Friday, April 30, 2004

Chong praises Kudat hospital

Kudat: Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Chong Kah Kiat has commended the Kudat Hospital for receiving a full three-year accreditation award from the Malaysian Society for Quality in Health (MSQH).

“This is an outstanding achievement by the hospital, and I am proud to see the drastic changes that have taken place,” he said. Chong’s speech was delivered by Kudat MP Datuk Abdul Rahim Bakri.

The example by the Kudat Hospital in delivering high quality and innovative service to the public should be emulated by other government agencies, he added.

Earlier, in presenting the award, MSQH representative and board member Jasimah Hassan said the accreditation award was given in recognition of Kudat Hospital’s compliance with the Malaysian Hospitals Accreditation Standards.

“It focuses on five key areas, namely organisation and management, human resource development, policies and procedures, facilities and equipment, quality improvement activities and safety requirements in providing services,” she said.

The Kudat Hospital is the eighth government hospital to have been accorded the award in Sabah, topping the State in the list of the most number of MSQH recipients in Malaysia.

Also present were Sabah Deputy Director of Health Dr Anil Kumar and Kudat Hospital Director Dr Muhammad Jikal.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Meet to discuss ways to solve ageing problems

PETALING JAYA: If anti-ageing medicine is not implemented soon, the ageing population will be a burden to the Government, according to the Society for Anti-Ageing Medicine Malaysia (SAAMM).

Its president Datuk Dr S. Harnam said as the ageing population grew the demand for nursing homes would increase and this would involve greater government expenditure.

“Ageing is a disease none of us can escape. At the same time degenerative diseases such as cardiac diseases, strokes, arthritis and cancer increase rapidly after the age of 40,” he said in a statement.

He added that all these diseases led to a massive financial burden on the patient, family and nation, posing a serious socio-economic problem.

To deliberate on such issues and seek solutions to ageing problems, SAAMM will hold the First Malaysian Conference on Anti-Ageing Medicine.

At the conference, to be held at Nikko Hotel from May 1 to 3, it will give information on related medical breakthroughs.

Other topics to be discussed at the conference are internal and external degenerative changes and how to treat them with hormones, nutraceuticals, and aesthetic and cosmetic procedures.

The conference is endorsed by the Health Ministry, Malaysia Menopause Society and the National Sports Institute.

SAAMM is a non-profit medical society formed in 2002 by a group of medical specialists from various fields of medicine dedicated to the prevention and treatment of age-related diseases.

For details and registration, call Dr Aman Kaulsay at 012-215 3210.
Private hospitals ready to tackle SARS

Private hospitals nationwide are ready to handle any possible re-emergence
of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, with many having reactivated
their isolation wards and placed their doctors and nurses on full alert.

Association of Private Hospitals of Malaysia president Datuk Dr Ridzwan Bakar said the association had already uploaded to its website the announcement by Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek that the country was back on full alert against SARS, following fresh cases of the virus infection in China.

"The association has also directed its members to abide by the guidelines drawn up by the ministry for hospitals during the last SARS outbreak," he said in an interview.

He said the hospitals were now familiar with the protocols and, therefore, there should be no problem in their handling of suspected SARS patients.

However, no cases have yet been reported in the country and no passengers arriving from China have been detected with SARS symptoms — high fever, cough and breathing difficulty — through thermal screening at Kuala Lumpur Inter-national Airport and other entry points.

"Private hospitals are on the alert just like public hospitals," Dr Ridzwan said, adding that it was too early to determine the severity of the new virus in China with two confirmed and six suspected cases, all traceable to one laboratory.

China has also quarantined more than 700 people, including 24 staff of its National Institute of Virology where a medical student was diagnosed with SARS. He is believed to have been doing research on the virus.

Dr Ridzwan assured that private hospitals would work hand-in-hand with the 21 SARS-designated hospitals.

A Reuters report from Beijing said that World Health Organisation teams had arrived in the Chinese capital to launch their campaign to halt a chain of deadly SARS infections, days before hundreds of millions of people set off for the May Day holiday.

Meanwhile, Aida Ahmad reports from Penang that Penang Hospital has established a permanent "Infectious Disease" ward to handle suspected SARS, bird flu and other severe communicable diseases.

Hospital director Dr Zainina Mohd Zain said the ward, in the newlyrenovated Block C, was equipped with four isolation rooms and attached bathrooms.

She said a special team of 70 medical staff, including several doctors, would be assigned to run the ward.

Dr Zainina said the hospital had gained much experience from handling SARS cases last year.

"Members of the special team comprise doctors and nurses who had treated the cases last year. As such, their experience and knowledge will be vital in treating SARS or other severe communicable diseases." She said the hospital had also been submitting daily reports on any serious communicable diseases detected at the hospital to the Health Ministry.

In Johor Baru, Shahrum Sayuthim reports that State Health and Local Government Committee chairman Datuk Halimah Mohd Sadique has directed that all tourists from Beijing and Shanghai entering the country via Singapore undergo screening for SARS at the Second Link checkpoint.

"They will be barred from crossing into Johor through other entry points, including the Causeway. The new ruling also applies to Malaysians returning to the country via Singapore's Changi Airport after visiting the two Chinese cities," she said.

She said the Immigration Department had relayed the directive to their Singaporean counterparts.

"The screening at the Second Link is an additional precauti
Health Ministry's Eye On SARS: No restrictions on travel to China

Malaysians can still visit China as no travel restrictions have been imposed by the Health Ministry.

However, passengers on flights from Beijing and Shanghai will be screened for fever, said an official from the Ministry’s disease control division.

“They will also be given health declaration forms which require them to notify the quarantine officers at the airports if they have a fever or other SARS-like symptoms or if they had come into contact with SARS patients over the last 10 days.”

Besides that, a health alert card will also be given to passengers from Beijing and Shanghai flights.

“These cards advise them to go to the nearest hospital should they have similar symptoms showing up 10 days after their flight,” said the official, adding that passengers from other parts of China will also be given health declaration forms.

It was reported yesterday that 2,000 people from China and Hong Kong arriving daily in Malaysia are required to fill out health forms and undergo screening.

Thermal screening will be reactivated at airports and hospitals and doctors will be monitoring for symptoms of the disease.

The Ministry’s SARS office has been reopened and doctors have been told to be extra vigilant.

Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek announced this two days ago after China confirmed four cases of SARS and is keeping some 470 people under observation.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Fighting depression in a child

Depression and mental illness are affecting more children and parents need to recognise the symptoms before they get worse, writes KASMIAH MUSTAPHA.

IF your child is withdrawn, refuses to participate in any activity and is always in a bad temper — and the symptoms persist for at least two weeks — these are signs that he or she is depressed.

Adults will find it difficult to believe that children can be depressed as we have in our mind an idealistic childhood — happy and carefree.

Yet, studies reveal that a child can face emotional problems and depression. Experts say clinical depression has been detected in toddlers, preschoolers and school-aged children.

Depression is one of the most common psychological disorders and is usually referred to as mood disorder. It affects a person's overall energy, emotions and behaviour.

Although the symptoms of a depressed child are different from those of an adult, the need to address the issue and seek treatment is just as serious. Depressed children can commit violent crimes, drop out of school and even commit suicide.

Dr Edward Chan, principal consultant psychologist at the Malaysian Psychology Centre, says children suffer from mental illness and depression because of low self-esteem and negative messages from adults and peers.

A child who is suffering from depression will display symptoms such as being insecure, withdrawn, excessive crying, irritability, changes in appetite and sleep pattern, he says.

"The child cannot concentrate and does not have the ability to enjoy things and people," he said after presenting a paper on "Children's Psychological Development" at a seminar in Kuala Lumpur recently.

He says although studies in Malaysia are scarce, in the US, research has shown that 1.9 per cent of schoolchildren meet the criteria for major depressive disorder while 33 per cent of elementary school children were at least mildly depressed. Every day in the US, six children commit suicide; 342 children under 18 are arrested for violent crimes and 2,833 children drop out of school.

Dr Chan says childhood emotional and psychological problems increase the likelihood of them developing similar psychological problems as adults. "As adults, they will have problems in managing their frustration, are unable to form any kind of relationship and find it difficult to hold down jobs." The fact that more children are expected to suffer from depression and mental illness is related to their lifestyle. Children growing up in today's world are exposed to so many negative things, including activities which they are involved in and also the food they take, he says.

"They behave impulsively, they have poor attention spans, display aggressive behaviour, are hyperactive, unable to communicate, are poor academically and are socially isolated." Dr Chan says children now are commonly exposed to fast-paced television programmes which make them unable to concentrate on slower paced daily activities.

