Monday, October 31, 2005

Rotary Is On The 'Last Mile' Of Eradicating Polio

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 30 (Bernama) -- Hundreds of Rotarians from Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, the United States, Canada, France and the Netherlands are joining their fellow Rotarians in India, Indonesia and Africa in what they hope is the last lap to immunise children against polio.
Twenty years after Rotary International's PolioPlus programme was launched, they aim to completely wipe out the disease by the end of next year.
From Nov 14 to 20, 70 Malaysian Rotary club members and their families will be in India, which has the second highest number of cases after Nigeria (among the countries in which polio is endemic), to help the Indian government with a Sub-National Immunisation Day.
India once had over 70 per cent of the polio cases but now has only 33 so far this year, thanks to the massive immunisation efforts.
"We have large numbers of resources dedicated to this and we are quite confident," Indian High Commissioner to Malaysia R. L. Narayan told Bernama.
"It is coming down but it is really the last mile which needs the attention.
"Our goal is 100 per cent coverage, particularly in high-risk areas including more community mobilisers, detailed tracking on every child's immunisation status, greater acceptance by some of the communities about the detailed plan of action to involve local leaders and opinion makers." he said.
PolioPlus is Rotary International's most ambitious global humanitarian programme -- to make polio the first disease to be eradicated in the 21st century.
Poliomyelitis is an acute infectious disease which can cause temporary or permanent paralysis and even death.
Since PolioPlus was launched in 1985, Rotary and its partners -- the World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) and the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) -- have immunised 2 billion children in 122 countries.
The programme also aims to eradicate measles, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and tuberculosis -- all of which are preventable through vaccination.
Back in 1988, polio was endemic in over 125 countries and over 350,000 children were paralysed by the disease each year.
Today, the endemic wild polio virus has been wiped out from all but six countries -- Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Niger, Afghanistan and Egypt. There have been fewer than 1,400 cases worldwide so far this year.
Rotary volunteers from polio-free Malaysia will help their Indian counterparts to convince parents to immunise their children, to administer the drops of oral vaccine and to help health workers keep records of the children and areas covered.
"Each and every child under the age of five will be immunised against polio, whether or not they have been immunised before," vowed delegation leader Dr Ken Khoo, who is Malaysia's Rotary district governor.
Rotary has used various channels to reach the children in India. For example, in eastern Bihar, Rotary asked the district magistrate to instruct health workers that it is their responsibility to make sure that each child receives the vaccine.
Some communities were afraid that the polio vaccine will cause impotency. To counter this, Rotary involved religious leaders from the various communities, who issued a joint appeal in favour of the PolioPlus programme.
Before the immunisation day, the Malaysian delegation will travel 600km by road between Jaipur, Agra and New Delhi, stopping at villages to distribute flyers about the immunisation programme and convince families to bring their children.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Master plan for cancer care

The Star: PUTRAJAYA: The Prime Minister’s mission to make cancer treatment affordable to sufferers has been given a timely boost with the Health Ministry’s announcement of a five-year master plan to provide comprehensive care to Malaysians.
Its director-general Datuk Dr Ismail Merican said the “roadmap” would include early detection, diagnosis, treatment, prevention, rehabilitation, hospice care, herbal therapy and training.
He said the plan was to make cancer management available to all Malaysians, and patients need not have to go abroad for treatment.
“Some types of cancers can be treated in the country. We are also looking at new ways to ensure drugs are accessible.
“We want to fill the gaps in several areas. There will also be ‘full-blown’ information on the preventive aspects of specific types of cancer,” he told The Star.
The plan will look at improving diagnosis strategies for early detection, while the ministry is working on increasing the number of oncologists in the country, he added.
Dr Ismail said that one key target of the plan was to increase awareness of a healthy lifestyle to reduce risk factors.
“Besides having good habits, a healthy diet such as cutting down on salted, preserved and fatty foods will reduce cancer risks. Keeping one’s weight in check to avoid added problems of diabetes and obesity is also important.
“There is also the issue of rehabilitation and hospice. At times, there isn't much counselling or the patient is given little time to absorb the fact that he has cancer.
“The management of cancer has to be done with compassion and commitment. Doctors can get too mechanical when telling patients they have the disease. And family members have to be involved in the care of the patient,” he said.
Dr Ismail said non-governmental organisations had been doing a good job in hospice care and the ministry welcomed their support and that of professional bodies to enhance patient management.
The ministry had been working on the plan since last year and would seek funding from the Government if necessary, he said, adding that the Cabinet would be briefed on the plan once everything was in place.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Najib Welcomes The Setting Up Of Asian Neuro Centre

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 27 (Bernama) -- Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak welcomed the setting up of the Asian Neuro Centre which he said could help reduce the workload of public hospitals as well as the waiting time for neurosurgery patients.
The deputy prime minister said the Health Ministry statistics showed that only six out of 121 public hospitals in Malaysia were equipped with neurosurgical facilities.
Although the ministry was working hard to improve the health services related to neurology and neurosurgery, it was still unable to fulfil the demand due to the increasing number of patients compared with the low number of neurologists and nerosurgeons, he said.
As such, the establishment of Asian Neuro Centre (ANC) was timely to fill the ever growing gap, he said when launching the centre, here Thursday.
"Being an advanced neurosurgery centre, ANC will be able to perform neurosurgeries using the image-guided radio surgery, neuro interventional and other complex treatments for neuorological disorders and ANC can be accredited as a referral centre for government hospitals to help reduce the workload," he said.
The ANC, to be built in Subang by a private company, is modelled as a premier tertiary care hospital providing specialised neurological care, treatment and rehabilitation and IS scheduled to commence operations in 2007.
Najib said there were 7,900 neurosurgery patients in Malaysia last year and with more people suffering from neuro disorders like head trauma and stroke, it had become among the top five medical maladies in Malaysia.
He said that in 2001, a total of 4,653 neurosurgeries were performed at public hospitals with 50 per cent at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital while another 2,500 neurosurgeries were performed at private hospitals.
"The interesting fact is that all these surgeries were carried out only by 39 neurosurgeon in the country," he added.
Najib said the government was looking into this matter seriously as it was the government's vision to provide better healthcare at a reasonable price to the people.
Thus, the challenge for ANC was to provide quality specialised services in the field of neurology at an affordable price without compromising its quality of service and at the same time upholding its philosophy of being a patient-centric hospital, he said.
At the function, Najib presented two cheques for RM64,000 from donors to two neuro patients, Leow Cin Dee, 14, and Siti Rashidah Mohamed, Samin, 12, for the purchase of medical equipment.
Leow suffers from intractable epilepsy, a neuro disorder contracted at the age of four, while Siti Rashidah recently had a spinal cord tumour removed, and now requires a cervical implant for support.

War Against Aedes Launched In The Capital

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 27 (Bernama) -- An all out war against dengue was Launched, here Thursday to rid the capital of the deadly disease.
The Federal Territory Ministry and City Hall have joined forces for a gigantic effort to turn the city into a zero dengue area.
"We must go to every nook and corner to ensure that this war against the Aedes mosquito is successful," Acting Federal territory Minister Datuk Shahrizat Abdul Jalil said after launching the anti-dengue campaign at the Federal Territory level in Kampung Keramat here.
Shahrizat said that Kuala Lumpur Mayor, Datuk Ruslin Hassan had given an assurance that he would take drastic action to fight the dengue menace, which was becoming increasingly serious.
"Dengue will not become an epidemic if each city dweller takes the initiative to clean his compound," she said.
Shahrizat also said she would meet the Alam Flora management to obtain feedback on the latter's achievement in cleaning up the city.
"I want to ensure Kuala Lumpur meets its status as a "world class city" and won't tolerate any excuses," she said.
Sharizat said 18,000 units of the Mosquito Larvae Trapping Device (MLTD) would be distributed in areas with the highest incidences of dengue here.
Kampung Keramat was the second worst hit area after Titiwangsa. So far this year 4,373 dengue and 329 haemorrhagic dengue cases had been reported throughout the country.
Those who wish to report dengue cases or other complaints on dengue can contact City Hall's Health Department Hotline at 03-92857317 or 03-92006442.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

PM: More R&D needed for cancer treatment

NST: More research is needed in health care, particularly in the prevention and treatment of cancer.
In making this call, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said such efforts would greatly benefit the poor, many of whom could not afford treatment for such illnesses.
"We must be able to create greater awareness of the dangers posed by cancer, which is increasingly threatening the lives of many Malaysians.
"Research and development would help reduce the cost of treatment for those in the lower-income groups, as foreign-produced medicines are expensive," he told a congregation of Umno leaders after hosting a breaking of fast followed by tahlil prayers for his late wife Datin Seri Endon Mahmood at the Putra World Trade Centre.
He said non-governmental organisations and associations should also continue to promote Endon’s work in marketing Malaysian batik and songket.
He also lamented that accidents continued to kill many due to carelessness of drivers.
"In the old days, people feared going into the jungle because they might be attacked by tigers, but now people fear going on the roads," he said.

