fever and leishmaniasis.

The director of the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative, Dr. Bernard Pecoul, says in the past 25 years more than 1,200 new medicines have been developed. But only 16 of these, less than one percent, were to treat tuberculosis and tropical illnesses. In addition, he says, of the estimated $60 billion spent annually on research and development of new medicines, less than five percent is spent on these neglected diseases.

"There is this huge gap between the progress that science has been able to make during the last 20 years and the translation into concrete tools to improve quality of life of people," he said.

One of the organizers of the conference is Doctors Without Borders. The head of its Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines, Ellen t'Hoen, says the choices on which new medicines to develop are being made increasingly by large multinational corporations.

"As a result, the new drugs that are being developed, the investments that are being made in health research and development more and more follow the direction of where profits can be made, which is not necessarily the same as where the health needs are," she said.

As a result, she explains, new medicines are emerging for diseases like cancer, diabetes, asthma and hypertension, which afflict people primarily in the industrialized world. This is good, she says, but a lot of effort is also going into medicines for less threatening conditions, like baldness and sexual dysfunction.

Dr. Pecoul says this lack of attention is due not only to market failure but also to public policy failure.

"Usually in a society, when a market is not working, we need to have investment from the public sector to compensate for the most vulnerable people, for the most disadvantaged people. And it's not the case," he said.

Ms. t'Hoen says two key questions need to be answered. The first is how to set better priorities for health research.

"Question No. 2 is, how can we find better ways of financing research and development? The model at the moment, which is through higher drug prices, delivers some research and development," she said. "But only people in wealthy countries benefit from that."

Dr. Pecoul says that the private sector must also be stimulated to participate, because without it progress will be slow. "These private partners have a lot of molecules, a lot of products in their libraries that they are not using at all. So what we'll try to have is access to these products and try to move these products into the research process," he said.

Delegates say there is a lot of waste in the system and there are less costly ways to develop new medicines.

In addition, they want developing nations to participate more actively in the process. For, although they may not have the resources to produce the next blockbuster drugs, they can contribute ideas on how to improve their people's health and develop new models for reaching that goal.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Keep an open mind on traditional medicine, docs told

KUALA LUMPUR: Doctors have been urged to keep an open mind on the use of traditional and complementary medicine in keeping with global trends.

Health Minister Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng said the philosophy and policy of the World Health Organisation (WHO) was to see greater integration between traditional and complementary medicine and allopathic or western medicine.

“It is the policy of this ministry to promote traditional and complementary medicine, which may or may not be included in health supplements.

“If we were to exclude that, it would not be healthy and not in line with developments in the rest of the world – especially the developed countries, so we hope everyone will keep an open mind,” he told a press conference yesterday.

Chua added that the ministry’s director-general would meet doctors to discuss the issue.

On Monday, Malaysian Medical Association president Dr N. Arumugam was quoted as saying that the association had banned doctors from selling health supplements since last April.

The Malaysian Dietary Supplements Association (Madsa), however, expressed surprise over the ban as it implied that supplements were detrimental to health.

Madsa said supplements that had been on a typical doctor’s prescription list included iron for anaemic patients, calcium for osteoporosis and folic acid for pregnant mothers.

Prestigious medical journals such as the Journal of the American Medical Association and New England Journal of Medicine had also supported the use of health supplements, it added.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Malaysia Medical Tourism Gets Facel

A young Dutchwoman has beaten Malaysia's savvy businessmen to a lucrative new business sending European clients home from hideaway holidays with bigger breasts or a facelift.

Price and privacy are the big drawing cards, says Marloes Giezenaar, a 26-year-old MBA who has reshaped 65 clients since setting up "Beautiful Holidays" on Penang island off Malaysia's north-west coast some 18 months ago.

For around the same cost as cosmetic surgery in their home countries her clients get the surgery plus the chance to recuperate during a two-week holiday in a four-star hotel far from the prying eyes of acquaintances.

The most popular treatments, in order, are breast augmentation, liposuction, tummy tucks, facelifts and nose jobs, Giezenaar told AFP in a recent interview.

"In Britain a breast augmentation with implants is between 3,000 and 5,000 pounds ($5,400 to $9,000), depending on what kind of clinic you go to.

"With us, including the flight from Britain, two weeks in a four star hotel, plus the surgery, all the transport, all our advice, it comes to about 3,000 to 3,200 pounds," Giezenaar said.