The biggest challenge in raising children in today's world is to find quality time to inculcate family values amid the constant bombardment of advertisements, he says.

Parents need to become more involved in their children's activities instead of leaving children on their own most of the time. They should encourage imaginative activities such as drawing, story-telling or creating things with building bricks. "Children's diets should also be monitored to prevent candida infections which could lead to poor concentration and attention. Children should also undergo a food intolerance and candida test to identify food which can cause behavioural and emotional problems." Candida is a type of yeast growth found naturally in humans, especially in the stomach. Candida can, however, become pathogenic and abnormally dominant in our body.

Candida infection can result in learning difficulties, poor attention span, lack of energy, fatigue, moodiness, hyperactivity and weight problems.

He added that most importantly, parents should never allow their children to suppress negative feelings because this would also lead to the suppression of positive feelings. "Depression does not only mean that they are being sad but also that they are suppressing feelings. They are keeping everything inside, which is not healthy.

"Parents need to make an effort to spend time with their children and this should be a priority. When you have time with your child, try to arrange for one-to-one interaction, and get into their world." Parents should also build up their children's self esteem, appreciating and reinforcing positive qualities and giving constructive criticism rather than criticising, he says.

* The writer can be contacted at

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

New alert against SARS

The country is back on full alert against SARS, following fresh cases of the virus in China. From now, thermal screening will be reactivated at airports, and hospitals and doctors will be monitoring for symptoms of the disease.

This follows reports of two confirmed cases and a half-dozen suspected ones during the past week in Beijing and Anhui province, where almost 500 people have been quarantined.

Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said the Government would not issue a public advisory against travel to China at this stage.

He added the ministry had reopened its SARS operations room and re-activated its hotline (6-0326989436). Also, 21 hospitals around the country have been directed to set up isolation wards.

Dr Chua said passengers arriving in Malaysia from Beijing are required to undergo thermal scanning to check if they are running a fever, and visitors from Guangzhou, Shanghai and Hong Kong are required to fill out health declaration forms.

On Friday, 1,980 tourist arrivals at KLIA and Kota Kinabalu from Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Shanghai were screened for SARS symptoms. None were found positive (See graphic for symptoms on P2).

Speaking to reporters after the first bilateral meeting on health between Malaysia and China at the Institute of Health Management, Dr Chua said all passengers arriving at KLIA from China would also have to submit health declaration cards distributed on board their aircraft.

Dr Chua said doctors and nurses who handled suspected victims during the global outbreak last year would be mobilised at the hospitals.

"Institute for Medical Research and hospital laboratories are also being put on alert," he said, adding that the ministry would issue daily statements on the SARS situation.

During the global outbreak last year, the SARS virus killed some 800 people and infected more than 8,000. Malaysia reported five cases, with two deaths.

Dr Chua said the ministry would collaborate with China to strengthen surveillance and to facilitate information exchange.

On the SARS alert and the measures put in place, Dr Chua said they would be reviewed from time to time based on global developments and the situation in the country.

Asked whether Malaysia would bar its citizens from visiting China, Dr Chua said: "We are not going to stop anyone from visiting the country. Our advice is to be careful." China's Vice-Minister of Health Dr Zhu Qingsheng said Malaysia and China had pledged to work together against SARS and other infectious diseases.

China has stepped up anti-SARS efforts ahead of a major national holiday next week when millions of people will be on the move, he said.

"We have instructed local authorities to take appropriate precautions and measures to prevent the possibility of the transmission of the virus and make the May Day holiday as safe as possible," he said.

He expressed confidence that "tourists will continue to travel, including out of the country".

He said China had put in place thermal screening at all exit point
Thermal checks reactivated

The latest Sars outbreak in China has prompted Malaysia to reactivate thermal screening at airports and alert its hospitals and doctors to be on guard for symptoms of the disease.

'We are on full alert for passengers from China, more so from Beijing,' Malaysian Health Minister Chua Soi Lek told reporters.

Malaysia escaped relatively lightly when severe acute respiratory syndrome swept Asia last year. Out of 774 people killed globally from 8,000 infected, Malaysia had two deaths from five cases.

Mr Chua said passengers arriving from Beijing were required to undergo thermal scanning to check for fever.

Visitors from Guangzhou, Shanghai and Hong Kong were required to fill out health declaration forms.

About 2,000 people a day arrive in Malaysia from those places, the minister said.

The Health Ministry has reopened a Sars office and a hotline for public inquiries and reports.

Meanwhile, doctors have been reminded to be extra vigilant for signs of Sars when diagnosing illness among their patients. -- AP

Monday, April 26, 2004

Herbal Science to gain from fad in health food

WITH the growing popularity of complementary medicine and health supplements, the future looks bright for herbal preparations, health and personal care products manufacturer Herbal Science Sdn Bhd.

The company, which started operations in 1994, has had to expand its production capacity from a shoplot with one production line to its current premises in Taman Medan, Petaling Jaya, which houses eight lines and a laboratory.

Director Tan Pye Sen said the key to becoming a successful manufacturing company was to continually research and develop new products to create new markets.

“That has always been our strategy. We feel that there is huge potential for complementary medicine and health supplements in Malaysia and around the world,” he said, adding that the company planned to expand its network of clientele locally and overseas.

The front facade of the Herbal Science plant in Petaling Jaya.
Tan said the company, which generated revenue in the region of RM10mil annually, exported about 10% of its products to countries in the Asean region.

“A potentially exciting market for us is China where we are in the final stages of discussion for a significant supply contract.

“China is a huge market and although the local manufacturers are able to produce at a lower cost hence the lower priced products, we plan to leverage on the fact that imports can command a premium,” he said.

In line with the expected growth in demand for its products, Tan said the company would be adding another two production lines in three to four months time.

Herbal Science was founded by Tan's father, Dr Tan Boon Leong, an Britain-trained pharmacist who became interested in complementary medicine in the 1980s and went to Japan and China to study acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine.

Dr Tan's inexhaustible passion and interest in developing new products in this field has been the key reason for the company's success so far.

The company currently has 130 employees, of which 16 are graduates.

Herbal Science also provides services such as product registration, packing services, laboratory testing including microbiology and heavy metals testing, product knowledge training, nutritional analysis and design of brochures and other promotional materials.

Its current production facilities are of good manufacturing practice standards and consists of production lines that can supply products in capsule, tablet, sachet, liquid, powder and gel forms.
Mahathir's daughter in AIDS fight

Extending rights and education for women and giving them choices in their lives is one way the fight against AIDS is being waged in Malaysia, Marina Mahathir said yesterday.

Ms Mahathir, a columnist and president of the Malaysian AIDS Council, is a daughter of Malaysia's former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad.

She said that knowing about the risks associated with AIDS was not sufficient to change behaviour in women.

Women, particularly young women, were the focus of efforts to reduce an increasing rate of diagnosed HIV-positive cases in her country, she said.

Although women comprised fewer than 1000 of the 57,000 reported cases, their rate of infection was increasing faster than for males, Ms Mahathir said.

At the same time, echoing the experience of other countries plagued by AIDS, the indications were that the virus in Malaysia was starting to move out of the drug population - accounting for 72 per cent of HIV-positive cases - and into the general population, she said.

Ms Mahathir, who also produces a television health program aimed at young women, is one of the speakers at the World Conference on Health Promotion and Health Education that opens in Melbourne today.

"We've done a lot to promote women's rights and options and talk about health because it had been really hard for them to get realistic information," she said.

"For a long time a lot of women had no idea that they were at all vulnerable. We tried to open their eyes to the fact that women are very vulnerable because you really depend on men using condoms so that you don't get infected."

Safe sex was a difficult issue for women to negotiate with their male partners, she said. Although condoms were widely available in Malaysia, there was great reluctance to use them.

"Some people think it is not allowed in our (Muslim) religion or that it doesn't make it pleasurable," she said.

It was a myth that condom use was forbidden for religious reasons, "so we are trying to get the people to understand that there is nothing wrong with it".

One approach was to run training workshops on safe sex for religious leaders, she said.

Ms Mahathir, who is presenting a paper at the health conference on the role of social research in HIV prevention, said Malaysia's Health Ministry provided strong support for the awareness campaign.

But other government agencies had been slow to realise AIDS was not just a medical problem.

The 47-year-old mother of three became involved in the Malaysian AIDS Council, an umbrella group for 37 non-government organisations, after raising funds for AIDS victims 10 years ago.

She found it hard going because people did not really understand the nature of the problem.

Friday, April 23, 2004

DPM: Adopt regional response against diseases

Asean countries have to adopt rapid and effective regional response mechanisms to effectively combat any future outbreaks of communicable diseases, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said.

