Wednesday, August 31, 2005

TB cases on the rise in Sarawak

Borneo Bulletin: KUCHING - Tuberculosis cases has alarmed Sarawak as not only the number has increased but the disease could be brought in by foreign workers working in the state.
There are about 400,000 to one million illegal immigrants in Malaysia and 3,000 have been detected for having the disease.
Public Health and Environment Minister Datuk Micheal Manyin said here that the increase to 765 cases from Jan to June this year could also be the "result of poor hygiene" among the locals.
Last year, 1,594 cases were reported compared to 1,685 cases in 2003, 1,748 in 2002, 1,885 in 2001 and 1,766 in 2000.
He said in comparison, there were 16,000 new TB cases with 1,200 deaths reported in the country last year compared to 12,062 cases and 1,116 deaths in 2003.
Manyin also urged health care workers to provide better awareness to the general public on the need to be more vigilant against AIDS.
He said the accumulative number of HIV cases reported to the Sarawak Health Department from 1989 to May 2005 were 504 cases.

Warnings on fast food

NST: Potato chip and french fry packages may soon sport warnings that they could cause cancer.
It appears that the culprit is a chemical called "acrylamide", which is created when starchy food is cooked at high temperature.
The Health Ministry, which has been monitoring international research on the matter, is moving fast on the issue following research findings last week by the Harvard Medical School in London.
The prestigious institution revealed that under-fives who ate a portion of chips a week increased their risk of breast cancer in adulthood by 27 per cent.
Those who ate it daily doubled their chance of developing the disease.
The danger of acrylamide has been compounded by concern within the World Health Organisation and among food experts, scientists and researchers of its cancer-causing properties.
Health Ministry Public Health Department Food Quality Control division director Dr Abdul Rahim Mohamad said Malaysia had been studying the danger of acrylamide for several years.
"We did not take proactive measures to warn consumers of its danger as there was no concrete evidence to prove the claims.
"But with more researchers and scientists proving its dangers to humans, we may study the possibility of warnings on potato chip and french fry containers," he told the New Straits Times today.
Another cancer danger in potato chips and french fries comes from the fat in which it is fried.
The researchers believe that the fat also makes children vulnerable to breast cancer in later life.
California Attorney-General Bill Lockyer filed a lawsuit on Aug 28 to force top producers of potato chips and french fries to warn consumers about acrylamide.
In the complaint filed in a Los Angeles Superior Court, Lockyer sought an injunction to stop restaurant chains such as McDonald’s Corp and Wendy’s International Inc from selling french fries without some form of warning.
Also named in the action were producers of potato chips and other packaged potato products like PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay Inc and Procter & Gamble Co, makers of Pringles Chips.
In an immediate reaction, the Penang Consumer Association’s Uma Ramaswamy said the debate on the dangers of acrylamide had been going on for several years.
She said the association had written to the ministry five years ago expressing its concern on the matter.
"We want to know the cumulative effect of acrylamide on humans, especially those who snack on potato chips and french fries daily," she added.
Uma welcomed the possibility of making it mandatory for manufacturers of these snacks and fast-food outlets to place warnings on packages containing the items.

MARC reaffirms Radicare rating MARC has reaffirmed the rating of MARC-1 on Radicare (M) Sdn Bhd’s (Radicare) RM49 million Commercial Paper Programme; a reflection of the secured cash receivables from the Ministry of Health (MOH) backed by invoices issued to the MOH; a 1.25 times security cover of invoices issued; stringent requirements of the issue structure; sheer dominance of Radicare’s services in the central and eastern region of peninsular Malaysia.
Radicare’s principal activities are providing hospital support services, which include, clinical waste management, cleansing services, linen and laundry services, facilities engineering maintenance and biomedical engineering maintenance.
Radicare’s other activities are in designing, constructing, equipping and commissioning of hospitals.
Pursuant to the privatization of hospital support services by the Government of Malaysia (GOM), Radicare was awarded by the Ministry of Health (MOH) in 1997, a concession to provide certain non-clinical support services to public hospitals located in the Federal Territory, Selangor, Kelantan, Pahang and Terengganu for a period of 15 years.
The Concession Agreement (CA) covers a total of 37 public hospitals (Contract Hospitals) and the government may designate new hospitals to the existing list of Contract Hospitals from time to time.
To date, the government has designated an additional 11 (including 4 in 2004) new hospitals to Radicare. Fees for services rendered to the Government are payable by the Government monthly, in accordance to the CA.
The CP issuance acts as a bridging tool to accommodate Radicare’s working capital requirement.
The drawdown of the CP is based on approved invoices issued to MOH; the issued amount of these shall be equivalent to 80% of the approved invoice value, thus giving a security cover of 1.25 times to the proposed issue.
An approved invoice is one which has been acknowledged by MOH and is net of demerit deductions. Monies received from the MOH will be remitted directly to a Sinking Fund Account, predominantly for the purpose of redeeming the CPs and covering any shortfall for rollover.
The company made a turnaround in fiscal 2003 with both revenue and profit registering growth of 16.5% and 284.4% respectively.
In FY2004, on the back of 9% growth in revenue, profits increased by 6.5% from the previous year, whilst maintaining the double-digit operating profit margin of 11.9%.
Going forward, Radicare is expected to record revenue growth of between 5%-11%, driven mainly by increased demand for hospital support services.
Radicare’s debt leverage ratio as at end 2004 was 0.23 times. Pro-forma debt leverage ratio assuming full drawdown of the CPs is 0.63 times, well below the covenanted level of 60:40.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Amber helps create awareness on breast cancer

The issue of breast cancer is close to the heart of popular celebrity and model Amber Chia.
“Breast cancer is very scary and I've seen the suffering it inflicts on those I know,” she said.
“But don't forget I'm also a young woman who can become a victim of breast cancer,” she told a press conference yesterday to announce the Wear It Pink breast cancer education and awareness drive.
The campaign, themed Educate, Empower and Encourage is jointly organised by the Pantai Medical Centre and Asia Assistance Network (M) Sdn Bhd.
Amber, whose popularity soared after becoming a co-winner of the Guess' International Model search last year, advised breast cancer survivors to be strong and not be afraid to live their lives.
To help raise funds, 200 limited edition T-shirts designed by Bernard Chandran, will be on sale at RM129.90 each.

Shorter wait at IJN

The National Heart Institute (IJN) hopes to cut waiting time for surgery from nine months to just three months by 2008.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said this would be possible under IJN’s RM209 million expansion project, which will kick off in October.
The move will involve the refurbishment, renovation and upgrading of existing facilities and construction of a new block.
On completion, IJN will have an additional 158 beds, bringing the total to 428.
Other facilities will in- clude an additional 20 cli- nics for outpatient treatment, five general wards comprising a variety of rooms including suites, two fully-equipped operating theatres and an invasive cardiovascular laboratory.
Dr Chua said the project would increase IJN’s capacity by 20 per cent.
IJN currently performs 6,000 cardiology intervention procedures and 3,000 cardiothoracic operations annually.
"Ten years ago, the institute handled some 50,000 outpatients.
"Last year, the number rose to 122,346 with inpatients for the same period rising from 8,000 to 11,296," Dr Chua told reporters after witnessing the signing of a letter of award appointing a UEM Construction Sdn Bhd- Intria Bina Sdn Bhd joint-venture for the project.
Since being established in 1992, IJN has treated 924,126 outpatients and 107,482 inpatients.
On average, about 10,000 patients are referred to IJN every year for outpatient treatment and 9,000 as inpatients from government and private hospitals.
Countering allegations that consultants and specialists were leaving IJN, Dr Chua said only three consultants and eight clinical specialists had left between 2000 and last year.
"There are 65 doctors in IJN and this is expected to increase with the project," he said.
He said government subsidies for IJN had increased from RM35 million in 1992 to RM144 million last year.
He said treatment at IJN was affordable, as 70 per cent of patients were government servants and their dependents, with the rest being locals.
Asked whether IJN would be engaging foreign consultants, Dr Chua said: "There are foreign fellows who come and share their expertise and experience with local consultants, especially on new procedures."
IJN chairman Tan Sri Mohamed Khatib Abdul Hamid said financing for the expansion project would be through the issuance of Islamic bonds.
He said the Sukuk Musyarakah bond was valued at RM209 million and rated AAA by the Malaysian Rating Corporation Berhad for RM100 million over seven years.
It had been rated AA+ for another RM109 million over seven years.
"This is proof of confidence by financial institutions in IJN’s capability and its future as the premier cardiovascular and thoracic centre in the region," Khatib said.
He gave an assurance that the cost of the project would not be passed on to patients.
Dr Chua later handed RM128,000 from the IJN Foundation to 10 patients to fund part of their treatment.

Chua: Tak Nak campaign must be realistic

The Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Try convincing the 13,000 tobacco farmers to switch to other crops to help in anti-smoking campaigns, non-governmental organisations were told.
Referring to the Cabinet's decision to defer the sale of cigarettes packed in 14s to safeguard the livelihood of the farmers, Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said:
“The Cabinet felt that while some farmers have shifted to other crops, not all were successful in doing so.
“It is not a question of planting apples today and oranges tomorrow. Resistance by the farmers has not made it easy.
“I welcome NGOs, which have a lot of suggestions, to please go and face the 13,000 farmers and tell them what crops to plant other than tobacco.”
“NGOs can help in the anti-smoking campaigns but they should not target the Health Ministry as if we are their enemy,” he told reporters after witnessing the signing between the National Heart Institute (IJN) and UEM Construction Sdn Bhd-Intria Bina Sdn Bhd for the IJN expansion project.
He was responding to criticisms by NGOs that the Government was not doing enough in its anti-smoking campaigns.
According to Dr Chua, an average farmer has 4.2 family members, thus some 65,000 people are dependent on the tobacco industry.
Asked on the help given to the farmers to switch to other crops, he said: “There is no inter-ministry co-operation, but the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry and Health Ministry are very clear that we are not promoting smoking.
“The Federal Government and the state governments have to look after these 65,000 people.”
He said Malaysia was one of the few countries that had signed and ratified the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control, and would attend the World Health Organisation meeting in Geneva in February as a full member, not an observer.
“The Government is so committed that the tax increase for tobacco in the last Budget was one of the steepest,” he said.