The idea for "Beautiful Holidays" came to the curvaceous six-foot blonde, who has had her lips plumped but no other cosmetic work, when she completed her MBA in Singapore, where her father was NEC computers managing director and vice-president for Asia-Pacific.

"I have a lot of friends in Europe who had cosmetic surgery and I always thought the recovery was very slow — weeks of sitting at home, but they still had to go to the supermarket and do domestic chores while they were healing.

"When I came to Asia I found that many wives of expats had things done here because it was so cheap and the results were practically the same as in Europe. They also recovered a lot faster because they all had maids so could sit around doing nothing.

"So when I got my MBA, it was, am I going to work for one of the big consultancies or one of the big corporates and work 70 hours a week for somebody else's money and somebody else's profit or am I going to try my own thing."

With investment from a venture capitalist in Holland she first set up a "new media" company, Bridgethree Sdn Bhd, designing websites and doing other IT work in Penang's high-tech tradition.

When that was up and running, she began "Beautiful Holidays", and says that while Bridgethree has a bigger turnover, the cosmetic holidays are more profitable.

"I was very cocky when I came from my MBA, thinking I would break even in two years, but it takes three, although Beautiful Holidays will do it sooner than that as there are not a lot of overheads."

Giezenaar works with a Malaysian plastic and cosmetic surgeon who practiced for several years in Britain. She does the marketing, mainly through her website, word of mouth and brochures at European beauty salons and gyms, arranges the consultations, flights and accommodation.

"It has been a big success," she says, adding that she has no competition in Malaysia.

Several Asian countries, including Singapore and Thailand are targeting "medical tourism" as a growth area, and Giezenaar is co-chairman of the Health Tourism Promotion Taskforce of the Penang Tourism Council.

"The people I get don't usually go for humongous Pamela Anderson boobs. They are professionals or housewives with children, so they just want fuller, firmer breasts and they go one or two cup sizes up," she says.
R&D efforts vital to fight emergence of new diseases

The nation needs to conduct more research and development (R&D) in the medical field to enable the country to combat the emergence and re-emergence of new diseases, Health Ministry deputy director-general Datuk Dr Ismail Merican said today.

He said it was also important for the country to have more trained personnel and scientists and most importantly, a good infrastructure to realise the effort.

"Over the years, we have been affected by the Nipah virus, the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the latest, being the avian flu.

"We cannot predict what is next but if we have a strong R&D base, I am confident Malaysia will be able to deal with all these medical threats," he told reporters after opening a two-day meeting on neglected diseases group at the Paradise Sandy Bay Hotel here.

Present were Access to Medicine Campaign Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) director Ellen T. Hoen, 2002 Nobel Prize winner for medicine Sir John Sulston, Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiatives (DNDI) president Dr Yves Champey and event organising committee chairman Professor Dr V Navaratnam.

About 100 participants from over 20 countries attended the meeting, jointly organised by the National Centre for Drug Research, Universiti Sains Malaysia and the international humanitarian medical organisation MSF.

Acknowledging that the nation had learnt a bitter lesson during the the Nipah virus outbreak in 1999, Dr Ismail said the country would now have to keep track with the global scenario to ensure the country could better prepared itself in times of "trouble".

"This should not be a one-man battle but one which involves the people of the world," he said, adding that apart from R&D, human behaviour also played a vital role to fight new diseases.

Malaysian lifeline for Mayo

Malaysian lifeline for Mayo
- Healthcare group offers Rs 250-cr revival plan for ailing hospital
It is just what the doctor ordered — all the way from Malaysia — for an ailing hospital on Strand Road.

A healthcare organisation of Southeast Asia has put forward a mega proposal to revive north Calcutta’s Mayo Hospital. The Rs 250-crore revival plan is now with the state government and will be discussed between representatives of the Malaysia-based Health Solutions and chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, said officials.

If the revival package, to be funded by Babcock & Brown Asia-Pacific, is implemented, Mayo Hospital will be converted into a 1,000-bed, state-of-the-art healthcare facility.

The government has recently constituted a three-member team — principal secretary (health) Asim Barman, local MLA Sudhanshu Sil and assistant director (health) S.K. Raychaudhuri — to oversee the hospital’s revival.

Both figures — Rs 250 crore and 1,000 beds — are huge by Calcutta standards, admit state health department officials. Ten per cent of the beds are likely to be reserved for the free treatment of lower-income-group patients.

