Tuesday, May 31, 2005

New Phone Service To Help Smokers Quit

KUALA LUMPUR, May 30 (Bernama) -- From Tuesday, smokers seeking help to quit can turn to a telephone-based advice programme that will coach them on a step-by step procedure with personal attention.
The National Poison Centre of Universiti Sains Malaysia started the novel programme for smokers in the country.
Called Quitline, the programme will be serviced by trained pharmacists of the centre five days a week from 10am to 4pm in conjunction with World No Tobacco Day that falls every May 31, said the centre in a statement, Monday.
Its director Professor Rahmat Awang said the programme would provide information to smokers who previously might not know where to seek help to kick their habit.
"Quitline will focus on advice and information dissemination. We hope to achieve some quitting rates from this manner rather than relying on medication alone," he said.
The number to call is 04-6572 924.
PSD: Pensioners’ medical claims get priority treatment

It is government policy to deal promptly with complaints and claims of public sector retirees.
The Government, through the Public Service Department (PSD), would never ignore or delay the medical claims of these retirees, PSD public relations officer Hasniah Rashid said today.
The immediate action is in recognition of the contributions made by these employees during their years of service.
Hasniah added that retirees’ medical claims in 2003 cost the Government RM37.2 million. Last year, the claims amounted to RM41.7 million.
There are, at present, 513,689 retirees and pensioners in the country.
Medical benefits for retirees and their dependants are provided for under the General Orders and are applicable to personnel of the Federal and State Governments and statutory or local authorities.
Retirees, she said, should call the PSD directly at tel: 03- 8885406/4476/4477/4478 for any queries or to forward their complaints.
They can also seek help from the pensioners’ associations in all States.
"If they have problems going to the association, they can always approach the Ex-Servicemen’s Association or the Ex-Policemen’s Association.
"We work closely with them for the benefit and convenience of retirees."
She added that the bulk of the complaints that the PSD received from retirees involved bureaucracy, which they claimed was delaying the reimbursement of their medical claims.
Retirees, Hasniah explained, should understand that the PSD could not make payments without medical bills or authorisation by government medical officers, adding that the problem with some retirees was that they wanted the Government to pay for their medical bills at private hospitals.
"They are public sector retirees and, therefore, should go to government hospitals for treatment and not private hospitals."
However, those admitted to private hospitals in the event of an emergency would be given special consideration.
On May 14, the New Straits Times highlighted the plight of Sebastian Lopez’s wife, Theresa Alphonso Gomez, who waited 26 months to get medication she badly needed for her multiple sclerosis.
Sebastian is a retiree of the Perak Water Board.
It took six months for Theresa to be reimbursed for the cost of the drug. The delay was said to have exacerbated her medical problem.
Commenting on Gomez’s case, Hasniah said the PSD received the first and only correspondence from her in a letter dated Nov 27, 2002.
A reply was given on Dec 17, 2002, to the effect that the matter was within the purview of the Perak Water Board.
A copy of the reply was extended to the board, which contacted the Health Ministry to determine the prescription for the drug issued by the hospital concerned.
Only after it was confirmed that the prescription was made did the board reimburse RM3,000 to Lopez in July 2004.
National Health Insurance Can Marginalise Poor, Say Activists

PENANG, Malaysia, May 30 (IPS) - Civil society activists are concerned that a proposed national health insurance scheme scheduled to take off at the end of next year, while catering to well-off Malaysians, will marginalise Malaysia's poor -- many of whom can barely afford to pay for basic medical services.
So far few details of the scheme have been disclosed. Consultants have been appointed under a shroud of secrecy to work out the mechanism for the scheme under which a proposed National Healthcare Financing Authority would manage the annual 13 billion ringgit (3.4 billion U.S. dollars) financing for healthcare in the country, of which 8 billion ringgit (2.14 billion U.S. dollars) is currently spent by the public sector.
To allay fears, officials say that one million civil servants, 200,000 disabled, 1.8 million senior citizens, 435,000 pensioners, 250,000 in hard poverty and the unemployed would be exempted from making mandatory monthly contributions.
But there are worries that even with these exemptions, the lower income group would struggle to make regular contributions.
For official purposes, households earning less than 500 ringgit (131 U.S. dollars) per month are considered poor, while the threshold for measuring those in hard poverty is about half of that. But activists say a more realistic poverty line should be closer to 1,000 ringgit (262 U.S. dollars) or even higher.
According to the Eighth Malaysia Plan, a quarter of all households have monthly incomes less than 1,000 ringgit, which means that these families would be hard pressed to make any sort of monthly healthcare contributions.
Even households earning less than 2,000 ringgit (524 U.S. dollars) -- 57 percent of all households -- would find it difficult to cope with regular healthcare contributions, say activists.
''This means that the government would still have to subsidise some patients,'' said Jeyakumar Devaraj, a respiratory physician-turned-activist campaigning against healthcare privatisation, at a recent talk.
The consultants looking into the scheme face a huge dilemma given the gulf between the public and private hospitals in the country.
Malaysia's public sector, catering largely to the lower-income group, is already overstretched and under-funded. The 120-odd government-owned hospitals have 34,000 or three quarters of the total hospital beds in the country. In contrast, 220-odd private hospitals have only 9,100 beds.
But the government-owned hospitals employ only a third a third of the physicians and surgeons in the country. These underpaid and overworked professionals have to cope with 80 percent of the total in-patients in the country.
Critics say many of the problems plaguing healthcare in the country have their roots in the era of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. Economist Subramaniam Pillay notes that when Mahathir came to power in 1981, he introduced policies to allow the private sector to play a greater role in non-traditional roles such as health and higher education. The number of private hospitals soared.
But, instead of solving problems, the public sector experienced a massive brain drain. Two thirds of the surgeons and physicians in the country prefer to work in private hospitals, where they receive lucrative monthly incomes amounting to tens of thousands of ringgit and in some cases more than 200,000 ringgit (26,300 U.S. dollars) per month.
''The basic cause of the problems is structural: the growth of the private hospital industry catering to the wealthy in society sucked away expertise from the public sector,'' said Subramaniam, who is also a member of the steering committee of the Coalition Against Healthcare Privatisation, made up of 81 civil society groups.
''The consequence was a decline in the perceived quality of healthcare provision in the public sector,'' he told IPS.
To make matters worse, certain sectors of the public healthcare system were privatised or 'corporatised'. In 1993, the procurement of medicines for government hospitals and clinics was privatised to a politically well-connected firm. The result: the cost of medicines doubled the following year.
In 1996, five more areas - laundry, cleaning, equipment maintenance, waste disposal and facilities maintenance of general hospitals - were privatised to three other firms. Total costs for these services jumped from RM140 million (36.82 million U.S. dollars) in 1996 to RM450 (118.3 million U.S. dollars) the following year.
''They have created a monster that has bled the public sector dry,'' said Jeyakumar, adding that privatisation and the emergence of private hospitals was a big mistake. ''You can't put the genie back into the bottle.''
The new insurance scheme will also have to take into account the 5,000 clinics, mostly centred in urban areas, run by private general practitioners, who treat a host of common ailments.
''How they would operate under the proposed scheme, nobody knows?'' asked T Jayabalan, a private general practitioner deeply concerned about equitable access to healthcare for all.
He worries that the government might be forced to back-pedal after implementing the scheme, leaving a trail of chaos in its wake.
The government says that it cannot cope with the rising costs of healthcare and there is a need for restructuring. Part of this, it argues, is due to the changing patterns of disease - from communicable disease in the past to serious illnesses such as cancer and cardiac problems, for which treatment is costlier.
The rising demand for quality healthcare and sophisticated equipment is also another factor.
But expenditure on healthcare in Malaysia has traditionally hovered around three percent of GDP, well short of World Health Organisation recommendations of five to six percent. Despite inadequate funding, government hospitals have performed impressively, if the vital health indicators for the population are any indication.
The new national insurance scheme, however, will reportedly ''prepare specialised packages for members who want better service'', which will probably give more options to those who can afford it.
This is precisely what rankles campaigners like Subramaniam who want the proposed scheme to provide one common package with comprehensive coverage for all regardless of income levels.
''No private insurance must be allowed for the conditions covered in the basic package,'' he stressed, adding that payment for the poor must be subsidised and equitable access must not be denied by imposing large co-payments.
What makes it difficult for concerned doctors such as Jayabalan is the level of public apathy and ignorance about the proposed scheme. "The public is totally unaware of what is going on," he lamented.

