Saturday, December 31, 2005

Makna Sees Light At The End Of The Tunnel For Cancer Patients

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 30 (Bernama) -- "There is hope".
This was the confidence placed by National Cancer Council (Makna) president, Datuk Mohd Farid Ariffin that a cure for cancer could be found if western and eastern medication methods could be combined.
He said that Makna would allocate RM300 million for research and development (R&D) for the purpose over the next 15 years and which would include the construction of an R&D centre.
"We discovered that there are many secrets in the medication methods of the west and the east. I am seeing it with my own eyes as I read the records. There is much promise.
"I am confident that by marrying the occidental and oriental methods, one day we will find an effective antidote for cancer," he told reporters after officiating the Ninth Periwinkle Day Celebrations 2005 at the Kuala Lumpur Tower here Friday.
Besides this, Farid said that Makna would also launch its mobile cancer screening programme which uses digital technology from district to district to detect the disease early among the people.
"I have discussed the matter with Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek who said his ministry might be able to help us in carrying out the exercise," he said.
The programme to detect breast, cervix, prostate and bowel cancer and which costs RM3.3 million, would be launched in the middle of next year while screening for other types of cancer would be conducted later, Farid said.
Meanwhile, he said that Makna also hoped to collect 10 per cent or RM150 million from the RM1.5 billion of one sen coins in the market in the next five years through its "Sens Saves Lives" campaign to help cancer patients.
"So far we have succeeded in collecting 90 million pieces of coins of one cent and five cents denominations through the Education Ministry," he said.
Makna which was formed in 1995 to help cancer patients in the country has so far provided aid to about 90,000 people afflicted by the deadly killer in terms of medication and finance.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Wijaya Baru Medical to invest up to RM5m to promote cancer treatment programme

The Edge: Wijaya Baru Global Bhd subsidiary Wijaya Baru Medical Sdn Bhd (WBMSB) will spend between RM2 million and RM5 million to promote its CyberKnife stereotactic radiosurgery treatment programme.
It expects to have 500 cancer patients under the programme next year.
Its deputy chief executive officer Faizal Abdullah said WBMSB’s Wijaya International Medical Centre in Petaling Jaya had treated up to 40 cancer patients since its inception in September.
“There are 40,000 people diagnosed with cancer every year and these people are going overseas for treatment. Our treatment is between 20% and 45% cheaper than overseas,” he told reporters after Wijaya Baru's EGM in Petaling Jaya yesterday.
At the EGM, its shareholders approved the group’s proposed purchase of medical equipment for RM42.95 million cash. Faizal said the purchase would be funded via borrowings and advances from the group’s directors.
He said the company would see a return on the investment by 2008.
Faizal said the WBMSB would embark on a nationwide roadshow by the first quarter of next year and approach medical fraternities in the country to promote the company’s CyberKnife programme.
He said WBMSB would also participate in local and international medical exhibitions next year, starting with an exhibition in Dubai in January.

HIV screening a must in Kelantan

Star: KOTA BARU: Beginning this Sunday, all couples intending to get married in Kelantan must undergo HIV screening which, Mentri Besar Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat says, will save the family institution from being wrecked by AIDS.
“The move will also save innocent lives. It is very good, and Kelantan has no problem enforcing it together with other states,” he told reporters after launching the programme here yesterday.
In his speech earlier, Nik Aziz said 5,639 people tested positive for HIV in Kelantan from 1986 to 2004, mostly drug addicts. Some were infected through sex.
“It worries us when 64 housewives in Kelantan were found to be HIV positive last year,” he said.
He told reporters later that the mandatory HIV screening would not rid some people of perceptions that the state had failed to overcome the AIDS problem.
“The problem occurs anywhere and what happens here is because we are located next to Thailand,” he said.
Nik Aziz said it was impossible for the state government to stop its citizens from visiting other countries and be exposed to the disease.
It was important for society to abide by the command of God to stay away from committing sinful acts; and AIDS was actually a calamity brought upon those who had disobeyed, he said.
However, he was confident that one day, a cure for AIDS would be discovered.

PSD Yet To Receive Recommendation On Compulsory Psychiatric Test

PUTRAJAYA, Dec 29 (Bernama) -- The Public Service Department (PSD) has yet to receive the Human Resource Ministry's recommendation to make it mandatory for all government and private sector employees to undergo periodic psychiatric tests.
PSD Director-General, Datuk Seri Ismail Adam said that presently, heads of department could instruct their staff to go for such tests if they suspected subordinates to be involved in drugs.
"The mechanism is there and has been enforced but what was recommended by the deputy minister, we have not received," he told reporters at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre here Thursday.
Ismail was commenting on a call by Deputy Human Resource Minister Datuk Abdul Rahman Bakar for all public and private sector employees to undergo psychiatric tests at least once a year beginning next year.
Abdul Rahman had said that all government employees would also have to go for blood and urine tests to identify those with HIV/Aids and drug users.
Ismail said that before implementing the recommendation, the government had to look at various matters including the cost involved, methodology and its reasonableness.

"We have about one million public employees in various sectors like defence, police, education, health and so on. Anything that involves the managing of conduct of civil servants should have a proper method of implementation.
"It needs to be discussed," he said.
Earlier, Ismail presented accreditation certificates to 368 PSD officers from 12 ministries and four departments who underwent training to be counsellors.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Chua Warns Tea Producers Not To Add Colouring

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 29 (Bernama) -- The Health Ministry today reminded tea producers in this country not to add food colouring including permitted ones, into their products.
Its Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said that such action was a form of cheating and the act of mixing colouring, including those permitted was an offence under the 1985 Food Regulations.
"Mixing with colouring (even if they are permitted food colourings) is an offence where if found guilty, is liable for a fine not more than RM20,000 or five years prison or both," he said in a statement issued here Thursday.
Chua said that the public should be enjoying tea from the Camelia leaves as stipulated under the regulation.
"I hope that in 2006, consumers in Malaysia will no longer be exposed to tea mixed with colourings," he added.
The reminder, said Chua, was in line with the memorandum sent to the Ministry by the Malaysian Tea Association, which among others touched on the act of mixing colouring into tea powder that had become rampant among some producers.
He also warned that the use of colouring in tea powder was one of the offences which the enforcement took stern action against through the 1983 Food Act.
Chua also advised consumers to be careful and to report to the State Health Department, District Health Office or the Health division under the local authorities if they suspected the tea they took had been added with colourings.
Consumers, he said, could conduct a simple test on tracing if the tea was added with colouring by putting the tea powder inside a clear glass containing pipe water at room temperature.
The water will change its colour if the tea is mixed with colouring, since the change in colour of the water is supposed to happen if the tea powder is placed in hot water.