Doctors Exempted From Several Levels Of PTK Exam

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 26 (Bernama) -- The government has agreed in principle to exempt doctors and government medical specialists from sitting for several levels of the Competency Level Appraisal (PTK) examination, the Dewan Rakyat was told Wednesday.
Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Mustapa Mohamed said the decision was made after taking into consideration the grouses of the doctors following last year's PTK where nearly all of them failed their first examination.
"Many (doctors) are not so interested to continue serving in the civil service if they are required to take the PTK examination which they feel is irrelevant to their work.
"The government is considering the doctors' views because they are a special group," Mustapa said when winding up the debate on the Supply Bill 2006 at the committee stage for his ministry.
He said the exemption would cover only some of the six levels of PTK that the doctors and medical specialists had to go through throughout their service.
"They are not given full exemption. Only a few levels are exempted and it is still under negotiation," he said.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Sarawak To Launch Anti-Dengue Campaign Next Month

KUCHING, Oct 26 (Bernama) -- A massive anti-dengue campaign will be launched in Sarawak on Nov 13 in a bid to prevent a major outbreak in the state.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan said the campaign, to be named "Destroy Aedes Campaign", was aimed, among others, at encouraging the people from all walks of life to act against dengue infection by actively destroying their breeding grounds.
"Based on the number of dengue cases in Sarawak, we are very worried as it had increased," Dr Chan, who is also the state's disaster relief and management committee chairman, told reporters after chairing the committee's meeting to discuss the dengue and Avian Influenza problems.
He said that most of the cases were reported in the major urban towns like Kuching, Miri, Bintulu and Sibu, which accounted for 56.1 per cent of the total cases in Sarawak.
There was also an increasing trend of rural dengue, he said, adding that Sarikei Division was the worst affected with more than 20 cases reported.
There was a possibility that some of the cases were infected from other districts or states or other countries such as Indonesia but the number was small, he added.
He said that as of today there were seven dengue deaths involving five women and two men aged between 20 and 69.
"Based on the initial observation also, logging camps had been found to be a breeding ground for aedes mosquitoes, "he said.
On efforts to prevent an Avian Influenza outbreak in Sarawak, Dr Chan said security measures along the border between Kalimantan and Sarawak had been tightened.
Among the measures being implemented were restricting the movements of birds within the borders and banning the import of birds from countries that had confirmed cases.
He said the State Veterinary Services Department had been directed to conduct a mock exercise on suitable ways to destroy birds that had been confirmed to be infected by Avian Influenza.
"Every government agency will be involved in this exercise," he said, adding that it would be done as soon as possible Despite the global fears, he gave an assurance that the situation was still under control and had been put under Level One category.
Level One category involves precautionary measures to prevent spreading from neighbouring countries while Level Two is the alarming stage which involves precautionary measures to prevent serious spreading within the country.

RM1 Million Worth Of Traditional Medicine Seized

KOTA BAHARU, Oct 26 (Bernama) -- RM1 million worth of traditional medicine was seized in several raids conducted by the Health Ministry's Pharmaceutical Services Division here and in Pasir Mas, Tuesday.
The division's deputy director Dr Ahmad Mahmud said the raids, conducted by a team of 60 pharmaceutical enforcement officers, were aimed at identifying premises selling medicine which were not registered by the ministry.
"A total of 177 types of items, mostly Malay traditional medicine and herbs, were seized during the raids.
"The biggest haul was from a factory which is believed to have been operating since more than five years ago in Kota Baharu," he told a press conference at Pengkalan Chepa, here Wednesday.
He said those involved could be charged under the Sale of Drugs Act 1992 and if found guilty could be fined up to RM25,000 or imprisoned for not more than three years.
"The ministry had enforced the law on the registration of medicine since 1992 and there is no excuse for the factory not to register its products because registration can also be made through the website," he added.
Dr Ahmad said consumers should realise the dangers in using medicine which were not approved by the ministry adding that those who wanted clarification on whether the products were approved by the ministry could do so at

Donor’s heart valves saved for transplant

NST: She died helping a friend who had been in an accident. But that was not her last good deed: Tan Hui Ying’s two heart valves have been salvaged for transplant.
The 23-year-old Standard Chartered financial executive died in a hospital in Subang Jaya today, after being knocked down by a van on the Kesas Highway at 3am yesterday.
Tan and several others were returning home in a convoy of several cars when one hit a guardrail and overturned.
After helping her friend out of the overturned car, Tan was crossing the highway when she was hit by a van.
Two others who were struck by the van are reported to be in stable condition.
Tan was carrying a donor card pledging her organs in the event of death.
Doctors failed to salvage her heart and lungs, but they did manage to retrieve her aortic and pulmonary heart valves. These were taken to the National Heart Institute, where they will be stored for future transplant.
At the wake in Pandamaran, her father Tan Chuan said he felt that Hui Ying was still alive.
"She is not dead yet. She is still alive. Only her body is gone but she lives on."
Tan Chuan said his daughter had told her sister a few years ago that when she died she wanted to donate her heart.
The 60-year-old port supervisor said his daughter, the third of four children, was a cheerful person who loved to help people.
"She always said that if she donated her heart, she would still be around in somebody. I can picture her now, smiling happily because she managed to help someone," he said.
A police spokesman said a statement from the 40-year-old driver of the van had been recorded.

PSD addressing scholars’ woes

Star: The living allowance for Public Services Department-sponsored students in India may be raised in view of the rising cost of living in the subcontinent.
The PSD said in a statement that it was negotiating with the Finance Ministry to increase the monthly allowance, currently set at 7,091 rupees (RM620) for its students in India.
It added that steps had been taken to address the problems identified by parents of PSD-sponsored students.
They claimed that the facilities and quality of teaching at Kasturba Medical College (KMC) in Mangalore were substandard.
Among the problems highlighted in a news report were that female students had to live above a mortuary, some students were served only rice and gravy for meals, and teaching methods were out-dated, with the use of chalk and blackboard.
“We are aware of the problems faced by the new PSD-sponsored students who arrived in KMC Mangalore in September.
“Follow-up action was taken and their accommodation and Internet problems have been resolved,” the statement continued.
KMC Mangalore is a private institution which is a constituent college under the Manipal Academy of Higher Education. Its medical degree is recognised by the Indian Medical Council as well as the Malaysian Government.
There are currently 50 PSD-sponsored students at the college.
The PSD said that KMC Mangalore had also taken “appropriate steps” to deal with other problems such as the library, lecture rooms, sports and recreation facilities.
“We have received feedback that the students have adjusted to the learning environment and living conditions.
“The PSD is satisfied with the student placement and quality of learning at KMC Mangalore. However, we will continue to work with the college to continuously improve on the facilities required by students,” the statement said.
PSD would also continuously monitor the situation to ensure that the needs of sponsored students were taken care of according to the agreement signed by both parties.
“With the measures taken by KMC Mangalore and PSD’s efforts in looking after the welfare of students, the department is confident that the students will be able to follow their studies successfully.”
KMC Mangalore dean Dr C.V. Raghuveer could not be reached for comment.

Only Malaysians entitled to subsidised healthcare

Star: The Government has considered the people's interest before it decided to charge foreigners more at public hospitals from next year, said Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr Fong Chan Onn.
He said the decision was also in line with Malaysia's plan to move away from becoming too dependent on foreign labour.
On Saturday, Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said foreigners seeking treatment at public hospitals would be charged based on the Malaysian Medical Association’s schedule of fees for private practitioners.
Dr Fong said foreign workers should not be entitled to the comprehensive health system meant for Malaysians.
“Therefore foreign workers should bear the medical expenses at a different rate from Malaysians.
“To be fair to the Government, employers have to take that aspect into account because the Government wants to provide security to Malaysians not foreigners,” he said.
“We must move away from our total dependence on foreign workers.
“We cannot always be dependent on labour intensive industries and have to start paving our way towards a capital intensive industry,” he told reporters after giving out RM447,248.97 in benefits to 35 Social Security Organisation (Socso) recipients yesterday.
Dr Fong said Johor Baru Socso paid out RM17.59mil in benefits last year and until September this year, RM14.73mil had already been disbursed.
He reminded Socso officers to be less rigid with regulations when handling compensation cases to reduce the backlog, citing the case of a reporter in Segamat whose hand was almost severed two years ago.
“Whether or not his hand was severed in the line of duty, compensation should be paid.
“Let’s be humane and be a little bit more flexible. Loss of limb is loss of ability,” he added.

Strong support for cancer plan

Star: Cancer welfare associations and surviving patients have come out in full support of Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s personal mission to seek cheaper treatment for Malaysian patients, saying reducing costs should be the first of many other steps.
The best way to counter cancer would still be prevention, early detection and early treatment, they said.
National Cancer Society of Malaysia executive director Dr Saunthari Somasundaram said the ideal long-term solution would be the formulation of a national cancer plan that addressed all cancer issues, from prevention and early detection, to treatment, supportive and palliative care.
Echoing the view were Hospis Malaysia CEO and medical director Dr Ednin Hamzah, Breast Cancer Welfare Association and Malaysian Breast Council president Ranjit Kaur and Malaysian Oncology Society president Dr Gurcharan Singh.
Dr Ednin said Pak Lah’s suggestion should be further worked on. The Prime Minister, who lost his wife Datin Seri Paduka Endon Mahmood to breast cancer last week, had vowed on Monday to work to reduce cancer treatment costs.
“What we need are more specialists to increase accessibility and more ground-level knowledge on cancer. Most of the patients are diagnosed at very late stages. Reducing costs have to be a part of a whole programme,” said Dr Ednin.
Ranjit Kaur suggested that the Government address the issue in three ways – give doctors better benefits to encourage them to serve in Government hospitals, ensure that cancer treatment is made more accessible, ensure post-treatment quality of life, and educate the public on preventive methods.
Dr Gurcharan Singh said that based on Malaysia’s population, the World Health Organisation had suggested that there be at least 100 oncologists.
Malaysia presently has 38 oncologists, with over 20 of them attached with private hospitals.
”Besides the costs of treatment, we are also lacking specialists in the field. For existing patients, we need to improve in efficacy and reduce side effects. The lesser the side effects, the more expensive the medication,” Dr Gurcharan Singh said.
Breast cancer patients Betty Ann Gomes, 43, and Jackie Soon, 53, described Abdullah’s remarks as timely.
“I have spent RM40,000 so far for my treatment, and I still need to go for follow-ups which will cost me RM600 for a three-month supply of drugs,” said Gomes, who quit her job as an operations manager after she was diagnosed with the illness in July 2003.
Soon, a businesswoman, said treatment costs were presently too expensive.
“The biopsy cost me RM1,450, and mastectomy RM4,800. I was quoted RM2,000 for each chemotherapy treatment at a private hospital,” said Soon.
According to the National Cancer Registry, about 40,000 Malaysians develop cancer every year.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Selangor Gets Another RM20 Million To Fight Dengue