Monday, May 30, 2005

National oral health plan takes shape

The dental fraternity has formulated a national oral health plan for 2010 in tandem with the World Health Organisation’s oral health goals for 2020.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said the plan documented oral health goals in four areas: dental caries, periodontal disease, oral cancer and dental injuries.
The plan, he said, sought to reduce the prevalence of dental caries and tooth loss, aesthetically-unacceptable enamel defects, gum disease, deaths due to oral cancer and dental injuries.
He said it also outlined Malaysia’s strategies towards ensuring good oral health for Malaysians.
“It is a plan specific to us, much in line with the WHO aspirations, that countries identify levels of disease or health within their own capacity and capabilities.”
This year, Dr Chua said, Malaysia was at the half-way mark towards 2010, and it was reviewing goals and strategies.
He said that while maintaining primary healthcare as the thrust of oral healthcare, the Ministry would consider a proposal to develop a centre of excellence for oral health.
He said this centre could serve as a referral centre where all oral health specialties would offer services under one roof.
This, he said, would be particularly beneficial for patients who require multi-disciplinary management, such as patients with orofacial deformities who need corrective surgery, implants, orthodontic treatment and other restorative work.
He said the centre could be equipped with a central laboratory for the fabrication of dental appliances and prostheses. — NST
MMA: Not all in white overalls are doctors

KUALA LUMPUR: They wear white overalls and carry stethoscopes when treating patients at health centres which provide anti-ageing treatment.
But they are not doctors, and this has got the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) concerned.
“It is alarming that many people are donning white coats, giving the false impression that they are Western-trained when they actually are not. They are doing this basically to give confidence to the client.
“The practice is becoming more common among beauty centres and traditional medicine practitioners,” MMA president Datuk Dr N. Arumugam said.
“Some of these centres are also named as health clinics. They are not to use the word clinics unless they are run by Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) registered doctors,” he added.
Dr Arumugam was commenting on the mushrooming of such centres, which promote Vitamin C injections and anti-ageing treatments using imported animal placenta and other forms of facial booster injection.
He reiterated that only trained practitioners and nurses should administer any form of injection, including Vitamin C.
He said doctors, unless otherwise stated in their Annual Practising Certificate (APC), should not be working in these health centres.
If there were doctors carrying out such practices, he said, clients should check their credentials.
He said the MMC had guidelines on doctors who could operate medical clinics.
“Anyone giving traditional and complementary treatment cannot be called doctors.
“They should not mislead the public into thinking that they are Western-trained,” he said.
The MMC had received complaints from general practitioners whose patients complained to them when treatment went wrong.
On fake medicines, Dr Arumugam said it was alarming to note that the Pharmaceutical Enforcement Division of the Health Ministry seized unregistered medicine and health supplements worth RM26mil last year.
He said the ministry’s move to make use of the Meditag hologram to check on illegal products was timely and there should be constant monitoring so that there was no abuse.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Too Many People Hurt In Road Accidents, Says Dr Chua

BATU PAHAT, May 29 (Bernama) -- "Every six minutes, one person is hospitalised due to road accidents," said Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek, describing the huge number of people injured on Malaysian roads.
The rate, he said, was based on the total of 82,304 people admitted to hospitals nationwide after they were involved in road accidents in 2003 which also saw 6,286 killed.
"What saddens us is five per cent of those killed were children below 12 years old," he told reporters after opening a "DaimlerChrysler Autohaus" operated by BR Jaya Sdn Bhd, here.
Dr Chua said the number of registered vehicles in Malaysia in 2003 was 12.8 million while the number of road accident cases was 268,653 and the losses they caused were estimated to be between RM5.4 billion and RM5.7 billion.
He blamed the attitude of road users in 80 per cent of the cases such as exceeding the speed limit and negligent overtaking.
"I can be said to use the road everyday and I can see drivers committing various offences; they drive as they like," he said.
He said the other 20 per cent was contributed by the lack of safety features in the vehicles and the condition of the roads.
RM9m to upgrade facilities

The Higher Education Ministry has set aside a special allocation of RM9 million to upgrade facilities to teach medicine in public universities.
Deputy Higher Education Minister Datuk Fu Ah Kiow said the money would be used for new equipment and increase teaching staff.
"The allocation will be used this year," he said after presenting advance diploma certificates to graduates at the Kolej Tunku Abdul Rahman convocation ceremony, here today.
He said the ministry was also planning to add 1,400 new places in medical courses in universities in the next five years.
"We always increase the intake by four per cent every year."

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Health Ministry D-G gets medal for achievements

Health Ministry director-general Datuk Dr Ismail Merican has another feather on his cap.
The practising senior consultant physician and hepatologist at Selayang Hospital received the Malaysian Medical Association's Gold Medal today.
Incoming MMA president, Dr Teoh Siang Chin, presented the award to Dr Ismail at the association's 45th annual general meeting at the Equatorial Hotel in Malacca.
Dr Ismail may be best remembered for updating the nation on the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) situation nationwide in 2003.
He is a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of London, Edinburgh and Glasgow and honorary fellow of the American College of Surgeons and Royal Australasian College of Physicians.
Dr Teoh said Dr Ismail was responsible for the research agenda and activities carried out by seven institutions under the National Institute of Health besides formulating the ministry's research policies.
He had been a personal physician to royalty and the Governor of Penang.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Five hospitals to specialise

KUALA LUMPUR: Five hospitals in the vicinity of the city will each specialise in a particular field of medicine to help ease the congestion at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital, Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said.
He said the Putrajaya Hospital would specialise in endocrinology, thyroid and cancer treatment, Selayang (liver), Serdang (urology, nephrology, cardiology and cardio thoracic surgery), Sungai Buloh (accident and infectious diseases) and Ampang (hematology).
The Putrajaya and Selayang hospitals are already in operation while the Sungai Buloh and Ampang hospitals are expected to be handed over to the Health Ministry by the Works Ministry this year.
“The hospitals would continue to provide normal medical treatment to patients,” Dr Chua said.
Speaking to reporters after witnessing the handing-over of the Serdang Hospital to the ministry, he said the hospital would cater to more than 300,000 residents from Puchong, Serdang, Putrajaya and the north of Seremban.
The hospital is expected to be opened in July with a staff strength of 400,” he added.
The RM687mil hospital is equipped with modern high-technology systems and energy-saving features. It also has 20 operation theatres and 19 hospital wards.
Govt Doctors' On-Call Allowances Raised After 20 Years

SERDANG, May 26 (Bernama) -- The government has agreed to raise on-call allowances of Health Ministry's doctors and medical specialists by 100 per cent in some cases.

The review, the first in 20 years, would take effect next month, said Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek, Thursday.
He said with the review, specialists' allowance for "active call" of over 16 hours continuously on a working day was raised from RM75 to RM150 while the allowance on a weekend and public holiday was raised from RM113 to RM170.
All categories of doctors on "passive call" and were recalled to come to work for over four hours on a working day would receive an allowance of RM90, instead of RM45 while the allowance on a weekend and public holiday would be RM100, instead of RM68, he said.
He said the allowance for "passive call" of less than four hours on a working day was raised from RM23 from RM50 while that on a weekend and public holiday was raised from RM34 to RM55.
Dr Chua said medical officers on graduate training would also receive higher overtime allowances.
Those on duty outside normal working hours of over 16 hours continuously on a working day would get RM100. The allowance on a weekend and public holiday would be RM110.
The overtime allowance previously was only RM25, he said.
He said the review was approved during a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Salary chaired by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi recently.
Ministry Acts To Overcome Dentists Shortage

KUALA LUMPUR, May 26 (Bernama) -- The Health Ministry is making efforts to train at least 375 dentists a year to alleviate the severe shortage of the professionals in the country, its minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said Thursday.
He said Malaysia now had 2,720 dentists, 3,780 short of the desired figure.
"At the ministry, only 890 vacancies or 57 per cent of positions available for dentists had been filled," he told a press conference after opening the 27th Asia Pacific Dental Congress at the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) here.
He said the shortage was due to declining interest in dentistry.
Chua said there were 1,873 dental clinics throughout the country, 20 mobile clinics and 276 teams on the move to provide dental services to the people, including in rural areas.
He said the mobile clincs had helped provide increased oral health coverage for Malaysians, especially schoolchildren, where for primary school it was 91 per cent and secondary schools 94 per cent.
Urban areas were well covered by the private sector, he added.
More than 1,500 dental professionals from over 28 countries are attending the five-day congress.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Four More Hospitals To Be Completed, Says Samy

SERDANG, May 26 (Bernama) -- Four more hospitals are expected to be completed and handed over to the Health Ministry before the end of the year, Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu said Thursday.
They are Ampang Hospital, Sungai Buloh Hospital, Sungai Petani Hospital and Alor Star Hospital.
The hospitals are expected to be handed over on July 15, July 31, Oct 31 and Dec 31 respectively, he said.
Samy Vellu added that the Ampang Hospital would be equipped with 562 beds, Sungai Buloh Hospital (620), Sungai Petani Hospital (498) and Alor Setar Hospital (660).
The Ampang and Sungai Buloh hospitals have been completed while the Sungai Petani and Alor Setar hospitals were in the final stages of completion, he said.
The contractors for the projects are Ahmad Zaki Sdn Bhd, Tunas Selatan Konsortium Sdn Bhd, THUB-BDB JV (joint-venture consortium between TH Universal Builders and Bina Darulaman Bhd) and MH Projects Sdn Bhd respectively, he said.
Samy Vellu said all the hospitals except Ampang were built complete with staff quarters, training colleges and nurses quarters.
On Serdang Hospital, he said that work on the RM687 project in October 2000 and was completed last year.
It was constructed on a 129,000 square-metre site and has 670 beds in 19 wards, Samy Vellu said.
He said it provides services up to "tertiary care" level including for cardiology, cardiotorasic and neurology.
It is equipped, among others with the MRI machine (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), TV scanner, mammography, hydrotherapy unit and 29 haemodialysis machines.
It has eight "gardens" on the "roof" for patients to stroll in.
He said the hospital uses the "Thermal Ice Storing system" for air-conditioning. The system is considered one of the cheapest and most effective available.
Serdang Hospital Begins Operations In July