Medical care not given as promised

NST: When Norizan Ismail was told she had contracted HIV through a blood transfusion at the Segamat District Hospital four years ago, she was promised the best medical care.
However, the housewife from Felda Palong Timur Satu here said today the promise was not kept.
She now tires easily and has severe skin problems with abscesses all over her body.
As a result, she cannot continue to work at an oil palm estate to help support her family.
"I wish the authorities would be more compassionate and responsible as they are the ones who caused my suffering," she said.
"They apologised, admitted their mistake and even said that I could take the matter to court. They also promised me the best medical attention."
Norizan, 44, had a blood transfusion after an emergency Caesarean section when she was seven months pregnant with her 11th child on July 17, 2001. She received 11 pints of blood.
She was in a coma for a week and her baby survived for only 18 days. She spent two months in hospital.
A year later, two health officers went to her home and took samples of her blood and her husband’s.
"They told us it was a routine health check," Norizan recalled.
"After a month, they came for another sample and soon after, we received a letter asking us to meet health officers at Segamat Hospital."
There, she received the devastating news.
"The health officer advised me against talking to families and friends because they might treat me as an outcast," she said.
"They admitted that the 11th pint of blood was contaminated with the HIV virus and that I had contracted HIV through blood transfusion.
"They said it was up to me if I wanted to take the matter to court."
She said her husband, Rosli Mansor, 48, had not contracted the disease.
Norizan and her husband sought a second opinion by sending a sample of her blood to a laboratory in Malacca. The second test confirmed her as HIV-positive.
Her battle as an HIV-positive person began with routine checks at Segamat Hospital, about 45km from her home.
Norizan said she had to submit to regular blood sampling procedures at 5am because the blood had to reach a laboratory in Johor Baru by 6.30am.
Early this year, her health deteriorated and she sought legal advice.
In Johor Baru, deputy state Health director Dr Daud Abdul Rahim said the hospital had carried out follow-up treatment for Norizan, including counselling.

100 Children Abused Daily

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 28 (Bernama) -- About 100 children are abused in this country daily, said a consultant attached to the Kuala Lumpur Hospital.
Datuk Dr Abu Hassan Assari, who is also head of the hospital's Emergency Department said the term "abused" here included physical, emotional and financial abuses.
He added that abused children also included those who were forced to work, did not receive protection and not properly looked after.
"According to a study by a non-government organisation called the All Women's Action Movement (AWAM) most of the abused children also suffered from emotional and financial abuse besides physical abuse," he told Bernama here Wednesday.
Based on the same study, four women were raped each day and some of them were under 15 years.
"The study also revealed that four women were molested and seven suffered sexual harassment a day."
He however said the One Stop Crisis Centre (OSCC) formed in all government hospitals had been encouraging the abused women to come forward and expose their problems.
"The problem now is that many abused women are not willing to come forward with their problems."
He said 104 OSCC throughout the country would be equipped with special equipment for determining abuse cases.
The equipment were effective and being used in many countries, he said.

"Mechanical Heart" Boy Undergoes First Biopsy

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 28 (Bernama) -- Muhammad Fikri Nor Azmi, 15, who underwent a heart transplant on Dec 15 to replace his mechanical heart, had his first biopsy, Wednesday.
National Heart Institute Clinical Director, Heart and Lung Transplant Programme, Dr Mohamed Ezani Mohamed Taib said the biopsy was a routine procedure after a heart transplant to check on the status of the new heart.
"He is progressing well and will be in the Intensive Care Unit for another one to two days before being discharged to the general ward," he said in a statement, here Wednesday.
Muhammad Fikri was the first Malaysian to receive an Implantable Ventricular Assist Device (IVAD) or mechanical heart before he found a suitable donor for the heart transplant.
The IVAD is a temporary device that helps a defective heart by taking over most of its functions. It is connected to the ailing heart and helps reduce the strain on it.
Fikri who had the IVAD implant last July, underwent an operation to replace a faulty air-compressor line on the mechanical heart on Dec 7, after persistent air-pockets developed around it.

KPJ buys 60pc stake in Selangor Medical Centre

KPJ Healthcare Bhd, via its wholly-owned subsidiary Kumpulan Perubatan (Johor) Sdn Bhd, is buying 60 per cent of Selangor Medical Centre (SMC) for RM48 million.
In a statement to Bursa Malaysia yesterday, KPJ said the purchase is in line with the group’s objective to expand its network where private healthcare is in demand.
KPJ said the group is confident that prospects from the healthcare industry will remain promising based on the strong encouragement from the Government in promoting health tourism.
Incorporated in 1991, the medical centre, which is located in Shah Alam, had reported a RM2.22 million net profit on the back of a RM57.44 million revenue for its financial year ended December 31 2004.
To date, SMC has an authorised and issued share capital of RM50 million comprising 50 million shares and RM40 million comprising 40 million shares respectively.
The acquisition comprises 24 million ordinary shares of SMC at RM1 each from six vendors. (Business Times)

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Flood Victims Inoculated Against Diseases

KOTA BAHARU, Dec 27 (Bernama) -- The Health Ministry has taken measures to inoculate flood victims in Kedah and Perlis since the last four days against infectious diseases following floods in both states.
Health Director Datuk Dr Mohd Ismail Merican said the inoculation against hepatitis A, typhoid and others was carried out in certain affected areas after it was proposed by the Prime Minister.
"The preventive measure would continue... . Only that we have to be certain there is enough stock of vaccine for hepatitis A, typhoid and so on," he told reporters after officiating the Kelantan Health Department's 2005 Quality Day, here Tuesday.
On last Thursday (Dec 22), when visiting flood victims in Pasir Mas, Kelantan, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi ordered the Health Ministry to take preventive measures against infectious diseases that often occurs after floods.
Mohd Ismail also stated that supplies of vaccine for the affected four states - Kedah, Perlis, Kelantan and Terengganu - is sufficient.
"Up to now we haven't received any reports of insufficient vaccine supply in the respective states," he said.
Mohd Ismail also said that no diseases were detected during the deluge but all health clinics and hospitals had been informed to be on alert on any epidemic.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Health: A silent killer