Heritage building to be cancer centre

NST:MALACCA, Aug 28: The century-old heritage building on Lorong Bunga Raya that was the Majestic Hotel may soon become a cancer centre.
The stately colonial building, now dilapidated and used as a car park for the neighbouring Southern Hospital, was built in early 1900.
It was one of the most prestigious hotels in the State in the 1950s and 60s, and drew the likes of ministers and foreign artistes as guests.
"All the who’s who would stay there when they came to Malacca back then," 93-year-old Datuk Sim Mow Yu, a pioneer of Chinese education in Malaysia, told the New Straits Times.
Situated in the heritage buffer zone next to the Malacca river and opposite Kampung Morten, the hotel was closed when the building was bought by the State Government in 2000.
Although acknowledged by many as a beautiful building, no one knows exactly when or how it came to be built.
Sim, who has witnessed most if not all important historical events that have taken place in modern Malacca, could only recall as far back as the 1920s, when he said the place was owned by one of the richest men in Malacca then — a Guangdong contractor whose name he could not remember.
"It was his family home. The place around the building was not developed back then, so few people would go there. But all Malaccans knew about the grand mansion this rich Guangdong man was living in."
Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam said yesterday that the building would be turned into a RM20 million oncology centre. An agreement with a private company in Kuala Lumpur, AIH Group (M) Sdn Bhd, would be signed early next month.
Ali stressed that the old building would not be torn down. "We will try to preserve the building as much as possible," he said.
Despite his assurance, non-governmental organisations and some locals who got wind of the project protested.
Malacca Heritage Resource Society committee member Josephine Chua was concerned that the interior of the building would be gutted.
"It is not enough to preserve the building’s facade," she said. "What is precious is the building’s interior design. I don’t know how AHI can turn it into a modern cancer centre without extensive renovations."
Malacca Historic City Council mayor Datuk Zaini Md Nor had promised to ensure at least the facade of the building was retained.
Lim Jit Pung, 66, who used to operate the Majestic Hotel, believes it should be restored and turned into a museum or remain a hotel.
"Visitors would love it here," Lim said. "In its days of glory, visitors from Kuala Lumpur would come down the coast by boat and then go up the Malacca River because they knew of the Majestic Hotel by the riverbank.
"Throughout the years I managed the hotel, occupancy never fell below 80 per cent."
Lim took over the management of the hotel from his father in 1969, and ran it until it closed down in 2000. His family had been managing the hotel since 1950.
Many believe that with the beautification of the Malacca River, on which the State Government has spent nearly RM150 million to date, restoring the heritage building as the Majestic Hotel would add to the area’s old-world charm.
"It was once furnished with 24 rooms complete with high ceiling fans, old bamboo furniture, stained glass windows and sturdy wooden parquet flooring upstairs and beautiful flowered tiles downstairs," said Lim.
Sim recalled that the hotel came into being when the building was sold by the Guangdong man’s family after the Japanese Occupation ended in 1945.
When Lim took over the hotel, Sim was invited to write the hotel’s name above its front entrance in his popular and sought-after calligraphy.

As Of 2008 Heart Patients Need Not Wait Long

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 29 (Bernama) -- Heart patients who currently have to wait anything from six months to a year to receive treatment or undergo an operation at the National Heart Institute (IJN) need not wait long by 2008.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said that under the expansion plans for a new block of the IJN building, estimated to cost RM209 million, heart patients will only have to wait three to six months.
"Ten years ago, IJN only received 50,000 outpatients a year and 8,000 warded patients. Now, IJN has 122,000 outpatients a year and 12,000 patients in the wards," he said at the agreement signing ceremony for the appointment of the project contractor, here Monday.
IJN was represented by Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mohd Radzif Mohd Yunus and Medical Director Datuk Seri Dr Robaayah Zambahari, whereas the construction companies, UEM Construction Sdn Bhd and Intria Bina Sdn Berhad Joint Venture, were represented by Datuk Mohd Nor Idrus and Abdul Hamid Abdul Rahim, respectively.
Speaking to reporters later, Dr Chua said that the government had subsidised RM144 million last year to cover the medical expenses of civil servants and the needy, compared to only RM35 million in 1992.
"When the expansion project is completed, IJN will have an additional 158 beds, 12 in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). After this IJN should receive more outstation patients, with health tourism being a source of income," he said.
He also complimented the IJN for its decision to obtain funding by creating what is called Islamic Bonds (Sukuk Musyarakah), rated by the Malaysian Rating Corporation Berhad (MARC) as "AAA", for RM100 million to mature in seven years or less.
Dr Chua also denied claims that in the last three years a large number of IJN staff had resigned because only three consultants and eight clinical specialists had resigned during that period.

Monday, August 29, 2005

UM Offers Masters In Nursing Course

PETALING JAYA, Aug 29 (Bernama) -- Universiti Malaya (UM), the only university in the country to offer a degree in nursing, plans to extend the course up to the Masters level.
Higher Education Minister Datuk Dr Shafie Mohd Salleh Monday said that if it was agreed by the ministry, UM could begin offering the course from the 2006/2007 academic year.
"The country is short of nurses, government hospitals alone have 12,110 vacancies," he said when opening the 2005 International Nursing Research Conference here. The two-day conference is organised by UM's Medical Faculty.
Shafie said the nursing career offered many opportunities locally and abroad and that when he was in Saudi Arabia recently he met Malaysian nurses there who were earning between RM10,000 and RM15,000 a month.
He added that Malaysia had also agreed to send more nurses to the kingdom and hoped more males would take up the profession.

Anti-Smoking: Be More Proactive, NGOs Told

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 29 (Bernama) -- Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) should not blame the Health Ministry but be more proactive in ensuring the success of the anti-smoking campaign, said Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek Monday.
"The NGOs should not target the Ministry of Health as if we are their enemy...they should persuade the tobacco planting farmers in Kelantan and Terengganu to convert their crops so that their livelihood won't be affected once the cigarette sales go down.
"The government is not compromising on its anti-smoking campaign, which is an ongoing process," he told reporters after witnessing the signing of an agreement between the National Heart Institute (IJN) and appointed contractor UEM Builders Berhad for the expansion project of the institute.
The RM209 million project would begin next month and is expected to be completed by the end of 2008, with capacity of the institute expected to be expanded by 20 percent upon completion.
Dr Chua said Malaysia, being one of the few countries which had not only signed and ratified the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control, would be present as a full member at the WHO (World Health Organisation) meeting in Geneva in February next year.
"Under this Framework Convention for Tobacco Control, there is this question of how to reduce smoking. We increased taxes for smoking, what we called the sin tax and it was very obvious in the last budget, the increase for tobacco products was one of the most steep," he said.
Dr Chua reiterated that there was a disagreement between the sale of tobacco by tobacco companies and their buying of tobacco products planted by farmers in Kelantan and Terengganu.
"There is this cross-subsidy element, if the sale goes down, they will buy less from our local people. The cabinet felt that not all farmers had been successful in converting their crops, which takes time to get used to.
"I welcome all NGOs who have a lot of suggestions, please face the 13,000 farmers and tell them what other crops to plant other than tobacco. Taking the family members into account, we are talking about 65,000 people. The government in power has to balance everything," he said.
The government had recently put on hold its decision to withdraw the 14 pack cigarettes from the market until 2010 to protect and enable the some 13,000 farmers who depended heavily on tobacco to switch to other crops.

Fungus-hit hospital to be returned to Health Ministry

The Star: SUNGAI SIPUT: The fungus-infested Sultan Ismail Hospital in Johor Baru has finally been cleaned up and will be handed back to the Health Ministry next month.
Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu said the clean-up work of the hospital – which was ordered to be closed last September – was completed recently.
“Discussions are on-going now between the Health Ministry and the Public Works Department’s hospital construction division.
“These discussions will be completed soon and the hospital will be officially handed back to the Health Ministry on September 15,” he said here on Sunday.

RM25m to fight thalassaemia

NST: Malaysia has entered the "Thalassaemia belt", which groups countries having a high percentage of sufferers of the disease.
And it has now embarked on an aggressive campaign to halt its spread.
The Government has allocated RM25.5 million to fight the disease.
Another RM19.9 million has been set aside as one-off assistance to help the poor buy equipment and obtain medication for the disease.
Health director-general Datuk Dr Ismail Merican said between 600,000 and one million Malaysians, mainly Malays and Chinese, were carriers. So, too, were many people in Sabah and Sarawak.
He advised those carrying the gene that causes beta- thalassaemia not to marry.
If they do, their children will develop thalassaemia major and they can die without proper treatment, which includes regular blood transfusions and drugs.
Many die because parents cannot afford to buy the expensive drug, Desferrioxamine, needed to remove the excess iron from the body after blood transfusions.
"With three to five per cent of our population being thalassaemia carriers, it is a problem that must be tackled effectively and quickly."
Dr Ismail, who launched the thalassaemia control and prevention forum at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia yesterday, said every year between 120 and 350 babies were born with thalassaemia.
He said Malaysia should have taken proactive measures to stop the spread earlier, but being a multiracial country, there were sensitivities to be taken into account when exploring strategies.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Yellow Week To Raise Awareness On Breast Cancer

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 28 (Bernama) -- Yellow will be the colour for a week from Sept 12 in a campaign by the National Cancer Society of Malaysia (NCSM) to create awareness on breast cancer.
NCSM executive director Dr Saunthari Somasundaram said Sunday cancer was a curable disease and early detection helped to save lives and having cancer did not necessarily end with death.
To this end, NCSM was raising funds for its education and support services to establish a mobile cancer screening bus that could travel to areas of greatest need to provide free education and breast cancer screening, she said in a statement here.
A series of "CelebrateLife" events and activities would be carried out in the Klang Valley, including a dinner concert at a hotel on Sept 16, a three-day Cancer Expo at Suria KLCC and Bangsar Shopping Centre and CelebrateLife Inaugural Charity Golf Tournament on Sept 18.
She said that 6,000 Malaysian women aged between 35 and 50 were diagnosed with breast cancer every year but breast cancer screening and early detection would help cure the illness.
With screening and early diagnosis, over 90 per cent of women with breast cancer can be cured and lead a normal life and a simple self breast examination and mammography could save a woman's life," she said.