He said the SARS outbreak, which had caused the Asian economies to suffer damages in the region of RM40.3bil, had highlighted the need for a more effective and co-ordinated early warning surveillance and communication mechanisms among member countries.

“These mechanisms to warn against threats to public health will contribute much to long-term epidemic preparedness and capacity building for combating any future outbreaks,” he said in his keynote speech at the opening of the 7th Asean Health Ministers’ Meeting and the first Asean + 3 Health Ministers’ Meeting yesterday.

The meeting, themed Health Without Frontiers and held from April 17 and ending today, saw the attendance of heads of delegations from Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, People’s Republic of China, Japan and Republic of Korea.

Two important health related activities, which have been identified for deliberation by the technical groups during the meeting, were the Special Meeting of the Asean Expert Group on Communicable Diseases and the Asean Ad Hoc Working Group Meeting on Traditional Medicine/Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Najib noted that co-operation between countries in and around the region had contributed to Malaysia’s success in containing the SARS outbreak.

Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek in his address said the experience gained by Asian countries in controlling the SARS outbreak would ensure that the group would be ready when the next new disease strikes without warning, especially diseases with the potential for international spread.

“Past experience has shown that an integrated and comprehensive action plan is crucial in combating communicable diseases, especially those posed by emerging and re-emerging infections.

“Various initiatives under the Asean umbrella are now under way which would provide a long-term framework for the strengthening of surveillance of communicable diseases within the region,” he added.

Warning that new diseases are likely to surface across the region, Asian health ministers on Thursday pledged to boost research, create new facilities and share expertise to counter potential epidemics.

In the wake of deadly SARS and bird flu outbreaks in Asia, ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations hope to establish an international network to help countries detect emerging +health+ threats faster and contain outbreaks during this two-day meeting on the northwest Malaysian resort island of Penang.

Singaporean +Health+ Minister Khaw Boon Wan said governments are now expected to respond quickly and transparently after back-to-back outbreaks of SARS and bird flu proved how easily public +health+ emergencies can spread.

"There are bound to be new viruses," Khaw told reporters. "But we don't know what they would be or when they would strike. Nature has a way of surprising us, so there's nothing like a speedy response to these viruses."

Indonesian Public +Health+ Minister Achmad Sujudi said the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome caused economic losses of more than US$10 billion in Asia, while the financial impact of avian flu could be "easily as much."

Philippine Undersecretary of +Health+ Milagros Fernandez said Asian governments plan to increase research on communicable diseases and establish a panel of experts to assess each country's ability to monitor new outbreaks.

"If a nation is found to be lacking in expertise or equipment, then technical assistance and the exchange of experts will be provided by the World +Health+ Organization and other countries in the region," Fernandez said.

ASEAN comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Senior +health+ officials from China, Japan and South Korea are scheduled to join the talks Friday.

Many Asian countries increased their disease surveillance systems last year when severe acute respiratory syndrome sickened at least 8,000 people worldwide before subsiding in June. The disease killed 774 people, mostly in Asia.

Earlier this year, bird flu swept through Asia, killing or leading to the slaughter of about 100 million birds. At least 24 people died of the virus in Vietnam and Thailand before it tapered off.

But Khaw said Asian countries are now better prepared to handle such outbreaks.

"With SARS, we had to improvise in our joint cooperation," Khaw said. "Now that the SARS crisis is over, it's a good time to consolidate and institutionalize the various cooperation plans."

Malaysian +Health+ Minister Chua Soi Lek said the ministers would also discuss how to integrate Asia's medicinal plants and traditional remedies into +health+-care systems, bolstering the variety of treatments available for patients.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

MTUC: stop engaging unqualified medical personnel for plantations

KUALA LUMPUR April 21 - The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) has called on the Health and Human Resources Ministries to reprimand employers who engage unqualified medical personnel to work in plantations.

Its President, Senator Zainal Rampak, said employing unqualified medical personnel violated Section 2 of the Estate Hospital Assistants (Registration) Act 1965.

In a statement Wednesday, he said the MTUC had received a complaint from an affiliate, the All Malayan Estates Staff Union (AMESU), that certain plantation companies were employing unqualified medical personnel as hospital assistants at low wages to cut costs.

Zainal said these unqualified medical personnel were mainly ex-servicemen who had undergone short courses of between six and seven months in para-medical subjects such as First Aid but did not have the extensive internship experience in hospitals.

"Their training programmes, which do not include a final examination, are supervised and certified by the Defence Ministry and are meant to serve military needs.

"Upon retiring from the army, they apply for jobs as estate hospital assistants and plantation companies are happy to employ them because they are prepared to accept lower wages," he said.

He said the competency certificates issued by the Defence Ministry's Medical and Dental Corps were not recognised by the Health Ministry as equivalent to the hospital assistants' or nurses' diploma.

Zainal said the MTUC was concerned that some of these unqualified medical personnel were taking over the role of qualified doctors and pharmacists by diagnosing, treating, prescribing and preparing medicine for estate workers and their families.

If this practice was allowed to continue unchecked, it would pose a serious threat to the well-being of estate workers and their families, he said.

He urged the Human Resources Ministry to investigate the matter and stop the unethical and illegal practice.

MTUC would also be writing to the respective Ministers to request them to intervene and address the problem before any tragedy takes place, he added.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

The cost of treating infertility

There are many treatments for infertility but couples have to consider the cost of a procedure against its success rate, and the time and energy expended.

Have you consciously planned your lovemaking for months in the hope of getting pregnant but to no avail? Inability to conceive can be very frustrating and depressing, more so when the "trying time" has been going on for too long.

But you are not alone. The World Health Organisation estimates that approximately eight to 10 per cent of couples experience some form of infertility. This means that 50-80 million people in the world suffer from infertility. In Malaysia, infertility affects one out of seven couples.

If you think that you are having difficulty becoming pregnant, you should seek the assistance of your physician. Infertility is a diagnosable medical problem that can be treated by a doctor. But keep in mind that no treatment is a 100 per cent successful.

The first step is to choose a physician with clinical expertise in reproductive medicine — a fertility specialist. It is also important that you feel comfortable with the fertility specialist of your choice, that he or she expresses an ability to listen to and understand your issues and concerns, one who communicates openly about your options, and most importantly, one whom you and your partner feel you can talk to and work with even under stress.

Once you have selected a physician and are opting for treatment, special tests may need to be preformed before a diagnosis is made or confirmed. Identifying the cause of your infertility is important as it may affect the choice of treatment. Possible treatments may include:

Ovulation induction

A series of hormone injections will be given to the woman in order to stimulate egg growth and ovulation. If ovulation can be successfully induced, conception may then be able to occur naturally.

Artificial insemination

This is used in cases where the male has a low sperm count or a high number of abnormal sperm, or the woman has sperm antibodies present in her cervical mucus. Sperm is treated in the laboratory to increase the chances of fertilisation. Large numbers of sperm are then inserted directly into the uterus for easy access to the fallopian tubes.

IVF (In vitro fertilisation)

IVF is used to treat infertility blockages of the fallopian tubes, endometriosis, abnormal sperm, and some cases of unexplained infertility.

The woman is treated with hormones over a number of weeks to stimulate the growth of several eggs in the ovary. When ripe, the eggs are removed from the ovary and put into a dish with the partner’s (or donor’s) sperm. The fertilised eggs are then grown in the laboratory for a few days before being placed into the uterus.

GIFT (Gamete intrafallopian transfer)

This procedure is the same as that for IVF except that fertilisation takes place inside the body of the woman. The eggs and sperm (gametes) are collected and placed directly into the fallopian tubes for fertilisation to occur. GIFT is used in cases of endometriosis, cervical disorders, and some types of male infertility. It is suitable only for women with no abnormalities in the fallopian tubes.

ZIFT (Zygote intrafallopian transfer)

ZIFT involves the same procedure as IVF except that the very early embryo (zygote) is placed directly into the fallopian tube.

This procedure is done when there are abnormal sperm and/or problems with the ability of the sperm to fertilise the eggs.

ICSI (Intracytoplasmic sperm injection)

This is a technique in which a single sperm is inserted directly into the egg. Eggs are obtained the same way as for IVF and then fertilised by injecting a single sperm into them. The fertilised eggs can be transferred to the fallopian tubes of the woman or grown in the laboratory for a couple of days and then transferred to the uterus.

In Malaysia, there are 17 privately-owned and three Government-owned fertility treatment centres which offer assisted reproductive technologies equal to those of other global facilities.