Malay Mail: One in three Malaysians aged 30 and above suffers from hypertension while only six out of every 100 have their blood pressure under control, said Malaysian Society of Hypertension president Datuk Dr Azhari Rosman.
“This is more worrisome than the fact that only slightly more than one fifth, or 23 per cent, of Malaysians with high blood pressure are on medication,” says Dr Azhari, a cardiologist at the National Heart Institute.
Dr Azhari adds that the statistics underscore a serious treatment gap involving both patients and doctors.
“The medical community and the public must change their attitudes towards the dangers and the necessity of treating hypertension early and aggressively.”
One reason compliance rates for the treatment of high blood pressure are so low could be that the earlier generation of blood pressure drugs had some side effects, including dizziness, tiredness and some sexual dysfunction, so the treatment was actually causing more symptoms than the disease.
Hypertension-related deaths have been on the rise in Malaysia, partly because many who have high blood pressure do not take their medication.
The number of cases of hypertension in Malaysia almost doubled between 1985 and 1998 – from 58,961 to 103,512. The International Society of Hypertension estimates that about 42 per cent of the world’s population or one in two adults will be hypertensive by 2020.
This has prompted the 2006 National Health and Morbidity Study to probe 70,000 people aged 18 and above in more than 14,000 households to determine the incidence of hypertension, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, says Datuk Dr Zaki Murad Mohd Zaher, chairman of the working group that developed the Malaysian guidelines for the treatment of hypertension on behalf of the Health Ministry and the Academy of Medicine.
Dr Zaki, head of nephrology at Kuala Lumpur Hospital, says that hypertension is a major cause of heart disease, stroke and kidney failure.
“Hypertension is a common problem, but what is worrying is that many people do not know they have high blood pressure. Of those who are aware of their condition, not all are being treated. Even among those who are receiving treatment, only a minority have their blood pressure under control.
“It has been shown in several countries that with good control of blood pressure the incidence of strokes and heart disease can be reduced, saving a considerable sum for the healthcare system.
“A major aspect of the treatment of hypertension is fostering compliance. The choice of medication is also important.
The factors taken into account include absence of major side effects, convenient dosing schedule, cost and any other medical conditions the patient might have. The class of drugs called Angiotensin receptor blockers, or ARB, has few if any side effects and thus may encourage greater compliance.”
Dr Zaki adds that the major challenge is to convince patients to take medication to control their blood pressure, as the condition often presents itself without symptoms.
Fewer than half of the patients with hypertension are successfully on medication, a situation that needs to be looked into. It may mean patients are either non-compliant, not on the right medication or on the right combination of medications. Alternatively it might be that doctors are not aggressive enough in treating their blood pressure.
Says Dr Zaki: “In recent years, it has become apparent that blood pressure should be controlled to a lower level than previously advised to reduce damage to the heart. Meeting these new targets usually requires two or three anti-hypertensive drugs but compliance can be expected to be a problem.”
“High blood pressure is the single most treatable cardiovascular risk factor and Co-Divan is one of the medications I use for ensuring compliance,” he says.
The Co-Divan 160/25mg is a fixed-dose combination of valsartan 160mg (valsartan is an ARB) and 25mg of hydrochlorthiazide (a diuretic). It is a new formulation which has just been launched by Novartis Malaysia, for patients who need additional blood pressure reduction.
The Health Ministry has approved Diovan to improve the survival rate after a heart attack. This approval makes Diovan the only ARB that is indicated for the treatment of post-heart attack, heart failure and hypertension.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Shortage of medical staff

The Star: Malaysia is facing not only a shortage of doctors but also allied health services personnel.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said that there were only 61,472 healthcare professionals, and 129,634 more were needed.
By the year 2020, a total of 255,791 allied health services personnel will be needed. The shortage of such personnel are from 11 categories – staff nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, dental nurses, dental technicians, therapeutic radiographers, diagnostic radiographers, pharmacy assistants, medical assistants, medical laboratory technologists and health inspectors.
“Allied health staff makes up 57% of the workforce in the government healthcare services,” Chua told reporters after launching Masterskill College of Nursing and Health and its RM1mil scholarship award in Cheras yesterday.
Chua said the ministry’s 18 nursing colleges could only train 2,500 nurses a year, but the number was set to increase with the completion of several new training institutions under the Eighth and Ninth Malaysia Plans.
“We have outsourced the training of more than 1,500 nurse students to 10 private colleges since 2001, and currently there are 89 trainee nurses at Masterskill,” he said.
He said the ministry had also received approval from the Cabinet recently to continue the outsourcing.

RM1m used for shelter, blankets, medical aid

The Star PETALING JAYA: RM1mil of the RM3.6mil collected to date for the South Asia Quake Fund has been used for tents, blankets, medical services and other kinds of shelter for earthquake victims in Pakistan, said Mercy Malaysia president Datuk Dr Jemilah Mahmood.
The balance will go towards building semi-permanent shelters, maintaining the health centres as well as the running of mobile clinics and field hospitals in Bagh.
Dr Jemilah said Mercy was also supporting the district hospital in collaboration with the local district office there.
“To date, we have deployed 14 teams comprising 150 volunteers and will continue to deploy them until the end of January when we will reassess the need,” she said yesterday after receiving a cheque of RM1.15mil from The Star's South Asia Quake Fund to Mercy at Menara Star here.
The Star’s South Asia Quake Fund, set up to help victims of the earthquake that hit the Indian sub-continent on Oct 8, is now closed.
Thanking The Star for being a part of the humanitarian relief project, Dr Jemilah said: “We just do our best. We are indebted to The Star.”
She revealed that Mercy received a special grant of RM3.7mil for three years from Khazanah Malaysia.
With the grant, which is to cover expenses, all the money collected for the fund will go to the beneficiaries.
For next year, Dr Jemilah said Mercy would focus on awareness programmes to educate communities on risk and disaster management.
She said they hoped to empower the local community with such knowledge because first response must come from the community.

Addicts Buying Dangerous Drug 'Cocktails' at Clinics

PENANG, Malaysia, Dec 23 (IPS) - From the outside it appears like any other private medical clinic, though a little shabby. But a closer look reveals something unusual.
First, the 'patients' are predominantly male adults. Every few minutes one of them walks into the clinic, steps up to the counter and produces a card or booklet. Words are exchanged. The patient then walks into an adjoining room -- and less than a minute later, walks out.
What happens inside the room is anyone's guess. But the managers of two drug rehabilitation drop-in centres told IPS that certain private general practitioners are dispensing legitimate drug substitutes and potentially dangerous -- though also legitimate -- substances to drug addicts a little too freely.
Drug substitutes such as Subutex (buprenorphine) or, more recently in Malaysia, methadone, are legitimately used by doctors to reduce the craving among drug addicts without producing many of the harmful side-effects of illegal drugs such as heroin.
On their own, these substitutes may be effective in treating addicts -- but they can be potentially deadly when mixed with other substances.
Close supervision is required. When drug addicts are prescribed Subutex, for instance, doctors often issue them instructions to help them monitor the dosage and their consumption of the drug.
The booklet carries a printed warning: ''You are reminded that Subutex cannot be injected or taken together with Benzodiazepines (sleeping pills such as Dormicum) or alcohol. It may result in breathing difficulties or death to Subutex users.''
But this is precisely what some drug addicts are doing to get a quick and easily available fix. They mix these drugs and inject the 'cocktail' into themselves.
Dormicum (midazolam) belongs to the benzodiazepine family of drugs and is used as a sedative. It can induce amnesia and is often given to patients before traumatic surgery. At very high dosages, it can trigger a heart attack and stop the lungs from working. Taken repeatedly, it can also be addictive.
Benzodiazepine users quickly develop tolerance to the intoxicating effects of the drugs, which narrows the safety margin between an intoxicating and a lethal dose.
The fairly easy availability of the cocktail ingredients at private clinics worries the two drug rehab centre managers, who declined to be identified for fear of repercussions.
Addicts taking Subutex or methadone need to be closely monitored, said one of them. "You cannot give them benzodiazepines (as well). These addicts, when they are provided with benzodiazepines, will inject it into themselves with either methadone or Subutex."
''There is no such thing as using benzodiazepines in treating drug addiction," he stressed, adding that he has received threatening phone calls for highlighting the easy availability of these drugs and their abuse.
One recovering addict told IPS that such benzodiazepines can be easily obtained from ''no fewer than 10 clinics in town'' in this northern Malaysia port city. He said he used to take four or five tablets of midazolam or 20-30 tablets daily of valium, either alone or mixed with heroin. ''I know about a hundred addicts who are on these types of drugs.''
He is now upset with the doctors who sold him these pills, because addicts on a high from this cocktail become unaware of what they are doing. ''This is worse than heroin -- and the doctors (who sell benzodiazepines) know it. They are selling it for profit.''
Last year, authorities raided two clinics in Kuala Lumpur and seized 1,280 midazolam pills. But the problem persists.
The other rehab centre manager told IPS of the tragic case of a HIV-positive middle-aged addict who died last month after injecting himself with a cocktail of Subutex and midazolam, both obtained from a general practitioner's clinic.
''I urge doctors and pharmacists who give out Subutex to properly monitor the programme of administration of these drugs and not to abuse them,'' said the manager, pointing out that Subutex dosage should be gradually reduced over time. "Certain doctors appear to be looking for profits and not the treatment. They are indiscriminately giving out these drugs to addicts.''
At the drop-in centre he manages, he provides addicts with only two mg of Subutex a day and gradually reduces it to 0.5 mg after about 10 days, before stopping it altogether.
He believes some addicts may be taking up to six mg of Subutex daily and injecting themselves with a dangerous mixture of Subutex and midazolam.
''Anyway, now that the government is focusing on treatment using methadone, Subutex should be stopped,'' added the manager.
There are guidelines for the use of Subutex, one experienced general practitioner told IPS. ''You are supposed to reduce the amount gradually,'' said Dr T Jayabalan, who often advises consumers about their rights. ''Unfortunately, doctors generally don't follow the schedule.''
Jayabalan said doctors are supposed to help the addicts kick their habits but often the psychological aspect of addiction is not adequately addressed: ''Most of these addicts have instead become addicted to Subutex.''
''It's also a well known fact that there are clinics dealing with benzodiazepines, such as midazolam,'' he added.
Some say methadone is less prone to abuse, but the first rehabilitation centre manager says addicts can just as easily mix methadone with other substances and inject the cocktail.
A surgeon working at a private hospital here was equally concerned. ''The authorities should stop allowing the casual sale of these psychotropic drugs in the private sector so that addicts cannot get a supply of these 'legitimate' drugs such as the benzodiazepines, which are now available in some of the clinics in town,'' he said in an interview.
IPS contacted the Malaysian Medical Association and Ministry of Health about these concerns but got no response to its inquiries at either place.
Time is not on authorities' side. One private physician treating drug addicts told IPS he estimates there are some 600,000 drug addicts in the country and this could rise to two million within a decade.
Errant doctors have to be reined in fast. ''The only way out is for the enforcement people to do their duty'' and curb the availability of these substances, says another doctor at a private hospital in the capital Kuala Lumpur.