Works Ministry Seeks To Appoint Experts To Monitor Hospital Facilities

SUNGAI SIPUT, Aug 28 (Bernama) -- The Works Ministry plans to appoint experts to manage and monitor facilities at hospitals in the country during the defect liability period so that any flaw can be rectified by the contractors immediately, Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu said.
He said two to three experts would be appointed for a period of 12 to 15 months for each hospital, including those under construction.
They would be drawn from a group of 40 to 50 experts to be provided by a company specialising in the management of domestic services, he told reporters after officiating the close of a Merdeka motorcycle convoy in the Sungai Siput sub-district here.
Samy Vellu said the ministry would appoint the experts once the Finance Ministry approved its request for such.
The experts would monitor and manage the hospital facilities in accordance with the specifications set by the ministry and report on the facilities built by the contractors, he said.
He said the Temerloh Hospital in Pahang, Sultan Ismail Hospital in Pandan, Johor, Ampang Hospital in Selangor and three hospitals in Sabah and Sarawak would be among the hospitals where two to three of these experts would be stationed.

FIGO comes to town

The Sta: "The International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) will be be holding its XVIII World Congress of Gynecology and Obstetrics in Kuala Lumpur in November 2006.
FIGO is a worldwide organisation that represents obstetricians and gynaecologists from nearly 120 national societies.
The triennial congress will be hosted by Malaysia in the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre from 5-10 November 2006.
“FIGO’s aims are to bring these societies together (during the congress) to discuss how to improve health of women worldwide,” says Lord Naren Patel, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, and chair of the congress organising committee.
FIGO’s work embraces many aspects of obstetrics and gynaecology, such as oncology, STDs/AIDS, perinatal health, education, safe motherhood, medical terminology, women physicians in the specialty, social activities on women’s health, new technology, the pathology of the breast and ethics.
“At the congress, we will discuss and evolve strategies about women’s health issues in the developed and developing world,” says Patel.
Kuala Lumpur will also host the largest ever International Fellowship Programme in conjunction with the congress. This joint initiative of FIGO and the Obstetrical & Gynaecological Society of Malaysia (OGSM) will enable up to fifty young obstetricians and gynaecologists from developing countries to participate in a two-week programme at a Malaysian medical school and attend the congress. The programme is organised in consultation with, and the support of, the Malaysian Ministry of Health.
For more information, visit "

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Duopharma top management to stay "Chemical Company Malaysia Bhd (CCM), which has made a mandatory general offer for Duopharma Biotech Bhd, has given an assurance that it did not expect any immediate changes in the latter’s top management upon the acquisition.
CCM group managing director Dr Mohd Hashim Tajudin said Duopharma’s listing status would also be maintained.
“We want to be leader in the businesses we are in -- fertiliser, chemical and pharmaceutical. With the acquisition of Duopharma, we are in line in becoming a leader in pharmaceutical businesses,” he told reporters after the AGM in Kuala Lumpur on Aug 26.
Hashim said Duopharma expected to finalise a two-year contract with the Health Ministry to supply methadone, a drug used to treat drug addicts, in October.
CCM was also eyeing to acquire more pharmaceutical firms in Asean, he said. However, he did not elaborate.
On the new pharmaceutical plant in Bangi, he said it would start operations by year-end. He expected the pharmaceutical business, which had better growth prospects, to contribute 40% to its earnings in the next three to five years."

Verify findings with Govt, researchers told

Malay Mail Online: "University research teams are advised to refer their findings to the relevant authorities for verification before making them public.
Higher Education Minister Datuk Dr Shafie Salleh said by cross-checking their findings with the authorities, the results would be more accurate and there would be no reason to doubt the quality of the research.
“There are also universities which undertake research with grants from the Ministry. They should inform us of their findings so that we can cross-check with the relevant Ministries.
“I hope our researchers will give us the feedback so that their findings can be verified. Only then will we release the results,” he said after visiting Taylor’s College in Subang Jaya yesterday.
Shafie was commenting on Health Minister Datuk Chua Soi Lek’s criticism on the findings of Universiti Putra Malaysia’s (UPM) research on the ‘Tak Nak’ anti-smoking campaign.
Chua said the findings of the UPM study was “not correct” as it contradicted the findings of the National Health survey and those of cigarette companies.
While the Health Ministry’s study showed that the number of smokers had not been reduced since the five-year ‘Tak Nak’’ campaign was launched, the UPM study showed otherwise.
The UPM study, undertaken between 1996 and last year, revealed that 1.1 million smokers had quit.
A National Health Survey last year showed that 23.2 per cent of adults smoked.
Chua questioned the UPM findings as a check with cigarette companies showed that the number of smokers had actually gone up."

Hospital canteen closed over poisoning

The Sarawak health authorities have issued an immediate directive to a food caterer to close down its operations at the Miri Hospital canteen after it was found to have sold unhygienic food that resulted in mass food poisoning.
Investigations revealed that the caterer had sourced the food elsewhere and then brought it to the hospital canteen for patients, hospital staff and the public.
Under the contract agreement, the caterer was supposed to cook the food in the hospital canteen instead of sourcing it from third parties.
The authorities are still investigating where the caterer sourced the food from.
Seventeen trainee nurses were down with food poisoning two days ago, leading state Health Department divisional medical officer for Miri Dr Faizul Mansor to issue the directive yesterday.
Miri Hospital director Dr Devi Uma confirmed that the directive had been received.
On Wednesday, the trainee nurses suffered stomach problems and vomited after consuming food from the canteen, which is managed by the caterer on a contract basis. They have since recovered.
Dr Uma stressed that the hospital premises, including the canteen and kitchen, was very clean.
Following investigations by health department inspectors yesterday, the directive to stop operations was signed and delivered to the manager of the catering company.
Miri Hospital is the biggest public hospital in northern Sarawak.
State deputy health director Dr Andrew Kiyu, when contacted in Kuching, said the headquarters had delegated the authority to divisional officers to issue shutdown directives whenever they see fit as part of efforts to clamp down on errant food providers.

Breast Self-Examination Among M'sian Women Lacking, Says Shahrizat

SERDANG, Aug 26 (Bernama) -- Sixty-five percent of Malaysian women aged 15 to 49 years have never done breast self-examination for the past three months, Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil said Friday.
She a recent study done by her ministry had found that only 34 per cent of women had ever done a breast self-examination.
To make matter worse, breast cancer cases were only referred for medical attention when its was much too late, she said.
"Women not only need to practice regular breast self-examination but also should be equipped with the skills to detect and treat breast lumps at an early stage," she said in her keynote address when launching Breast Cancer Educational Materials in Bahasa Malaysia, here.
Breast cancer, according to the minister had become an important issue nowadays and that more up-to-date information in Bahasa Malaysia was needed for women, especially in the rural areas to know how to examine their breasts for signs of the disease.
"Information allows women to make informed decisions on the need for treatment and to take control of their own affairs," she added.
Experience in developed countries, she said had shown that information and educational intervention could improve the quality of life for women significantly.
The materials in Bahasa Malaysia is a collaborative work by University Putra Malaysia and Cornell University in the United States.
They are available at all hospitals and cancer centres nationwide.

Bank Negara issues new health insurance rules

Business Times: GUIDELINES on medical and health insurance (MHI) have been revised and the new rules will take effect from January 1 next year.
The revised guidelines are to promote a more equitable and consistent treatment of consumers covered under MHI policies.
Bank Negara Malaysia’s director of insurance regulation department Donald Joshua Jaganathan said insurers have until the end of the year to revise their existing practices to meet requirements of the revised guidelines.
“New MHI products introduced before January 1 2006 must also observe the requirements of the guidelines,” he told a media briefing in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
He said the revised guidelines stipulate the minimum standards that must be observed by insurers in relation to the terms of issuance of MHI policies, the setting of premiums, limitations that can be imposed on core benefits provided under the policies, and disclosures to policyholders.
Among others, the new guidelines would reduce waiting periods before a policyholder is entitled to claim for benefits provided under the policy, he said.
The revised guidelines would also introduce a minimum 15-day “free-look” period for consumers to assess the suitability of new policies purchased.
Other benefits to consumers from the revised guidelines include limitations on policyholders’ contribution to medical claims under the co-payment terms for MHI policies, and complete disclosures on key policy features at the point of sale.
Asked on insurers response towards the revised guidelines, Jaganathan said he does not expect to see any “surprises”.
“A key point in the whole process is about balancing the mechanism between protection of consumer interests and looking at the welfare of the insurers,” he said.
He said the revised guidelines were due the culmination of the consultation between Bank Negara and the insurers for the past two years.