Your financial situation may play an important factor as private treatment can be expensive. For example, the cost for IVF treatment could run up to RM1,000 per cycle. You need to consider the time and energy you need to invest as well. Before going ahead with any treatment you should find out what that particular treatment involves and what the success rate is. Your doctor will help and advise you on which treatment is best for you.
Service sector workers unaware of health hazards

KUALA TERENGGANU: Workers in the service sector are not paying due attention to medical problems arising from their workplace, said the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH).

Its director-general Dr Johari Basri said their cases were often not highlighted unlike those who suffered bodily injuries in factories or construction sites.

“This has caused a misconception that there are less problems in the services sectors such as banking, hotel, trading or transportation,” he told newsmen in Batu Rakit yesterday.

Earlier, he opened a DOSH seminar on behalf of Deputy Human Resources Minister Datuk Abdul Rahman Bakar.

Dr Johari said those employed in the service sector in the West submitted the highest insurance claims for work-related medical problems.

“It is probably because they are more aware of their rights,” he said.

In Malaysia, he said some workers blamed their backache or hearing problems to their advancing age without realising that it could be due to them carrying heavy equipment in the workplace or working in a noisy environment.

He said the Social Security Organisation would pay compensation for medical ailments suffered by workers provided that there was proof that the illness was due to the workplace.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Record RM754m paid out by Socso last year

Last year, Socso paid out more than ever before to victims of industrial accidents and those injured travelling between home and workplace.

Socso chief executive officer Datuk Ng Teck said the RM754 million disbursed last year in accident benefits was an increase of 13.3 per cent over the RM722 million paid out in 2002, and included RM166 million for those involved in accidents while commuting to and from workplace.

He said since the Occupational Safety and Health Act came into force in 1996 and stringent enforcement began in 2001, there had been a drop in the number of workers involved in such accidents.

"However, errant employers who do not strictly abide by the legislation's requirements have resulted in accidents in workplaces," he said.

Under Section 30 of the Act, it is compulsory for employers with more than 40 workers to set up a safety and health committee. Non-compliance can result in a fine of RM5,000 or six months' jail, or both.

The Act also provides for a fine of RM50,000 or jail not exceeding two years, or both, for employers who do not ensure the safety, health and welfare of their employees at worksites.

Ng said many industrial accidents could be averted if employers adhered to the Act and ensured safe working environments for their workers, including providing protective gear for those operating heavy machinery or doing hazardous work.

Last year, Socso collected RM1.143 billion from its 4.4 million active contributors, of which RM754 million was paid out to 241,038 beneficiaries. Socso has a total of 9.9 million registered contributors.

Ng said Socso had raised the salary ceiling of contributors from RM2,000 to RM3,000 a month.

"Our study revealed some 700,000 contributors have reached the RM2,000 ceiling and thus, to ensure they are protected, the ceiling has been increased to RM3,000," he said, adding that amendments were also being made to the Employees' Social Security Act 1969 to address controversial issues such as the definitions of employment injury and commuting accidents.

He said as unclear definitions had led to delayed payments, guidelines had been drafted to be presented at the Socso Appellate Board meeting on April 29.

Clearer definitions would help avert abuse by contributors and also specify coverage of injuries sustained in job-related activities and during functions organised by employers.

He said Socso allocated between RM1 million and RM2 million a year for activities organised by the Malaysian Trades Union Congress, Malaysian Employers Federation and non-govern-mental organisations to create awareness among employers and workers of the importance of reducing industrial and commuting accidents.
Lack of privacy may be a project-killer

IMPLEMENTING a hospital information system (HIS) means facing a host of problems, but while most can be resolved, the potential project-killer could be a lack of data privacy.

“Poor project management, miscommunication with the system’s endusers, and software and technologies not meeting requirements – all these occur more frequently but can be easily remedied,” said Dr Chow Yuen Ho, director of Singapore General Hospital’s Department of Medical Informatics.

“Not honouring patient confidentiality and security, and a failure to plan for real returns on the software and technologies purchased – these rarely happen but can potentially sink a project if they do,” he told the eHealth Asia 2004 event in Kuala Lumpur last week.

Integrating hospital information systems would lead to the ability to electronically transfer patient records and information between hospitals, clinics and doctors.

However, some countries have laws which prevent the transfer of certain highly-confidential information about the patient.

“For instance, Singapore’s privacy protection laws forbid hospitals from including confidential details like a patient’s past record of sexual assault, psychiatric illnesses, AIDS and so on, in medical records transferred between hospitals and clinics,” said Dr Chow.

Thus patients have the discretion to reveal or not reveal these details when their medical records are transferred.

Malaysia’s proposed, and much-delayed, Data Protection Act is supposed to provide similar protection.

Hospitals also have a fiduciary duty to protect patient records from unauthorised access by hackers and others.

“One approach is to block illegitimate access altogether, but by doing so hospitals risk also blocking legitimate requests for information, thus compromising the care provided by other doctors,” said Dr Chow.

Another, more viable way would be to audit and regulate access, and block it if illegitimate intrusion is detected.

“Signs to look out for are frequent attempts to access records of particular people like celebrities or important persons, concurrent access to records from different places, or access to dormant records – especially when the patient isn’t admitted to the hospital at the time,” he added.

These “soft” security measures include passwords, security tokens, smartcards or biometrics to ensure non-repudiation, punitive legislation, professional codes of conduct and hospital policy.

Look beyond savings

Hospitals must also look beyond cost-savings when planning for real returns on their technology investment, yet remain focused on their main goal of delivering adequate patient care while realising positive benefits from their investments.

“Hospitals should only buy items and features they actually need, instead of paying for bells and whistles which they don’t,” said Dr Chow.

“For instance, simply paying for a Snomed (systemised nomenclature of medicine) dictionary of standard clinical terms brings no returns in itself, but integrating it into an HIS could lead to greater efficiency, features like data mining, and better research and surveillance.

“Building a decision support system from Snomed could also lead to better clinical safety and results,” he added.

Snomed standardises medical terms internationally to avoid any confusion.

“For instance, when a patient is having a heart attack, some doctors will call it a ‘heart attack,’ others will say ‘heart failure,’ others a ‘myocardial infarction’ and others an ‘acute myocardial infarction’ (AMI).

“Snomed standardises on the acronym ‘AMI’ which gives computers a standard term to search for and arrive at intelligent decisions,” said Dr Chow.

The electronic medical records system in Singapore went live in October, 2002, across a cluster of three acute care hospitals, four national speciality centres and eight clinics with standardised clinical documentation.

Now 95% of prescriptions at Singapore General Hospital are issued electronically.

“The end result for Singapore General Hospital was an electronic system which is accurate, with fast access to records and a more secure electronic system than the former paper-based system,” said Dr Chow.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Malaysia hosting SEA’s biggest healthcare trade show

Malaysia will play host to the biggest healthcare trade show in Southeast Asia from April 21 to 23.

The exhibition will be held at the Mid Valley Exhibition Centre in Kuala Lumpur. The exhibition will have 130 exhibitors and the organisers expect about 5,000 visitors.
Minister: Effects from second vaccine dose only temporary

PETALING JAYA: The effects from the second dose of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine are only temporary, affecting children for a short period, Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said.

He said the ministry would continue with the Mass Immunisation Measles Campaign, as its benefits were greater than the side effects.

Dr Chua also said the second MMR dose given under the campaign, aimed to boost the children’s immunity system, would not cause any harm to the their health in the long run.

He said out of 650,000 children immunised to date under this campaign, only 15 have complained of fever and rashes.

“This is a small group reacting to the injections compared to the large number of children benefiting from the campaign,” said Dr Chua yesterday.

He was asked to respond to Consumers Association of Penang’s (CAP) concern over the ministry’s campaign, which began this month.

CAP had urged the authorities to carry out a proper evaluation before conducting the campaign involving 4.5 million school children aged between seven and 15.

It stated that soon after the vaccine came into use, there was a new problem where children contracted atypical measles, a more serious form of the disease that might not respond to treatment.

Dr Chua also said CAP should not “be so negative” as it confuses the public.
Neonatal Registry to be set up soon

PETALING JAYA: A National Neonatal Registry will be set up to compile information in a move to improve neonatal care and bring down the death rate among newborns.

Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said the registry, scheduled to be ready by the end of the year, would allow health authorities to assess the state of neonatal care in the country.

“This reporting system is not compulsory for healthcare facilities in the private and public sector, but it will help the ministry obtain a clearer picture of the causes of neonatal deaths and the risks involved,” he said.

Dr Chua said the registry would gather information on the frequency and distribution of critically ill newborns and would study the strengths and weaknesses of centres providing neonatal care.

“Data collected from the registry will enable us to review our policies and improve the services we provide,” he told a press conference after opening the 13th Congress of the Federation of Asia and Oceania Perinatal Societies here yesterday.