Life sciences fund a good first move, say biotech entrepreneurs

The Star :BIOTECH entrepreneurs say the Malaysian Life Sciences Fund (MLSF) is a good first step to fully develop the country's biotechnology potential, but fell short of its requirements.
While recognising that the MLSF, which has a fund allocation of RM100mil, is well-intentioned, panellists at a biotechnology forum in Kuala Lumpur yesterday said more funds should be set up. There should be streamlining of approvals and reduction in bureaucracy.
Organised by TH Properties Sdn Bhd, panellists at the forum on “The Impact of Budget 2006 on Biotechnology in Malaysia” were drawn from entrepreneurs in various biotech-related industries, as well as from the Malaysian Technology Development Corp (MTDC) and Ernst & Young.
Datuk Dr Salleh Mohd Nor, the executive director of TropBio Forest Sdn Bhd – a biotechnology firm researching jungle soil microbes – felt that there were problems with the translation of policies into implementation, and that the Government needed to invest wholeheartedly in the sector.
“There are many ideas to harness biotechnology in the country, but the execution is a problem,” he said.
Dr Rajen M, the managing director of Tropical Botanics Sdn Bhd, a herbal-extraction company, felt that private firms sometimes expected too much financing from the Government.
“We need to streamline the approval process and promote the industry as Malaysia can lay claim to having the oldest rainforests in the world, and this is an extremely good selling point,” said Rajen.
KLBiotech Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Dr Abdul Reezal Abdul Latif agreed that there was still much to be done to support the industry.
He said while it was important to capitalise on the herbal industry, development of other advanced medical services such as cell research, should not be neglected.
Sharon Low, the managing director of cell-therapy and medical services firm Stemlife Sdn Bhd, said although both MTDC and the Health Ministry had been very supportive of her firm, advanced medical services should not be neglected and would be needed to provide Malaysians with a high level of medical care.
Ernst & Young executive director (health sciences) Carol Wong said the Government's 2006 Budget had provided group tax relief aimed at encouraging companies to venture into new industries, such as biotechnology.
There were also clear incentives provided to gear Malaysia towards developing contract research organisations as well as contract manufacturing organisations, she said.
MTDC chief executive officer Azlin Alias said although the MLSF was the main vehicle to promote biotechnology, other accelerator strategies were in the works.

Sexuality Education Not Done In Haste

PUTRAJAYA, Dec 23 (Bernama) -- The sexuality education to be implemented early next year was not a hasty move but was mulled over for two years, Education Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said Friday.
The project, to be implemented in collaboration with the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, would be carried out with great care in schools and pre-schools, he told reporters after chairing a meeting of the Main Committee on Discipline here.
Allaying the fears of some parties, he said: "I would like to assure them that we have mulled over the guidelines (on sexuality education) for two years. We are extremely careful and sensitive in putting it across," he said.
Hishammuddin announced last Tuesday that education on sexuality would be implemented at the school and pre-school level early next year to help students protect themselves from sex crimes and to boost their morale.
The module planning had been completed and the National Guidelines On Sexuality Education would be submitted to the Cabinet in the first week of January.
It would involve five age groups -- four to six years (preschool), seven to nine (children), 10 to 12 (early adolescence), 13 to 18 (adolescents) and 19 years and above (adults such as university students, parents and senior citizens).
Hishammuddin said the sexuality education would not follow the open western concept but would be discreet.
It would be included in current subjects and not taught as a special subject, he said, adding that only expert teachers would be involved.
On fears that the subject might not be suitable for preschoolers, he said the scope for them would different from that for adolescents.

Malaysia Still Uses Tamiflu To Combat Bird Flu

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 23 (Bernama) -- Malaysia will use other types of drugs if it is proven that the bird flu virus has shown itself to be resistant to the anti-viral Tamiflu currently used to fight the disease.
Health Ministry Secretary-General Datuk Dr Ismail Merican said that until then, Malaysia would still be using the Tamiflu anti-virus drug which was proven effective.
He was asked to comment an AFP report yesterday that bird flu has shown itself to be resistant to Tamiflu in the case of two Vietnamese deaths recently, a development which a doctor described as worrying in the fight against the virus.
Ismail said the claim by the Vietnamese doctor should be studied further.
Currently, Tamiflu is the most effective treatment available to the fight the H5N1 strain that has killed more than 70 people since 2003.
Ismail also advised Haj pilgrims to take the necessary vaccinations before travelling to the holy land.
Although there was no requirement for bird-flu vaccinations from Saudi Arabia authority, normal vaccinations were sufficient to prevent them from contracting diseases, he added.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Poor English Why Few Join Nursing

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 22 (Bernama) -- Poor command of English is among the reasons why less and less people are joining the nursing profession and which has led to more than 57 per cent of nursing job vacancies in government hospitals to go unfulfilled.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said that unlike in the past where nursing was a competitive course because of the chance to work with the government or overseas and earn a high salary, today there seemed to be a lack of interest among the younger generation to join the profession.
"The ability to communicate in English is still very much in demand. We still have some senior nurses working overseas. They are still needed there probably because of their ability to communicate with the patients," he told reporters after launching Masterskill College of Nursing and Health at Hulu Langat here.
To overcome the shortage of 89,960 nurses in the country, Chua said the Cabinet had recently approved that government nurse trainees be trained by local private nursing schools.
He said currently the ministry's 18 nursing colleges could only train 2,500 nurses annually instead of the 8,000 needed to achieve the ideal ratio of one nurse to 200 patients by 2020.
Masterskill is among 16 private colleges and five universities that provide training for nurses. Its new campus is located at Taman Kemacahaya, Batu 9, Cheras here.