Friday, August 26, 2005

More M'sians turning to Russia to study medicine

Daily Express: Kota Kinabalu: Russia has become increasingly popular among Malaysians, including those in Sabah, as a place to study medicine despite recent controversy over recognition of the degree of one of its universities.
The trend of students turning to Russia started about eight years ago, following a recognition given by the Malaysian Government to the Degree in Medicine offered by the republic's Kursk State Medical University (KSMU).
Presently there are 500 Malaysians, of whom 190 are Sabahans, studying at KSMU alone. A new batch of about 100 Malaysians, including 25 from Sabah, would also be going to do medicine in September.
Most of the Sabahan students are self-sponsored while others are sponsored by Yayasan Sabah and the Public Services Department (PSD), Sabah.
Yayasan Sabah has to date offered scholarships to 20 Sabahans to pursue medical degrees, while PSD Sabah had during the past two years offered such scholarships to 16 Sabahans.
Two years from now there would be at least 20 to 40 students from Sabah who would be graduating from one of the universities there.
A representative of one of the universities said some of the villages had been conducting the medical course for about 70 years. Over the past 10 years, they have conducted the courses and examinations in English.
He said the only problems students encounter have to do with changes to the living environment and their missing home cooked meals.
"After sometime they will get used to the language which is also a problem at the beginning, besides the weatherÉnevertheless, Malaysian students are proven to have the will power to face all these minor problems," one of them said.
On the problem of getting all necessary documents translated and notarised for students going to Russia as raised by the parents in Sabah, Thayananthen said the Russian government wants any document in Malay like SPM, STPM and health certificates to be translated to English and notarised by the Notary Public in Malaysia.
"I would suggest and advise all parents wanting to get their children to study at the university to go to the High Court or Notary Public to get all the necessary documents translated and certified properly."
"The Russian government recognises the word notary more than anything. So we are trying to comply and please the Russian government so that our students will not have to go through any problems when they arrive there," he said.
He also revealed that 19 Malaysian students had been expelled from KSMU but none of them was from Sabah.
"They are students from the peninsula who were expelled for many reasons including not attending classes and not being productive in their performances," he said.

Ministry to stockpile drug for possible bird flu outbreak

NST: Malaysia will stockpile the drug Oseltamivir for a possible outbreak of bird flu which has hit humans in Thailand and Indonesia.
This follows a World Health Organisation call for nations in the region to prepare themselves for a bird flu pandemic.
Malaysia is expected to obtain its supply from Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche, which has agreed to reserve three million courses (30 million capsules) for the world market until 2010.
The first million courses (10 million capsules) will be ready early next year with the remainder before the middle of next year.
The Health Ministry’s surveillance unit in the Communicable Disease Control Division has been entrusted with the task of stockpiling the drug.
Division director Dr Ramlee Rahmat confirmed that the ministry would stockpile the drug as part of the strategy under the National Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Plan.

Boeing Funds Breast Cancer Educational Materials In Bahasa Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 26 (Bernama) -- The Boeing Company Friday announced a US$20,000 (about RM75,000) funding for the Universiti Putra Malaysia-Cornell University Breast Cancer Education Project to produce educational materials on breast cancer awareness, treatment and management in Bahasa Malaysia.
The idea is to develop culturally, ethically, and linguistically appropriate materials for use in Malaysia, Brunei and even Indonesia, Paul Walters, Boeing's regional vice president in South East Asia, said in an interview with Bernama.
He said the Malaysian Translators Association (MTA), the major partner in the programme, had translated 10 selected titles into Bahasa Malaysia from the American Cancer Society publications that had been adapted for the Malaysian public.
"The effort to educate the Malaysian public about breast cancer only gained momentum a few years ago. However, most breast cancer education programmes are conducted in major government hospitals, private medical centres, and breast cancer clinics and these are most often located in major cities," said Walters.
He said that except for programmes conducted in government hospitals, breast cancer education programmes mostly use English as the language of instruction.
"It is this dearth of educational materials in Bahasa Malaysia that we crucially need to address," said Walters.
Vice-Chancellor of Universiti Putra Malaysia, Professor Datuk Dr Ir Mohd Zohadie bin Bardaei, said Boeing's contribution would open up opportunities for a broader spectrum of the Malaysian public to learn more about and better understand breast cancer.

Scheme For Treating Heart Patients Needed, Says Najib

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 26 (Bernama) -- The goverment is studying the possibility of creating a specific scheme to pay for the cost of treatment and surgery for heart patients in the country so that more patients can receive the full treatment, said Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
The Deputy Prime Minister said this was necessary because of the increasing cost of treatment and surgery for heart patients and this resulted in some patients not getting the proper treatment for their ailment.
"Currently, only about nine per cent of heart patients are receiving full treatment that suited their needs while the rest are getting treatment but which do not fulfil their medical needs completely," he said after opening the 8th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Malaysian Association for Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, here Friday.
As such, he said there should be a scheme that could be used as a group which could open up possibilities for the people to receive cardiovascular treatment that suited their needs.
Najib said the scheme was needed as the government's capacity was limited and could not pay for the increasing cost of heart treatment and surgery.
Nonetheless, he said, Malaysia had proven its capability and had achieved numerous successes in cardiovascular treatment and surgery.
Najib said the latest was the success of the National Heart Insttute (IJN) in performing an operation to insert the "Implantable Ventricular Assist Device" (IVAD) on a teenager who was suffering a heart ailment recently.
He said the patient, Muhammad Fikri Nor Azmi, 15, was now reported to be regaining his health and could be taken for walks.
In his speech earlier, Najib said over the 15-year period from 1985 to 2000, admissions into government hospitals for cardiovascular diseases had doubled from 59,000 to 110,000 cases.
However, he said the mortality rate among those admitted had shown a decline from 10.3 per cent to 7.2 per cent.
"This indicated both an increasing incidence of cardiovascular disease in the country and a greater awareness of the disease, including a greater readiness for accepting treatment at the proper time," he said.

Anti-smoking fear tactic has failed

Fear no longer works when it comes to curbing smoking, according to a consumer group.
The public have become immune to the gory pictures of cancer-affected lungs displayed in anti-smoking campaigns, said Fomca adviser Datuk Prof Hamdan Adnan.
He said a Tak Nak campaign poster that showed a crushed cigarette was instead reminding smokers to smoke.
Prof Hamdan urged the Government to work with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and look at new approaches to curb smoking.
“They should mobilise youth and women’s groups to campaign in schools with the help of NGOs.
“They have to target schoolchildren, teachers, youths and smokers,” he said, when commenting on Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek's remarks that the Tak Nak campaign was ineffective.
Besides calling for cooperation between the Government and the NGOs, Prof Hamdan also said interpersonal communications approaches such as holding talks in schools should also be employed.
Federal Territories public health deputy director Dr Sallehudin Abu Bakar, who pioneered the quit smoking clinics, however denied that the campaign was a total failure, and said Tak Nak involved several stages.
“The initial stage of the campaign introduces Tak Nak as a brand and the second stage is on behavioural changes, which would take at least 10 years before we see visible results,” he said.
He also said a survey by Universiti Putra Malaysia had shown that over 18% of smokers now realised the hazards of smoking, and the prevalence of smoking had dropped.
“When we launched the campaign in 2003, we started seeing changes in the prevalence among male smokers.
“And for females, the prevalence was 5% in 2000 and 2.3% in 2003, which means more have quit,” he said.
Dr Sallehudin, however, said a combination of approaches was needed to stop youths from smoking.
“Despite our campaigns, the Global Youth Survey shows that prevalence for those aged between 12 and 18 shot up from 16.7% to 18% in 2000 and is now 23%,” he said.
Help University College psychologist Dr Brendan Gomez said the Government should adopt approaches that had been proven effective in other countries.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

UM Medical Students Hold Week-long Community Health Project In Sibu

SIBU, Aug 25 (Bernama) -- A group of 88 second year medical students from the University of Malaya (UM) are now in town for a week-long community health project.
While here, they will visit longhouses in Rantau Panjang, Bawang Assan and Nanga Sekuau where they will hold health talks and health screenings for the residents.
Since Wednesday, they had been holding a health exhibition and free screenings for members of the public at the Sanyan building.
The main objective of the annual activity is to produce medical students who will be responsive and proactive in shouldering the future national health agenda.
It is to promote awareness among the people on their own responsibility to always observe a high standard of health.
Deputy Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Robert Lau Hoi Chew when launching the programme Thursday reminded the students that the society placed high hopes on them as future doctors and health officers.
He said it was very important that they obtained the necessary knowledge, training and skill.
Lau said there were doctors who were reluctant to give words of encouragement or assurance to their especially elderly patients when this could make a great deal of difference in their treatment.
Lau was represented by the Bukit Assek state assemblyman Daniel Ngieng Kok Ann at the function.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

No law to regulate water vending machines

The Star: Water vending machines look set to swamp most places, especially the Klang Valley, as they offer cheaper filtered water but concerns are rising that no law is in place to regulate them.
The Health Ministry currently does not have the power to issue licences or regulate the water quality of the estimated 1,000 water vending machines nationwide that offer filtered water to consumers at only 20 sen per litre.
Operators who wish to install these machines need only apply for a licence through their local council and adhere to the licensing guidelines.
The ministry’s Food Safety and Quality division director Dr Abdul Rahim Mohamad said they had received calls from the public voicing concerns on whether the water from these dispensers were safe for consumption or properly filtered and maintained.
“From our findings, the water is safe for consumption but we need to set a regulation as we don’t want companies to offer unsafe or sub-standard quality of water to consumers.
“We do monitor the quality from time to time but we do not have a law presently to issue licences or regulate the operators,” he said.