SHAH ALAM, Oct 25 (Bernama) -- The Selangor government approved an additional allocation of RM20 million in the middle of this year for dengue prevention programmes, state Tourism, Health and Consumer Affairs Committee chairman Datuk Dr Lim Thuang Seng said Tuesday.
He said the allocation was in addition to the RM20 million provided for the purpose this year which had been disbursed to all districts in the state in the fight against dengue.
The additional allocation, among others, was meant repairing drains, roads and upgrading old facilities besides cleaning work, he told a news conference after launching a school-level programme on dengue prevention here.
Dr Lim said that under the programme, all schools would be required to ensure that their premises and compound were free of aedes mosquitoes.
This was because schools had been identified as being among the places prone to breeding the aedes mosquito besides construction sites.
"Before the holidays, we want the school administrators to ensure that their compounds and premises are free of containers and aedes mosquito breeding grounds like vases, tyres, toilets and ponds," he added.
Dr Lim said that based on the number of dengue cases reported in the second and third weeks of this month, the number had dropped from 385 to 286 cases.
Among the areas which recorded a high number of cases were Shah Alam, Subang Jaya and Petaling Jaya.
Despite the fall in the number of dengue cases, he said, everyone should step up preventive measures and awareness on the disease, especially with the coming of the school and festive holidays.
Citing statistics for last year, he said there was a rise in dengue cases between November and February, which was the time of the festive and school holidays.

Two more people die from haemorrhagic dengue fever

Star: Two more people – a four-year-old boy and a 31-year-old woman – have died from haemorrhagic dengue fever last week, bringing the death toll in the country to 81.
However, the Health Ministry said that the overall trend of dengue cases in the country seemed to be declining in week 42.
“We have 1,064 unconfirmed dengue cases this week as compared to 1,132 cases previously. This is a good sign as even the area worst hit in Penang, the south-westerly district, seems to have recorded lesser cases.
“However, for those who are going back for their Deepavali and Hari Raya holidays, they should take whatever precautions by covering up any water container during their absence to any to prevent mosquitoes from breeding within their housing compound,” said disease control division director Dr Ramlee Rahmat here Tuesday.

More than a beer belly

NST: Six per cent of adult Malaysians are obese, with their body mass index (BMI) ofbetween 23 and 27.4.
BMI is a relationship between the weight and the height.
Using the waist circumference is another way of measuring obesity. The size of the waist is related to the amount of fat in the abdomen.
“The waist circumference can be a very sensitive indicator of heart disease. It is the surrogate marker of visceral fat,” says Datuk Dr Khoo Kah Lin, consultant cardiologist and physician at Pantai Medical Centre and Sentosa Hospital.
Visceral fat is different from subcutaneous fat, which is fat under the skin.
“Subcutaneous fat is not dangerous. Visceral fat is,” explains Dr Khoo.
“People with fat around their intestines have a higher risk of developing heart problems and an increase in early mortality.”
It is common knowledge that obesity is the first step to chronic disease.
Obesity, the development of Type 2 diabetes mellitus and vascular risk are inextricably linked.
Dr Khoo, who has co-authored several medical books, says that a waist circumference of over 90 cm for men and over 80 cm for women is not only associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease but also high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes mellitus.
Seventy per cent of all case fatalities with Type 2 diabetes mellitus are a net result of cardiovascular complication.
There is ample epidemiological evidence that the majority of cases of type 2 diabetesmellitus are related to obesity, physical inactivity and other lifestyle factors.
The vast majority of new cases over the next 20 years are predicted to emerge in developing countries.
If that is not bad enough, diabetes, which is characterised by insulin resistance and progressive beta cell failure, is also associated with a host of other abnormalities which comprise the metabolic syndrome.
Metabolic syndrome — which is also known as Syndrome X, insulin resistance syndrome, and dysmetabolic syndrome — is a collection of health risks that increases your chance of developing heart diseases, stroke, and diabetes.
In 2003, Malaysia’s metabolic syndrome stands at 18.5 per cent while it is 13.3 per cent in China and 12.4 per cent in India.
Moderate weight loss, in the range of five per cent to 10 per cent of body weight, can help restore your body’s ability to recognise insulin and greatly reduce the chance that the syndrome will evolve into a more serious illness.
Most studies indicate that co-morbidities are improved by a weight loss of fiveto 10 per cent and has proven to be the most important causal measure to prevent Type 2 diabetes.
The Royal College of Physicians in Britain has suggested that a weight loss of five per cent after three months of therapy indicates the treatment is successful.
Weight loss strategies include healthy lifestyle changes.
“This incorporates dieting, exercise, behaviour modification and education,” says Dr Khoo.
Pharmacotherapy, surgery, psychological and social support are also forms of weight loss strategies.
Surgery such as gastric bypass or vertical banded gastroplasty are for those with a BMI of more than 40 with serious co-morbid conditions and for those who have failed medical therapy.
Drug therapy is advisable for those with a BMI of more than 30 (without additional risk factors such as hypertension Type 2 diabetes mellitus or coronary heart disease) or a BMI more than 27 with more than two risk factors.
“The therapy is an addition to diet, exercise, behaviour modification and a lifestyle treatment which hasn’t succeeded in a weight loss of 10 per cent after trying it out for at least six months,” says Dr Khoo.
Three drugs are generally prescribed by doctors. One of these, which acts to suppress appetite, can be additive with side-effects such as depression, hallucinations as well as an increased risk of primary pulmonary hypertension.
Another has to be taken with caution as it may increase heart rate and blood pressure and should not be used in patients with heart failure, coronary heart disease, previous stroke or renal impairment.
According to one study, the third, which is a gastrointestinal lipase inhibitor is the most effective weight loss drug.
“Drug therapy is not for people seeking a quick fix for obesity. Neither is it for those who are non-obese and have contraindications to drugs.”
Drugs in obesity management which produce side-effects such as amphetamine can cause addiction. Dinitrophenol, meanwhile, can result in cataracts and neuropathy.

Stroke now the number three killer in Malaysia

Star: Stroke has become Malaysia's number three killer after heart disease and cancer, with an average of 110 people dying of it every day, reported China Press.
Prof Dr Tan Chong Tin, senior consultant at the Neurology Clinic of the Universiti Malaya Medical Centre, said that according to the centre’s statistics on stroke in 1994, 59% of the patients were male and the patients' average age was 62.
He said the majority of the patients were Chinese, followed by 29% of Malays and 21% of Indians.
Dr Tan said 70% of stroke patients who recovered stopped taking part in social activities, 30% needed assistance in coping with daily life and 15% died within a month.
People from developing nations were at greater risk of suffering from stroke than those from developed nations like Japan who have better lifestyles and knowledge of health risks, he said, adding that the number of stroke patients was rising in developing nations.
Dr Tan said stroke could be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle and diet and being aware that the major causes of stroke were high blood pressure and diabetes.
He also said that it was medically proven that 70% of stroke cases were preventable.

Town mosquitoes easier to kill than their country cousins

Star: What works against Aedes in urban areas does not apply in rural zones.
The Sarawak authorities have found that conventional methods and formulas used to fight the mosquitoes in urban centres have little effect in tackling the dengue scourge in rural areas.
According to Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam, this is due to the vast difference in environmental settings and the nature of breeding grounds.
“It is going to be very difficult to control the dengue situation now that it has spread into the rural areas of Sarawak.
“In urban centres, fogging using different kinds of chemicals has been effective in killing mosquitoes, but this method will not work in rural places because the areas involved are too huge for fogging to take effect.
“In jungles, the breeding grounds for these mosquitoes are very vast. They can live and multiply everywhere, from treetops to leaves and crevices in any part of the jungle.
“We will have to devise new strategies to deal with the dengue situation there,” he said yesterday.
Dr Chan, who is state Disaster Relief Committee chairman, was commenting on the recent 260 confirmed dengue cases in rural Sarawak, which included those working in timber camps and oil palm plantations in the jungle interior.
Seven people in the state have died of dengue this year, of which six were from rural communities.
“In the rural settlements, dengue can spread very fast. I need to meet all the relevant authorities on how to stop the spread,” he said.
Dr Chan said the authorities were not ready to tackle dengue in rural zones because all this while, the Aedes menace was mainly an urban problem.

Deadly dengue strain to dominate

NST: A more virulent and deadly strain of dengue is set to take its toll on Malaysians next year.
Den-2, a dengue virus serotype, has infected a few Malaysians since the start of the year.
University Malaya Medical Centre medical microbiology head Prof Dr Suzaly Abu Bakar said the Den-2 virus was making its presence felt.
"Although there is also the Den-3 virus, it will be the Den-2 which will be predominant next year.
"Malaysians must protect themselves against the Aedes mosquitoes. Search and destroy all breeding grounds," Dr Suzaly said.
Those with the highest risk of getting the disease are the obese, diabetic, aged 60 years and older, and children below one.
Dr Suzaly said the most challenging area for doctors was to treat women in their late pregnancies.
"There is no drug to treat them," he said, adding that Malaysia should work towards developing an anti-viral drug and an anti-dengue drug rather than vaccines.
He was unsure, however, whether it would work for nations like Malaysia where dengue was endemic as the viruses could mutate and there were sub-strains.
"Those creating the vaccines should take into consideration all the pitfalls," he said.
He said two major Den-2 outbreaks in the 1990s were the result of a slight mutation of the virus.
In Malaysia, he said, the Den-2 virus was different from that prevalent in Thailand.
"We need to find out if the virus is in Thailand and how severe and virulent it is," he said.
Den-4 used to be a predominant virus in the 1960s and 1970s but is now disappearing.