KUALA LUMPUR, May 26 (Bernama) -- The Serdang Hospital near here which has been completed at a cost of RM690 million, will begin operations in July, Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said.
He said the 620-bed hospital would be capable of catering to the needs of about 300,000 people from Bangi, Kajang, Puchong and Putrajaya and right up to parts of Negeri Sembilan.
The hospital, one of five planned to reduce congestion at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital(HKL), would begin its operations in stages, he said during a ceremony to mark the handing over of the hospital to his ministry by the Works Ministry at the hospital site, Thursday.
The other four are the Selayang and Putrajaya hospitals, which are already operating and the ones in Ampang and Sungai Buloh which are in the final stages of being handed over to the ministry.
Chua said his ministry had agreed to make the Serdang Hospital a referral centre for kidney ailments before specialising in cardiovascular and cardiothoracic diseases when it was fully operational later.
He said the other hospitals would also have their own areas of specialisation with the Putrajaya Hospital focussing on endocrinology and thyroid diseases, the Selayang Hospital for liver ailments, the Sungai Buloh Hospital for accident induced infections and the Ampang Hospital in immunology.
He did not expect the increase in the number of hospitals to result in a shortage of doctors or specialists.
Chua added that the new Serdang Hospital would not affect operations at the nearby Kajang Hospital which would continue to operate as normal
New draft on workplace air quality out in two weeks

PUTRAJAYA: The draft regulations governing indoor air quality at workplaces will be ready in two weeks.
Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr Fong Chan Onn said officers from the Department of Occupation Safety and Health were still in the process of getting input from employers on the draft.
“The employers have given us their feedback on the first draft, which was ready some time ago. This will be the second draft.
“At first, the employers will be asked to comply with the regulations voluntarily. But we hope to make these enforceable within a year or two.
“It’s important for us to see how the adoption of the regulations will take place at working premises, then we will be able to make modifications if need be.
“Employers will need to adjust to these guidelines during this time,” he told reporters after the weekly Cabinet meeting here yesterday.
Dr Fong stressed that the guidelines did not necessarily mean that smoking would be banned at workplaces.
“But if the employers can somehow maintain indoor air quality according to the international standards contained in the guideline, then it should be all right,” he said.
The regulations will stipulate what constitutes quality indoor air in office buildings.
Meditag Labels: Exceptions to the rule

External personal care (EPC) products like medicated soap, shampoo and toothpaste are exempted from carrying Meditag labels to certify that a pharmaceutical product has been registered with the Health Ministry and is safe for use.
Hence, the public should not be alarmed if they do not see any labels on such items.
EPC will be reclassified as cosmetics by 2008 in line with the Asean Harmonised Cosmetics Regulatory Scheme to standardise the registration of cosmetics in Asean countries.
It is also to reduce technical barriers in the trading of such products in these countries.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek stressed that EPC need not carry Meditag labels as they are not products for consumption and can be bought over the counter.
“So while all products registered with the DCA (Drug Control Authority) are required to carry Meditag labels, products like toothpaste, shampoo and medicated soaps will not carry the labels,” said Dr Chua at the launch of Meditag by Mediharta Sdn Bhd at Shangri-La Hotel here yesterday.
He said 20 million labels have been issued since the Meditag requirement was enforced May 1.
HIV/AIDS tests for Muslims

Muslim couples planning to marry in Kelantan will have to undergo compulsory HIV/AIDS tests from Jan 1 due to an increase in its incidence.
State Islamic Development and Propagation committee chairman Hassan Mohamood said the ruling included prospective spouses from other States.
He said the couple would be counselled on the risks and consequences involved if tests prove positive.
"It is then up to them to decide if they still want to proceed with their marriage," Hassan told reporters here today.
Kelantan is the third State after Johor and Perlis to introduce compulsory HIV/AIDS testing for prospective Muslim couples.
Under the ruling, the test results must be produced when they register for marriage courses which are compulsory.
He said free HIV/AIDS screening was available at government hospitals but a RM5 fee may be introduced in future.
Hassan said the State Health and Religious departments had noticed a rise in HIV and AIDS cases in the state, especially among Muslims aged between 20 and 30 years.
In most cases, the disease was contracted through intravenous dadah abuse and high-risk sexual behaviour.
He said the ruling was proof of the State Government’s commitment to protecting the marriage and family institution.
State Health Department statistics showed that 4,441 people in the state had been infected with HIV/AIDS between 1996 and February this year.
The number of patients had been steadily rising since 1996 (260 patients), 1997 (262), 1998 (294), 1999 (354), 2000 (379), 2001 (426), 2002 (659), 2003 (684) and last year (921).
There were 202 patients registered in the first two months of this year.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Meditag guarantee of quality

Twenty-six million ringgit. That is the value of unregistered medicine and health supplements seized by the Pharmaceutical Enforcement Division last year.
The figure represents a four-fold increase compared with the RM6.5 million worth of products confiscated in 2003.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said unregistered products were often promoted as "wonder drugs". And they do not come cheap.
Such products, he said, could be unsafe as well as ineffectual.
This is the reason cited for the use of a label that will help consumers choose certified products.
"The use of a hologram label, better known as the Meditag label, in force from May 1, will help the authorities keep track of pharmaceutical products in the market," he said at the launch of the tag here today.
Meditag contains security features and serial numbers to authenticate pharmaceutical products. This would enable consumers and enforcement teams to recognise immediately registered goods.
Mediharta Sdn Bhd is the sole supplier of Meditag, which is licensed to manufacturers and importers at a cost of 5.6 sen per label.
As of today, about 20 million labels have been distributed.
"All products registered with the Drug Control Authority (DCA) are required to carry the Meditag label," Dr Chua said.
"Cosmetics and external personal care products, such as medicated soaps, shampoos and toothpastes, are not required to carry the label, yet."
However, he said, products in the market before the May 1 enforcement date need not be recalled.
Dr Chua said a report released in Geneva recently stated that 25 per cent of medicines in developing countries were sub-standard, ineffective and unsafe.
"The world market value of fake medicine is estimated at US$32 billion (RM120 billion) and about 38 per cent of the malaria medication used in Southeast Asia is ineffective," he added.
Asked why only one company was given the right to distribute the security label, he said it was for security purposes.
On Mediharta Sdn Bhd’s selection, he said the contract was awarded before his tenure as Health Minister and "you have to ask the former Health Minister (Datuk Chua Jui Meng) on this".
Stringent checks on blood quality in banks

The Health Ministry is working to enhance the quality of blood flowing into blood banks throughout the country.
"We will ensure strict screening, including interviews with blood donors to check their background," Health Ministry Parliamentary Secretary Lee Kah Choon said here today.
He added that most of the contaminated blood in blood banks was caused by HIV-positive victims who passed them on through blood donation campaigns.
These people, embarrassed about going for HIV tests, chose the easy way out by donating blood to determine their medical condition.
"The blood samples can only be detected after laboratory procedures are done," he said.
Besides, blood donation campaigns were not necessarily held in hospitals. Most were usually organised by non-governmental organisations and held at their premises or in community centres, Lee said.
"We have now introduced tests for HIV victims where they need not divulge their personal particulars. The results will be known within 15 minutes.
"If positive, we will provide medical advice to them."
Lee was commenting on reports that 200 HIV-positive people had been regular blood donors.
The ministry had recently admitted that some of the blood in blood banks could be contaminated with the HIV virus.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Health Ministry Will Review Security Label Usage If Ineffective

KUALA LUMPUR, May 24 (Bernama) -- The Health Ministry will not hesitate to review the usage of security labels for products registered under the Drug Control Authority (DCA) if it is proven to be ineffective, Minister Dr Chua Soi Lek said Tuesday.
However, any change must be supported by valid claims, he told reporters after launching the Meditag Label Awareness campaign here.
Effective May 1, all registered pharmaceutical and health products must have the Meditag security hologram label to specify that the products have been approved for sale in a move to combat the increasing number of registered health products.
Mediharta Sdn Bhd, the producer of the Meditag security labels, has been given the task to distribute the labels to all manufacturers and importers of health products registered with the ministry.
However, manufacturers of health products were reported to be unhappy with the move, arguing that it was needless to implement the system as the quantum of counterfeit health and drug products in the country was minimal.
Dr Chua said the number of counterfeit products might be small but the availability of unregistered products was a major issue.
He said that in 2003, the Pharmaceutical Enforcement Division of the ministry seized RM6.5 million worth of unregistered health and drug products but the figure escalated to RM26 million last year.
"The industry should view this exercise as a social responsibility to ensure that only authentic products which have been approved by the DCA are on sale in the country," he said.
Asked why only one company was given the exclusive right to distribute the security label, he said : "If it was given to many companies, we wouldn't know which one (security label) is fake and which is not."
Queried on Mediharta Sdn Bhd's selection, he said the contract was given during the tenure of his predecessor and "you have to ask the former health minister."
Blood donation drive by federation