Strong market for traditional health products

Locally produced traditional remedies are standing up well to imported herbal medicine.
Malaysian-produced natural health products make up about 40 per cent of the RM4.5 billion-a-year traditional medicine business in the country.
Malaysian Herbal Corporation director Dr Rajen M said this today at the first international Women’s Health and Asian Traditional (What) Medicine Conference and Exhibition at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre here.
He said: "Compared with about five to 10 years ago, where most of the traditional health products in the country came from China or India, this is an encouraging trend."
Quoting a study by the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute, Dr Rajen, who is also conference chairman, said that less than half the RM4.5 billion business involved approved products.
It is evident, though, that traditional remedies are not only selling well, they are also gaining recognition in the medical field.
Almost 350 scientists, doctors and scholars from around the world have gathered in the three-day conference to discuss the growing importance of Asian traditional remedies in global healthcare systems.
Speaking to the Press after opening the conference, Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil said there was a need to impose tighter regulations to prevent a glut of unapproved natural health products in the market.
"Strict monitoring and enforcement is crucial so that the public is not adversely affected when using these products. Only those that are safe must be allowed to be sold," she said.
She added that her Ministry would look into collecting the "secrets" of traditional remedies and keeping them in a database.
The conference was organised by the Malaysia-based Journal of Tropical Medicinal Plants, Tropical Botanics and the Malaysian Herbal Corporation and has attracted participants from 21 countries including Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, China, Britain, Australia and the United States.
A total of 43 exhibitors are showcasing Asian traditional medicine at the conference.

Condom kits for ex-prisoners

HIV-infected prisoners may be issued with a condom survival kit to prevent them from spreading the disease to others.
Taiping Prison director Narendar Singh said the condoms would be issued only when the prisoners were released.
He said the matter cropped up during an advocacy seminar on HIV and Drug Use at the Prison College in Kajang early this month.
“The matter was hotly debated, and the move will be subject to approval by the relevant authorities,” he told reporters after opening the 48th National Day celebration involving about 1,600 prisoners at the Taiping prison yesterday.
Narendar said issuing condoms to serving prisoners was also proposed but the department was against this as it could be construed as encouraging sex behind prison walls.
Under normal practice, prisoners undergo a blood test and if identified to be HIV-positive are placed in a separate block.
To discourage sex among prisoners, Narendar said, prisoners’ blankets had to be halved from their former size.
“The previous blankets were big enough to hide two persons sleeping together but now their smaller blankets can only accommodate one person.
“This makes the job of our guards much easier,” he said.

Government wants more non-Malay nurses

The Health Ministry plans to attract more non-Malays to join the nursing profession as 80% of the country’s 60,000 nurses are Malays.
Describing the gross imbalance as unhealthy, its parliamentary secretary Datuk Lee Kah Choon said the ministry would embark on a publicity and promotion campaign to target fresh school leavers.
“Nursing offers a promising career. Qualified nurses stand a chance to be promoted up to the U54 senior officer post, with a monthly salary and allowances amounting to RM10,000,” he said.
Nurses with commendable achievements and experience might even be considered for the hospital director’s post, he said.
Lee opened the Penang Nursing College Convocation on behalf of Health Minister Datuk Chua Soi Lek yesterday.
Lee also noted that non-Malays seemed to shy away from nursing as a profession.
“If we have a healthy mix of nurses from all races, leave applications can be more easily approved,” he said, adding that it would also enhance better communication with patients, who are of various races.
He said the ministry had targeted a nurse to population ratio of 1:200 by the year 2020. The current ratio is 1:600.
Of the 3,000 nurses who graduated each year, he said, about 1,000 were trained by private hospitals.
Trainee nurses now receive a monthly allowance of RM621, Lee said, adding that the Government spent RM17,000 a year just to train one nurse.

A mockery of the Tak Nak campaign

Anti-smoking groups are crying foul over the Cabinet's decision to defer the ban on cigarettes in packs of 14.
Federation of Malaysian Consumer Associations secretary-general Mohammad Sha'ani Abdullah said the decision made a mockery of the Tak Nak anti-smoking campaign.
Using “farmers' interest” as the reason for the deferment was a lame excuse, he said, accusing the Government of succumbing to the lobbying of tobacco companies.
He added that the relevant authorities as well as the Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Ministry should have planned a long time ago on alternative crops for the affected farmers.
This was because the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control had been in place for some time.
The Malaysian Council for Tobacco Control asked the Government to immediately reverse its decision.
“We are not happy with the Cabinet's decision as the continued sale of the “kiddy” packs will only increase the prevalence of adolescent smokers,” said council president Prof Dr Syed Mohamed Aljunid.
“The pack of 14 cigarettes is affordable to school children, and the tobacco industry specifically targets such youngsters.
However, the decision is good news for the Confederation of Malaysian Tobacco Manufacturers.
Chief executive Shaik Abbas Ibrahim said that after the hefty tax increase early this year, the market had seen a double-digit contraction.
For the first time, he noted, manufacturers listed on the local bourse indicated profit declines in their first quarter results.
He said the quota for local tobacco leaf too had been reduced by 30% from the 2004 level, leaving farmers with lower incomes.
“As such, tobacco farmers must also be equally delighted with this new development,” he added.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Nurses Can Go On To Become Hospital Administrators

PENANG, Aug 23 (Bernama) -- Nurses can now advance in their career to become hospital administrators following the approval of a new grade in the profession by the Public Service Commission (PSC), Parliamentary Secretary to the Health Ministry Datuk Lee Kah Choon said Tuesday.
He said the post of hospital administrator had been dominated by doctors but the recent approval of the new grade would enable nurses to move up to Grade U54, which enabled them to become hospital administrators.
"The Health Ministry strives constantly to enhance the professionalism of its staff and provides ample opportunities for them to acquire knowledge and higher academic qualifications to advance their career," he told reporters after representing Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek in handing over diplomas and excellence awards in conjunction with the convocation of the Penang Nursing College, here.
A trained nurse now starts work with a salary of about RM1,200 a month and could earn a maximum salary of RM10,000 a month, including allowances (on Grade U54), he said.
Lee said the people should be informed that nursing had a bright future.
He said trainee nurses were paid an allowance of RM621 a month and earned a salary of RM1,200 a month after graduation.
He also said that more non-Bumiputeras should be encouraged to join the profession because Bumiputeras now made up 80 per cent of the nurses in the country.
Lee said the country had 60,000 nurses with a ratio of one to 600 populations, adding that the government wanted to reduce it to 1:200 by 2020.
Earlier, Dr Chua said in his speech read out by Lee that nurses should take an active part in research and development (R&D) and present their research papers at international conferences.
"This will help nurses to develop their critical thinking skills to enhance knowledge and expertise," he said.

Couples Screen For HIV To Marry In Terengganu

KUALA TERENGGANU, Aug 23 (Bernama) -- Terengganu will be the next state after Johor, Perlis, Kelantan and Selangor to impose a regulation which require couples to undergo screening for HIV before they can be married.
State Welfare, Health, Community Development and Women Affairs Committee chairman Datuk Rosol Wahid told the state assembly Tuesday that the regulation would be imposed to curb the HIV spread in Terengganu.
"The state government will embark on this measure soon considering many children are infected with HIV and AIDS by their own father," he said.
In response to an original question by Ramlan Ali (BN-Jabi), Rosol said as of June this year, there were 36 children suffering from HIV and six from AIDS.
He said the children were below 12 years old adding that seven of them succumbed to the diseases.
Rosol said it was for this reason too that the state government was in favour of the federal government's proposal to provide free condoms and syringes to drug addicts.

Ministry On Info-gathering Mode Of Medical Institutions

PUTRAJAYA, Aug 23 (Bernama) -- The Health Ministry Tuesday lamented the absence of half of the foreign missions invited for a meeting here last week on medical institutions in their country.
Health director-general Datuk Dr Ismail Merican said only 15 of the 29 invited embassies and high commissions turned up for the meeting.
He said the gathering was called to enable the ministry obtain the latest information on the institutions, some of which had undergone a name change.
"Some of the doctors or students who have graduated from these institutions face difficulty in registering with the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) due to the name change," he told reporters after attending a function here.
Dr Ismail said the initiative was made as the government was reviewing the status of more than 300 recognised medical institutions abroad for Malaysian students.
"There has been no review since 1971. We have 344 medical institutions for the training of doctors. It's time for a review. We convened the meeting so that it's easier to get access to current information," he said.
He said the ministry would remind the absentees in writing and if there was no response, he would discuss with Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek on what to do next to glean the information from them.

Malaysia To Allow Smaller Cigarette Packs Up To 2010

KUALA LUMPUR (Dow Jones)--Tobacco companies in Malaysia will be allowed to sell packs with less than 20 cigarettes each till 2010, Health Minister Chua Soi Lek said Tuesday.
The ruling reverses an earlier government decision to ban from next year on small packs in a bid to curb smoking.
However, cigarette makers will have to increase the size of their smallest cigarette packs to a minimum 14 sticks, Chua said at a press conference. Some companies sell cigarettes will packs of seven to 10 sticks.
British American Tobacco (Malaysia) Bhd. (4162.KU) and JT International (2615.KU) will gain from the government decision, analysts say.
Cigarette sales this year could drop as much as 10% as the government continues to raise taxes on tobacco and raises spending on anti-smoking measures, analysts estimate.
The sale of smaller cigarette packs appeals to the lower-income group who find the price of a 20-stick pack prohibitive. A 20-stick pack of premium cigarettes now costs MYR6.50 each, up 18% in less than a year.