Health Solutions executive director Desmond Foo, in a letter to state health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra early this year, proposed to undertake a contract to give the hospital a makeover and then operate and manage it in conformity with international standards.

Business manager of Health Solutions Fok Poon Keong, in his communique, pointed out the inherent potential of Mayo Hospital. “It is strategically located to provide secondary and tertiary medical facilities currently lacking in the entire northeastern sector of India and has a potential catchment area beyond the country’s international boundary,” the letter added.

The hospital — after the revamp —would be adequate to respond to future challenges, Keong added in assurance.

Health Solutions executive director Foo, Babcock & Brown Asia-Pacific managing director Willy Lim Chong Meng and bank associate Wong Yuen Hoi are likely to come down for the meeting with the chief minister, said officials.

The 250-bed Mayo Hospital was closed down about 15 years ago for want of infrastructure. According to principal secretary (health) Barman, Eastern India Institute of Medical Science and Research Hospital took up a joint venture revival project with the state government in 1999. But hardly any headway has been made in last four years.

Then, Bijon Majumdar of the B.K. Group came up with the Malaysian proposal. “Health Solutions has decided to use Calcutta as a stepping stone for its investment in healthcare facilities in India,” said Majumdar.

Mercy to the rescue

THE Malaysian Medical Relief Society, or Mercy Malaysia, was established in 1999 to provide medical and humanitarian aid to war-torn Kosova. Since then, it has sent missions to India, Indonesia, Turkey, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Iraq and Sri Lanka.

While many Malaysians have read about Mercy Malaysia's derring-do in medical and humanitarian relief efforts abroad, few realise the extent of the organisation's work in the country.

Mercy's chief operating officer Mohd Shah Awaluddin said its domestic efforts consist of disaster relief, drug rehabilitation assistance and community programmes.

Since Malaysia is a relatively disaster-free country, Mercy's work concentrates on complementing the efforts of the Government and non-governmental organisations in providing relief to victims of disasters such as floods and fires.

"Our services include medical relief in the form of mobile medical clinics, food distribution and other relief items like clothing and blankets," he said.

Given its participation in disaster relief work in foreign lands, the organisation conducts ongoing preparedness training so that members will be ready to respond quickly should the occasion arises.

"These domestic programmes are also a training ground for our volunteers for international relief. We are raising our standard of humanitarian relief and we want to be on par with other countries," he said.

In the area of community work, Mercy despatches mobile medical clinics to rural communities and urban squatter communities.

"Our mobile clinics are quite unique. Apart from providing medical treatment, we have dental and psychological intervention prog-rammes, non-medical motivational programmes for children and distribution of relief items. So it is a hybrid-type of mobile clinic rather than just one that solely provides medicine," Mohd Shah said.

These community and disaster relief programmes are also run by Mercy chapters in Penang, Perak, Johor, Pahang, Kelantan and Sabah. One more will open in Sarawak soon. With the help of the Royal Malaysian Navy, Mercy conducts routine health check-ups at the mobile clinics. It hopes to gradually introduce a dental programme to all its chapters. It has already started its first mobile dental clinic in Grik at its community programme in Kampung Bongor.

Mercy Malaysia is also actively involved in its Drug Rehabilitation Assistance Programme (DRAP) which it launched last year.

"We realised that what we are doing internationally may not be similar to what we have in the country," said Mohd Shah.

Identifying drug addiction as a major problem, Mercy believes that as a homegrown organisation they have to do something about it.

"In our rehab programme, we assist former drug addicts to integrate back into society. We are not actually, at this point in time, rehabilitating or treating active drug addicts," he added.

Working with the National Drug Agency and a few community-based rehabilitation centres like Pengasih and Ulu Langat's Rumah Sahabat, the programme is divided into several units: humanitarian and outreach, economic, medical, training and awareness.

Mercy Malaysia provides assistance through home visits, counselling and motivational programmes.

One such motivational programme which it conducted last year was "Riang Ria Aidilfitri", which gave ex-addicts a chance to mingle with children from a local orphanage.

A shopping trip, conducted under close supervision, was a resounding success, with the ex-addicts playing "big brother" to the children.

They helped the children to colour Hari Raya cards and to select their festive clothing.

"Acceptance of ex-addicts is very difficult because of the stigma of drug addiction," said Datuk Dr Jemilah Mahmood, president of Mercy.

"The involvement of active drug users in the recent rape and murder of Nurul Huda Abdul Ghani has created more problems and reinforced the stigma against ex-addicts who are sincerely trying to reform."