He said healthcare facilities from both private and public sectors should co-operate with the ministry to formulate programmes to improve the level of neonatal care, adding that the ministry had initially allocated RM50,000 to set up the registry.

Dr Chua said Malaysia had significantly reduced its perinatal (the period from the 22nd week of pregnancy to the first week of life) mortality rate from 55 deaths per 1,000 births in 1955 to 6.1 per 1,000 births in 2001.

“We intend to further reduce the rates to make them comparable to those of developed countries like Japan, which records four deaths per 1,000 births,” he said.

Dr Chua said the target would be met in about 10 to 15 years.

He said one of the problems was the shortage of paediatricians.

“Malaysia only has 570 paediatricians while the ideal number is 1,400. This is the reason we train nurses and other health personnel to have basic knowledge in neonatal care,” he said.

Dr Chua said the ministry had trained 1,200 personnel each year for the past 10 years, adding that they would be retrained every two years to upgrade their knowledge in this field.

“Medical staff are trained to deal promptly with newborns who have breathing difficulties or other similar risks,” he said.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Doctors on the field

THE army wants you! For many, working in the Armed Forces is seen as a job with low pay and poor benefits. And if you are a doctor most Malaysians would call you a fool if you give up a “money-printing” private practice for “subsistence” living in army camps.

The overwhelming majority of those who serve in the military are Malays; non-Malays have traditionally shunned becoming soldiers. Yet in the health services division of the Malaysian Armed Forces there is a big non-Malay presence, even more so in the higher ranks.

Armed Forces Health Services Division director-general Mejar-Jen Datuk Pahlawan Dr R. Mohanadas (which is the highest position in the division) says that at least 25% of the staff in the division is non-Malay.

In this day and age when the Government is trying hard to get more non-Malays to enlist, this division seems to have got it right.

Ophthalmologist Kol. Dr. Nor Aishah Malek and her husband Kol. Dr. Azlan Mohd. Nor are happy with their careers in the Armed Forces.
Dr Mohanadas started off as a Kedah state scholar, and in the 1970s and 80s there was compulsory national service. After one scholarship followed another, he began to enjoy the military lifestyle and its traditions.

“Personal comfort should be the lowest priority. National requirements should come first. Still it is a unique lifestyle with the uniforms and the procedures.

“Being a doctor in the military involves a clash of duties. As a doctor you are tasked to save a life but as a soldier you might be expected to take one,” Dr Mohanadas points out.

He says the advantage of a military career is that it emphasises personal development and gives a person the confidence to survive difficult situations. He certainly put that to good use when he headed a number of United Nations missions.

“Now that I am basically handling administrative duties, I do miss the bonding and camaraderie in the infantry as a young doctor,” admits Dr Mohanadas.

Terendak Hospital commanding officer Kol Dr N. Arichandra concurs that the traditions, morals and discipline of the military provide a good upbringing and build character and he also misses the army life.

“In the field, you are a soldier first, a doctor second. During the 1970s, there was still communist activity and when we were in the jungle there was esprit de corps and if there was a doctor present then it was good for morale,” points out Dr Arichandra.

Dr Arichandra remembers going out in a helicopter and then being winched down somewhere in Kroh, Perak, where some communists had been spotted and then the chopper suddenly left.

His team thought they were abandoned but they later found out that the chopper had to leave because it had a problem with the rear rotor. He also recalls booby traps and explosions during jungle missions.

Lt Kol Dr N. S. Nachiappan who is also based in Terendak is a general surgeon who deals mainly with muscular-skeletal conditions and was on a Health Ministry attachment for two years.

However, the lure of army life persuaded him to stay on.

He says the pace is not as hectic as in civilian hospitals and he has more time to spend with his family. He needs that extra time too as his wife is a doctor in private practice in Johor Baru, thus he has to travel quite a bit.

For Kol Dr Tang Ming Kin, another doctor in Terendak, his stint in the army came about because of a loan he obtained from the Defence Ministry while studying in Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia from 1989 to 1993. He had the option to repay the loan or serve 10 years with the military. He took up the latter and while he didn’t know what he was getting into, he has no regrets.

Dr Tang, a surgeon, says he likes the outdoor aspect of the service and that he had served in many places like Sarawak and Sabah. Another aspect of the service he likes is that it gives him the time to plan his life as there is more control over time. He likens it to a trade off – more time but less pay compared to private practice. He concedes that the fringe benefits are much better than in government service.

In the long term with the educational needs of his children, he sees himself leaving the service eventually. Dr Tang adds that for a bachelor, being a doctor in the military is worthwhile.

Ophthalmologist Kol Dr Nor Aishah Malek is the second female in the military to be promoted to the rank of Kolonel and she is very happy with her career as it has taken her far.

Dr Nor Aishah has no problems juggling a career, five children and husband. It helps, of course, that her husband, surgeon Kol Dr Azlan Mohd Nor is also in the army and posted to Terendak.

They both say it is a good life and they have travelled not only to various places in Malaysia but foreign lands in the course of their duties. – By S.S. Yoga

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

More M’sian men turning to illegal sex stimulants

PETALING JAYA: More Malaysian men are turning to illegal sex stimulants, thus fuelling the burgeoning drug industry in the country.

Health Ministry’s Pharmaceutical Services Division Director, Datuk Mohd Zin Che Awang, said Saturday that of the RM14.98 million worth of unregistered drugs seized by the division between January and February (see report on Page 6), some RM9 million worth were sex stimulants.

“There is an increasing demand from Malaysian men to boost their sex drive. The main reason could be due to a surge in male population and the illegal industry takes this opportunity to manufacture these drugs to fulfil the demand,” he said at a news conference at his office, after giving a briefing on the growing threat of unregistered drugs in the country.

He said most of the drugs seized lately contained Tadalafil and Sildenafil, both chemicals widely used to treat erectile dysfunction or impotence in men.

The illegal sex stimulant drugs industry was not only thriving on local demand but also from overseas, he said.

“We have received complaints from as far as Bahrain a Tongkat Ali Plus exported from Malaysia,” he said.

The product was believed to have tested positive for Sildenafil, which is classified as a schedule poison.

“The Drug Control Authority would like to advise the public against buying and using Shitek Tongkat Ali 400mg and Longeria Capsules.

These two products were tested and found to contain an ingredient which is not allowed to be used in traditional medicines and could be deleterious to the health of the user,” said Mohd Zin.

He advised the public not to purchase or consume these drugs as they could lead to severe side effect, especially among heart and diabetic patients, and those suffering from high blood pressure.

“Sildenafil and Tadalafil are medicines, which can only be prescribed by doctors for men diagnosed with the condition of erectile dysfunction.

These drugs could interact with other medicines resulting in serious adverse effects such as lowering of blood pressure if used together with the antihypertensive drugs,” said Mohd Zin. - Bernama
Malaysia battles measles outbreak

KUALA LUMPUR (dpa) - Malaysia is in the midst of a measles outbreak, a newspaper reported Saturday.

In the past six months, about 270 cases of measles have been reported at the government hospital in the capital city, The New Straits Times newspaper said.

The head of the hospital's Pediatrics Department, Dr. Hussain Iman Mohammad Ismail, warned that the country was in the midst of an outbreak. Middle-class children in urban areas were the most affected.

"Two children have died so far," Hussain told the Times. "Forty-five have developed measles pneumonia, and eight suffered serious lung damage."

He stressed the need for the public to be aware of the importance of immunising their children to prevent death and permanent health effects from the disease.

After the last outbreak in late 1999 and early 2000, which affected immigrant children, the health ministry launched an immunisation campaign, adopting a two-dose regime that had seen success in many countries.

A SURGE in the consumption of unregistered sex stimulants has Malaysian experts worried.

In the first two months of this year, the Pharmaceutical Services Division seized about RM15 million (S$6.8 million) worth of unregistered drugs purporting to boost male sexual health.

Last year, RM7 million worth of such products were seized, while it was RM4 million in 2001. -- New Straits Times
How methadone works for addicts

"THEY are patients, not addicts," says Professor Dr Hussain Habil, of people who are addicted to narcotics such as heroin.

According to the head of University Malaya's psychological medicine department, drug addiction was considered a moral issue in the past.

"It is only of late that it is understood to be a brain disease, a biological phenomena.

"Now, we hope that drugs such as methadone can help deal with addiction problems." This form of drug substitution therapy is founded on the premise that some people are susceptible to drug addiction because of a biological imbalance in the brain. A prescription-only drug, methadone is a kind of narcotic analgesic taken in either syrup or tablet form.