More Clinics For Selangor In RMK-9

SHAH ALAM, Aug 23 (Bernama) -- The Ministry of Health will build 31 health clinics and 21 community clinics in Selangor under the Ninth Malaysia Plan (RMK-9), said the Selangor state director of health, Dr Ang Kim Teng.
She said the increase in the level of health facilities was in line with the greater pace of economic development in Selangor.
As a matter of principle, she said the health ministry had emphasised the establishment of more health facilities in rural areas and in states which were less developed.
But as far as Selangor was concerned, she explained that health facilities for the rural folks were also being given serious attention in order to balance the needs of the people in the state.
"In fact, Selangor is equipped with good medical facilities by the government. At the same time, the private sector has also contributed to the increased level of good medical facilities. But we will continue to give strong emphasis on health facilities in Selangor," she said in an interview.
Dr Ang said up to 2004, a total of 201 medical facilities including hospitals, health clinics and rural clinics had been established in Selangor.
Selangor, she said, was among the states with a relatively higher number of health facilities.
Sarawak and Johor are the two states with the highest number with 363 medical establishments or facilities followed by Pahang (337), Sabah (311), Kedah (283) and Kelantan (272).
Dr Ang explained that although some rural clinics were closed down in Selangor, they had been replaced with health clinics and hospitals which provided better medical facilities.
When asked on the doctor-patient ratio in Selangor, she said it was at a satisfactory level and was among the best in the country.
In Selangor, the current doctor-patient ratio is at 1:1,512, almost at the level targeted by the health ministry at 1:1,377.
"We are confident that with the opening of three modern hospitals and the increase in the number of doctors in Selangor, the ratio can be increased," said Dr Ang.
The three new hospitals which are expected to open at the end of the year or by early next year at the latest are Hospital Serdang (620 beds), Hospital Sungai Buloh (620 beds) and Hospital Ampang (562 beds).
Up till 2003, Selangor has some 3,000 doctors in which about 65 percent were in the private sector.
When asked on the school dental services programme, Dr Ang said it was at an adequate level as there was no increase in the percentage of primary and secondary school pupils requiring treatment.
"In 2003, the percentage of primary school pupils not needing treatment was 71.1 percent and this was expected around 72.7 percent for 2004," she said.
As for secondary school pupils, the percentage not requiring treatment in 2003 was 72.8 percent and it was 74.3 percent in 2004.
In view of these achievements, Dr Ang said the medical and health services in the state had advanced at a rapid pace to be in line with the pace of development in Selangor into a developed state.
She said this could be seen from the improved level of medical and health facilities in Selangor when compared with other states and this also proved that the state had not only progressed economically but also in terms of its medical and health services.

Drug abuse research hospital planned

A research centre based on the concept of a teaching hospital for treatment and research on drug abuse will be set up once the World Bank approves it.
Higher Education Minister Datuk Dr Shafie Mohd Salleh, who had visited the National Institute on Drug Abuse (Nida) in the United States, said: “Nida officials said they will help us set up our centre.
“I went to Bangkok last week to meet with World Bank officials to see if they can help us in our efforts to build this centre and they are coming here next month to discuss the matter.”
He explained that drug addicts would be treated at the centre, where research would also be carried out on drug abuse.
“It is more like a teaching hospital like the ones set up by Universiti Malaya or Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, as we want to do more than just treat addicts.
“We want our researchers to have a real life platform,” he said after launching Kolej Universiti Islam Malaysia’s (KUIM) post-graduate diploma in drug abuse.
Dr Shafie said the ministry was concerned, as there were at least 10,000 addicts in drug rehabilitation centres.
At present, only two public universities, KUIM and Universiti Malaysia Sabah, offer post-graduate diploma courses in drug abuse.

Educating the masses to curb sexual transmission of HIV/AIDS

New Straits Times: "The Health Ministry will give greater importance to curbing the sexual transmission of HIV/AIDS.
“We have to halt the sexual spread of HIV/AIDS and this can be done only through education,” said Director-General of Health Datuk Dr Ismail Merican.
Studies have shown that there are some 20 new HIV cases every day.
Dr Ismail said of the 64,439 people infected since 1986 till the end of last year, 75.1 per cent were intravenous drug users and only about 15 per cent were infected through sexual activities (13.6 per cent heterosexual and 1.3 per cent homosexual).
The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) estimates that some 81,000 Malaysians could be victims of the disease.
Dr Ismail said Malaysia had put in place a surveillance system to monitor the actual HIV/AIDS situation.
“We have also sought the co-operation of non-governmental organisations to reach out to as many people as possible and talk to them about HIV/AIDS and how it can be prevented,” he told reporters after opening a Suhakam forum on “The Right to Health: Achieving the Health MDGs” here today."

Monday, August 22, 2005

Pantai Holdings in for windfall if hospitals put into a REIT

Malay Mail Online: "PANTAI Holdings Bhd, the country’s leading high-end healthcare provider, could unlock as much as RM500 million in cash if it places the six hospitals it owns into a REIT, JP Morgan said in a research report."The report had helped Pantai shares gain since it was released last Wednesday, boosting its market capitalisation by some RM67 million to RM556.82 million. That helped the stock close at RM1.33 a share, its highest closing in more than three years.
A day after the report came out five million Pantai shares was traded in an off market married transaction in a deal valued at RM5.75 million or RM1.15 a share. A married deal is an off market transaction between a buyer and seller from the same broking house.
This is the first time JP Morgan is covering Pantai, a sign which rival firms say, could be because the company could be the centre of fresh corporate development.
The JP Morgan report came, just a day before Pantai informed Bursa Malaysia that it has returned to profitability, notching a net profit of RM43.55 million for the year ended June 30 2005, from a loss of RM112.68 million in the same period a year ago.
The JP Morgan report also mentioned briefly that Singapore’s Temasek and Khazanah Nasional are showing interest in the regional healthcare sector, and possibility of industry wide consolidation, which should be positive for Pantai.

Medical tests abroad not effective: Fomema

Daily Express: Kota Kinabalu: Random testing on approximately 10 per cent of foreign workers by Fomema at the various points of entry into the country indicated that the "system" of testing at the country of origin was not very effective.
Approximately six per cent of those randomly tested were found to be "unsuitable" for employment, said CEO of Fomema (Foreign Workers' Medical Examination Monitoring Agency) Sdn Bhd, Datuk Kamaluddin Yusoff, adding that this figure would probably be higher as the random testing did not include x-ray examinations.
"In fact, it has been found that of the total numbers of foreign workers who were found 'unsuitable' for employment, about 70 per cent were those tested for the first time in the country under the Fomema system," he said, adding these same foreign workers were certified fit in their home country prior to coming to Malaysia.
"Fomema believe it is for this reason that the Government decided to implement the procedure, that is for medical examinations of legal foreign workers are to be carried out within 30 days upon the arrival of the foreign workers," said Kamaluddin.
He was responding to a statement by Centre for Services and Counselling for Foreign Workers and House Maids (PPKPA) Malaysia Chairman Datuk Muhd Kamil Awang who questioned the need to continue the monopoly enjoyed by Fomema on foreign worker medical care.
Kamaluddin said the Government in its concession agreement with Fomema stated that all legal foreign workers are to be medically examined prior to them obtaining their work permit.
"However, due to logistical reasons, the Immigration Department had relied upon the medical certificate from the home country of the foreign worker when issuing work permits for the first year.
"As a result, foreign workers only undergo the Fomema-regulated medical examination before they can renew their work permit for the second year i.e. 12 months after their arrival," he explained.
This practice was changed when the Government announced that with effect from Aug 1, this year, medical examinations of legal foreign workers are to be carried out within 30 days upon their arrival.
"Notwithstanding this, even before the recent change, the Sabah Immigration Department required all legal foreign workers in the State to undergo a medical examination within two weeks of their arrival.
"However, the medical examination was not carried out under the Fomema system that allows monitoring and supervision as well as independent result transmission by our service providers (doctors, X-ray facilities and labs) to Fomema and, thereafter, to the Immigration Department," said Kamaluddin.
The medical examination carried out under the Fomema system is a screening programme imposed by the Government as a condition to obtain a work permit, he added.
"After a foreign worker has gained permission to work in the country, it is the employers' responsibility to take care of the health of the foreign workers. Fomema does not have the authority to perform follow-up checks on foreign workers apart from the mandated annual medical examination prior to applying for a new work permit," he said.
Kamaluddin also said that Fomema are not able to comment on the position taken by the Sarawak Government.
"On our part, we have made our presentation to the Sarawak Government on the importance of adopting the Fomema system as means to check and control the import of communicable diseases which may be brought in by foreign workers.
"We believe the Sarawak Government is receptive to our proposals and they acknowledged the benefits that a monitoring and screening system like Fomema will bring to the State," he added.
It is not fair or accurate to say that Fomema is only interested to conduct initial and annual check-ups on workers but not made responsible to provide follow-up checks on the workers.
"As stated, Fomema's agreement with the government only provides for the annual medical screening of foreign workers for diseases specified by the Ministry of Health. Fomema will be pleased to perform follow-up checks if it is mandated to do so," said Kamaluddin. Muhd Kamil was quoted as saying that panel doctors from his organisation are paid RM60 per foreign worker.
"Fomema's panel doctors are also paid RM60 per foreign worker examined," said Kamaluddin.
(However, it has since been clarified by PPKA that the payment-sharing between the panel doctors and appointed foreign doctors is 50-50. The RM60 payment is only applicable after the second year with all dues to the panel docs).
"The other costs are mainly for laboratory tests and X-ray examination as directed by the Ministry of Health," he explained.
It should be pointed out that before Fomema was appointed to carry out the monitoring and supervision of the medical examination as prior to that, there wee no standardised medical examinations, he added.
In an interview with Daily Express on June 5, Kamaluddin said Fomema's senior management went to great lengths to explain the operations of Fomema and measures its new management has taken to ensure that medical examination carried out by Fomema's service providers are of the highest quality and standards.