Call to set up PROSTAR club for Sabah youths

Daily Express:A WORRISOME trend of 19 new cases of HIV and AIDS are detected in the country each day, according to Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Yahya Hussin, citing statistics from the Malaysia AIDS Council.
"When HIV and AIDS were first detected in Malaysia in December 1986, there were only three reported HIV cases and one reported AIDS cases. Cumulative figures up to December 2004 indicate a total of 64,439 reported HIV and AIDS cases.
"What is saddening is that the majority of HIV and AIDS sufferers in the country are those in the 20-39 age range.
Reported HIV infections by age groups between December 1986 and March this year show that those in the 20-29 age group constitute 36.1 while those in the 30-39 age group make up 42.8 per cent of the total cases," he said when closing the seminar.
Yahya said about 1,500 people die of AIDS each day in Asia.
Yahya who is also Minister of Community Development and Consumer Affairs noted that 75 per cent of the reported number of HIV and AIDS cases in the country are from among drug addicts who share needles for intravenous injections.
"Hence, the Government-sponsored 'Harm Reduction' Programme in the form of condom distribution and injection needle exchange, is most timely.
Contaminated needles are given up by drug users in exchange for new ones to prevent the spread of the deadly virus to non-infected persons."
From his observation, factors like ignorance, lack of preventive measures, inadequate medical facilities, low level of cleanliness and superstitious beliefs invariably contribute to the spreading of HIV and AIDS, and loss of more human lives.
Yahya stressed that reproductive health is the most valuable asset to human beings for development of the future generation.
"We must leave no stone unturned in our efforts to wage war on the killer - HIV and AIDS."
However, the Deputy Chief Minister lamented that society, particularly young people, have a low level of awareness on sexual and reproductive health.
He said this causes them to be vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) including HIV and AIDS, and also leads to unintended pregnancies.
In this respect, Yahya called for the formation of the PROSTAR Club in Sabah to assist the authorities in addressing the HIV/AIDS problem. PROSTAR stands for Program Sihat Tanpa AIDS untuk Remaja (or Healthy without AIDS for Youth Programme).
He noted that the Federal Government had taken the initiative to set up such club in each district and region as a catalyst for youth groups to fight the HIV/AIDS scourge. Launched in 1996, its concept is "Action by Youth, through Youth and for Youth".
Also present was the ministry's Permanent Secretary, Michael Emban.
Earlier, MPWS Chairperson Datin Asnimar Hj Sukardi said the increase in the number of cases involving women and youth in the country by 13 per cent last year prompted the council to organise the seminar through its implementing agency, Sabah Women's Affairs Department.
Based on statistics from the Ministry of Health, she noted that there has been a steady increase in the number of HIV infections and AIDS cases from 1986 until March this year.
"As at December last year, cumulative number of HIV/AIDS cases was 64,439 and by March this year, the figure had risen to 65,370." The seminar was held to mark World AIDS Day this year. The theme for the Malaysian version is 'Women, Youth & AIDS'.
Responding to a request from the participants that a similar seminar be held at departmental level, MPWS Health Committee Chairperson, Dr Maria Suleiman who was the Organising Chairperson said they could write in officially to the Department of Health.
"We would be pleased to send our speakers and even the voluntary anonymous HIV screening team."

Over 500 in Sabah have HIV

Daily Express: Kota Kinabalu: Sabah recorded 541 cases of reported HIV infection (397 males and 144 females), 162 cases of full-blown AIDS and 63 deaths between 1991 and October this year.
State Health Department's Principal Assistant Director (HIV & AIDS), Dr Narimah Hanim Ibrahim said Tuesday, the State showed an upward trend from zero HIV infection in 1991, except for 2003 when only 52 cases were reported due to failure of notification, culminating in 105 reported cases last year.
"All the 144 females contracted HIV via the heterosexual mode of transmission. Sabah registered 71 new HIV cases, 35 new AIDS cases and 19 new reported AIDS deaths between January and October this year.
"Last year, only eight AIDS deaths were reported," she said at a seminar on HIV and AIDS jointly organised by the Sabah Women's Advisory Council (MPWS) Health Committee and State Health Department.
In her talk on "A Study on HIV & AIDS in Malaysia and Sabah", Dr Narimah said of the Sabah cumulative figure (541), non-Muslim Bumiputeras topped the list of HIV cases at 243, followed by foreigners (142), Chinese (110), Malays (37), Indians (6) and Sarawakians (3).
"This is in sharp contrast to the national scenario of reported HIV infections by ethnicity where Malays formed the bulk at 47,418, followed by Chinese (9,699) and Indians (5,422).
"Likewise, based on HIV cases by risk categories in Sabah, the main mode of transmission is heterosexual (84 per cent), followed by intravenous drug use (IDU) which is 4.8 percent, vertical (mother-to-child) at 2.8 per cent and homosexuality (2.2 per cent) for the 1991-October 2005 period.
"In comparison, IDU was the main mode of transmission for the rest of the country (75 per cent), followed by heterosexual means (13.8 per cent), homosexuality (1.1 per cent) and vertical transmission (0.7 per cent)," she told some 200 civil servants from State and Federal Government Departments.
In respect of occupations, Dr Narimah said 223 HIV-positive people in Sabah (among the 541 cases) refused to state their occupation, followed by others (169) made up of businessmen, labourers, contractors, farmers and other self-employed persons.
"For the 1991-Oct 2005 period, housewives made up 35 and 23 were unemployed while 22 were factory workers and 21 from the police and army. There were 18 government servants (both male and female), 13 prostitutes, five fishermen, five drivers and three students."
Going by districts, KK (189) topped the HIV cases between 1991 and 2004, followed by Tawau (66), Lahad Datu (35), Sandakan (41), Keningau (27), Papar (20) and Penampang and Kudat (each 19).
The seminar heard that 10 mothers in Sabah tested HIV-positive between 1998 and 2003 under the Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) programme. It was launched in 1998 at all government antenatal clinics.
Asked on the fate of HIV-positive foreigners, Dr Narimah said the Health Department would inform the Foreign Workers' Medical Examination and Monitoring Agency (Fomema) about their status and refer them (foreigners) to the Immigration Department for their deportation.
"However, it is difficult to detect HIV in illegal immigrants."
According to the doctor, voluntary anonymous HIV screening is available at 35 clinics throughout the state including Luyang Clinic. On the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Malaysia, Dr Narimah said cumulative figures (from December 1986 to March 2005) show that there were 65,370 cases of reported HIV infection (including AIDS).
Of the number, 60,773 are males and the rest females. Children aged below 12 years make up a separate figure of 546.
During the same period, there were 9,705 reported AIDS cases and 7,362 reported AIDS deaths.
The prevalence of HIV among antenatal mothers is 0.04 per cent.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Marina’s criticism shocking, says Chua