It is a synthetic opiate that overcomes the withdrawal symptoms. The cravings may take years to go away but with proper counselling and support, most patients should be able to rise to the challenge of beating the addiction.

Based on the many patients he has seen and counselled over the years, Hussain says there is a need for greater availability of treatment and specific medications to treat, for instance, withdrawal and relapse.

"We can't just pack them off to the Serenti centres and expect them to be okay." Almost 80 per cent of former Serenti inmates fall back into their habits of addiction upon release. One of the most crucial elements missing from the "Serenti approach" is family support. The methadone programme, however, allows the patient to remain at home, and only visit the physician for the prescribed dose. In the long run, this also may reduce the cost for the government. The preliminary results of a research group study at the University of Malaya Medical Centre revealed that after one month, almost 70 per cent tested negative for heroin. By the second month, 100 per cent tested negative. The study, which involved prescribing methadone to confirmed heroin users who had someone to consistently care for them, will undoubtedly give hope to many users who have tried various means to kick the habit.

Relationships got better for some and many displayed a marked improvement in work performance. None lost their jobs. In fact, two patients actually found jobs because of their improved condition.

There was no crime involvement and neither did they indulge in high-risk behaviour such as unprotected sex. Physically, several reported minor side-effects, such as itching on the face, but this was resolved by splitting the dose.

There have been long-term effects reported by other patients, such as loss of sexual desire, increased perspiration and constipation but most disappear with time, dose adjustment, dietary changes and general improvement in lifestyle. According to former drug users who are in the programme now, the cravings are still there although methadone has taken away much of the withdrawal symptoms. They say the drug has done wonders for them. Families have been reunited. Many have friends.

Hussain, however, stresses that while the turnaround in their lives is fantastic, the success does not just lie in the drug alone. "There must be adequate supervision, counselling and necessary lifestyle changes too." The experts also say there is a need for guidelines to monitor the use of methadone to ensure no abuse takes place and to prevent a spillover to the black market. The Government plans to overhaul the conventional drug rehabilitation system using methadone. A study involving 50 former Pusat Serenti inmates will soon be conducted by the National Drug Agency, UMMC, Universiti Sains Malaysia and Duopharma (M) Sdn Bhd, the drug manufacturer and sponsor.

The results of the study will determine whether the drug therapy will be adopted in its Pusat Serenti rehabilitation programmes, thus heading in the direction of community-based treatment as opposed to institutionalised therapy

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Chua: We will not issue the licence

The Andalas Medical Centre in Klang, which is embroiled in a controversy over the alleged illegal employment of foreign workers, will not be issued a licence, as far as the Health Ministry is concerned.

This is because the centre has run foul of the law by not meeting several technical conditions, such as the lack of fire safety measures and the use of unapproved X-ray machines.

“We have already said it will not be approved because it does not meet the technical conditions. It is operating illegally,” Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek told The Malay Mail after chairing the Ministry’s post-Cabinet meeting yesterday.

Following Dr Chua’s disclosure on Monday that the centre has been operating illegally since September 2001, the medical centre challenged the Minister’s right to question its legality.

In a statement issued on Tuesday night, the medical centre claimed that it wished “to remind the Minister that only through a legal process can any business entity be deemed illegal”.

The statement, which was unsigned, said the centre had submitted all relevant details to the Ministry of Health since September 2001 for the purpose of licence renewal.

“Since then, we have responded to the numerous enquiries and requests for clarification from the Ministry of Health. We are awaiting the approval from the Ministry,” it said.

It also hit out at Dr Chua for “issuing damaging statements through the Press”.

In response, the Minister yesterday reminded the centre that submitting an application for a licence does not legalise an establishment.

“The fact that they are operating does not mean that they are legal. The fact that they are applying for a licence also does not mean they are legal,” he said.

He said that besides not meeting fire safety conditions, the medical centre was hauled to court by the Ministry more than a year ago for offering X-ray services without a licence. The case is still pending.

Dr Chua said all X-ray machines needed to be approved by the Ministry on a yearly basis.

Dr Chua, who pledged to weed out the bad apples in the industry, hopes the public would be more aware of such centres, following adverse publicity in the Press.

The status of the Andalas Medical Centre came to light after the The Malay Mail published on March 31, a report quoting the centre’s former employee, Indian national S. Malini, as alleging that she had not been paid her salary since January, and that her passport was being withheld by the medical centre for the purported purpose of applying for a work permit.

She had come to Malaysia to work as a radiographer with the medical centre, and alleged that the centre did not apply for a work permit for her and had been giving excuses each time she enquired about her passport.

Consumer Association of Subang and Shah Alam (CASSA) president Jacob George had also said that the association took the matter up with the Health Ministry and Immigration Department.

George had also alleged that the medical centre recruited more than 30 foreigners illegally and that CASSA’s lawyers would defend Malini on her allegations against the centre.
Pharmaniaga unit served with notice of dishonour

Pharmaniaga Bhd unit Safire Pharmaceuticals (M) Sdn Bhd was served with a notice of dishonour by Siemens Financial Services Gmbh claiming for US$12 million (RM45.6 million).

Siemens claimed that it was earlier issued with 10 promissory notes of US$1.2 million (RM4.56 million) each by Safire, which were guaranteed by another Pharmaniaga subsidiary Pharmaniaga Logistics Sdn Bhd.

The promissory notes, however, were dishonoured when they were presented for payment on March 25, said Siemens.

Pharmaniaga said it believed the promissory notes were issued without proper authorisation by the special administrators.

In a statement yesterday, Pharmaniaga said the promissory notes were issued when Safire was placed under the SA who were appointed by Pengurusan Danaharta Nasional Bhd in 2001 and subsequently discharged in 2003.

It said it had investigated the notes and would “unequivocally state that the alleged signatures appearing on the notes and other supporting documents were forged”.

Safire had decided that Siemens’ claim was “without merit nor basis” and had appointed solicitors to defend itself, it added.

Pharmaniaga also said the claim by Siemens would not have any impact on its financial and operational performance.
TH Group expands Nilai cancer centre

TH Group Bhd is strengthening its healthcare business by expanding its Nilai Cancer Institute (NCI), Malaysia’s first private specialist cancer centre.

Under the expansion plan, a new wing will be built and more cancer treatment facilities – including 30 beds, more radiotherapy equipment, two operating theatres, an intensive care unit, a research lab and a stem cell transplant unit – will be added.

TH Group said the expansion was in view of the great potential of the healthcare industry in the country.

The industry is currently valued at RM900 million and is expected to grow to RM1.2 billion by 2005.

“NCI is in a very unique position in the industry. Due to our status as one of the leading centres for cancer clinical trial, we are able to offer patients who do not respond to standard treatment the opportunity of participating in new therapy,” it said in a statement.

It said the healthcare sector was identified as the company’s fourth core business because it presented high-growth opportunities and was relatively unaffected by economic conditions.

The first three core businesses of the company are oil palm plantations, construction and software development.

“Cash flow generated from our plantation sector will initially grow the healthcare sector, which is expected to eventually mitigate the cyclical nature of our traditional businesses,” it said.
Mercy keen on recruiting more young volunteers

KUALA LUMPUR: Mercy Malaysia will focus on projects at home to achieve a higher level of expertise in medical relief work and encourage more youth to volunteer, said its president Datuk Dr Jemilah Mahmood.

“We have organised monthly outreach programmes, which include medical, dental and public health services in the interior of Sabah and Sarawak.

“We would like to see more participation of young volunteers,” she added after receiving a RM5,000 cheque from the association of women journalists (Pertama) for the Mercy Humanitarian Fund.

Pertama was represented by its secretary Bahara Kamarak and treasurer Fadzillah Haron.

Dr Jemilah said Mercy's Volunteer Department was active in recruiting students from universities, such as Universiti Teknologi Mara and Multimedia University, and colleges to become associate members of the organisation.
A sure hand with special children

YOUR child is different from others. He is unable to communicate with you and is aloof. He throws tantrums for no particular reason. He is autistic. What, as his parent, can you do to help?

Autism, a complex developmental disability that appears in early childhood and persists throughout adulthood, causes children difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interaction and leisure and play activities. The symptoms and characteristics of autism can vary. Whatever the diagnosis, children with autism can learn and function productively and show gains with appropriate education and treatment.

One school in Malaysia that provides education and care for special children is The Centre For Individual Education Programme or Surea. Managed by KRISTA Centre For Special Children Sdn Bhd, Surea takes in children with various mental disabilities, such as autism, Down’s Syndrome, dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactive disorder and speech or language impairment. Surea conducts a special programme known as the 3S programme: Sure Learn, Sure Work and Sure Joy.