"We should correct public perception and help them realise that not all drug addicts are rapists and murderers. There are 800,000 drug addicts in Malaysia. Of this number, only a small percentage commit crimes. A significant number are trying hard to be better people."

Programmes such as "Riang Ria Aidilfitri" helped reformed addicts to feel needed and useful to society.

The added benefit of such a match-up, she added, was that it allowed the orphans to enjoy some much-needed attention as well.

Mohd Shah said that rather than blaming drug users for their addiction, a holistic approach should be taken towards their rehabilitation.

Addiction is a debilitating disease which affects both the mental and physical aspects. It is sometimes the result of the inability to cope with the demands of modern living.

"People with hypertension, cancer and diabetes are given the opportunity to be treated and loved. Not so with drug addiction which is a sickness nonetheless," he said.

Another stumbling block which ex-addicts face in successful reinte-gration is securing employment.

According to both Mohd Shah and Dr Jemilah, the present hostile climate towards drug addicts has not improved matters for ex-addicts hoping to integrate back into society. Many lost their jobs after the Nurul Huda incident.

In the meantime, the economic unit of DRAP is busy compiling a database of prospective employers who are willing to hire ex-addicts.

Dr Jemilah has spoken to a few contractors and bricklayers who are willing to train them in manual labour skills.

She hopes that in future, when manpower and funds are stronger, the ex-addicts will be able to venture into construction work.

"My dream is to get them involved in volunteer construction work. In 1999, a Singaporean non-governmental organisation enlisted the help of reformed ex-addicts to rebuild some villages destroyed by the earthquake in Turkey.

"Upon their return to Singapore, society welcomed them back as useful human beings. We would not necessarily have to venture overseas, but we hope we can start doing something similar in the country with Mercy," she said.

Her suggestion was for the ex-addicts to do community service, repairing kampung homes that were damaged or in bad shape.

"We provide the materials to patch up the houses and we give them an allowance so it will improve their morale,"

Mercy has one special request for its DRAP programme: the help of more male volunteers. At present, most of the volunteers are female and the ex-addicts sometimes find it difficult to open up to members of the opposite sex.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Check swallow farms for avian flu

Dr Edmond See, Sungai Petani
2:19pm Wed Feb 4th, 2004

I would like to congratulate the government for taking precautionary steps to prevent the current strain of avian influenza from spreading into our country. It is a relief to know that the authorities here have the foresight to include migratory birds in their list of animals suspected of carrying the flu virus, instead of only confining it to poultry such as chickens and ducks.

Although it has not been scientifically proven that wild birds can harbour the germ, it is always safer to be comprehensive rather than lackadaisical in the practice of preventive medicine. Therefore, it is encouraging to note that the authorities are conducting tests in areas where migratory birds converge and the public is being advised to avoid contact with these birds.

However there is one particular field, which the scientists and authorities have failed to recognise as a potential threat to our nation’s health. This is the cultivation and rearing of swallow birds in premises meant for business, in towns all over Malaysia.

In the past few years, buildings have been converted to resemble the habitat of these birds and various methods have been employed to attract the swallow birds to build their nests in these locations.

read more on this interesting letter to Malaysiakini
Supplements sale ban poser

The Malaysian Dietary Supplements Association (Madsa) today expressed
surprise over the ban by the Malaysian Medical Association on doctors selling health supplements.
In a Press statement, Madsa, which represents a group of companies selling dietary supplements, said the ban implied that supplements were detrimental to health.

On Monday, MMA president Dr N. Arumugam was quoted as saying that the association had banned doctors from selling health supplements since last April.

Madsa said there were supplements that had been on a typical doctor's prescription list, including iron for anaemic patients, calcium for osteoporosis and folic acid for pregnant mothers.

In fact, some supplements have entered mainstream medicine, such as the omega-3 fish oil used in the prevention of heart disease.

Prestigious medical journals such as the Journal of American Medical Association and the New England Journal of Medicine had also supported the usage of health supplements, Madsa added.

In view of this, it said it was seeking clarification from the MMA on the move, as it ran counter to the Health Ministry's emphasis on the importance of supplements.
90 per cent of patients who underwent open heart operations are smokers :

Smokers made up over 90 per cent of the patients who underwent open heart operations at the Sarawak General Hospital's cardiac centre since its establishment over two years ago.
The hospital's cardiology unit head Dr Sim Kian-hui said today that 672 people underwent operations at the centre since it was opened in October, 2001.