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek has hit out at outgoing Malaysian AIDS Council president Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir for criticising his public announcement on the harm reduction programme to fight HIV/AIDS.
Chua said he was appalled to learn that Marina had slammed the ministry for announcing the programme, which would see a free distribution of condoms and needles to drug addicts.
“I am shocked with her behaviour because she was one of the first few people who called to thank me and to support the programme.
“She said 'thank God, we have been waiting for so long for a harm reduction programme',” he said yesterday when commenting on Sunday's Mingguan Malaysia interview with Marina.
Marina said in the interview that the programme should be announced only after it was proven to be successful and that it should be quietly implemented while educating society.
Chua, however, said it would be impossible to carry out the pilot project discreetly, as it involved over 100,000 people and it needed support from all quarters, including religious groups.
“We also have to ensure that those involved in the pilot project received training and exposure before we run the programme nationwide.”
Incoming MAC president Prof Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman also sat on his committee, he said.
He also said the public announcement was in response to the Prime Minister's call for transparency in government policies.
Chua hit out at the council for behaving like a “know-it- all” NGO.
“They know all. They are the best,” he said. “They use words that are insulting and derogatory to my officers. I've been tolerating this for quite some time.”
He said the reason the ministry and the council failed to foster a close relationship was probably due to the arrogance of some officers from the council.
“What they know is the best. What my people know is second best,” Chua said.
In a two-page press statement yesterday, the council, without referring directly to Marina's remarks, said that since the council started 13 years ago, it had worked closely with the Health Ministry in various programmes and it looked forward to forging an even closer relationship with the Government.
The council said a strong foundation was being laid between the two parties to ensure the success of the needle and syringe exchange programme.
“We would like to stress that as a non-profit, umbrella organisation which facilitates activities of its 40 affiliates working in HIV/AIDS education, prevention, care and support for people living with the disease, the success of our programmes rely on the strong partnerships forged with government agencies.”

Bill to outline transplant rules

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Only gazetted hospitals will be allowed to perform human organ transplants under amendments to be made soon to the Human Tissue Act 1974.
The amendments will also provide for the term “brain death” to become a new definition for death.
And doctors performing the transplants will be required to be registered as transplant specialists, Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said.
“Doctors who certify brain death should not participate in the harvesting or transplanting of tissues at the same time,” he said.
The ministry also wanted to prohibit the sale of human organs, he told reporters after launching the first National Transplant Registry Report 2004 at Hospital Selayang yesterday.
He said the amended Bill would be tabled in Parliament next year.
The transplant registry report contains data on seven types of transplants – blood and marrow, cornea, heart, liver, renal, heart valve and bone and tissue.
National Transplant procurement manager Dr Lela Yasmin Mansor said that currently the Act did not have a specific definition for death.
She said a patient would be proclaimed brain dead when the brain could not recover from severe head injuries and died.
“His doctor will then switch off his ventilator that has been keeping his heart pumping,” she said, adding that this had been the practice in Malaysia and many other countries.
On the number of donors in the country, Dr Chua said only 91,309 people had pledged to donate their organs since transplants were first carried out over 30 years ago.
He also said a committee of unrelated organ donors had been set up to counsel and educate donors about the consequences of donating their organs.
Dr Chua also said the ministry was trying to establish Regional Transplant Units in the northern and southern parts of the peninsula and Kuching and Kota Kinabalu.

Ignorance Expose Sabah Youths To AIDS

KOTA KINABALU, Dec 20 (Bernama) -- The ignorance on reproductive health and sex among youths in Sabah not only exposed them to unwanted pregnancy but also sexually transmitted diseases including HIV and AIDS, said Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Yahya Hussin.
He said knowledge on reproductive health is highly valuable while HIV and AIDS are killer disease that must be tackled immediately.
"About 19 new cases of HIV or AIDS are detected daily in the country. But the sad thing is that the majority infected by HIV and AIDS are those in the 20 to 39 years age group," he said.
Yahya said this when closing a seminar on HIV and AIDS organised by the Health Committee of the Sabah Women's Advisory Council here, Tuesday.
Almost 200 participants consisting of officers and government employees attended the seminar.
Yahya who is also the state Community Development and Consumer Affairs Minister quoted a Bernama report last July that 1,500 people succumb to AIDS daily in Asia.
According to him, statistics on HIV and AIDS in Malaysia pointed to a disturbing trend. Since first detected in the country in December 1986 and up to 2004, a total of 64,439 HIV and AIDS cases were reported.
Yahya also hoped that the (PROSTAR) programme that encourages healthy lifestyle without Aids for youths established by the federal government in each district could be established in Sabah to help counter HIV and AIDS.

Sexuality Education To Be Implemented In School Next Year

PUTRAJAYA, Dec 20 (Bernama) -- Sexuality education would be implemented in schools including the pre-schools early next year after the guideline on it is approved by the Cabinet.
Education Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said the National Sexuality Education Guideline would be presented to Cabinet at the latest by the first week of January along with the memorandum which would be distributed to other ministries for feedback.
The guideline would be launched in February and the implementation committee had been set up for it.
"With the guideline approved by the cabinet, we would assess the available programmes at the respective ministries. We would add if it is insufficient, replan and take into consideration new phenomena such as indecent elements in the Internet as soon as possible.
"Other issues related to the rampant social ills should be taken into account in our effort such as rape, incest, sexual harassment, sexual exploitation and child abuse, all these have been listed in the guideline," he told reporters after chairing a meeting on the matter, here Tuesday.
The meeting was jointly chaired by Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil.
Hishammuddin said the guideline would not only focus on students but also parents, non-government organisations (NGOs) and community leaders.
He said it was divided into five age groups, which were level 1 between four and six years old (pre-school), level 2 between seven to nine years old (children), level 3 between 10 and 12 years old (early teenage), level 4 between 13 and 18 years old (teenagers) and level 5 which was above 19 years old (adults such as university students, parents and senior citizens).
"If we can ensure the guideline is understood, community leaders ranging from ministers, deputy ministers, parliamentary secretaries and people's elected representatives can not only influence certain parents and family units but also change the society's perception that this matter is serious," he said.
The guideline contained various aspects divided into six main parts namely human development, relationship, marriage and parenthood, living skills, health and sexual behaviour, and society and culture.
"It is related to family institution, the role of the parents, religious values, approaches related to new developments such as AIDS, indecent elements in the Internet and how it would affect out children," he said.
The sexuality education would be absorbed into the existing subjects such as Islamic education, Moral, Health, Science, Biology and Bahasa Malaysia but there were plans to make it as a core subject as contained in the ministry's Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP).
"I would love to see it to be a main subject but we have to balance it with other needs and priorities. Like I said, a lot depends on infrastructure as long as our school are on two sessions, it is impossible for us to accommodate all but it does not mean within five years we cannot have the project.
"What we have decided just now, there will be certain schools in the 9MP that we want to look at it as a subject," he said.
Shahrizat meanwhile said: "It is hoped with the availability of methodology to educate them, they would be able to tackle the problems that they face. The foundation is important, this is what we are providing for, a stronger foundation for our young to face the challenges of the world."