Sure Learn is based on developing cognitive, language and social skills. Sure Work prepares the children to acquire skills in areas covering career, home and community living. Sure Joy builds the children’s physical, aesthetic and personal development skills in an enjoyable and fun-filled environment.

These skills vary with the degree of development among the children. They are taught how to play, learn and care for themselves and even learn vocational skills. Teachers use a fun approach to enable the children to understand what is being taught. For example, every month they come up with a new theme such as animals, plants and colours, and conduct activities with the students according to the theme.

The children also attend swimming and taekwondo lessons organised by the school. "We conduct most of the activities outside the classroom as the children learn better that way. They can’t sit or concentrate long on one thing, so there has to be a variety of activities to keep them going," says Cynthia Lauren Arul, the school principal.

Nawarmani Balakrishnan, the managing director, said that the most important skill a teacher needs is patience. "These children can have unpredictable mood swings at any time and tend to throw tantrums. The teacher needs to be calm in order to reach out to the child. Aggressiveness will only lead to the child behaving badly and not co-operating with the teacher," she added.

Teachers also need to be flexible with their methods in order to keep the child’s attention on a certain subject.

"They learn fast once they get adjusted to the teachers," says Corrina Caroline Allvisse, one of the teachers in Surea. She has been with the school since it started two years ago.

Siti Zurul Ain Abdul Jabar, the freelance speech therapist who has been working with these children for the last six months, says eye contact is very important for the therapy to be effective.

Nevertheless, teachers at Surea say the most important role in a special child’s development belongs to the parents. "Parents need to come to terms with the fact that their child is special," says Arul. "Understanding their child’s behaviour and learning how to reach out to them will make their relationship with the child stronger. This is very important because if the parents don’t bother about what the child learnt in school and are not consistent in teaching him the same thing at home, the child will not improve and will in fact become worse."

"Six hours in school alone cannot help the child get better. Parents should also pitch in," says Cynthia.

Surea provides a communication book for parents to keep track of the happenings in school even if the child is unable to talk. The book will state what was taught in school for the day and tell parents what they can do to help the child at home. They also have a monthly assessment to show how much the child has learnt or improved. Cynthia says 80 per cent of parents co-operate with the school to ensure their child’s development.

A teacher says that one autistic girl who came to the school at the age of five did not know how to speak, read or write. But after attending the school for a year, she improved tremendously and is now attending a mainstream kindergarten.

Another autistic boy, aged 12, was very aggressive when he first arrived. He disturbed all the other children and caused havoc at home, too. The individual programme helped him to calm down. The parent’s positive and consistent work together with the teachers also improved his behaviour further. He is now attending a normal secondary school.

The school provides services for children between the ages of four and 18, and has classes from 8am to 2pm on weekdays. Now it has 16 children. Surea has four teachers and one speech therapist who comes in twice a week. All the teachers have at least eight to 10 years’ experience in teaching children with special needs. Fees are affordable. With education, life can be rewarding for a child with autism. While it isn’t always easy, you can learn to help your child find the world an interesting and loving place.

* Parents can contact the school at 03-7958-8535
Organ transplant law under review

MALAYSIA—The Ministry of Health is currently reviewing the Human Tissues Act of 1974.

The Act, the first and only statute of its kind in the country, governs the transplantation of cadaveric tissues. It is based on and almost identical to England's Human Tissues Act of 1961.
Discussing the shortcomings of the Act, former health minister Dato' Chua Jui Meng said it was significant that the word “tissue” was not defined under the Act.
This raised complex and ethical questions as to the scope of its definition, he said. There is also no definition of "the person lawfully in possession of the body." This is significant as he is the person who is empowered by the Act to authorize the removal of tissue.
There is also no articulation in the Act of a hierarchy of relatives who are deemed to be the next-of-kin. The articulation of such a list will prove difficult In a multi-cultural society like Malaysia, where the hierarchy of relatives with the right to claim decision-making powers will vary between cultures.
The definition of death is not listed in the current Act. Section 3(2) of the Act only requires that two fully registered medical practitioners satisfy themselves by personal examination of the body that life is extinct.
The Act needs to be amended to include brain death as a method of determining death and to specify that doctors certifying brain death should not participate in the subsequent procedures for the removal and transplantation of the organs and tissues.
Chua was speaking at the launch of the Certificate in Medical Law and the book titled Issues in Medical Law and Ethics published by the International Islamic University.
“The current Act does not ban the sale or purchase of organs and there is also no provision for any sanction in the event of a breach of any section. The Ministry will therefore make amendments to the Act to prohibit commercial transactions and advertisements of human organs and tissues. The Act will also be amended to include criminal sanctions in the event of a breach of any provision,” he said.
The Act will be amended to allow only gazetted hospitals to conduct transplant procedures and only well-qualified practitioners to register as transplant specialists to safeguard public interest and to maintain a safe and equitable transplantation program.
A register of organ transplantations will be provided in the Act to monitor and coordinate the harvesting and allocation of donated organs and tissues under consistent and equitable rules.
There is presently no legislation in the country governing the removal of organs from live donors, Chua also pointed out.
In the absence of any clear legal authority, it is presumed that live donations are legally permissible by way of valid consent obtained from the donor. While awaiting the formulation of an appropriate law on this, the Ministry of Health is in the process of developing guidelines on organ donation and transplantation from living donors.
From the time of the first corneal transplant until December 31 2003, a total of 7,671 organ and tissue transplants have been performed in the country. These included 4,170 tissue graft, 1,267 cornea, 1,007 kidney, 634 bone marrow, 483 bone, 45 liver, 43 heart valve, 15 heart and 7 skin transplants
No, Sir, You Are Wrong!

The Andalas Medical Centre in Klang has challenged the right of Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek to question its legality.

In a faxed statement to The Malay Mail last night, the centre said it was “deeply disappointed and perplexed by the remarks issued by the Minister of Health on the case”.

“Instead of going through the proper channels and procedures to address any potential issues with regard to the medical centre, he chose to issue damaging statements through the Press.

“We wish to remind the Minister that only through a legal process can any business entity be deemed illegal,” the statement said.

The statement, which was unsigned, said that the centre had submitted all relevant details to the Ministry of Health since September 2001 for the purpose of licence renewal.

“Since then, we have responded to the numerous enquiries and requests for clarification from the Ministry.

“We are awaiting the approval from the Ministry of Health,” it said.

Yesterday, The Malay Mail had front-paged a report quoting Dr Chua as saying that the centre had been operating without a licence since September 2001.

Dr Chua had said the centre had problems in getting its licence renewed due to failure to comply with the Ministry’s requirements.

Dr Chua had said that three reminders had been sent to the centre over the last two years, the last being in February this year.

However, he had said that the centre had yet to fulfil the requirements.

He said even though the Ministry officers were aware of the centre’s illegal operation, it did not have the power under legislation to act against the centre.

Dr Chua said although the Private Hospitals Act 1971 could be applied on the Andalas Medical Centre for its failure to comply with regulations, there was nothing much the Ministry could do due to its limited enforcement powers.

His statement came after The Malay Mail had published on March 31 a report quoting the centre’s former employee, Indian natinoal S. Malini, as alleging that she has not been paid her salary since January and that her passport was being withheld by the medical centre as they were applying her work permit for her.

She had come to Malaysia to work as a radiographer with the medical centre.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

No Licence To Heal

KUALA LUMPUR: A private medical centre in Klang has been operating illegally over the past two years without a licence.

Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek told The Malay Mail that the Andalas Medical Centre was due to renew its licence in September 2001 but had failed to do so.

"The centre appears to have a problem in getting the renewal (for its licence). (So) it is illegal," said Dr Chua at his office in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

He said the centre was required to submit a fire safety certificate to the Health Ministry to ensure that it had adhered to safety aspects. It was also to obtain a permit from the Ministry for an X-ray licence and to offer related (X-ray) services. These were part of the yearly licensing process.

However, the centre did not comply with the requirements.

"Since two years ago, we have sent them three reminders, the last being in February (this year) but they had not fulfilled the requirements," said Dr Chua.

"We are aware they are running it illegally but we have no Act to act (against them)!," he said.

Dr Chua said although the Private Hospitals Act 1971 could be applied on the Andalas Medical Centre for its failure to comply, there was nothing much the Ministry could do due to its limited enforcement powers under the "present rules and regulations".

To a question whether the centre could be shut down considering its illegal operations, Dr Chua said: "We can't do much under the Act, for instance, close it down... as it does not give us the bite for enforcement," he said.

Dr Chua said the Ministry could lodge a police report for action to be taken against the centre for operating an illegal establishment.