Pantai queried by Bursa Securities "Bursa Malaysia Securities Bhd has queried Pantai Holdings Bhd over the unusual market activity regarding its securities recently.
In a statement on Aug 22, Bursa Securities queried the company over the sharp increase in price and high volume of its securities. It said the company had to reply to the query within the same day.
At 4.22pm, Pantai shares and warrants were nine sen higher at RM1.42 and 43.5 sen respectively "

81,000 could be HIV victims

Some 81,000 Malaysians could be victims of HIV/AIDS.
This is the estimate of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), which says the situation in Malaysia has reached generalised epidemic proportions.
The Health Ministry had reported that about 65,000 Malaysians had been diagnosed with HIV since 1996. Of them, 9,444 developed full-blown AIDS and 7,195 died.
But non-governmental organisations believe the official figures are only a conservative estimate.
The special adviser to the UN secretary-general and special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Asia, Dr Nafis Sadik, said the HIV/AIDS situation in Malaysia had passed from the epidemic to the generalised epidemic stage.
A generalised epidemic is when HIV spreads beyond the the high-risk behaviour population groups. It also means the prevalence of HIV among pregnant women is above one per cent.
Dr Nafis said with the generalised nature of the epidemic, Malaysia should implement a surveillance system that would give a cross-sectional profile of the infection in the general population.
"Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek informed me that Malaysia was going to implement a surveillance system to capture the actual HIV/AIDS situation in the country," she told the New Straits Times.
Dr Nafis was in Kuala Lumpur recently to attend a conference.
She said Malaysia also needed to get rid of the denial and the stigma involved with HIV/AIDS.
"In some areas, you need to bring in the religious and community leaders. There are many people who are conservative but you can’t exclude or condemn them. You have to bring them on board, educate and inform them, besides seeking their advice and suggestions.
"People will eventually start to come around."
Dr Nafis praised the Government for meeting religious and community leaders to get their co-operation in its move to offer fresh needles and condoms to HIV-positive drug addicts.
She said Malaysian authorities believed that more than 75 per cent of the cases were related to intravenous drug use. The rest was attributed to sexual transmission.
She said it was important that Malaysians understood the nature of the HIV/AIDS problem and co-operated with the Government to contain its spread.
She said there was always denial and lack of acceptance due to the stigma.
Dr Nafis said Malaysia was among the most modern and advanced nations in the region, with a majority of its people educated.
"Malaysians can understand why it’s important to implement the harm reduction strategy. I am sure the people do not want the disease to spread, like what is happening in some countries," she said, adding India had some five million HIV/AIDS victims.

Malaysia Needs More Sports Psychology Expertise

: "KOTA BAHARU, Aug 21 (Bernama) -- Malaysia needs more sports psychology experts to enhance local athletes' capability in sports, National Sports Council acting director-general Dr Ramlan Abdul Aziz said.
'There are only 14 sports psychologists nationwide and seven of them are part-timers.
'That is why we need more people in sports psychology to help develop grassroot athletes,' he told reporters.
Earlier, he represented Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Azalina Othman Said in opening an intensive course in sports science and psychology organised by the Sports Science Unit of Universiti Sains Malaysia's School of Medical Sciences health campus in Kubang Kerian here.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Experts talk

"CONSULTANT dermatologist Dr Allan Yee will provide more insight into non-surgical “anti-ageing” procedures during the Health Symposium Programme at the Wanita Health and Lifestyle Exhibition 2005 (23-25 Sept 2005) in Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.
Come and meet other experts, including cardiologists, obstetricians and gynaecologists, rheumatologists, ophthalmologists and psychologists, at the Health Symposium Programme. There will also be free screening services, a health exhibition and fun activities for the family.
Tickets for the Health Symposium are available at Pantai Medical Centre (PMC), Sunway Medical Centre (SMC), Gleneagles Intan Medical Centre (GIMC), Ampang Putri Hospital (APH), Damansara Specialist Centre (DSC), Subang Jaya Medical Centre (SJMC), Tawakal Hospital, National Family Planning and Development Board (LPPKN) and F & R Exhibition and Conference Sdn Bhd (F & R).
For ticket bookings, call the communication department (Pantai Holdings Sdn Bhd) at 03-2287 9822; or Melina Sani (F & R) at 03-2161 0951. "
The Star

KUIS To Send Students To Cairo University

BERNAMA: "BANGI, Aug 21 (Bernama) -- Kolej Universiti Islam Antarabangsa Selangor (KUIS) will send its students to Cairo University in Egypt following signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the two universities Sunday.
Under the MoU, KUIS' students would have the chance to further their studies in the medical and science faculties of the university, Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Mohamad Khir Toyo said.
'The MoU is the first to be inked with Cairo University. The intake will start at year-end,' he told reporters after presenting diplomas to 610 KUIS' graduates at the university college's eighth convocation.
Dr Khir, a member of KUIS' Board of Directors, earlier signed the MoU on behalf of Selangor Government while Cairo University was represented by its Deputy Dean of Medical Faculty Prof Dr Ayman Mohamed Kamal El-Gafre and Deputy Dean of Science Faculty Prof Dr Mohamed Hamasa Abdel Latif.
KUIS Rector Datuk Mohd Adalan Isman inked for the university college.
Dr Khir said the MoU would provide an opportunity to school leavers from religious secondary schools to pursue their studies in medical and science fields.
He said the move would give a new image to the country's medical profession by producing doctors who have a deep knowledge of Islam and be role models for doctors from other universities.

Noh: Govt Intensifies Anti-drug Drive Via Bills, Scoreboards

BERNAMA: "PENANG, Aug 21 (Bernama) -- The Government will soon launch a new approach in its anti-drug campaign through utility bills, bank statements and stadium scoreboards.
Deputy Minister of Internal Security Datuk Noh Omar said he had discussed the plan with several companies, including Celcom, Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas) and Pos Malaysia Bhd and they have agreed to the idea.
Beginning October, he said, the utility companies would print the anti-drug messages in their bills sent to consumers, he said, hoping that it would have a positive impact on the public to combat the drug scourge.
Technical aspects of the campaign would be discussed with the companies next month, he told reporters at TV3's Sure Heboh carnival here Sunday.
He said the ministry would also ask stadium managements nationwide to show video clips on the drug menace during soccer matches.
'A five-minute video clip will be screened on the scoreboard at half-time,' he added."

Half Of Commercial Buildings And Offices Are sick And A Health Hazard

BERNAMA: "KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 21 (Bernama) -- Employers and building operators should voluntarily implement the Code of Practice on Indoor Air Quality introduced by the Department of Occupational Safety and Health in the interest of the safety and health of employees.
National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (Niosh) chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said Sunday that this was because a survey by the Human Resources Ministry had shown that half of the major commercial and office buildings in the country were 'sick' and posed a health hazard.
He said the ventilation systems in these buildings -- offices, restaurants, entertainment and commercial building centres -- was poor and toxic pollutants such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and respirable particulates were easily inhaled by those inside the buildings.
'Sick building syndrome is caused by airborne chemicals, mostly volatile organic compounds, and the remedy to the problem lies in an effective air filtration, maintenance of air condition units and prevention of air vent obstruction,' he said in a statement here.
He said all building operators must view the sick building syndrome seriously and take steps to comply with the code of practice with a two-year trial period to meet the international indoor air quality standards."

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Family planning as allowed in Islam

The spacing out of pregnancies through the use of contraceptives is permissible in Islam, according to a Muslim gynaecologist. It’s all about responsible parenthood and strategic planning, she tells KASMIAH MUSTAPHA.
MANY Muslim couples refuse to practise family planning which they see as infanticide or going against the teachings of Islam.
They would rather leave it to fate, even at the risk of jeopardising the mother’s health.
Hospital UKM consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Harlina Halizah Siraj wants to explain to such couples that family planning is permissible in Islam.
“I’ve been known to be a proponent of family planning. I want to correct the misconception that family planning is haram (forbidden). If they look up the Quran and Hadith, they will know that it is permissible within a certain context.”
She says family planning in Islam should be practised only within a marriage, with the consent of both husband and wife, and the niat (wish) is purely to space out the number of children.
“Family planning should be discussed in the Islamic context. It should be done as a way to space out pregnancies. It is important to have a space between children for about two to three years, giving time for the mother’s health to recover and the child’s welfare to be taken care of.
“It should not be done because you hate children, you do not want to become parents, you keep having girls or you keep having boys and you do not want to get pregnant again. I will not even discuss family planning in these situations.”
She says when it comes to the Islamic perspective on family planning, two questions are often asked. Is family planning allowed and if it is, which method is permissible?
On the first question, Dr Harlina says Islam is a religion that emphasises strategic planning and will never burden the people, including in issues such as family life.
“Islam encourages men and women to get married for the purpose of procreation. However, it does not burden the couple from carrying out their responsibilities to the other children. If you have the resources available for 12 children it is okay but if you do not, you need to plan the size of your family.”
There is no specific text in the Quran that prohibits the prevention of pregnancy or restriction of the number of children, she says.
However, the Quran allows the spacing out of the family, as stated in two verses: “Mothers shall suckle their children for up to two years for those who wish to complete breastfeeding” (Al-Baqarah:233), and “his bearing at weaning is thirty months” (Al-Ahqaf:15).
On contraceptives, Dr Harlina says the idea that using them is akin to killing a child, as perceived by some people, is not correct because contraceptives are actually used to prevent pregnancy.
“The use of contraceptives actually prevents the sperm from being fertilised in the ovum. It is to stop the woman from getting pregnant. In other words, no foetus is being killed by the method of contraception.”
In 1980, Islamic scholar Dr Yusuf Qardhawi said that a Muslim is allowed to plan his family for reasons such as the delivery may endanger the mother’s health, the burden of children may strain the family’s means to the extent that the couple might accept or do something haram to satisfy their needs and the children’s health and upbringing may suffer.
Yusuf says that modern contraceptive methods are allowed by analogy (qiyas).