Mobile Physiotherapy Units For The Disabled In Johor

MUAR, Dec 20 (Bernama) -- The Johor state government would establish mobile physiotherapy units to help rehabilitate the disabled in all Rehabilitation Centres Within Community (RCWC) in the state from next year.
Dr Robia Kosai, the chairperson of the State Women, Family and Community Development Committee, said for a start the first unit would be established to help RCWC centres around Johor Baharu before widening its role to other districts.
The unit would be established under the ‘smart partnership’ concept with private companies and welfare bodies who are willing to contribute RM750,000 to establish the mobile unit.
"For this purpose, we would modify a bus and equip it with all the facilities and physiotherapy equipment that would be useful to rehabilitate the disabled," she told a news conference here, Tuesday.
Earlier she officiated a function for the disabled at the Johor State level in Dewan Jubli Intan, Jalan Arab here. Also present at the event was the Johor Welfare Services Department Director Zaliha Kamaruddin and Muar District Officer Datuk Abdul Latif Yusuf.
Robia said the mobile physiotherapy unit is badly needed to overcome the problems caused by the acute shortage of physiotherapist where at present the ratio is one physiotherapist for 25 disabled persons.
When replying to reporters, Robiah said each of the mobile physiotherapy unit would be manned by a physiotherapist and four trained assistant nurses to help the disabled.

Dancing for Hospis Malaysia

Malay Mail: The Dance Society of Malaysia is organising three charity dance concerts titled ‘Passion Flower & Triple Bill’ in aid of Hospis Malaysia.
The shows, featuring 40 dancers, will be held at the Securities Commission Auditorium in Bukit Kiara on Jan 7 at 8.30pm and on Jan 8 at 3pm and 8.30pm.
Entrance is by donation of a mininum amount of RM30 which will be channeled to Hospis Malaysia, a charitable organisation established in 1991.
For enquiries, call Sunny Chan or Helen at 03-4257-7642, Lee Yupin (03-7728-0254 or 012-2822556), Federal Academy of Ballet (03-7957-3413), Ellie Zhou Ballet Studio Sdn Bhd (03-7804-5600), Jean Gan Academy of Ballet and Music (03-2145-2089), and Dr Chen Wei (012-2199134).

Govt taking action to resolve ‘problem’

Malay Mail:The Health Ministry has confirmed the Government’s concerns over the new foreign owners of Malaysia’s largest private healthcare service provider having access to information deemed sensitive and critical to the nation.
Its Minister, Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek, said he is talking to the Economic Planning Unit and Finance Ministry to "resolve the problem".
He said he had reminded the parties involved in privatised healthcare projects of the need to maintain confidentiality as part of their agreement with the Government.
Dr Chua was commenting on The Malay Mail’s Page 1 report yesterday on fears of a breach in national security now that Fomema Sdn Bhd and Pantai Medivest Sdn Bhd are in foreign hands.
Fomema (acronym for Foreign Workers’ Medical Examination Monitoring Agency) was given a 15-year concession in 1997 to supervise, co-ordinate and monitor the medical examination of all legal foreign workers in the country.
Pantai Medivest has a 15-year concession to manage clinical wastes and provide hospital support services to 22 Government hospitals in Negri Sembilan, Malacca and Johor.
Their parent company, Pantai Holdings Bhd, is now under effective control of Parkway Holdings Ltd, a public-listed company in Singapore, after it bought a 31 per cent stake in September to become the single largest shareholder.
Besides Fomema and Pantai Medivest, Pantai Holdings has seven other private hospitals and another under construction in Peninsular Malaysia.
Dr Chua said the Government encourages foreign investments as they are "pro-business" and wants foreign investors to come here.
"However, local and foreign investors alike must adhere to certain obligations and conditions, especially with regards to privatised projects."
He said in Pantai Holdings’ case, it involves two projects in the Ministry’s privatisation programme.
"They are the examination of foreign workers through Fomema and the concession on 22 Government hospitals in the southern region through Pantai Medivest."
He said there are two conditions with regards to privatised projects.
"One, the project must be majority-owned by Malaysians and two, of the Malaysian ownership, 30 per cent must be Bumiputera-owned.
"Quite obviously, the parties involved in the two projects (Fomema and Pantai Medivest) are in breach of the two conditions. We need to come to an agreement on what needs to be done."
Dr Chua confirmed The Malay Mail report that there was a question of national security in the case of both parties.
"Fomema, especially, deals directly with the nation’s foreign labour workforce strategies, having examined some 1.5 million workers.
"The database involving Fomema is also linked directly to the Immigration Department."
He said when the two companies signed contracts with the Government, they gave their commitment to maintain confidentiality at all times.
"I had to remind them recently of this need for confidentiality."
It was reported yesterday that Parkway was learnt to have had dispatched its auditors to Kuala Lumpur last week to look at the books of Fomema and Pantai Medivest.
Both companies are expected to give free and total access to the auditors with regards to their operations.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Funds for special room for the autistic needed

NST: Lim See Meng will say her name with some gentle prompting from her teacher. The 14-year-old can even write her name. And a talent for sewing and crochet is beginning to show.
A year ago, she would reply with gibberish when asked her name. And she could not make friends in school, and would keep to herself at recess.
Enrolled in a Chinese school in Kuala Lumpur, she was making no progress in her studies or her behaviour.
It was not until she was put into a school run by the National Autism Society of Malaysia that she learnt to communicate and socialise.
Autism is a brain disorder, and its sufferers usually have difficulty learning, speaking and relating to people. They may also shun affection and isolate themselves.
Lim is one of 300 children, some as young as two, enrolled in the society’s 10 education centres and three vocational schools.
There, she and the other students have learned basic communication skills, motor skills and how to manage their behaviour.
Nasom chairman Teh Beng Choon estimates there are 1,000 children born autistic each year in Malaysia, about three-quarter of them boys. Cases can vary from mild in nature to severe, he said.
Nasom’s executive director Liew Yoon Loy said these children should learn to manage their behaviour and communicate as early as possible.
And parents need to accept the fact that their children are autistic, said Liew. "Many parents are living in denial," she said.
"Autistic children are often made fun of. They cry suddenly and usually don’t mix with other children. They live in their own world," said Liew.
Supported by the Kiwanis, the 20-year-old society has set up a one-stop-centre for assessing a child for autism. The assessment, by a psychologist costs RM50 and results take about an hour.
Nasom is also trying to raise RM75,000 to build a Snozelen Room at one of its schools. Originally developed in the Netherlands in the 1970s, the room provides a controlled environment where over-reacting autistic children can calm down.