A blood donation campaign will be carried out simultaneously at 28 locations in 12 States on June 19.
The drive is organised by the Federation of I-Kuan Tao Associations Malaysia, whose members have been conducting annual blood donation campaigns since its inception in 2001.
Its president, Khoo Kim Siong, said the drive is one of their ways to fulfil the federation’s purpose of establishing a more honourable and ethical society.
“We hope to achieve a record of more than 3,000 packets of blood (almost 1,500 litres) in the campaign,” said Khoo yesterday at the federation’s office in Taman Tasik Titiwangsa here.
He said this is the first time the federation, a Confucian group, is holding a joint blood donation campaign with all its associations taking part, compared to individual campaigns in the previous years.
Also at yesterday’s Press conference was Youth and Sports Deputy Minister Datuk Ong Tee Keat.
Ong said the increase in public support for blood donation has improved.
“A decade ago, people were reluctant to donate their blood,” he said.
“Now, we see a conspicuous mind shift, especially among the Chinese community.”
Apart from the June 19 project, the federation is also conducting blood donation drives in Selangor and Penang on June 12, and at two places in Kedah on June 17.
The federation can be reached at 03-4024-2462.
New FRIM test can verify quality of herbal products

KUALA LUMPUR: The quality of local traditional herbal products can now be verified with a procedure that identifies the “unique” compound in them.
Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) director-general Datuk Dr Abdul Razak Mohamad Ali said the method would ensure that products were standardised and easier to market overseas.
“The problem with traditional medicine is that it has multiple compounds and, therefore, makes it difficult to standardise.
“With this procedure, we can identify the marker that is the unique compound to that particular product,” he said yesterday.
FRIM has used its one-stop proteomic kit to separate the protein map of the water-soluble extract of Eurycoma Longifolia Jack (Tongkat Ali) for use as a standard reference for quality control.
Other “markers” that have been produced include that for pegaga and Kacip Fatimah.
“So, when we compare the product to this it will be evident whether the medicine has been adulterated or whether the quantity is different from what is claimed,” he added.
The method, he said, would make it easier for consumers and businessmen to know whether they were obtaining quality products.
Reports of the results will be issued within a month after receiving the extract.
Analysis includes comparison to the standard protein map of Tongkat Ali that FRIM has developed.
He said FRIM was also equipped to carry out other services for the herbal industry, including those concerning bio-resources, chemistry, essential oils, antioxidant evaluation, quality control and herbal processing technology.
Dr Rasadah Mat Ali, medicinal plants programme director of the FRIM biotechnology division, said the division was also in the process of compiling a chemical library where compounds that had been isolated would be stored for research and reference.
Other projects at the division include developing chemical markers and having an extracts library.
Consultation to quit smoking not free

PETALING JAYA: General practitioners (GPs) do not provide free counselling services to help smokers kick the habit, so patients seeking advice from them should be prepared to pay consultation fees.
“Asking GPs for help in this regard is just like visiting a psychiatrist to talk about problems,” said Malaysian Medical Association president Datuk Dr N. Arumugam.
There had been cases, he said, in which patients had gone to GPs for help but argued that it was unfair to charge them consultation fees.
“Malaysians are not used to this concept of ‘paying for advice’,” he said yesterday when commenting on how the private sector could support the Government’s free quit-smoking programme.
Dr Arumugam said some doctors were already interested in helping smokers quit.
“When more people realise they have to pay for such services, then only will more doctors offer such services. But on our part, most doctors will tell patients who smoke to give it up,” he said.
He added that poor publicity was the main reason why the Government’s free quit-smoking programme had not taken off.
“The programme is very small and not well publicised. Big posters or signs should be placed at the clinics and hospitals where the programme is available, and a list of the clinics put on the ministry website,” he said.
Meanwhile, GPs here acknowledged that many were not interested because helping a smoker quit needed much time.
Dr Kartar Singh said the success rate was very low for the time spent helping a patient.
“Nobody goes into it because of this and because many patients are not serious when it comes to quitting,” he added.
However, he felt the ministry should encourage more GPs to offer these services.
According to Dr Kunalan Samather, such services required much time as the GPs involved had to be trained and at the same time handle many patients.

Monday, May 23, 2005

On a mission to track down MS patients

It all started 31 years ago for Padma Panikker with severe pain at the back of the head and blurred vision.
A day or two later, she was unable to walk steadily as her legs felt weak.
Padma was taken to Kuala Lumpur Hospital where she was referred to a neurosurgeon and an ophthalmologist.
After a series of tests, she was diagnosed 10 days later with multiple sclerosis (MS).
Today, Padma is on a mission — to track down some 500 Malaysians suffering from MS — a chronic, progressive disease of the central nervous system.
Padma, who currently heads the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Malaysia, said although there were about 500 people with the disease only 100 had registered with the society.
"There are many out there who need our help and moral support," she said, adding that the society found that many were succumbing to the disease because they could not afford the drug beta-interferon, which costs about RM3,550 a pack.
The drug has been shown to substantially reduce relapses and lesions on the nerves and slow the progress of disability.
The youngest patient registered with the society is a nine-year-old boy from Penang.
"MS is not the end of the world. Many have readjusted their lives and are successfully getting on with the support of family members and friends," Padma said.
She said the society wished to reach out to these people because almost all of them would suffer depression and there could even be several living in shock, fear, disbelief and denial.
"We may not be able to help them financially, but we can give them support, care, counselling and guidance. They will also be able to interact with other victims of the disease."
Padma said almost 90 per cent of MS victims in Malaysia were women.
The cause of MS is unknown although it is considered an "auto-immune" disease — one that occurs when the body is no longer able to differentiate its own cells from foreign agents and, subsequently, begins to destroy its own tissues.
Rheumatoid Arthritis and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus are common auto-immune diseases.
In patients with MS, the myelin sheathes that include the nerve fibres become the target of an attack orchestrated by the patient’s own white blood cells.
MS affects up to two million people worldwide, including an estimated 450,000 in Europe alone.
The society is holding an MS Link Meeting on June 25 at Crystal Crown Hotel in Petaling Jaya.Padma hoped that MS victims and their family members would attend the meeting so that they could obtain more information on how to live with the disease. Admission is free.
MS patients can contact the society by calling Padma at 03-78760568 or society secretary Wendy Lee Ming Li at 016-2268676.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Doctors can now advertise but not oversell

Doctors and hospitals can now advertise their services.
However, they cannot exaggerate their abilities and facilities or oversell themselves.
The Malaysian Medical Association has decided to allow this to enable the public and the world to know what Malaysia has to offer in the field of medicine.
MMA president Datuk Dr N. Arumugam (picture) said hospitals could advertise their facilities but they were not allowed to make claims that their machines were the best or that they could cure this or that disease.
Similarly, he added, doctors could advertise their speciality, with photographs, but were not allowed to state their place of work.
Dr Arumugam warned that disciplinary action could be taken against doctors who advertised their place of work or made claims about their achievements and successes.
Talking to the New Straits Times, he said, the relaxation of the guidelines was in line with changes in the medical field and the Government’s aggressive promotion of medical tourism.
"When we go onto the Internet or read medical journals and other publications, we get a lot of information about what hospitals and specialists in other countries offer, with some even making open claims as to their achievements and successes. But, unfortunately not Malaysia."
He said many people thought other nations, including Singapore and Thailand, had better medical facilities than Malaysia.
"Now, we want the public and the world to know that we too have hospitals with similar or better facilities and services, including the latest medical equipment and machines and also specialists in various fields."
Dr Arumugam observed that those practising alternative medicine openly advertised and made claims that their products could cure illnesses.
Furthermore, Dr Arumugam said, some hospitals, including certain government hospitals, were already using various techniques to advertise their facilities and services, especially in the form of news items or product launches.
New AIDS Cases On The Rise In Sarawak, Says Dr Leo Toyad

MUKAH, May 22 (Bernama) -- New Aids cases are on the rise in the state, Tourism Minister Datuk Dr Leo Micheal Toyad said Sunday.
He said until March this year, it had 479 cases of HIV since its first case was reported in 1989.
"In addition, Sarawak has 220 Aids cases and 102 related deaths," he said when opening the ninth state-level Prostar Convention here.
Dr Toyad said the HIV transmission trend in the state differed from the rest of the country as it was mainly through sexual relationship.
He said that till the end of last year, there were 64,439 cases of HIV carriers, 9,442 of Aids and 7,195 deaths throughout the country.
"Of the HIV cases, 37.7per cent are within the 13-29 age group. About 53 per cent of these are unemployed or without any proper jobs," he said.
Dr Toyad said it was the responsibility of the society to come together in fighting the Aids menace.
He said they could help by giving counselling to youths on the dangers of unhealthy and immoral lifestyle such as sexual freedom and drug addiction.
He said programmes such as the Prostar which provided the youths with information about the illness and how they could avoid it was a step in the right direction.
Forensics among key topics at dental congress

Forensic dentistry is among key subjects to be highlighted at the 27th Asia Pacific Dental Congress, which will be held here for five days beginning Wednesday.
The biennial conference, themed Rediscover the Art of Comprehensive Oral Health Care, would be held at the Putra World Trade Centre and attended by some 1,500 dental professionals from 28 countries including aesthetic surgeons, dental nurses and orthodontists.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek is expected to launch the congress, which would also showcase dental technology in the Asia Pacific by over 250 companies including Italy, Germany, Japan and the United States.
Asia-Pacific Dental Federation president-elect Dr S. Nagarajan said forensic dentistry capabilities were currently limited and hampered by the lack of proper records but awareness of the importance of forensic dentistry had been enhanced by the regional tragedy.
“Forensic dentistry is a fast and cost-effective method of identifying victims of mass disasters and other accidents, and its efficacy in disaster recovery and relief operations.
“Together with maintenance of proper dental records, victim identification is simplified by eliminating the need for lengthier processes such as DNA analysis,” said Dr Nagarajan, who is also the organising committee chairman.
The recent spate of natural disasters, including the December tsunami tragedy, has prompted dental professionals to talk about forensic dentistry and the need to promote proper dental records.
Hospis Malaysia to raise funds at dinner