Pak Lah wants cheaper cancer treatment available

Sun2Surf: KUALA LUMPUR: In memory of his late wife Datin Seri Endon Mahmood, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi yesterday pledged to ensure cancer treatment is affordable to all.
"This is now my aim and intention ...that cancer treatment should not only be affordable to those with money but also those who earn less. We will work on this.God willing, I will work on this," he told the Dewan Rakyat yesterday.
Recalling his ordeal when Endon underwent cancer treatment abroad, Abdullah said: "She told me her illness was too serious and painful to bear (sakitnya amat kuat dan terlalu berat untuk ditanggung) and perhaps there was a lesson to learn for herself, her family and others. The illness had really weakened her.
"But the lesson, I believe, is a stronger feeling among all on the need to fight cancer with greater effort, whether through education, prevention, or having more treatment and types of medicine which we hope can be cheaper or more reasonably priced."
He said Endon told him of several projects that she had initiated and hoped the Prime Minister would ensure such projects would be completed.
"God willing, I, together with the children, will help to ensure the success of the projects," he said.
He also appealed to those involved to continue with their efforts and responsibilities that would benefit the people.
Abdullah said this in response to a motion of condolence tabled in the house by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak.
Abdullah also said he will continue to dedicate himself to his task and duty as Prime Minister.
"I believe this is the hope of my late wife."
The motion of condolence tabled by Najib was supported by the 13 BN component parties, three Opposition parties and a sole independent MP.
Abdullah said Endon had asked him to extend her apperciation to all who had helped her in carrying out her duties, especially in BAKTI, with particular mention of the Deputy Prime Minister's wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor.
"If there were any mistakes and shortcomings, or any act she did or anything she had uttered that had hurt the feelings of her friends or caused difficulty to her friends, then let me on behalf of Endon apologise to them."
Najib, who is also BN Chief Whip, said one of the foremost things contributed by the late Endon was creating public awareness of the dreaded cancer.
"She was the inspiration to other cancer patients due to her strong fighting spirit and her courage in battling the disease," he added.
MIC president Datuk seri S.Samy Vellu seconded the motion and said he would support any move to set up cancer treatment centres in rural areas.
MCA deputy president Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy, who apologised on behalf of his president Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting for not being present because of the demise of Ong's mother on Sunday, said: "Endon's spirited and brave fight against cancer will always be a source of insipration to others facing similar battles."
Opposition leader Lim Kit Siang said the best way for all Malaysians to remember Endon was to emulate her humility, kindness, grace and quiet courage to stand up for what is right, true and noble.
"As I said to the grieving Prime Minister when I paid my last respects to Endon at Sri Perdana on Thursday morning: Be strong, Endon will want you to be strong. You have my full support."
Rounding up the debate on the motion, BN Backbenchers Club chairman Datuk Shahrir Abdul Samad said: "I urge the government to help volunteers providing nursing care to cancer patients."

Monday, October 24, 2005

Worrying drop in organ donors

Star: There have been only seven deceased organ and tissue donors so far this year. But there are far more patients waiting desperately in line to receive the organs and tissues.
National Transplant Resource Centre coordinator Dr Lela Yasmin Mansor is seriously worried.
Among the seven donors this year, only one donated organs.
The other six donated tissues such as cornea and bones.
“All of us (doctors) are worried,” she said in a phone interview yesterday.
To make matters worse, the number of deceased donors or cadaveric donors has dropped sharply after recording a steady increase in the past.
This has dashed expectations among the doctors that the setting up of the resource centre in 1997 and the National Procurement Management Unit in 2001 would lead to more donors.
Last year, there were 16 donors, down from 25 donors in 2003 and 30 donors in 2002.
“We don't understand why we don't get donors as the accidental deaths are high compared to other countries,” Dr Lela Yasmin said.
“This is also demoralising for doctors, nurses and others who are involved in organ transplant,” she said.
The National Heart Institute (IJN) has not been able to carry out any heart transplant for the past two years as there has not been any heart donor, she said.
“One of the worries is that the transplant team's skills may become rusty since it does not get to perform tranplants regularly and new staff are also not familiar with the process.
“It’s like a breakdown in the chain and the momentum has dropped,” she said.
There are eight patients on the waiting list for heart transplants at IJN.

Bosses against higher medical fees for foreigners

Star: A resounding “no” – that is the response from employers to the move to charge foreigners more at public hospitals from next year.
The Government, they said, should reconsider its decision or risk scaring off investors and foreign workers.
Malaysian Employers Federation executive director Shamsuddin Bardan said this move would make Malaysia unpopular and was not good for the country.
“When foreign workers are involved, higher medical fees translate into an increase in business costs, which means reducing Malaysia’s competitiveness,” he said yesterday.
On Saturday, Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek made the announcement, which will lead to charges for foreigners at public hospitals being increased based on the Malaysian Medical Association’s (MMA) schedule of fees for private practitioners.
Foreigners now pay first-class rates at public hospitals.
The Malaysian Indian Restaurant Owners Association said the move would scare off foreign workers.
President Datuk R. Ramalingam said foreign workers also paid levies when they entered the country and the Government had a responsibility to look after them.
“Where would this country be without the large number of foreign workers that has helped it progress?” he asked.
Malaysian Trade Union Congress president Syed Shahir Syed Mohamud said: “It is the employers who should be footing the bill.”
However, MMA president Datuk Dr Teoh Siang Chin said the body supported the move, which would result in some cost-recovery for the Government.
“The MMA’s schedule of fees is a set of fees that is the closest to cost-recovery for a hospital,” he said.
Dr Teoh added that the announcement was fair, as Malaysians should not have to subsidise foreigners.

Staying alert in flu country

NST: For the 200 families in Kampung Belian, Sungai Pinang here, the news of the avian flu rearing its head has sent shudders down their spine.
They have become more vigilant keeping an eye on fellow villagers and strangers who bring in chickens and other birds.
It was just a year ago when Kampung Belian made the headlines as one of the two villages in Kelantan where thousands of chickens and birds were culled after scores were infected with the lethal H5N1 avian influenza strain.
Just weeks before that, the country’s first outbreak was discovered among fighting cocks in Kampung Baru, Pasir Pekan, here.
A 10km quarantine was imposed and six people were hospitalised but none tested positive for the flu.
The disease had come through fighting cocks smuggled from neighbouring Thailand.
In Kampung Belian, the situation turned nightmarish as the village was swarmed and guarded round the clock by health and veterinary authorities.
All their poultry and pet birds were culled.
Some lost their prized singing birds, others lost chickens that gave them eggs and a business that kept their families fed.
"It was an expensive lesson for poor people like us as chickens and ducks were our livelihood," said Dollah Yusof, 56.
Dollah said he lost 30 chickens during the culling and only got compensated months later.
"I rear chickens and keep a lookout for strays or strangers bringing fowl into the village," he said.
Malaysia declared itself free of bird flu in January this year.
But the State Veterinary Department has been monitoring the situation here.
"We have seen their vehicles making their rounds every three days," said shopkeeper Ahmad Kais, 44.
Surveillance at the Malay- sia-Thailand border has been stepped up following the death of a 48-year-old man who was infected by the avian flu virus in Kanchanaburi, Thailand, on Wednesday.
Villager Minah Abdullah, 53, said she stopped buying chicken from across the border after the disease surfaced early this year.

Koh: Keep it clean to avoid outbreak

NST: The worst of the dengue outbreak in Penang is over.
However, Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon reminded the people not to take things for granted and continue to keep places clean. "Bear in mind that the war against dengue is still on. Let us work together and continue with present efforts to destroy all mosquito breeding grounds.
"If we relax now, there will certainly be a relapse," he told reporters after presenting hampers in conjunction with the forthcoming Deepa- raya celebrations to more than 50 children at the Penang Hospital's pediatric ward today.
Others present were State Health Committee chairman P.K. Subbaiyah and hospital director Dr Zaininah Mohd Zain.
Koh said although he was happy that people were beginning to be more conscious of the dangers of dengue, there were still others who "take things easy".
"Everyone has a role to play. While the authorities ensure cleanliness in open areas, the onus is on the people to ensure the cleanliness of their own homes," he said.
Subbaiyah said there was still one dengue victim warded at the hospital's intensive care unit (ICU).
The 51-year-old salesman is from Jalan Ru, Lebuhraya Thean Teik in Air Itam. "He is in stable condition and his health is improving."
There are a total of 41 suspected dengue patients warded in several government hospitals in the State, with another 51 in private hospitals.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Antidote For Dengue By 2012?

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 23 (Bernama) -- The first antidote for dengue, the killer disease which until now has no known cure, will only probably be produced by 2012, though many pharmaceutical companies are carrying out intense research on it.
University Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) Medical Microbiology head of department (HOD), Prof Dr Sazaly Abu Bakar said so far only one company was showing signs that it might be able to produce an anti-dengue vaccine by 2012.
"Many companies are racing to produce a vaccine, but they can't say when it will be available in the market," he told reporters at a seminar on dengue held at UMMC here Sunday.
He said the vaccine, even if it was successfuly produced, would have to be clinically tested before it could be marketed.
"A lot of anti-dengue medicines underwent clinical tests in Western countries where there are less dengue cases. For dengue cure in endemic countries such as Malaysia and Thailand, there should be a detailed studies in these countries to determine the medicines are effective," he said.
Dr Sazaly, who is also Universiti Malaya's Microbiology Department head, said now there were seven or eight antibiotics which could help reduce infection but more detailed studies were still needed to test their effectiveness.
He said medication used in Thailand might not work for patients in Malaysia because of mutation in virus strains.
Meanwhile, when delivering his lecture at the seminar, Dr Sazaly said a study had found that dengue epidemics in Malaysia were cyclical and the next one is expected to recur within three years.
"Dengue is now a global threat, it has entered urban areas from the rurals previously, and it is estimated that 50 million to 100 million people worldwide contract it every year," he added.