He added the other patients operated on suffered from heart problems arising out of high blood pressure, high level of "bad" cholesterol, diabetes and genetics.

Speaking to reporters after calling on Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Abang Johari Tun Abang Openg, he said most of the patients who went for the open heart surgeries were between 45 and 52 years old.

"This is very disheartening because young people are suffering from heart problems in Malaysia while in western countries, the average ages of people having the heart operations are 65 to 70 years," he said.

Dr Sim and other staff of the cardiac centre met Abang Johari to brief him on the 7th annual scientific meeting of the Malaysian Association for Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery which is scheduled to be held here from July 9 to 11.

The scientific meeting is expected to be attended by about 400 heart surgeons and medical specialists from Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Italy, Japan and Malaysia.

The conference is listed in the Sarawak'a 2004 tourism calendar of events. Themed "Cardiac patients in the era of emerging techniques and technologies", it is organise by the Sarawak General Hospital's Cardiac Centre Staff Association.

Abang Johari said the meeting was in line with the ministry's aim of making Sarawak a health tourism destination. He added that health tourism was a new area Sarawak wanted to develop.

About 3.2 million tourists visited Sarawak last year compared to about three million in 2002.

Abang Johari said the number could be more had it not been for the worldwide outbreak of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome and the Iraq War.

"This year, we are projecting about four million arrivals," he said.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Disinfectant sprays at Sarawak border - FEB 4, 2004

INDONESIAN travellers entering East Malaysia's Sarawak state are being sprayed with disinfectant in a bid to prevent the spread of bird flu.

State Agriculture Department staff at the Serikin checkpoint also sprayed disinfectant on the tyres of vehicles entering the country from Kalimantan, the New Straits Times said.

The department, with the assistance of the police and military, is mounting 24-hour checks along the border with Indonesia to prevent the smuggling of poultry into the country.

Several Indonesians have been turned away for attempting to bring in chicken through Serikin, about 70 km from the state capital Kuching. -- AFP

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Bird Flu Watch: Malaysia on full alert, says Chua

MUAR, Feb 3:

The country is on full alert against any outbreak of the bird flu, Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng said today.
He said tests on chicken farms by the Veterinary Services Department nationwide showed no sign of the virus.

He said security forces at the Malaysia-Thailand border were also stepping up checks to prevent smuggling of chicken products and livestock.

Chua said strict enforcement was needed to stop any attempt to smuggle in dressed chicken from Thailand which is sold at RM3 per kilo there compared to RM5 per kilo in Malaysia.

"We are monitoring the situation closely and will act swiftly if the need arises,” he told reporters after attending two Gong Xi Fa Cai celebrations organised by Chinese associations and community here.

Chua said the ministry was also concerned over the re-emergence of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome in China and fears in Vietnam that pigs might have caught the bird flu, which could result in a new and powerful strain that could be passed on to humans.

He called on private hospitals and clinics to notify the ministry immediately of suspected bird flu victims.

In the event of an outbreak here, he said measures similar to those used to contain SARS would be put into effect.

Chua also advised those returning from countries affected with the bird flu or with symptoms such as sore throat, fever and cough, to seek immediate treatment.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Sabah bans chicken imports from West Kalimantan

KOTA KINABALU Feb 1 - Sabah has imposed an immediate ban on imports of chicken and related products from Indonesia following reports of bird flu outbreak in West Kalimantan.

State Agriculture and Food Industries Minister Datuk Abdul Rahim Ismail said the ban covered all types of chicken, turkey, pheasant, quail, geese, rooster, eggs, hatching eggs as well as frozen and processed chicken.

"The ministry is seeking the cooperation of the authorities manning the border between Sabah and Kalimantan, particularly in Tawau, to help enforce the ban," he said in a statement Sunday.

Neighbouring Sarawak has also imposed a similar ban.

Rahim urged traders, air, sea and land passengers from Indonesia not to bring in the banned products into Sabah.

"All enquiries on the ban can be directed to the Sabah Veterinary Services and Animal Industry Department," he said.

Rahim said Sabah was still free from the deadly birdflu virus and his ministry was monitoring all chicken farms in the state to detect any signs of disease.