Hospis has about 200 patients under its homecare programme and provides palliative care to over 1,000 patients in a year.
In September, Hospis hopes to raise RM100,000 at its “Voices for Hospices” charity dinner at the JW Marriot Hotel here.
Organising chairman Datin Tina Ali said Hospis expected about 500 people to attend the event, where Sheila Majid would be the main performer.
Tables will be sold at RM15,000, RM10,000, RM5,000, RM3,000 and RM2,000. For more information, contact Hospis Malaysia at 03-9133 3936 or log on to www.hospismalaysia.org.
World-class dialysis facility

MIRI: Senior nursing students from medical colleges in Australia will be coming to the Miri Red Crescent Kidney Dialysis Centre for their practical training.
The centre's chairman Lee Kim Shin, who is Assistant State Minister for Infrastructure Development and Communications, made the announcement yesterday at the official opening ceremony of the RM5mil centre by Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud.
“Visitors from other countries, including those from the medical profession, have acknowledged that this centre has a world-class dialysis treatment facility.
“We are making our centre here the first non-governmental dialysis centre to set up research facilities for renal failure studies"
Get all the help to quit smoking

Comprehensive support is given under the Health Ministry's free quit-smoking programme for those who want to stop smoking.
“Just turn up and we’ll help you. The clinics will provide whatever is required to help a smoker quit, be it counselling and nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or just counselling,” said the ministry’s public health deputy director of Kuala Lumpur, Dr Sallehudin Abu Bakar.
He added that doctors were also available at any time if a smoker needed phone counselling.
“The doctors will give their numbers to patients should they need immediate support. Quit clinics are located in hospitals and various polyclinics,” he said.
He added that a quit line for any smoker who wanted phone counselling was in the pipeline.
Dr Sallehudin also said that for mild cases of smoking addiction, counselling alone would be used as it was more cost effective.
“We only treat clients experiencing heavy addiction with both counselling and NRT,” he said when met at the Malaysian Conference on Tobacco Control 2005 here yesterday.
Dr Sallehudin said the clinics would prescribe different types of NRT such as nicotine chewing gum, nicotine patches or inhalers.
“Each type of NRT has different levels of effectiveness depending on the individual. Some individuals have a strong urge to smoke, and in this instance, patches are better.
Whereas for those with occasional urges, the chewing gum is better,” he added.
He said each piece of chewing gum cost RM1 and in the early stages of treatment, a patient would be taking six to eight pieces of gum a day.
Dr Sallehudin also said that patients would have to attend weekly 30-minute counselling sessions during the first month.
In the second and third months, clients would have to attend such sessions twice a week.
However, from the fourth month to sixth month, the NRT treatment is discontinued and patients will only have to go for counselling once a month.
He added that the cost of NRT treatment for each patient in the programme was between RM1,000 and RM1,500.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Move to train Socso doctors welcomed

The Government’s proposal to train Social Security Organisation (Socso) panel doctors in occupational health is just what the doctor ordered.
The Malaysian Medical Association and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health today described it as a a good move.
They were commenting on Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr Fong Chan Onn’s statement that the Government would make it compulsory for Socso panel doctors to undergo such training.
Fong yesterday also expressed concern that hundreds of occupational diseases were going undetected because of lack of investigation by Socso panel doctors.
MMA president Datuk Dr N. Arumugam pledged his association’s co-operation to make the training a success.
He also said occupational diseases could be prevented if managements paid heed to the work environment.
Agreeing that occupational diseases were under-reported, Dr Arumugam said it was difficult to prove that diseases were caused by the working environment.
Commending the Minister for being proactive, he urged Socso not to delay making payments when workers were confirmed to be suffering from occupational diseases.
Niosh chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said occupational health was of increasing concern because of its impact on the workers’ health and the economic loss to the country.
Lee said Socso statistics showed that 99.7 per cent of compensated cases were related to occupational injuries and only a fraction was associated with occupational diseases.
"These figures show a lack of awareness." he said.
SIRIM scientists score breakthrough

It now takes just 36 hours to produce carbonated apatite, a synthetic bone graft used to treat broken bones.
This invention was unveiled by Advanced Materials Research Centre (AMREC), one of Sirim’s research centres, at the 16th Invention, Innovation, Industrial Designs & Technology exhibition (ITEX 05), being held at Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC).
The conventional method requires two weeks to produce the material.
Dr Fadzil Ayad Zakaria, K. Jamuna Thevi, Siti Hana Abu Bakar, Zul Hazmi Hussin, Shamsul Muhamad and Dr Jose Mikan, the brains behind the invention, spent two years at their laboratory in Kulim, Kedah, to develop the processing technique.
The process, which involves dry mixing of raw powder to obtain homogenous mixture and later pressed and sintered in controlled atmosphere, would reduce the cost of producing it significantly.
Fadzil, the team leader, said the new technique would eliminate the tedious and time-consuming preparation used to produce bone graft.
“We are planning to market our product once we complete the research programme,” added Fadzil.
The market for bone graft is huge, especially in the United States. Figures showed that in 1988, the market in the United States exceeded US$460 million (RM1.75 billion).
In 2001, more than 285,000 bone graft procedures for spinal fusion were performed in the United States and six million long bones were treated for fractures.
The project was conducted in collaboration with Institute for Medical Research and Universidad Militar Nueve Granada.
Health scheme needs royal panel

PETALING JAYA: A Royal Commission needs to be set up to get broad feedback on the proposed National Health Financing Scheme (NHFS) before it is introduced.
Several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and private sector leaders said it would be unfair to make Malaysians make mandatory contributions without enough information on how it would affect the people.
They said medical facilities were important to the people, but at the same time acknowledged that the RM9bil the Government spent yearly on health services imposed a heavy drain on public funds, and that the current public health system needed to be revamped.
Medical facilities registered about 47 million outpatient visits last year and 1.7 million were warded. Each patient received a 98% subsidy from public funds.
However, they said that it would be unfair to give away the RM9bil to one company or consortium to manage without being clear about what Malaysians would be getting for it, they said.
Human Rights commissioner N. Siva Subramaniam said that a commission would be able to identify the relevant health issues and determine what was good for the nation.
“It is always good to get feedback so that what is introduced in the NHFS would be acceptable to those seeking medical treatment in future,” he said.
Chairman for the debate on the NHFS and the past president of the Medico Legal Society of Malaysia S. Radhakrishanan said “because of the gravity of the medical needs and demands” a Royal Commission was needed to make a thorough study of the future medical needs.
“This will provide an opportunity for all interested persons to submit their views,” he added.
MCA Public Services and Complaints Department head Michael Chong supported the idea.
“I have a lot of poor people coming to me asking for help to settle their huge hospital bills and for this reason we must study the current system through the appointment of a Royal Commission.
“At the same time the government must charge foreigners who use our medical services,” Chong added.
Former Finance Ministry de-puty secretary-general Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam said there would be social discontent if the NHFS were to go ahead without public feedback.

Friday, May 20, 2005

MMA: Improve healthcare system first

Improve the healthcare system before introducing the National Health Insurance scheme. This seemed to be the opinion of several participants at the Medical Law conference themed "Current developments and future implications" held today.
Malaysian Medical Association president Datuk Dr N. Arumugam said there were limitations in the healthcare system that needed to be addressed.
"What we want is a good healthcare system that the people are happy with. If people are happy, then doctors will be happy," he said.
Speaking as a panellist at the session, Dr Arumugam said the ministry should come out with more details on the NHI.
National Council of Senior Citizens’ Organisations Malaysia president Lum Kin Tuck, also a panellist, called for a Royal Commission to look into the problems facing the Health Ministry. He also urged the Government to look into a "social" pension for the elderly.
Malaysian Trades Union Congress secretary-general G. Rajasekaran said that the Government should ensure that public healthcare services were not privatised and that it should reach the entire population.
Dr T. Jayabalan, representing the Consumers’ Association of Penang, said as a country became more affluent, there was a need to increase healthcare spending.