Tamiflu stockpile not enough for country

Star: Malaysia only has 1% of the quantity for Tamiflu – a drug considered a first line of defence against a potential avian flu pandemic – recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad said the antiviral drug available in the country was only enough for 60,000 people instead of 30% of the population as recommended.
“Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek has asked the Cabinet to provide more allocations for national stockpiles in order to meet the WHO recommendation,” he said when breaking fast with orphans and the needy at Masjid Jamek Kampung Baru here yesterday.
He said a tablet of the drug cost RM7.80 and one person would have to take at least five, which would cost about RM40 per head.
Earlier at the event, Dr Abdul Latiff presented hampers and cash totalling RM140,000, contributed by the mosque and Titiwangsa MP Datuk Astaman Abdul Aziz, to the orphans and the needy.

Dengue surge in Sarawak

Star: While the dengue situation seems to have waned in other states, Sarawak has detected a 126% increase in cases so far this year.
Seven deaths from dengue fever were reported in the state compared to none last year.
What is worrying the state government is the increase in cases in the rural areas.
And Miri, long thought to have the “antidote” to fight the aedes mosquito, is now the most dengue-prone division in the state with the most number of reported cases.
“There is the possibility of the emergence of a strain of Aedes mosquito that is even hardier and more resilient to current control techniques,” Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam told a press conference.
“We (state authorities) are declaring an all-out war on dengue. As of Thursday, there are 989 reported cases and seven deaths.
“The number of reported cases increased by 126.6% and the number of confirmed dengue fever cases rose by 86% compared to last year.
“This is a very worrying development,'' Dr Chan said.
Dr Chan, who is also Sarawak Disaster Relief Committee chairman, said even oil palm plantations and timber logging zones had reported dengue cases.
He noted that Miri Division had 233 cases.
There were four deaths in Marudi town (some 200km from Miri City).
Two people have also died in Bintulu (220km south of Miri) and one in Belaga (400km from Miri).
Next on the list of dengue hotspots in the state are Kuching (217 cases), Sarikei (136 cases) and Bintulu (109 cases).
Dr Chan said another worrying factor was that 26% of dengue cases came from the rural areas.
“We are very worried because it is much tougher to fight aedes mosquito in the jungles where there are huge breeding areas,” he added.
An urgent meeting had been called among representatives of oil palm plantations and timber firms this coming week.
The unpredictable weather pattern in northern Sarawak is also a major concern.
Dr Chan noted that the alternating hot and wet days now being experienced could favour the breeding of the aedes mosquito.

Foreigners to pay more at government hospitals

Star: Foreigners will have to pay much higher charges for medical treatment from next year as the Government moves to provide better healthcare for its citizens.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said foreigners would no longer enjoy health subsidies given to locals and they would be classified as full paying patients.
The new rates, he said, would be based on the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) schedule of fees for private practitioners and hospitals but said the actual charges would be fixed later.
Currently, they pay charges levied on local first class patients, which are much lower, compared to fees in the private sector. Among the first class charges imposed on them since June last year are (third class charges in brackets):

·Outpatient treatment - RM15 (RM1)
· Normal childbirth delivery - RM500 (RM10)
·Caesarean section - RM1,000 (about RM100)

Charges for normal childbirth delivery under MMA schedule is RM800 while caesarean section costs RM2,250.
Dr Chua said the decision to impose full payment was made following the discovery of foreigners cheating to get treatment and also to avoid “flooding” of foreign citizens in government hospitals.
“Last year, we implemented the first class charges for foreigners in government hospitals and the number of outpatients dropped from more than 500,000 to 337,000.
“However, the number of patients warded increased from 50,000 to 64,000 as many of them used false documents and disappeared before settling their bills, making it hard to trace them.
“As many as 26% of foreign inpatients don’t pay up compared to only 10% of our citizens,” Dr Chua said, adding that the new rates would be implemented in stages.
Dr Chua said the Government subsidised 98% of medical costs for Malaysians and it felt only the locals should enjoy the subsidy.
“We don’t want the hospitals to be flooded with foreigners as they make up 20% of patients in the maternity wards in some hospitals in Sabah.
“This is a heavy burden for the Government in terms of human resources and finances,” he told reporters before having a dialogue with Chinese community leaders here yesterday.
Dr Chua said Sabah, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Johor had the most number of foreign patients.
He said revenue collected from foreign citizens rose from RM16.9mil in 2002 to RM31.56mil last year but there was also an increase in the arrears - from RM6.1mil to RM11.33mil.
In June 2004, the Health Ministry had increased the fees for foreigners seeking outpatient treatment from third class charges to first class at government hospitals and clinics.
Dr Chua said the increase was to encourage foreigners to seek treatment at private hospitals as they constituted 3.8% or 1.8 million of the 48 million patients who sought outpatient treatment.
He said the move was also to give Malaysians priority to public healthcare services.

Medical students cry foul

NST: Fifty Malaysian students studying medicine in India want to be transferred out immediately. The reason: They claim the teaching and living conditions at the Kasturba Medical College in Mangalore are "unbearable".
They also say they are being treated like children. Any student found not paying attention is asked to stand on the bench.
The students, who are Public Service Department scholarship holders, claim the facilities at the college do not meet international standards and that the PSD has been short- changed.
Another complaint of the students, who registered at the college in August, is that lecturers are conservative in their teaching approach (see graphics).
They sent a memorandum to Higher Education Minister Datuk Shafie Salleh on Oct 13 spelling out their grouses and asking that they be immediately moved to medical colleges in Britain or other countries, or be allowed to do twinning programmes in Malaysia.
Noor Hazin Mohd Zain, the father of one of the students, who visited the college recently, said today the students' meal was rice and gravy for which the PSD paid the college RM120 monthly per student.
If the students wanted meat or fish, they had to pay extra, he added.
He said the female students' hostel was initially located above a mortuary and that the doctors-in-the-making found the stench unbearable.
After complaining for two months, and with the intervention of the PSD, they were moved to air-conditioned rooms a few blocks away.
However, he claimed, the accommodation rate was increased by the college authorities. Noor Hazin claimed the classrooms were too big and students sitting at the back of the classroom could not hear the lecturers who did not use microphones. Some 300 students were in each classroom, he said.
The PSD spends between RM300,000 and RM500,000 on each student for five years. The 50 students are among Ma- laysia's top A-level students. This is the first time Malaysian students have been sent there by the PSD.
Another parent, A. Aziz Maarof, claimed chalk and blackboards were still being used in the classrooms.
"We are in an era where whiteboards are widely used even in primary and secondary schools. We have done away with chalk because it causes health problems."
The parents have sent an appeal to the PSD on behalf of their children.
Aziz said some of the parents met Shafie on Oct 4 and were waiting for action to be taken.
Meanwhile, a PSD spokesman said a team of PSD officers visited the college last month and had attended to some of the problems raised by the students, including being given better rooms.
He said PSD officers did not visit the college before sending the students there.
He said the college had promised to look into the food being provided to the students.
"We pay the students a living allowance which they can use to buy food," he said, adding that the students would not be transferred to another college.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Private Clinics Should Adhere To Guidelines On Methadone Prescription

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 21 (Bernama) -- All private clinics involved in drug rehabilitation treatment programmes using methadone should adhere to the guidelines issued by the Health Minister beginning Friday, said its minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek.
He said this was because investigations by the ministry found that 90 per cent of the private doctors involved in the programmes did not adhere to the guidelines.
"We found that there are some private doctors who only think of making profits," he told reporters after launching the National Level Drug Substitution Therapy with Methadone at Kuala Lumpur Hospital here today.
He said currently, there were 279 private clinics offering the therapy and they should adhere strictly to the guidelines of the Drug Substitution Therapy set by his ministry beginning Friday, if they wanted to continue to offer the service.
Dr Chua said those who defied the guidelines could be fined RM10,000 or face two years' imprisonment or both according to the Poison Act 1989.
The guidelines stated that only registered doctors who had undergone the Drug Substitution Therapy (DST) course could be allowed to offer the service.
Methadone could only be administered in liquid form by a doctor trained in DST and the drug addict should take the drug in front of the doctor for a duration of four to six weeks.
Besides that, the doctors involved could only provide DST treatment to not more than 20 new patients every month and should record all the patients' treatment details, including the urine sample test analysis.
"They (addicts) could not bring back methadone and should be under direct observation for three months," he said.
Hence, the private clinics offering the service are asked to contact the Health Ministry and adhere to the guidelines set by the ministry to prevent legal actions being taken against them.
On the National Level Drug Substitution Therapy with Methadone launched Friday, Dr Chua said it would be implemented in four zones (northern, eastern, central and south) nationwide, involving 1,200 addicts for six months beginning Friday.
The drug addicts would be given methadone in the liquid form in the selected government hospitals and health clinics including some private hospitals.
The government hospitals are Alor Star Hospital, Bukit Mertajam Hospital, Kuala Lumpur Hospital, Universiti Malaya Medical Centre, Melaka Hospital Permai Johor Hospital, Temerloh Hospital and Raja Perempuan Zainab II Hospital Kota Baharu.
The government health clinics are Pendang Health Clinic and AU2 Health Clinic, Keramat.
Among the selected private clinics included Klinik Sakinah (Alor Star), Klinik Xavier (Butterworth), Klinik Dr Khafidz (Kajang), Poliklinik Mawar (Ayer Molek, Melaka), Poliklinik Fernandez (Johor Bahru), Klinik Sulaiman (Jengka Pahang) and Klinik Rusli (Kota Baharu).
Dr Chua said the programme would be expanded to the whole country following the completion of the six-month pioneering project.
The Drug Substitution Therapy Programme with Methadone is part of the Harm Reduction Programme approach which also includes the exchange of old syringes for new syringes and free condoms distribution to selected drug addicts in efforts to curb the increasing HIV infection rate in the country.
The syringe exchange programme and free condoms distribution to the selected drug addicts would begin in January next year.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Set Up Medical Faculty At Darul Iman Varsity - Idris