The ministry would also conduct checks on migratory birds to determine whether they carried the killer virus, he added.
Weaker US dollar leads to higher medicine prices

PETALING JAYA: The depreciation of the US dollar will have an “indirect effect” on the price of medicines and health supplements if American manufacturers import raw materials from countries with currencies which have appreciated against the greenback.

Boehringer Ingelheim general manager (Malaysia/ Singapore/ Brunei) Tan Ki Sing said main currencies like the euro, Swiss franc, sterling pound and Australian dollar were becoming stronger.

“Therefore, the cost of products would be higher if manufacturers imported raw materials from European countries and Australia.

“This is the reason for the increase in the price of medicines and health supplements lately,” he added.

Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society president John Chang advised consumers to switch to local products if they could not afford the imported items.

“We should support products made in Malaysia as they are also of good quality,” he said.

Fairchem Pharmacy Sdn Bhd pharmacist Elaine Khoo said the price of medicines and health supplements manufactured in the US saw the most obvious rise compared to items from European countries and Australia.

“The price of these items have increased to about 50% last month. In the end, consumers will be the ones who feel the pinch as we have no other way but to pass the cost to them.

“However, it will not affect pharmacies or consumers much as we can always switch to cheaper brands,” she said.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Yahoo! News - Bird Flu May Have Passed Between Humans

Does this spell bad news for Malaysia and the rest of Asia?:


HANOI, Vietnam - Two sisters who died of bird flu in Vietnam may have caught the disease from their brother, in what would be the first known case of human-to-human transmission of the illness in its current outbreak, the World Health Organization (news - web sites) said Sunday.
The source of the two sisters' infection has not yet been conclusively identified, said Bob Dietz, a WHO spokesman in Hanoi.

"However, WHO considers that limited human-to-human transmission from the brother to his sisters is one possible explanation," he said.

Laboratory tests in Hong Kong verified that the sisters, aged 23 and 30, had been infected by the H5N1 bird flu virus, he said.

Vietnam now has a total of 10 confirmed cases of bird flu — eight of whom have died. One 8-year-old girl remains in a Ho Chi Minh City hospital while a 4-year-old boy has recovered and been discharged.

Seven of the cases are children under 14 years of age.

"The investigation failed to reveal a specific event, such as contact with sick poultry, or an environmental source to explain these cases," WHO said of the sisters' deaths. "At the same time, such exposures cannot be discounted, either."

The two women became sick after attending their brother's wedding reception. Their 31-year-old brother died Jan. 14 but was cremated so no samples were available to determine whether he also had bird flu.

The sisters, whose identities have not been released, were admitted to the Institute of Clinical Research for Tropical Medicine on Jan. 13 and died Jan. 23.

Health officials have said they believe the disease is contracted through contact with sick chickens. Up until now, there has been no evidence of human-to-human transmission.

Health officials have warned of the danger that the bird flu virus could combine with a human influenza virus. The two flu viruses could swap genes, resulting in a hybrid with the virulence of bird flu and the contagiousness of human flu, triggering a possible global flu pandemic.

Avian influenza has swept through Asia, infecting millions of chickens in at least 10 countries. Thailand has reported two confirmed human deaths. Governments have been scrambling to destroy the infected birds in a bid to contain the epidemic's spread.

There were instances of limited transmission between people of the H5N1 virus during an outbreak of bird flu in Hong Kong in 1997 which killed six people. That outbreak never developed into a significant public health threat.

Database on patients with SARS, bird flu symptoms:

A nationwide database on patients with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome and avian flu symptoms is being planned.

Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng said the Government was concerned about the reemergence of SARS in China and the avian flu outbreak in 10 countries that had claimed 10 lives. The ministry's concern came in the wake of fears in Vietnam that pigs may have caught the bird flu which could result in a new and powerful strain that could be passed on to humans.

"The compilation of database on patients with SARS and avian flu symptoms is part of our national surveillance programme to ensure no one in the country is infected with the diseases," Chua said at his Chinese New Year open house in Bukit Damansara today.

He said government hospitals, clinics and health centres had been told to start compiling information of patients, including foreigners, coming in with the symptoms. They were also told to ask if the patients had been to countries affected by SARS and avian flu.

"Specimens from patients suffering from the symptoms such as atypical pneumonia will be sent for laboratory tests," he said.

Government hospitals, clinics and health centres have to send their database, including laboratory test results, to their State Health Departments which in turn will send the data to the ministry.

"We will then study if there has been a dip or rise in the number of people suffering from flu, atypical influenza and atypical pneumonia. The report will also reveal whether the victims were suffering from normal pneumonia or whether there is a need for concern," he added.