The proposed National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme is scheduled to take off at the end of next year, with most Malaysians required to make mandatory contributions.
A consultant has been appointed to identify details under the scheme.
These include:
• the quantum of payment;
• criteria and ceiling for contributions;
• the collection mechanism;
• the nature of basic health packages; and,
• how the ministry will pay clinics and hospitals.
The scheme will also prepare specialised packages for members who want better service.
Those exempted from payment include the one million civil servants, about 200,000 disabled, 1.8 million elderly, 435,000 pensioners, 250,000 hardcore poor and an undetermined number of unemployed.
The Health Ministry is in the midst of identifying groups in the private sector exempted from payment.
Private sector staff deemed ineligible for free treatment will participate as paying members in the Essential Healthcare package under the scheme.
Ministry Planning and Development Division Evaluation and Plan Formulation Unit head Dr Rohaizat Yon said contributions could begin once paying members were identified.
"It’s a single national healthcare financing system with a single fund manager," he told a Medical Law conference today.
The conference, themed "Current developments and future implications", was organised by LexisNexis and the Malayan Law Journal Sdn Bhd.
Dr Rohaizat said the NHI would be managed by the National Healthcare Financing Authority.
"Its implementation is viable and sustainable and in line with Vision 2020," he said.
The scheme would provide better care, access to facilities and financial risk management in the event of ill health.
As for healthcare providers, there would be better incentives to cover the rural population, greater opportunities, improvement in the reimbursement system, increased efficiency and better use of new technologies.
The healthcare system would see greater integration, efficiency and quality, besides optimal resource utilisation and focus on preventive programmes.
The main objective of the NHI was to mobilise "risk sharing", pooling of resources (community-rated system) and better management of health expenditure.
"It is also to enhance efficiency and quality, to have greater integration in health both in the public and private sectors and to have better regulation of health care providers," he said.
All this would lead to greater sharing of responsibility and accessibility to quality healthcare.
During the panel discussion, Malaysian Employers Federation economist Azizah Talib questioned the rationale behind the NHI as the private sector was meeting most of the healthcare requirements of workers.
She said 98 per cent of companies provided medical consultation and treatment to executives, 96 per cent provided hospitalisation benefits, 57 per cent medical and hospitalisation and 53 per cent dental benefits.
She said they also bore 54 per cent of the medical expenses of executive staff, with 92 per cent of companies allowing executives to seek treatment either at government or private hospitals.
As for non-executives, she said 97 per cent of private companies provided medical consultation and treatment, with 40 per cent extending benefits to dependents.
Azizah said 55 per cent of private companies bore the medical expenses of non-executives while 22 per cent bore medical consultation and treatment expenses up to a pre-determined limit.
She said collective agreements between private sector unions and employers usually included free medical treatment from a panel of doctors.
At present, she said, employers also had to bear the Employees Provident Fund contribution of 11 per cent and Social Security Organisation contribution of 1.75 per cent.
"Will the new health insurance plan be an additional burden to employers?" asked Azizah who added that employers also had to pay for a general health insurance policy for workers.
Dr Rohaizat said the ministry was in the midst of ironing out some of these issues with the authorities.
Affordable Health Care For Low Income Group Under Insurance Fund

KUALA LUMPUR, May 19 (Bernama) -- The poor and the lower income group will continue to have access to affordable health care from government hospitals even when the proposed National Health Insurance Fund is implemented under the ninth Malaysian Plan, a senior Health Ministry official said Thursday.
Its Evaluation, Planning and Formulation Unit Head Dr Rohaizat Yon said the present system where everyone pays RM1 to get treatment at government hospitals was no longer acceptable as it could be easily abused while the cost of medicine had gone up.
" We are still working on the details for the fund, but one of the founding principles for the fund is that it is based on community risk factor rather than individual risk factor which is practiced by the insurance companies," Dr Rohaizat told reporters at a conference on medical law here.
Under the community risk factor, every individual pays the same amount no matter what his health status is, unlike the individual risk factor where the insurance premium is based personally on the individual health risk, he said.
But the proposed health insurance fund came under fire at the conference attended by non-governmental organisations and medical practitioners.
Malaysian Medical Association President Datuk Dr N.Arumugam said many doctors as well as government officials were still in the dark about the proposed fund, how it would be carried out and how it would eventually benefit the people.
"The proposal should be open to discussion first and not be implemented overnight. Many people are unhappy about this," he said.
Malaysian Trades Union Congress secretary-general G. Rajasekaran said the proposed fund would only be an "additional and unnecessary burden for the workers".
"These days workers in the private sector no longer depend on the government. The private sector is already paying for the health insurance of their workers, the only difference is that different companies give different insurance coverage," he said.
Azizah Talib, an economist with the Malaysian Employers Federation, said currently 98 percent of private companies provided medical benefit for their workers.
Dr T. Jayabalan from the Consumer Association of Penang told the conference there was no reason for the government to complain about the rising cost of medical care.
"For decades, the total expenditure for health care has remained at three per cent of the Gross Domestic Product, while in other countries, the percentage has increased," he said.
Dr Jayabalan also disagreed with the government contention that the present health care system was open to abuse where the rich could also seek government hospital treatment at the expense of the poor.
"Who would want to wait the whole day just to get treated, unless those who cannot afford it," he said referring to the notorious long queues at most government hospitals.
Retired headmaster Lum Kin Tuck said that the elderly suffered the most as most government hospitals lacked doctors.
Lum, who is president of the National Council of Senior Citizens' Organisations also wondered how the unemployed elderly could fit into the proposed fund.
Dr Rohaizat welcomed the concerns expressed at the conference and said the proposed fund was still being studied and nothing had been finalised yet.
He disputed claim that most private sector employees already had insurance coverage.
He backed this up by saying that up to 80 per cent of government hospital admissions was actually not government employees.
Almost 100 Per Cent Drug Users Male

KUALA LUMPUR, May 19 (Bernama) -- Out of 6,910 drug addicts identified nationwide between January and March this year, 98 per cent were male, according to the statistics provided by the National Anti-Drug Agency.
Sixty-one per cent were Malays, 76.2 per cent youths with the majority aged between 19 and 39, while 78.8 per cent had at least completed their Form 3 education.
About 88.2 per cent were employed, with the majority being labourers, and 62.5 per cent were heroin and morphine addicts. About half of them admitted that their involvement in drugs was due to peer pressure.
Out of the 6,910, the highest number of addicts were from Kuala Lumpur (1,178), followed by Sabah (1,165), Penang (1,155), Johor (746) and Kedah (710).
Although it is a decrease from the 11,496 drug addicts detected in the corresponding period last year, the number of addicts in Sabah, Kedah and Perlis this year had increased the said.
The agency also said that out of the total, 3,241 were new addicts while the rest were relapse cases. However, the number of relapse cases have dropped by 39.9 per cent compared with last year.
Meanwhile, the police and customs caught 12,080 drug offenders under the Dangerous Drugs Act between January and March this year, 34.3 per cent (8,998) increase compared with the corresponding period last year.
Drug seizures made within the same period this year included 26.6kg of heroin, ganja (360kg), opium (0.6kg), syabu (6.9kg), codeine (4561.55l), ecstasy pills (73,159) and psychotropic pills (143,230).
On treatment and rehabilitation, 9,153 drug addicts were treated at 28 drug rehabilitation centres between March 28 and April 3 this year, the agency said.
Meanwhile, 276 inmates of the Kajang Prison who are classified as hardcore addicts are undergoing rehabilitation and treatment at the prison's drug rehabilitation centre.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Socso doctors must probe further

Are hundreds of occupational diseases going undetected because of a lack of investigation by Socso’s 4,666 panel doctors?
Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr Fong Chan Onn thinks so as the number of cases reported nationwide seem too low for the worker population. There were only 178 cases in 1998, 192 in 1999, 278 in 2000, 204 in 2001, 216 in 2002, 180 in 2003, and 188 last year.
"I feel there has been under-reporting as the number should be higher," Fong told the New Straits Times. "I feel Socso doctors have failed to adequately probe and investigate cases.
"They should check if the diseases were related to the nature of job of workers, the machines they were working with, chemicals they handled and if their places of work had noise or dust pollution."
Fong said Socso panel doctors needed to fully investigate if workers’ illnesses were related to their jobs and workplace environments.
Most occupational disease cases referred to Socso doctors involved noise pollution.
Fong said most occupational diseases such as contact dermatitis, asthma, pneumoconioses (for example asbestosis), hypersensitivity pneumonitis, inhalation fever and heavy metal poisoning were preventable.
Diseases that affected the blood, liver and nervous system were usually the result of industrial spills or confined-space accidents.
There are some 48 occupational diseases rostered.
Socso manager of the medical and rehabilitation unit Dr Mohammed Azman Aziz Mohammed said there were thousands of workers who sought treatment for asthma alone.
For every 10 asthma cases, he said, three could be job-related. He said there could also be more workers suffering from musculo-skeletal disorders and skin diseases linked to occupational hazards.
In view of this, Fong wants Socso panel doctors to be trained in occupational health by the end of the year. Until today, only 650 have attended an introductory course and occupational health training at the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health and in varsities offering the programme. "I intend to discuss this issue with the Malaysian Medical Association. I need MMA’s co-operation in this matter."