JERTIH, Oct 21 (Bernama) -- The Terengganu Government will ask the Higher Education Ministry to consider setting up a medical faculty at the Darul Iman University expected to start operations in June next year, Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh said Friday.
He said the move was to provide more opportunities to locals, especially Malay students, to take up medical courses as Bumiputera students were lacking in the medical field.
"In fact, it is the dream of the Terengganu people to see a medical faculty in the state with the setting up of the Darul Iman Universiti," he told reporters after giving food hampers to patients at Besut Hospital.
Idris said Terengganu needed many doctors to ensure the people received the best medical treatment.
Based on Health Department statistics, he said, Terengganu was facing 40 per shortage of doctors to be posted to government hospitals and health clinics.
Despite the shortage, Idris said he was satisfied with the standard of health services in the state.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Campaign showing results as number of Penang cases drops

Star: After a month of intensive anti-aedes operations by the authorities and aggressive campaigns to get the people involved in the war against mosquitoes, Penang too is seeing a decline in the number of dengue cases.
State Health Committee chairman P.K. Subbaiyah said 34 confirmed cases were reported in the first week of the month and 37 cases last week – against 90 in the last week of September.
On dengue hotspots, he said there were 11 in the southwest district at present, compared with 24 last week.
“Of the 11 hotspots, we are very concerned over Persiaran Mayang Pasir and Kampung Sungai Batu because of the high number of suspected cases reported there,” he told newsmen after a meeting with health officials yesterday.
He said the number of hotspots in the northeast district remained at seven, adding that Seberang Jaya was also declared a hotspot.
The state executive councillor said a factory in Bayan Lepas and two construction sites in the northeast district were fined RM500 each for having aedes breeding grounds.
Since last month, eight schools, two colleges, one private hospital, five factories and 30 construction sites in Penang had been booked.
Despite the positive signs, Subbaiyah said, Penangites should continue to work with the authorities to eradicate aedes.

Dengue war showing results

Star: Positive signs can be seen on the dengue battlefront. There has been a drop in the percentage of confirmed patients among suspected cases.
Health Ministry disease control division director Dr Ramlee Rahmat said of the 1,172 suspected cases reported last week (29 cases fewer than the previous week), 23% or 270 cases were confirmed to be dengue.
Compare that percentage with the total 31,037 suspected cases reported this year, of which 28.6% or 8,889 cases were confirmed to be dengue, and there was reason to be optimistic, he said.
“We hope this positive trend will continue. We believe that beefing up monitoring and collaborating with the public in cleaning up areas has helped to keep the number of cases down,” he said at the weekly dengue update yesterday.
He attributed the drop to eradication of mosquito breeding grounds and fogging.
However, the dengue death toll has increased by two to 78 casualties.
A 21-year-old male contract worker from Kuala Kubu Baru in Selangor had fever on Oct 9 and was admitted to hospital on Oct 12. He died the next day.
An eight-year-old girl from Pengkalan Chepa, Kelantan, died on Aug 18 at the Kota Baru Hospital but her death was only reported to the ministry last week.
Selangor saw a 50% reduction in the number of suspected cases reported in Kajang – one of the three dengue hotspots in the state –over the past few weeks.
The state government however cautions against complacency in view of the current rainy season.
State Executive Councillor Datuk Dr Lim Thuang Seng reminded local councils and other authorities, and the people to maintain diligence in the war against aedes by ensuring there was no stagnant water for mosquitoes to breed.
Dr Lim, who is chairman of the State Health Committee, said the state was keeping vigil on the three hotspots: Kajang (which averaged 50 suspected cases a week), Subang (also 50) and Shah Alam (30).
More than 30 suspected cases a week reported in a municipality warranted intense aedes search and destroy missions, he said.
“We want to keep reported cases below 10 per week in a municipality. There can never be a zero-case scenario for the time being.
“We need to be vigilant during the rainy season. Dengue will usually taper off a few weeks into the dry season,” he said.

Malaysia's First Mechanical Heart Recipient Undergoes Minor Surgery

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 18 (Bernama) -- Muhammad Fikri Nor Azmi, Malaysia's first recipient of an Implantable Ventricular Assist Device (IVAD) or better known as mechanical heart, underwent a minor surgery at the National Heart Institute (IJN) due to shortness of breath.
Muhammad Fikri, 15, developed sporadic episodes of shortness of breath after his home leave on Oct 10 and it was noticed by the Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) team, IJN said in a statement, Tuesday.
It said initial investigations showed the mechanical heart was functioning well and Muhammad Fikri's cardiac status was stable.
"However, routine chest x-rays showed he had a collection of air pockets surrounding the left lung. As a precautionary measure, the VAD team decided to explore the left chest surgically and the two-hour operation was performed at 5pm yesterday," it said.
The surgery was successful and no problems were encountered, it said.
"Muhammad Fikri is now recuperating well at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and he will be discharged to the ward in the next few days.
"The team is hopeful and anticipated that he will be able to spend his Hari Raya with family, the statement said.
Muhammad Fikri was on the heart donor waiting list since March and in July he went for IVAD.
He has been responding well to treatments and medications while waiting to undergo a heart transplant surgery, it added.

Contingency Plan Against Bird Flu

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 19 (Bernama) -- The Agriculture and Agro-Based Industries Ministry has put in place a contingency plan in the event of another bird flu outbreak in the country.
Its minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the ministry had learnt valuable lessons from the last outbreak in Kelantan and specific measures had been taken to prevent re-occurrence.
"As such, we hope the public will report if there are abnormal poultry deaths to the authorities quickly so that we can zero in on the cause and implement countermeasures if necessary," he said when winding up debate on the 2006 Supply Bill for his ministry in the Dewan Rakyat on Tuesday.
Muhyiddin said everyone should be aware of the dangers of the disease to humans as more people are expected to die throughout the world if the pandemic is not stopped.
On agricultural development in the country, Muhyiddin said only Bank Negara had responded positively to helping the industry.
He said banks were still reluctant to come forward and help the industry for fear of encountering losses.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Dengue death toll climbs to 78 nationwide

NST: THE national dengue death toll has climbed to 78, with the latest fatalities being an eight-year-old schoolgirl in Kelantan and a 21-year-old plumber in Selangor.
The schoolgirl, from Pengkalan Chepa, died of dengue haemorrhagic fever in Kota Baru Hospital on Aug 18, eight days after being hospitalised.
The Health Ministry was notified of her death only last week, its disease control director, Dr Ramlee Rahmat, said today.
The second victim came down with the fever on Oct 9, was admitted to the Kuala Kubu Baru Hospital on Oct 12, and died the following day of DHF.

Smoking-related diseases eating up Malaysia health budget: report

TodayOnlineMalaysia is being hit hard by the financial burden of smoking-related diseases, with healthcare costs linked to the habit absorbing nearly half the health ministry's budget, a report said.
A study on the healthcare implications of smoking showed that related heart and lung cost 3.1 billion ringgit (821.45 million dollars) in 2004, some 44.3 percent of the health ministry's budget, said the Edge financial newspaper.
The recent study by three Malaysian universities and two tobacco-control bodies said the sum was equivalent to 17.2 percent of total national healthcare spending, and that costs were on the rise.
The research only took into account three major heart and lung smoking-related diseases, so the total costs could be much higher, said the study's authors.
"The research findings are actually very conservative because it only looks at three diseases. There are more than 150 diseases associated with smoking that are caused by the more than 4,000 chemicals in tobacco," health economics expert Syed Mohamed Al Junid was quoted as saying.
The study, to be published next year by the UN's World Health Organisation, looked at healthcare costs for 200 smokers in government hospitals between December 2003 and May this year.
Experts said that the cost of treating patients in private hospitals and other factors such as loss of productivity from illness and premature deaths had not been included in the study.
The number of Malaysians taking up cigarette smoking is on the rise despite high-profile government campaigns to curb the habit.
A National Health Survey last year showed 23.2 percent of adult Malaysians smoked, while separate surveys have shown nearly 25 percent of young people smoke. — AFP

Survey: Young M’sians prefer private healthcare

The Star:If provisions for medical expenses are all taken care of, the younger generation of Malaysians is most likely to opt for private healthcare services, the AIA Life Matters Survey 2005 reveals.
“This trend is generally made evident by the rising affluence and education levels of society,” executive vice-president and general manager of American International Assurance Company, Ltd (AIA Malaysia), Richard Bender said.
“It is always the younger generation that leads the way in any trend, Particularly with developing countries, the younger generation is more educated compared with the older generation, and with more education comes more awareness of risks, including health risks,” he said in a statement on the findings of the survey.
Bender said the key factor for the result of the survey was “Having a protection plan”.
Respondents were asked, for selected treatments, their preference between private and public medical services if they had to pay out of their own pockets as opposed to if all medical expenses were covered for example, by a protection plan.
If respondents had to pay their own way, only between 29% and 38% said they would opt for private healthcare.
On the other hand, if all expenses were covered, the picture changed drastically, with between 53% and 61% of respondents saying they would choose private healthcare, Bender said.