An AFP report today said that Beijing had reported a new confirmed case of SARS, bringing the number of confirmed cases in China to four.

Meanwhile, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam have reported outbreaks of avian flu in poultry, while Taiwan and Pakistan have reported weaker strains of the virus.

The virus has claimed 10 lives, eight in Vietnam and two in Thailand.

"Private hospitals and clinics will also help in the national surveillance," said Chua.

Asked whether the avian flu was more serious than SARS, Chua said it was not as the flu was transmitted from poultry to humans, and not from human to human.

"Although no cases of SARS or avian flu have been reported so far, the nation is on the alert with tight security at the borders to prevent the smuggling of livestock from affected countries."
‘MedikTV’ goes on call

The programme launch of ‘MedikTV’ gave the VIP guests, including Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Jui Meng, the jitters when one of the production crew passed out on the stage.
Nurfarahin Jamsari, who is the co-host of the weekly medical programme, was about to introduce the crew on stage when one of them had a heart attack. Panic then ruled the floor.
The minister was aghast, and health experts from several specialist hospitals in Klang Valley were awestricken. Should we help?
The MedikTV production crew, one a plastic surgeon and the other an orthopaediatrician, were on hand to perform CPR, cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, while others gripped their seats in fear.
The MedikTV senior broadcast journalist survived, of course, as it was just an act, but what if it wasn’t? Would the general public know how to react?
At the press launch, MedikTV asked and made an important statement – don’t ignore your health.
The half-hour programme aired live every Saturday at 5.30pm is packed with crucial health facts to exterminate mythical beliefs on certain medical conditions.
The station’s chief executive officer Datuk Farid Ridzuan said the programme would give the audience an in-depth report on the issues it tackled without the jargon.
“The programme will be informative yet not filled with medical jargon. We want our viewers to be able to understand the diseases or ailments and seek proper treatment,” said Farid.
The programme, however, received feedback on being too brief, giving the audience and the issues discussed limited time on air, despite being well-researched.
“We’re aware of this and if the need arises we will extend the airtime accordingly,” said Farid.
The programme helmed by senior producer Mazlin Nordin underwent four months of research before any production works.
“None of the production crew had medical training, let alone been doctors. But we have to put together this programme, understand the issues and let it reach our viewers,” said Mazlin Nordin.
Mazlin understood the challenge to equip the crew with medical knowledge in order to produce a factual, credible and serious programme like MedikTV.
“The time spent on research was unlike any other programmes that I did before,” said the senior producer whose experiences include producing Majalah 3, Nona and Misteri Nusantara.
“MedikTV’s approach is different. We have to be specific and there’s no room for guessing. Everything is factual, detailed and correct to the issue, right down to pronunciation.”

The MedikTV crew has sought co-operation from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Hospital to advise and counsel.
The hospital generously ‘loaned’ two of its young experts to partake in the show: Dr Mohamed Nasir Zahari and Dr Ismail Saiboon.
Dr Mohamed Nasir co-hosts the programme with Nurfarahin, who regularly appears in Malaysia Hari Ini (TV3 morning talk show) advising on health matters.
Dr Ismail assisted the crew on emergency tips, for example how to perform a CPR and other medical matters featured on the show, right down to correct pronunciation and jargon translations.

“They’re a boon to the show,” said Mazlin.
The programme got the crew donning surgical masks and sterilised robe to film surgeries in operation theatres.
“If the operation takes 10 hours, they will have to stay until the end.”
Patients’ privacy are also looked into as they will have to sign an agreement to be documented on the show.

One thing worries Mazlin – keeping the show human.
“That’s the most challenging aspect of the show. We can get loads of information but to research for a human angle is even more difficult. Without it, the programme will become dry and banal.”
The programme features patients fighting diseases and other conditions. Some cases even lead to tragic aftermaths which altered their whole lives.
“What we offer are insights into the lives of these patients, how to deal with these conditions, and what options are available.
“We also talk on the symptoms of these conditions, so that our audience will be more aware of their health, and therefore help them make better decisions,” said Mazlin.

Popularity of the show is on the rise judging from the call-ins.
“We can only take two calls but the lines are jammed,” she said.
According to Farid, if everything goes well, including viewership rating and interest of sponsors, the programme will be extended and a second season will be considered.

MedikTV is aired every Saturday at 5.30pm.