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Methodone Drug Sale And Usage To Be Monitored, Controlled

PUTRAJAYA, May 18 (Bernama) -- The use and sale of the methodone alternative drug proposed to be prescribed to drug addicts to kick their drug addiction habit will be monitored and controlled to check abuse.
Deputy Minister of Internal Security Datuk Noh Omar said the Health Ministry's drug addicts' treatment and rehabilitation committee headed by Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek would determine how the drug would be dispensed effectively.
He said the government had in 1998 introduced the Subutex alternative drug to reduce the number of addicts but because there was no systematic sale and prescription method, the effort proved futile as some addicts abused the drug.
"The problem is when we allowed Subutex, there was no proper control on how to sell and use it. That's why we have to ask the Health Ministry to draw up guidelines on how methodone will be sold to drug addicts," he told reporters, here Wednesday.
Among the proposals he forwarded to the Health Ministry to ensure methodone was not abused was to ask the ministry to shortlist the doctors, hospitals and private clinics allowed to prescribe the drug, he said.
Noh said he was informed that the pilot project to use methodone as an alternative drug therapy would be started before the year-end.
He said methodone, which costs about RM13 a capsule, was being widely used in the United States as the "main ingredient" to treat drug addicts.
It proved successful in reducing the number of heroin and morphine dependant hardcore addicts, he said.
In the United States, he said, the amount of methodone consumption was controlled as only 20 per cent of the 810,000 addicts were allowed to take the drug in 2000.
Deputy Prime Minister and National Anti-Drug Action Committee Chairman Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced on April 17 that the government was in the final stages of introducing methodone to treat drug addiction among addicts to reduce the number of drug dependants in the country.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Malaysia's Success In Health Sector Recognised In World Health Report

KUALA LUMPUR, May 17 (Bernama) -- Malaysia's success in the health sector, especially in maternal and child health, has been given recognition in this year's World Health Report.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said Tuesday Malaysia's success in reducing maternal mortality was depicted in the report.
"I hope this is an inspiration to other developing countries to invest in maternal and child health," he told the World Health Assembly 2005 in Geneva. The text of his speech was made available here.
The minister did not provide details of the maternal mortality rate but, according to statistics compiled by the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, the rate in Malaysia was 0.3 persons for every 1,000 population last year, down from the 0.6 persons per 1,000 population in 1980.
Dr Chua said the major driving force behind the success was the political commitment of the government that was translated into policies, services and resources.
Malaysia, he said, had always given priority to vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in the population. Thus, women of reproductive age and children have always been given the best care possible both at primary health care level and at hospitals and institutions, he added.
"In case it is assumed that Malaysia succeeded because of its comparative `wealth', I must make it known here that the financial allocations towards this have not been exorbitant but it is the prudent use of resources and knowing where to prioritize that have helped us," he said.
Dr Chua said the overall socio-economic development, including food supply, housing, education and income in the country, had also contributed to the success.
Poverty alleviation by the government had had a positive impact on health and maternal and child health, he said.
Other factors such as general health and health services in the country, including the development of facilities and manpower, also played important roles for the success.
In Malaysia, 89 per cent of the population now live within five km of a health facility and 98 per cent of deliveries are "safe deliveries".
Dr Chua said the efforts included specific initiatives such as emergency obstetric services, maternal as well as infant and child nutrition, a strong primary health care with a good reliable referral system to hospital, continuous quality improvement, neo-natal retrieval system, the high risk approach for pregnant mothers and a detailed auditing of every maternal death.
However, he said, Malaysia has to remain vigilant of the challenges ahead.
To further reduce the already low rates of maternal and child mortality was going to be difficult, he said.
"We have to be very specific and we are entering the difficult stage of preventing causes of death such as extreme prematurity and genetic disorders," he said.
Malaysia, he said, needed to do more to embrace the broader concept of sexual and reproductive health by going beyond mere biology and to encompass social determinants such as the influence of gender equality, the role of men in reproductive health and the issue of human rights.
Other challenges included achieving one of the Millennium Development Goals on the halting and reversing of HIV/Aids figures.
He said maternal and child health should not be compromised should Malaysia decide to have a major reform on health by introducing a new financing scheme or restructured health system.
Forensic Ward An Example Of Govt's Social Responsility, Says Sultan

IPOH, May 16 (Bernama) -- Sultan Azlan Shah of Perak, Monday said the building of a new forensic ward at the Hospital Bahagia in Ulu Kinta near here was another example of the government's social responsibility.
He said the government's concern for those who suffered mental illnesses resulted in the ward being built for their care and rehabilitation.
"Coupled with caring doctors and support staff I am sure patients will get the best service available," he said when opening the ward, Monday.
Also present were the Raja Permaisuri Perak, Tuanku Bainun, Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohd Tajol Rosli Ghazali and Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Abd Latiff Ahmad.
Building of the forensic ward, which cost RM10.7, nillion began in 2002 and was completed in April last year. Forensic wards are meant for people suspected by the courts to be suffering from mental illnesses and are sent there under Section 342 of the Penal Code to be observed and the findings reported back.
People are also sent there for crimes committed because of insanity. Prisoners and drug rehabilitation centre inmates found to be suffering from mental illness are als0 transferred to forensic wards. There are currently 234 male and 19 female patients at the ward.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Billboard ads not effective

THE Health Ministry will no longer use billboards for their Tak Nak anti-smoking campaign.
Its minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said research by the Government had shown that the use of billboards was the least effective method in bringing across the anti-smoking message and the most costly.
“Out of the 1,000 respondents we surveyed, only 3.5% were aware of the campaign via billboards. And from the RM20mil allocated for the campaign, we spent RM11mil on putting up these billboards.
“Billboards attract attention but the message doesn’t stick in people’s minds compared to channelling our message via the media, on which we only spent RM2.5mil.
“This means that we spent almost 55% on billboards but it did not bring about an desired result,” he told Mingguan Malaysia.
Consequently, the campaign failed to engage the participation of community leaders, said Dr Chua.
“If we were to relaunch the campaign, we won’t have the means to do it because all the money has gone to billboard companies,” he said, adding that the ministry, together with non-governmental organisations, would review the campaign in terms of implementation, objectives and emphasis over the next four years.
Dr Chua also dismissed speculation that the prices of cigarettes would be reduced once the Asean Free Trade Area (Afta) was implemented.
“We have a responsibility towards the health of the people. For their sake, we will keep our right to impose excise duties and others on cigarettes. With or without Afta, the price will continue to rise,” he said.
Typhoid cases in Kelantan still above normal

DESPITE experiencing a sharp decline over the past two weeks, the number of typhoid cases admitted to hospitals per week is still above normal.
1991 The Kelantan Health Department said today there were 11 new cases recorded within the last 24 hours.
Four were in the Kota Baru Hospital, one in Tumpat and the other six at the Universiti Sains Malaysia Hospital in Kubang Kerian here.
There were no new cases in Jeli, Kuala Krai, Tanah Merah, Machang, Pasir Putih and Pasir Mas.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Cardiology Unit To Be Fully Equipped Under 9MP

PENANG, May 15 (Bernama) -- The Health Ministry will fully equip its cardiology units throughout the country by increasing the number of specialists and equipment for the units under the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP).
Its Deputy Minister, Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad said the move aimed to improve the quality of cardiac treatment at three hospitals that had the cardiology unit namely in Penang, Johor and Sarawak.
Speaking to reporters after visiting the Hospital Pulau Pinang (HPP) Cardiac Centre here, he said the ministry would expand its cardiology service to Hospital Serdang at the end of the year and Hospital Alor Star next year.
He said that as the cardiology reference centre for the northern region, HPP treated about 14,000 patients annually, including children.
Over 1,500 experts to attend five-day dental congress

More than 1,500 dental industry professionals will attend the 27th Asia-Pacific Dental Congress at the Putra World Trade Centre from May 25 to 29.
Among the professionals would be aesthetic surgeons, implantologists, orthodontists, dental technicians and nurses.
Conventions, symposiums, clinical workshops, business meetings and a state-of-the-art trade exhibition would be held to address specific issues and latest developments pertaining to the various disciplines of dentistry.
More than 50 professionals in various fields of oral health are being flown in by Malaysia Airlines to present papers on such diverse topics as forensics dentistry, aesthetics ("dazzling" smiles), regenerative gene therapy, implantology and even gender issues pertaining to women in the profession.
"The theme of this meeting for the dental fraternity in the region is Rediscover the Art of Comprehensive Oral Health Care," said Dr S. Nagarajan (picture), president-elect of the Asia- Pacific Dental Federation.
"This embodies the relevance and social awareness of the profession in relation to the evolving needs of the public with regard to oral health care," he said.
Dr Nagarajan is also the congress' organising committee chairman.
Among the speakers are Dr Peter Sahelangi from Indonesia who will speak on the role of dentists in Indonesian Mass Disaster Victim Identification; Prof Misako Nakashima from Japan on gene therapy; Dr A.H. Valentin from Germany on aesthetic implantology; and Dr Paul Stone from Britain on three-dimensional implant placement.
Others speakers are Prof Richard Ibbetson from Britain on crown and bridgework; Dr Gerard Kugel from the US on adhesive restorative dentistry; Dr Anthony Dickinson from Australia on adjacent teeth replacement; and Prof Paul Salins from Qatar on facial attractiveness and orthomorphic surgery.
Apart from the scientific symposiums, seminars specific to dental nurses, technicians and dental materials handlers would also be held.
The Malaysian speakers include Health Ministry Oral Health Services director Datuk Dr Wan Mohamad Nasir Wan Othman on improving oral health of pre-school children, and Prof Toh Chooi Gait on traditional versus current expectations of women.
For further information, please contact Dr T. S. Jeyalan (03-22845228 or 012-3717012) or Sangeeta Kaur (03-20951532)
Making cosmetic surgery safer for you

Anyone wanting a nip-and-tuck, a well-proportioned nose or breast enhancement can confidently undergo cosmetic surgery soon.
A Health Ministry task force is finalising the register of specialists which will be made public. It is also working to regulate and promote safe cosmetic procedures.
The numerous incidents of botch-ups by unqualified or quack doctors may become history as people can check against the register to ascertain if the cosmetologist they plan to see is qualified.
The director of the Medical Practice Division of the Health Ministry, Dr Mohd Khairi Yakub (picture), said today the register, listing accredited specialists, would be released when the review of the Medical Act 1971 was completed.
"The draft is already there, we just need to tidy it up," said Dr Khairi when opening a seminar on cosmetic surgery and announcing details of the Cosmetic Surgery and Beauty Exhibition and Conference 2006.
The conference will be held from March 17 to 19 at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.
Concern over mental health