Prepare for a flu pandemic

Star: Schools closed. Employees not showing up for work, calling in sick. Shopping malls deserted. Frightened people stay home, behind barricaded doors and windows.
Essential items become scarce, sending the prices of goods soaring. The economy grinds to a halt.
A sniffle is viewed with suspicion. Vaccines, in short supply to begin with, have run out. Hospitals overcrowded with the medical staff stretched to breaking point.
This is the bleak but very likely scenario, should the deadly H5N1 virus mutate into a strain that can be transmitted from person to person.
When that happens, half of those infected could die because we don’t have natural immunity to fight back.
Asia Pacific Society for Medical Virology president Prof Emeritus Datuk Dr Lam Sai Kit said as many as 20% of the world’s population could contract the flu. Many would not survive.
“One has to look at the facts. There have been more than 100 cases and over half of them have died.
“When there is human-to-human infection, the scenario could be pretty horrible even if the virus does not change in virulence. Hopefully, the mortality rate will be lower.
“There is no telling when this will happen. We have to take advantage of this window of opportunity and be prepared,” said Dr Lam, who headed the team that discovered the Nipah virus.
The World Health Organisation warned last month that bird flu could mutate into a form that could be passed between humans, and that the world was on the brink of a pandemic.
Dr Lam believes that “self-discipline and self-quarantine” must be practised to reduce exposure in the event of such a crisis.
He said the authorities should provide guidelines for home nursing and prevention among family members, and advise the people when to take a patient to hospital to avoid taxing health facilities.
By then, health services would be overwhelmed and no country would be able to provide enough hospital beds, he said.
At the same time, he said, essential services such as electricity, water, transport and food supply, should be maintained.
On the worldwide shortage of Tamiflu as a result of countries stockpiling the antiviral drug, Dr Lam said all nations should pool and share resources to tackle the scourge.
In the meantime, surveillance for respiratory diseases must be stepped up, and any increase of flu-like cases must be investigated, he said.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Dr Arumugam Elected To Lead World Medical Association

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 17 (Bernama) -- Malaysian doctor Datuk Dr N. Arumugam has made the country proud by being elected as president (elect) of the World Medical Association (WMA).
Dr Arumugam, who is the immediate past-president of the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA), defeated nominees from Hungary and Belgium over two rounds of close voting by delegates from the national medical associations during the WMA's General Assembly in Santiago, Chile, recently.
"I feel this is indeed a great honour for Malaysia on the world medical stage," MMA President Datuk Dr Teoh Siang Chin said in a statement Monday.
Dr Teoh said Dr Arumugam would assume the post of president-elect immediately and would be installed at the WMA General Assembly in South Africa next year.
Dr Arumugam would hold the post for a year and would lead the WMA delegation to the annual World Health Organisation (WHO) meeting in Geneva, he added.
Formed 1948, the WMA represents about five million physicians from more than 90 countries.

Profiling dangerous drivers

NST: A new approach — identifying motorists who are accident-prone — is being taken by the authorities to reduce road fatalities.
The information will then be used to target specific groups, thus making safety campaigns more effective.
Called the "Fatality Index", it will be used to evaluate the driving pattern of motorists according to their age, occupation and gender.
"It will also help identify the right type of road safety campaigns for different categories of motorists," said Universiti Putra Malaysia Road Safety Research Centre director Prof Dr Radin Umar Radin Sohadi.
He said a random survey would be carried out to profile motorists according to their race and monthly income.
"It will also detail the mileage made per year."
Recently, the research centre completed a three-month survey of 1,430 drivers in Selangor.
It showed that drivers living in urban areas travelled an average of 30,255km per year, while motorcyclists travelled at least 19,276km a year.
"Motorcyclists and those who travel a lot are still in the highest risk group," he said.
He said the survey also showed that men travelled more than women.
"The index will also be introduced to other States in Malaysia. It will evaluate the effectiveness of road safety campaigns in each State."
Road Safety Department director-general Suret Singh said the index would act as an additional indicator in studying accident rates in Malaysia.
"The index has been successfully used by most developed countries and helps them know the safety level in each place," he said.
The index is based on fatalities over one billion vehicle kilometres travelled. It covers car occupants and motorcyclists based on their travel exposure, which is based on vehicle kilometres travelled (VKT).
At present, two indicators are used to assess road fatalities in the country: Fatalities per 10,000 vehicles and fatalities per 100,000 population.
Radin said: "These two indicators are commonly used in developing and less developed countries. But they are not so accurate as they are subject to the increase of vehicle ownership and population which fluctuates drastically over time."
In addition, a few vehicles can be owned by one person and an increase in vehicles does not necessarily indicate an increase in the number of vehicles on the road.
"Vehicle ownership and population do not necessarily indicate the real amount of accident exposure in a country."
Due to this disadvantage, Suret said a better indicator accepted by most developed countries — the Fatality Index — would be adopted.
Last year, Malaysia recorded more than 6,000 fatalities while most developed countries had recorded about 2,000 fatalities.
The overall fatality index for Malaysia is 18.5 fatalities per billion VKT. In developed countries, it is below 10 fatalities per billion VKT.
"It basically still adds up to 4.5 fatalities per 10,000 registered vehicles while in developed countries, the figure comes to less than two fatalities per 10,000 registered vehicles." said Radin.
"But the new index will give us an accurate travelling exposure of each group," he added.

Nurses@Home to promote services more aggressively

BT: Home nursing specialist Nurses@Home expects to see a five-fold jump in revenue within the next 12 months as the concept and the brand is promoted more aggressively among Malaysian consumers.
This organised integrated nursing service, provided as an alternative to prolonged hospital stays and effective post-discharge care, is provided by Sun City Bhd’s 51 per cent unit, Sunmed@ Home Sdn Bhd.
Sunmed@Home, which was set up with a initial paid-up capital of RM350,000, is currently making an average of RM30,000 in revenue a month.
“Our nurses make 200 to 300 visits each month ... or 10 visits a day,” Sunmed@Home managing director Asok Nair said.
“We expect to grow by 400 per cent in revenue over the next 12 months,” Nair told Business Times.
Patients are charged between RM65 and RM100 per visit.
This would mean that the company, which delivers nursing service cost-effectively in the comfort of ones’ home, is likely to rake in over RM120,000 in revenue by next September 2005.
Assuming that it maintains revenue at RM120,000 in the second year, the revenue potential for the company is about RM1.44 million.
Sunmed@Home expects to break even within the next 18 to 24 months and be profitable starting from year three onwards.
According to Nair, the company’s optimism is supported by a survey which revealed that 40 per cent of the patients in hospitals do not need to be there in the first place.
And the reason these patients continue to stay for prolonged periods in the hospitals is because they are either not aware of the home nursing services and/or the majority of insurance policies cover hospitalisation and not post-acute healthcare services at home.
“This large portion are our potential clients,” Nair said.
It is believed that is only one other player in the market offering similar services, while the remaining business is handled by individual nurses who are recommended by word-of-mouth.
Nair explained that this service of providing healthcare and nursing services for patients at their homes was in fact, a department within the Sunway Medical Centre which was functioning for about two years.
After some negotiations, this division was incorporated as a separate business. The remaining 49 per cent stake is with privately-held Citarasa Kombinasi Sdn Bhd.
Nair said Nurses@ Home is looking at creating awareness among the end-users (patients) and medical and insurance players to develop home nursing as an integral part of post-treatment.
To this end, it is currently in negotiations with four insurance players in the industry to incorporate the plan into their health policy.
Also in the pipeline are plans to work with government agencies or institutions to recognise the Nurses@ Home concept as a viable nursing aid.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Acute shortage of paediatric heart surgeons

NST:MALAYSIA is facing an acute shortage of paediatric heart surgeons, Health Ministry parliamentary secretary Datuk Lee Kah Choon said in Penang today.
He said statistics showed at least 1,500 children seek such treatment annually. Now Malaysia only has 22 surgeons, in the public and private healthcare sectors.
Lee said there are seven such surgeons at the National Heart Institute (IJN), four in University Hospital, four in Government hospitals and the rest in private hospitals.
"The ministry is taking all the necessary steps to increase the number of these surgeons.
"However, we are also mindful that it is not going to be easy as it takes about 15 years for one to sub-specialise in a certain medical field," he said after paying a visit to five heart patients at the Penang Adventist Hospital here.

Public apathy at dengue hotspot upsets MP

Star: It is one major dengue hotspot and the organisers had expected thousands to attend the anti-Aedes fight and exhibition.
However, when Bandar Tun Razak MP Datuk Tan Chai Ho arrived at 10am to launch the function in Desa Tun Razak in Cheras, only about a dozen residents were there to greet him.
The peeved organisers then made an impassioned plea through the public address system, urging residents to attend the function. But after 40 minutes, there were only 20 residents.
As Tan started speaking on how disappointed he was with the turnout, the crowd began to grow gradually and when the event was over at 11.30am there were 50 people listening to Tan and City Hall officials on how to fight and keep the Aedes mosquito at bay.
All in all, less than 1% of the total number of residents in the area turned up.
Tan was visibly upset as he said 48 resident from the flats there were infected with dengue in the first nine months of the year.
“I cannot understand the attitude of the residents as they don't seem to be taking our efforts to educate them on the dengue danger seriously.
“City Hall officials had gone around yesterday informing them of the gathering but they are not bothered,” he told reporters.
Tan, who is also known as the “people's representative,” did not let his disappointment deter him.
When the speeches were over, he took fogging equipment and walked around high-rise flats in the area for more than half-an-hour.