"Then, if the matter is brought to court, the operator could be charged and fined a maximum of RM1,000." However, he declined to comment whether a police report would be lodged against the medical centre which is believed to have been in operation for more than five years.

"The Ministry's Pharmaceutical Services Department could also act against the medical centre's doctors if they are foreign nationals who have not been registered as practitioners in the country, a mandatory requirement by the Ministry," he said.

"This can be enforced under the Poisons Act if the (foreign) doctors were caught in the act of writing prescriptions," he explained.

As enforcement powers are lacking in the current Private Hospitals Act (1971), Dr Chua said a new Act, called the Private Health Care, Facilities and Services Act 1998, is being drawn up.

He said that when enforced, it would cover, among others, medical clinics, dental clinics, haemodialysis centres and hospices (palliative care for cancer patients).

It will then give the Ministry the powers to seal, inspect, prosecute and impose a fine of RM300,000 or imprisonment not exceeding six months, or both.

The new Act (1998) is in the final stages and could be enforced this year.

It was reported in The Malay Mail yesterday that Indian national S. Malini had claimed that she had not been paid her salary since January, and that her passport was being withheld by the medical centre as they were applying for a work permit for her.

Malini, who had been in Malaysia since September to work with the medical centre as a radiographer, alleged that it (the centre) had never applied for a work permit for her and had been giving excuses each time she inquired about her passport.

However, her claims have been denied by the medical centre which stated that Malini was on attachment with them, and was never on its payroll.

The medical centre's finance and human resources manager, R. Sushela, had said that Malini was brought from India by her sponsors to attend an "on-the-job interview".
Move to boost health tourism

KUALA LUMPUR: Benchmarking Universiti Malaya’s Medical Faculty and other hospitals in Malaysia with international bodies is important to boost health tourism in the country.

Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said that in line with the government’s quest for new sources of income, health tourism was one avenue that could earn the country as much as RM2bil by 2010.

“There is a need for a concerted effort by university hospitals and private hospitals to raise their services to international standards so that more foreigners will come here for operations and hospital care.

“When patients want to come to Malaysia, they always refer to credible doctors who use benchmarking as their criteria.

“It is therefore important that we come up with a benchmark that is recognised internationally.

“There are about 33 hospitals that can cater to international medical needs,” he told reporters after launching the Parasites: South-East Asian Diagnostic (Para: SEAD) laboratory here yesterday.

Dr Chua said he has directed ministry officials to work with the private sector to make Malaysia a leading health tourism destination.

The university’s Vice-Chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Hashim Yaacob said the university was committed to earning an international benchmark so that the graduates and its services were recognised worldwide.

“We are seeking recognition from Australia, New Zealand and the United States, and a special committee has been set up for this task.”

The British General Medical Council withdrew recognition of Universiti Malaya in 1988.

The Medical Faculty’s dean, Prof Datuk Mohd Amin Jalaludin, said the university would aim to benchmark itself with Australian and New Zealand medical authorities.

“We are studying these countries’ overall methodologies and procedures ... how they will benchmark us. During their visit to the faculty this month, they will give us an overview of how they will do it.

“We have also invited the Irish Medical Council University for the same purpose,” he added.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Chua wants waiting time at hospitals cut

From the Chinese Press

NEWLY appointed Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek has given his staff one month to come up with a report on the reasons for long waits at government hospitals and suggestions on how to overcome the problem, Sin Chew Daily reported.

He was quoted as saying that the time needed for patients to register, see a doctor and collect their medication was too long.

“An acceptable waiting time will be one-and-a-half hours,” he told reporters on Thursday at the ministry after a briefing by his officers.

Dr Chua added that the ministry should study ways to increase efficiency and streamline procedures to shorten the process for patients.
Mercy gets RM200,000 from firm

The Sultan of Perak Sultan Azlan Shah (centre), who is also Mercy Malaysia patron, receiving a contribution of RM200,000 from Pharmaniaga Bhd chief financial officer Roshidah Abdullah (left) at the aid organisation's annual dinner in Kuala Lumpur on Friday.

At right is Mercy Malaysia president Datuk Dr Jemilah Mahmood.

The donation is for the procurement of medical supplies and Mercy Malaysia's outreach programmes, which includes medical, dental and public health services for the indigenous people in Sabah and Sarawak.

Dr Jemilah said the body needed RM2mil to sustain its relief projects annually.

She added that the organisation, which started with only 10 volunteers, now had 3,000 registered volunteers.

Saturday, April 03, 2004

NSI looking for new means to improve performance of athletes

The National Sports Institute (NSI) is finding new hi-tech training methods through the application of sports medicine and science to enhance the performance of athletes to compete against international athletes.

"Being part of the National Sports Council (NSC), it is our obligation to help athletes achieve a high level of performance through the application of science in training and treatment," said NSI Director Dr Ramlan Abdul Aziz after attending the 3rd NSI Sports Medicine Conference, officially opened by Gen (rtd) Tan Sri Zain Hashim.

The Olympic Council of Malaysia vice president Datuk Dr M. Jegathesan and NSC Director Datuk Wira Mazlan Ahmad were among those who attended the conference.

Dr Ramlan said the four-day conference was held to find new methods to improve the performances of athletes and to assess new discoveries in the field of science and medicine to be applied in the enhancement of athletes.

Lecturers from the United States, Australia and New Zealand together with 22 local sports science lecturers will present papers in the conference.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Nationwide campaign to immunise 4.5mil Malaysian children against measles

MORE than 4.5 million children in Malaysia are going to be immunised against measles over the next three months, a preventive measure against an impending outbreak of the disease

Health ministry officials say that based on recent trends, they expect an outbreak next year or in 2006. The last spike in the number of cases was in 1999, when 2,068 cases were recorded, resulting in 10 deaths.

To prevent a recurrence, schoolchildren between the ages of seven and 15 will be immunised with a combination vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella.

This is the first time that a national campaign is being carried out by the Health Ministry,
RM50,000 fake stimulants seized

Kota Kinabalu: The sale of imitation and unregistered Viagra on five-foot ways here has become rampant, according to Deputy Director of Pharmaceutical Services, Dr Ahmad Mahmud.

“The fake Viagra tablets are sold very cheap by the peddlers with one strip costing between RM20 to RM25 compared with the original price of more than RM100,” he said, following the biggest seizure of RM50,000 worth of imitation sex stimulants from such pedlars in 20 spots at Kg Air, Tuesday.

The raid was led by Dr Ahmad and assisted by 18 enforcement officers from all over the country, including four from Sabah and assisted by four policemen from the KK headquarters.

The unregistered products seized comprised ointments, balms, supplement, and shampoos, among others, most of which were from Indonesia and Philippines.

They were brought in by wholesalers from Tawau, Kuching and even from Kuala Lumpur.

“They don’t have a warehouse here to keep the products. So, they will just have a direct transaction in supplying the products to retailers here,” said Dr Ahmad.

Three locals and two Indonesian men aged between 30 to 50 years, were arrested. The locals were released on bail while the two foreigners would face appropriate police action.

All will be charged under the Poisons Act 1952 for selling such products, including unregistered Viagra.

Those found repeating the offence risk being charged under the Sales and Drug Act 1952 (Amended 2000) which carries a maximum fine of RM50,000 or up to five years’ jail or both, upon conviction. For companies or corporate, a maximum fine of RM100,000 will be imposed under the same act.

“They could face a maximum fine of RM5,000 or up to two years’ jail or both, upon conviction,” he stated, when met at the unit’s office, at KWSP, Wednesday.

The team recovered most of the sex stimulants and fake Viagra inside the booths of a Honda City and Proton Tiara owned by two of the suspects, as well as four briefcases at the scene.

Last Septemper, the unit seized a total of 480 packets of Chinese-made imitation Viargra worth some RM21,000 during a raid on a lodging house at Jalan Pantai, here. The suspect, a Chinese national, was jailed six months by the Sessions Court on Nov. 7, last year.

He advised consumers against buying the imitation Viagra and other sex stimulants, as the products were yet to be evaluated for their efficacy, quality and content.

From the label of the Pfizer Viagra, Dr Ahmad explained that the product was specially produced and packaged for the Australian market, but a Chinese national supplied the product to the suspects.

Nevertheless, he stressed that public should not purchase such product as it is not recognized and registered in Malaysia.

Dr Ahmad said their main strategy was to step up consumer education and increase public awareness against the dangers consuming unregistered products.

“One factor might be their reluctance to consult the doctors of their impotency and the best resort being to approach the illegal peddlers,” he said.

He also disclosed that some RM14 million of unregistered drugs and health products as well as cosmetics in operations conducted since January this year throughout the whole country.