She says in 1981, the National Fatwa Council stated that the use of contraceptives is allowed in certain circumstances, such as the wife is too weak or too ill to conceive, the couple have hereditary illnesses, the wife is pregnant too frequently and the pregnancy could endanger her life.
The Council, however, forbids the use of sterilisation on either the man or woman except when the pregnancy could jeopardise the mother’s health and that other types of contraceptives are not working.
Dr Harlina says, however, there is some disagreement over the use of Intrauterine Contraceptive Device (IUCD).
“Doctors in Pakistan do not use it. Previously we thought the IUCD is preventing the implantation of a fertilised ovum so some people think it is an early abortion.”
But the device works on impending sperm mortality, at the same time reducing their life span so actually there is no sperm available for fertilisation. It still works as a barrier method. It does not cause abortion therefore it is allowed, says Dr Harlina.
Family planning is also about responsible parenthood because it not only benefits the family — mother, father, children — but also to the community, she says.
“When a couple do not plan their family, the pregnancy becomes unplanned, unintended and usually unwanted. I personally feel that when a child is unwanted, he or she will sense it and grow up with the burden of it.
“But when asked why they do not practise family planning, they will say it is haram. They are being ignorant and use religion as an excuse. I do not like it when they use Islam as an excuse not to practise family planning.”
Dr Harlina will present a paper on “Islamic and Cultural Perspective in Family Planning” at a public forum to be held tomorrow. The forum is organised by the HUKM Family Planning Unit and healthcare provider, Organon Malaysia.
source: NST

Peer pressure leads to smoking

Peer pressure is the main reason youths smoke.
An astonishing 46.6 per cent of those aged between 15 and 25 years said they lit their first cigarette when a friend asked them to try it.
Equally disturbing is that 36.7 per cent of youths in this age group smoked their first cigarette "for fun".
Associate Prof Lekhraj Rampal (picture), of Universiti Putra Malaysia in Serdang, said: "If we tackle the problem of smoking among this age group, they will not grow up to be adult smokers."
The other reasons youths smoked were to ease tension (8.1 per cent) and they thought it was stylish (2.7).
"Some even gave the excuse that since a parent smoked, they did too," he said, adding this was 1.8 per cent.
Prof Rampal was lead researcher of a 10-month study, carried out by the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences last year, which polled 1,046 youths on this topic.
The study, funded by the Intensification of Research in Priority Areas under the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry, also polled 4,705 youths, aged between 15 and 25 as well, to gauge the number of smokers.
Of the 2,080 male youths, 39.2 per cent were smokers while for females, it was 1.2 per cent of the 2,625 respondents.
Of the 1,229 Malay male respondents, 46.3 per cent were smokers and for the 1,632 female respondents, it was one per cent.
The study also polled 340 Chinese males and 19.7 per cent responded that they were smokers.
"In the case of the 374 Chinese female respondents, 2.1 per cent were smokers."
Of the 232 Indian males polled, 21.6 per cent were smokers while of the 345 Indian females, less than 0.5 per cent were smokers.
"In other words, 18 per cent of people in this age group are smokers," he said. Dr Rampal, who is also chairman of the Malaysian Medical Association’s committee on Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), said the committee was willing to offer technical expertise to the authorities to curb smoking among youths.

MMA: Remove tobacco subsidies

Doctors want the Government to ban duty-free tobacco products and phase out subsidies to the tobacco industry, including farmers.
The Malaysian Medical Association said the absence of official support would have a telling effect on demand for, and thereby the use of, tobacco products.
MMA president Datuk Dr Teoh Siang Chin said the Cabinet’s decision to ratify the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) was a step in the right direction, but that more could be done, including:

* ensuring a strong political will and commitment to a "Health First" policy;

* increasing tobacco taxes incrementally and using a portion of it to support tobacco-free sports, arts, cultural and popular events as well as banning the sponsorship of such activities by tobacco companies;

* establishing an ASH Foundation (Action on Smoking and Health) for tobacco control activities in Malaysia and setting up related clubs in all schools;

* taking measures to reduce exposure to second-hand smoke by increasing the number of smoke-free areas, especially at the workplace;

* providing support to tobacco farmers and workers to ease their transition to other occupations; and,

* taking steps to eliminate the tobacco industry’s participation in tobacco control initiatives and social development programmes.

There are more than 25 tobacco-related diseases, including cancer of the lungs, oral cavity and pharyn.

Don’t blame us, says tobacco group
"Don’t blame us" is the response of cigarette manufacturers to reports that more youths are now smoking.
Confederation of Malaysian Tobacco Manufacturers chief executive Shaik Abbas Ibrahim said the industry had not only been strictly adhering to all laws introduced by the Government to check smoking among youths, but had sponsored millions of ringgit to finance them.
"No matter what we do, there are some who have an axe to grind and would blame us for everything," he said when contacted.
He was responding to a New Straits Times report yesterday which said that more youths were smoking now, and there had been cases of those as young as 18 seeking treatment for lung cancer.
Shaik Abbas said the industry had even stopped advertising at points-of-sale and told retailers to stop selling cigarettes to those below 18.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Tobacco Kills 10 Million People A Year

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 19 (Bernama) -- Tobacco is expected to cause some 10 million deaths annually by 2030 if the current smoking patterns do not change, according to the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA).
Presently, there are about 1.1 billion smokers throughout the world and four million die each year due to their habits, it said.
In welcoming the move for smokers to sue tobacco companies, MMA president Datuk Dr Teoh Siang Chin said it was a major milestone for Malaysians suffering from ailments from smoking to have the right to sue tobacco companies.
A local newpaper reported Friday that Malaysians suffering from ailments caused by smoking would be able to sue tobacco companies when Malaysia ratifies the international Framework Conventioan on Tobacco Control in October.
"Tobacco will become the leading cause of death and disability, thus causing more deaths worldwide than HIV, TB, maternal mortality, suicide and homicide," Teoh said in a statement here today.
He said the MMA recommended 13 steps for the government to make effective changes to ensure a healthier future for Malaysians by ensuring strong political will and commitment to a "Health First" policy and playing a lead role in Asean and globally.
The measures include continuously increasing tobacco taxes and using a portion of it to support tobacco-free sports, establishing an Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Foundation for tobacco control activities and ASH clubs in all schools and banning the sale of duty-free tobacco products and advertising of tobacco products.
He said the government should also take active measures to reduce exposure to second-hand smoke by increasing smoke-free areas, particularly in the workplace, institute effective control mechanisms on the sale of tobacco products and phase out subsidies provided to the tobacco industry and the farming of tobacco.
Health education and tobacco control programmes should also be increased and tobacco industry participation in any tobacco control initiatives and social development programmes should be eliminated.
The MMA also plans to organise four training courses for trainers in smoking cessation in Selangor, Johor, Perak and Kelantan throughout the year and support all the activities and campaigns by the Health Ministy.
Teoh said that in Malaysia, tobacco caused an estimated 10,000 deaths a year and the prevalence of smoking among adult Malaysian males (49.2 per cent) was higher than the worldwide prevalence of 47 per cent.

Poser Over When Sultan Ismail Hospital Will Reopen

JOHOR BAHARU, Aug 18 (Bernama) -- No one knows when the Sultan Ismail Hospital will reopen after it was closed almost a year ago following a fungus attack.
Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latif Ahmad visited the hospital, Thursday, and the press were invited but he had nothing to say to the reporters and photographers who had waited for more than three hours.
Dr Latif, who emerged from a room where he had apparently listened to a briefing, just gestured at the waiting newsmen and left.
None of the hospital management staff attended to the journalists, who were left wondering why they were invited when it was supposed to have been a closed-door function.
Last September, the hospital was forced to close just two months after it had opened because of a fungus attack that was deemed hazardous to health.
Subsequently, the Works Ministry directed the contractor to undertake the necessary repairs.
In June this year, Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek was reported to have said that the repairs were expected to be completed this month.

Pantai makes record net profit

Business Times: "HOSPITAL operator Pantai Holdings Bhd returned to financial health with a record full-year net profit in fiscal year 2005, helped by better sales, as its shares soared to their highest in more than a year yesterday.
The stock jumped as much as 11 per cent to RM1.30, its highest level in 13 months, a day after US investment bank JPMorgan started to cover the company and placed a 12-month share price target of RM1.80.
Pantai swung to a net profit of RM43.55 million for the year ended June 30 2005 against a loss of RM112.68 million a year earlier, it said in a statement to Bursa Malaysia Bhd.
Revenue rose 15 per cent to RM705.84 million as against RM613.21 million before.
The rise in revenue was due mainly to the support services division, namely Pantai Medivest Sdn Bhd and Fomema Sdn Bhd, which contributed 44 per cent to the group’s total turnover.
The RM351 million revenue from its hospital services division was a 17 per cent increase from last year’s.
“Healthcare business is no longer perceived as a dreary outfit with nominal and languishing profits. In fact, it is growing at an exponential rate,” Pantai chairman Datuk Dr Ridzwan Bakar said in a separate statement.
Dr Ridzwan said the company is confident it will continue to perform well, given the added boost in revenue to Fomema with the new government regulation of mandatory medical check-ups for foreign workers upon entry into the country.
In the past, workers only needed to have check-ups after a year’s stay.
JPMorgan, which calls the company a healthcare gem, expects Pantai’s net profit to jump some 47 per cent to RM64 million in 2006, helped by growing demand for healthcare and improvements to its government concessions.
Shares of Pantai rose 9.4 per cent, or 11 sen, to close at RM1.28 yesterday."