Dengue Updates: Doctors told to follow guidelines

NST: Be on the alert for symptoms of dengue fever.
This is Health Ministry disease control director Dr Ramlee Rahmat’s advice to all government doctors in the wake of allegations of a misdiagnosis of a patient who died a day after treatment.
He said the doctors should adhere strictly to guidelines on the management of dengue cases.
"Doctors should be more alert to dengue symptoms and victims diagnosed must be admitted immediately," he said on the death of Murgayah Narayanan, 21, in Kuala Kubu Baru on Thursday.
His mother, Mageswari Munian, alleged that the Kuala Kubu Baru Hospital’s indifference contributed to her son’s death.
The plumber was taken to the hospital on Tuesday with fever, dizziness and vomiting but was sent home with an injection and some medicines by a medical attendant.
The medical assistant said Murgayah was suffering from fever.
Mageswari said her son’s condition worsened on Wednesday with the family taking him to the hospital later that day.
A doctor took blood samples, confirmed he was suffering from dengue and admitted him.
On Thursday, his condition worsened and he died before he could be sent to the Selayang Hospital.
Dr Ramlee said an investigation into the incident was being conducted by the ministry’s Hospital Division and Selangor Health director Dr Ang Kim Teng.
"I hope hospitals will be more alert, especially with the dengue outbreak," he said.
Dr Ang said Murgayah was not sent to the Selayang Hospital as Kuala Kubu Baru hospital doctors tried to stabilise his condition.
"Although we have classified the death as dengue shock syndrome, we are investigating if there were other complications leading to his death," she said.
Dr Ang said she was investigating why Murgayah was not treated by a doctor on Tuesday.
"I have asked the hospital director for a detailed account of the incident," she said.
Between Jan 1 and last Thursday, a total of 30,544 suspected dengue cases were reported to the ministry with 1,558 being dengue haemorrhagic fever cases. There were 76 deaths over the period.
The worst-hit areas with a high Aedes index are the Timur Laut district in Penang, Kajang, Penang, Klang and Subang Jaya municipal councils, the Shah Alam city council, Setapak and Johor.

Mercy boss: Learn to deal with disasters

Star: Whenever Mercy Malaysia president Datuk Dr Jemilah Mahmood checks into a hotel, the first thing she does is to find out where the emergency exit or fire extinguisher is.
Knowing the location of the exit or extinguisher was a simple precaution that everyone should practise before a disaster strikes, she said.
Referring to the same concept of taking early precautions, she said the public should be educated on ways to cope when hazards such as earthquakes or hurricanes occur.
“Disaster results from hazards. We cannot stop hazards but we can lessen the impact of hazards,” she said, adding that everyone could reduce vulnerability to reduce disaster.
She pointed out that among the preventive measures were hazard mapping, analysing the risks and setting up early warning systems.
“We can internalise the concept of living with risks by educating those staying by the coastal areas, putting up signboards of tsunami escape routes, ringing bells or sirens when a hazard occurs,” she said.
While speaking on Total Disaster Risk Management at a public forum organised by the Force of Nature Aid Foundation yesterday, Dr Jemilah said it was vital for NGOs to cooperate when managing disaster relief.
Among the speakers at the forum was Sisters in Islam programme manager and chief trainer Zaitun Mohamed Kasim, who said natural disasters had a huge impact on women.
She said 70% of the tsunami victims who died in Aceh were women.
She also said women who survived the aftermath had to endure difficulties such as lack of proper clothing, shelter, food and privacy.

Fasting for AIDS awareness

NST: It is all for a good cause. Some 40 students in two schools here today began a 30-hour fast to raise funds for HIV/AIDS education programmes.
Themed "The Power of Hunger", the social education-cum-fund-raising event is organised annually by World Vision Malaysia (WVM), an international humanitarian and relief organisation.
The event allows participants to experience in a small way what millions of people who are victims of war, poverty and natural catastrophes go through worldwide.
This year’s 30-hour fast focuses on HIV/AIDS.
The students are from the Methodist Boys School in Jalan Air Hitam and Uplands, an international school, in Persiaran Gurney.
During the fast, the participants will broaden their understanding of HIV/AIDS and the people living with the disease through presentations, question and answer sessions, and games.
Funds raised will be channelled to HIV education programmes for children and adults in Hebei, China, and local HIV/AIDS organisations through the Malaysia AIDS Council and Dignity and Services, an organisation that helps people with learning disabilities.
This is the first time the event is held simultaneously in Penang and Kuala Lumpur. The participants will go without solid food and are only allowed to drink plain water from noon today until 6pm tomorrow.
WVM international programme director Goh Po Ean said the main aim of the fast was education and advocacy. "We pass on the message that fasting can be used as a catalyst to bring about social changes.
"By volunteering to raise funds via fasting, participants get a glimpse of how their act of self-sacrifice can help those in need."
So far, they have managed to raise over RM2,000.
Jonathan Case, 16, from Uplands, said this was the first time he was going on a 30-hour fast. "I thought this is a good cause as it instils a lot of discipline," said the Sixth former of Canadian-Chinese parentage.
For American Chris Voss, 15, also from Uplands, it was an exciting experience. "While we are grateful for the many things we have, we should also be mindful of the sufferings of others in the world."

Iran's Success In Using Free Condoms, Needles To Stem AIDS A Cue For Us

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 15 (Bernama) -- Malaysians should take the cue from Iran's success in reducing its HIV and AIDS cases through the distribution of free syringes and condoms, Malaysian Aids Foundation chairman Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir said.
She proposed that the government send people, especially the ulama, prison officers, police and representatives from non-governmental organisations to Iran to learn how the Islamic country successfully implemented the programme.
Marina said the Iranian government had long practised the move, especially in prisons, and they had successfully reduced the risk of the spread of HIV and AIDS among prisoners.
"I have met them (delegates from Iran) when attending a conference on AIDS in Melbourne in 2003. They are not only proud of the programme's success but invited us to visit them," she said.
She told reporters this after launching a charity programme to help famine victims, jointly organised by Help University College (Help) and an international charitable body, World Vision Malaysia here Saturday.
The free syringes and condoms campaign is expected to be implemented by the government in January next year.
However, it received mixed reactions, with some parties coming out strongly against it, claiming the move could be interpreted as the government encourging promiscous behavior.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Sabah Air, SMC Team Up To Improve Medical Evacuation

KOTA KINABALU, Oct 15 (Bernama) -- State-owned Sabah Air and the Sabah Medical Centre (SMC) are combining their resources to improve medical evacuation by helicopter, especially from the remote areas.
The newly opened SMC eight-storey building in Luyang here is designed to handle medical evacuation by air. It has a rooftop helipad and an exclusive lift to the ground-floor emergency room.
SMC Project Director Chu Chee Kuen said here Saturday that the joint project would cater for patients especially from remote areas like Tawau, Tenom and Keningau.
He spoke to reporters after a mock evacuation by a Sabah Air Bell 206 helicopter to test the reliability of the landing deck and to provide the helicopter company with a taste of what it took to land a helicopter with a patient on the rooftop.
Sabah Air has been handling medical emergencies for many years and has six helicopters, comprising the four-seater Bell 206 and 15-seater Bell 212.
Sabah Air General Manager Tony Liew said all Sabah Air aircraft were equipped with stretchers, and experienced staff handled the transport of patients.
He also said that he was impressed with the capability of SMC staff in transporting a patient from the aircraft to the hospital in one minute and 15 seconds during the mock exercise.
Liew recalled that landing at the previous SMC building in Teluk Likas was more cumbersome because the landing area was the hospital's car park, which meant that cars needed to be moved before landing was possible and patients needed to be carried longer distances.
"With the rooftop helideck, the chopper and stretcher are just yards away. And, with an exclusive lift, the patient can be in the emergency room in a jiffy," he said.
He also said that the helipad was well equipped for such a task, with spotlights and a windsock to guide the pilot during landing and take-off.

Wear white to avoid being bitten

Star: How do you avoid mosquito bites?
Several websites recommend wearing light-colour clothes, besides the usual insect repellent.
Staying away from areas with a high mosquito population is a no-brainer, but avoiding the use of soap, shampoo and lotion with fragrance is a more helpful tip.
A deejay on the 988 Chinese radio station told listeners that mosquitoes prefer dim light and dark hues like blue and black.
“So change your dressing. Go for white,” he said, adding that it helps if you are clad in a long-sleeved top and long pants.
The deejay said mosquitoes are also attracted to body odour, so it is advisable to stay fresh and clean.
Mosquitoes also dislike reddish-orange tones, so having such light at home may keep them at bay.
A deejay who is a wannabe entomologist, one may think, but websites on mosquito information concur with his advice.
All these measures aside, the best bet is still to keep your premises free of mosquito breeding grounds.

Second killer species found

Star: The Aedes albopictus mosquito, which breeds outdoors and is found in abundance at jungle fringes, has also been transmitting the virus that causes dengue fever.
According to Disease Control Department director Dr Ramlee Rahmat, cases reported in rural areas and Felda schemes led to the finding that besides the Aedes aegypti, the principal carrier, the albopictus was also spreading dengue.
“We are getting reports of dengue cases from sub-urban areas and small towns like Jempol in Negri Sembilan as well as from Felda schemes.
“We are concentrating on fogging, as the albopictus breeds outside homes in places that have trees and leaves,” he told a press briefing here yesterday on the dengue situation in the country.
However, he said, fogging would only be carried out if there were known dengue cases in the area, as too much fogging could cause the mosquito to build up resistance to the chemical.
Dr Ramlee said 724 new cases were reported over the last five days, putting the total number of confirmed cases this year at 30,544, with 76 deaths.
The department will seek the views of botanists and relevant groups on the viability of having the serai wangi (citronella) in people’s homes and their immediate surroundings as a mosquito repellent.
Theoretically, he said, the approach should work because citronella oil was used in balms, sprays and pellets to repel insects, including mosquitoes.
Dr Ramlee said his department had sought the help of local entomologists, scientists, research facilities and universities to come up with more ways to deal with the dengue problem.
“We also met with the construction industry players on Thursday to seek their cooperation in ensuring that building sites are free of aedes breeding grounds,” he said.