PUTRAJAYA: Mental health problems, especially stress-related ones, have become a major part of the lifestyle of Malaysians, particularly among those living in the urban areas.
“This issue needs to be addressed so that people are more aware of the tell-tale signs of mental problems,” said Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad.
“As it is now, many people do not even realise they are suffering from stress.
“Problems related to stress can manifest in many forms, including sudden anger and even road rage,” he told reporters after launching the Let’s Cycle carnival at the Alamanda complex here yesterday.
The programme was part of the ministry’s Healthy Lifestyle campaign aimed at encouraging Malaysians to maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating properly, exercising, abstaining from smoking and avoiding stress.
Dr Abdul Latiff said that after 14 years since the Government launched the campaign in 1991 it had yet to meet its objectives.
The ministry was now looking at encouraging the involvement of more leaders at the state and district levels in the campaign.
Dr Abdul Latiff said the campaign had succeeded “to a certain extent”, especially on physical health, but an intensive approach was needed to bring across the message on the importance of mental health.
Muslims keen on donating organs

More Muslims are interested in donating their organs.
Both young and old, have been calling up the National Transplant Resource Centre during the past week wanting to know if it was all right for them to donate their organs.
The interest was generated after the New Straits Times highlighted the plight of Siti Salmah Jasni, 16, a Form 4 pupil of Sekolah Tengku Abdul Rahman Putra, in Kulai, Johor, who needed an urgent double lung transplant.
She is one of the eight patients waiting for either lung or lung-heart transplant operations.
The centre’s coordinator Dr Lela Yasmin Mansor said ever since the NST front-paged the "Save Siti" story, calls have been flooding into the centre wanting to know more about organ donations.
"We were surprised as many of the callers were Muslims. They wanted to know more from the religious aspect and if it was okay to donate," she said.
She also received SMS on her handphone wanting more details on organ donations and how to go about it while some wanted to help organise campaigns on organ donation.
"Many of those who made enquiries have requested that pledge cards be sent to them," she said.
Dr Lela said all hospitals nationwide have also been put on alert for brain-dead persons so doctors could seek co-operation of family members to get their consent to harvest the organs.
"Awareness has increased and we are hoping that someone will give consent to harvest organs of a brain-dead family member."
She said several private hospitals have also sought more information on how to alert the centre of possible donors .
"The response is good," she said, adding that the centre was also planning to hold organ donation campaigns to create awareness among people on the importance of donating organs to save lives.
Siti Salmah, who was discharged from the Institute of Respiratory Medicine on Tuesday, was happy to take home a RM6,000 Oxygen Concentrator and another RM6,000 worth of oxygen tanks.
If her health permits, she plans to resume her studies.
She stopped going to school early this year.
Siti Salmah was found to be suffering from primary pulmonary hypertension in her lungs caused by a genetic disorder.
Meanwhile, lawyer P.S. Ranjan said under the Human Tissues Act 1974 there was no necessity to seek the consent of a family member once the donor has authorised that the organs could be harvested for transplant.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Ratio Of One Radiologist For Every 50,000 People Expected By 2010

PENANG, May 14 (Bernama) -- There should be one radiologist for every 30,000 to 50,000 people by 2010, Health Ministry Medical Services Development Director Datuk Dr Noorimi Morad said.
She said now the ratio was 1:100,000 which was way off the desired target of 1:15,000.
Noorimi was confident that the 2010 target could be achieved based on the increase in the number of new students pursuing studies in radiology in both the public and private sectors and training programmes for staff already in the field.
"If we can achieve the target, it is something we can be proud of, as the radiology field is constantly developing with changes in technology," she told reporters after opening the Sixth Scientific Imaging Medical Services Conference here today.
The biennial conference held since 2002 was attended by 50 participants that included medical practitioners, academicians, physicists and radiographers.
Veteran nurses have no regrets choosing career

KUALA LUMPUR: “Being a nurse means you will cry a lot and laugh a lot; you will know what it is to be human and to be humane” is a line from a poem.
And it certainly reflects the sentiments of veteran nurses at Kuala Lumpur Hospital, who say they have no regrets joining the profession despite the difficulties they face every day.
For head nurse Chuah Geik Khon, 45, who has 20 years of experience, every minute counts once she goes on duty.
“Most people avoid dealing with death, but not me. I’ve no time to worry about that. There are always patients waiting for me to attend to them, I remind myself.
“I treat all my patient as if they might be someone from my family, thus I’ve always tried to act fast, and never give up till the end,” she said when met after the Nurses Day celebrations at the hospital yesterday.
With 29 years of experience behind her, head nurse Nadrah Othman said nurses should ideally tend to every patient with love and care from the heart.
“It inspires me and raises my spirits seeing patients recover,” said the 54-year-old, who works in the operating theatre.
Head nurse M. Vijayakumry, 49, said she had gained much knowledge from the profession.
“My brother influenced me to take up the job. I was reluctant at first, but after being able to help people, I grew to like it and have never regretted becoming a nurse,” she said.
For Kueh Nguan Cheng, 47, being a nurse is all about caring for everyone, irrespective of who they are.
“Everyone has the same right to be treated equally. As a nurse, I am here to perform my mission to the fullest,” said the dedicated Sarawakian, now a senior staffing nurse after 23 years on the job.
Head nurse Lim Phaik See, 57, described a nurse’s responsibilities as challenging.
“My life means much more since I became a nurse because I get to deal with people from all walks of life and of different races,” she said.
Cheaper medicine could just be fakes

KUALA LUMPUR: If the medicine you are taking is not working as it should, take a closer look – because what you have may just be a counterfeit.
Counterfeit medicine is becoming more common in the market, as making them is less risky than producing hard drugs, which attracts the death penalty.
The Health Ministry's pharmaceutical services enforcement division has also found that syndicates would rather manufacture counterfeit medicine because the profits are comparable or even higher than what could be made from hard drugs.
“Most of the time, counterfeit medicine involves antibiotics, cough and cold remedies, steroids, antihistamines and hormonal medication, which can be marketed easily,” said the division's principal assistant director Ahmad Nozrin Taharin at the Nurses Day celebrations at Kuala Lumpur Hospital yesterday.
The lack of deterrent laws, he added, had also contributed to the rise in counterfeit medicine locally.
Currently, offences related to counterfeit medicine are only addressed under the Control of Drugs and Cosmetics Regulations 1984, which deals with unregistered products.
Under this legislation, first offenders are liable to a maximum fine of RM25,000 or three years’ jail or both.
The maximum penalty for a subsequent offence is a fine of RM50,000 or five years’ jail or both.
Errant companies are liable to be fined a maximum of RM50,000. Ahmad Nozrin said new legislation was being considered to increase the penalties and to specifically address counterfeit medicine.
He added that as opposed to hard drugs, counterfeit medicine was not known to have adverse effects on the consumer.
They often did not have active ingredients, he said, adding that this was the case in 43% of the fake medications seized worldwide.
Others were of poor quality (24%) or had a low content of active ingredients (21%) or the wrong ingredients (7%) or the wrong packaging (5%).
According to the World Health Organisation, circulation of counterfeit medicine comprised between 6% and 10% of the world market.
Ahmad Nozrin said consumers should look out for such medicine by examining the packaging and also checking the price.
“Most of the time, these medications are much cheaper than genuine ones.
“People should also check to see if the distribution is by those authorised to do so.
“Ideally, send the product for laboratory tests if it does not seem to work as it should,” he said.
UM fails to have suit thrown out

Universiti Malaya (UM) has failed to strike out a suit filed against it by 30 doctors who claimed they were denied the right to practise medicine in the country.
High Court deputy registrar M. Edwin Paramjothy dismissed the university’s application in his chambers with costs.
Two other universities – Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and Universiti Sains Malaysia – as well as the Malaysian Medical Council and the Health Minister – had also applied to strike out the suit. Their applications have yet to be heard.
Filed last September, the group of doctors who graduated more than 10 years ago from non-accredited universities in India, Indonesia, Syria and Pakistan, sought a declaration that they have the right to be allowed to practise as doctors in accordance with Article 8 of the Federal Constitution.
They also sought an order that the decision to fail them in their final examinations by UM and the two other universities was unfair and discriminating.
In their statement of claim, the doctors said that their medical degrees were legal and recognised by the World Health Organisation and also by the countries where their degrees were issued.
The doctors, aged 30 to 42, are claiming damages, costs and other relief.
Apart from that, they alleged that the failure to recognise their degrees was because the defendants did not evaluate the facilities and curriculum available at the universities they (the doctors) had graduated from.
It was not because these universities were below the required standard, they claimed.
UM had applied to strike out the suit on the grounds that the plaintiffs do not have locus standi to act against it.
The university claimed the court was not the proper forum to determine the merits of the plaintiffs, adding that the declaration sought was misconceived in law, frivolous and vexatious and was also an abuse of power.
The university said the plaintiffs' application ought to have been commenced by way of a judicial review.