Faulty hospital equipment

NST: HI-TECH and expensive medical equipment in government hospitals nationwide are not in working order and in need of repair "most of the time", the Health Ministry has revealed.
Acknowledging this at the Dewan Negara yesterday, Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad said the situation "could not be helped" as the equipment were overused.
The equipment referred to included CT scanners and MRI machines.
"The machines are often used over and above their optimum level, so much so that even though they are maintained properly, they will still break down," he said when replying to Senator Datuk Roslan Awang Chik.
Dr Abdul Latiff said the Ministry would continue monitoring the concessionaires involved to ensure they maintain the quality of their services.
"When the equipment breaks down, we will send patients to private hospitals with the costs borne by the concessionaire responsible."

Five receive the gift of life from organ donor

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Five people received the ultimate gift – that of life itself – when they underwent transplant operations simultaneously here on Friday.
Among the operations was a single lung transplant – a first in Malaysia.
The recipient, an assistant superintendent of police and father of four, received a left lung at National Heart Institute (IJN).
The operation, performed by a team of 25 medical personnel led by IJN director of transplantation Dr Mohamed Ezani Md Taib, took some 10 hours.
“Lung transplantation is only performed on patients suffering from end-stage lung diseases, and the recipient has been suffering from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis since 1999.
“He is recuperating well. He has been weaned off the ventilator and is breathing on his own but is expected to remain in intensive care for at least a week more,” said Dr Mohamed Ezani.
He was speaking at a press conference yesterday held by IJN and Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek.
Muhammad Fikri Nor Azmi, 15, who had been fitted with a mechanical heart in July, underwent a heart transplant, also at IJN.
“His first question when he woke up the day after the operation was: ‘Do I still have a mechanical heart?’
“When he was told no, he went back to sleep,” said IJN medical director Dr Robaayah Zambahari.
In addition to the operations at IJN, a 35-year-old man underwent a kidney transplant, and a year-old child a liver transplant, at Selayang Hospital. Another kidney transplant was performed at Kuala Lumpur Hospital on a 29-year-old woman.
The police officer, Muhammad Fikri and the other three received organs from a 21-year-old donor from Kuala Lumpur, who was declared brain dead on Friday after suffering head injuries.
Dr Robaayah added: “We want to thank the family of the donor, who in a time of tremendous bereavement, was still generous enough to donate his organs to save the lives of others.”
From January 2003 till now, 44 patients from all over the country have been referred to the Institute of Respiratory Illnesses for lung transplant. Of these, 29 fulfilled the criteria for transplantation. Eight have died while still on the waiting list.
When met, Muhammad Fikri’s mother Fatimah Osman said: “Our long wait is over. We are very relieved. He’s doing well now and we plan to take one day at a time.
“I haven’t thought about his schooling or other programmes yet. Right now, we only want him to get well.”

Women's Organisations Want Ear Squats To Be Stopped

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 19 (Bernama) -- Several women's organisations and opposition parties want the nude ear squat procedure practised by the police on women detainees to be halted because it outrages their dignity.
The organisations comprised Dewan Muslimat Pas Pusat (DMPP), Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) women's movement, DAP, Pertubuhan Jamaah Islah Malaysia (JIM), Women's Development Collective (WDC), All Women Action Council (AWAM) and women's wing of Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall.
Head of Dewan Muslimat PAS, Azizah Khatib Mat told a press conference, Monday that PAS hoped the practice would be halted immediately.
"It is a violation of the human rights, an insult to humanity and violates the Islamic law. DPMM hopes this practice will be halted immediately by the police," she said.
PKR Wanita vice head Zuraida Kamaruddin described the ear squat procedure as an abuse of power on the part of the police.
"It does not matter if the person is a Malay, Chinese or Indian. It is against the rights of a person and should not be condoned," she added.
Head of Wanita Pusat JIM Harlina Halizah Siraj meanwhile said the bad treatment given to women detainees was a sexual abuse intended to outrage the pride and modesty of a person.
"Despite it being the easiest and most effective way to reveal the object hidden in the private parts, revealing the whole body for the purpose is way too much and inhumane," she said.
Yasmin Masidi of Awam said that the police should have a written guideline in carrying out the nude ear squat procedure so as to protect the detainees.
"The detainees should also be protected. There should not be any sort of intimidation. The police should also be more transparent and be fair and clear on things," she added.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Pantai told EPU ‘no change in shareholding’

Malay Mail: THE Economic Planning Unit (EPU) in early October wrote to both Fomema and Medivest to enquire about any changes in their shareholdings, since under their concession agreements they have to be at least 51 per cent owned by Malaysians and 30 per cent Bumiputera.
(Due to the sensitivities of the operations of the concessionaires, the Government has instructed from the outset that both the firms always remain in Malaysian control. But Parkway’s purchases in Pantai, which were done in the open market as well as directly with a shareholder, may have resulted in a breach of that requirement).
Sources said that Pantai company secretary Noel Chua informed Fomema and Medivest that there were no changes in their shareholdings. This was then relayed to the EPU.
However, in a statement to the Singapore Exchange early last month, Parkway said it had classified Pantai as a subsidiary, since it had full board control of the latter, having replaced five of the seven board members with its nominees. As a result, it has gained an indirect, but effective control of both Fomema and Medivest.
Sources also said foreign ownership of the publicly traded firm may have breached the 50 per cent mark, and Bumiputera stake reduced to under 20 per cent.

Pantai deal valued at RM312 million

Malay Mail:ON Sept 13, Parkway bought 35 million Pantai shares from the open market and 89.7 million shares from Pantai group chief executive officer Datuk Lim Tong Yong, plus 24.3 million Pantai warrants. The purchases, for a combined RM312 million, gave it about 31 per cent stake in Pantai.
This makes the Singapore Exchange-listed Parkway the single largest shareholder in Pantai, which apart from a control of Fomema and Medivest, also operates seven private hospitals and another being built in Peninsular Malaysia.
Following its acquisition, Parkway changed five of the seven board members of Pantai, who are believed to be nominees of Parkway and/or its shareholder Newbridge Capital Inc., a US-based portfolio fund manager.
Under the Practice Notes 2.4 for the Malaysian Code on Take-Overs and Mergers, a company is said to be under a new control if its board is changed by more than half within a year of the entry of a new shareholder, or if there is reasonable grounds to believe that its board seems to be following the instructions of the new shareholder.
When this happens, the new shareholder may be required to make a mandatory general offer for the rest of the company.
Parkway skirted the issue of a mandatory general offer (MGO) by buying a shade under 33 per cent, the automatic trigger that would require it to make a bid for the rest of Pantai, which could be costly.
In its statement to Singapore Exchange accompanying its third quarter financial statement which was posted on the exchange’s web page early last month, Parkway informed the exchange that Pantai is regarded as a subsidiary because it has board control, even though it has less than 51 per cent in the company.
Sources said the Government is concerned that if Parkway has an effective control of both Fomema and Medivest, it could compromise the security issues of the two companies’ operations.
The loss of Malaysian control over the two would also be a breach of their privatisation agreement.
Fomema, which is an acronym for Foreign Workers’ Medical Examination Monitoring Agency, was awarded a 15-year concession in 1997 to supervise, coordinate and monitor the medical examination of legal foreign workers.
Medivest, a fully owned subsidiary of Pantai, has a 15-year government concession to manage clinical wastes and provide hospital support services in Negri Sembilan, Malacca and Johor.
Parkway has been operating in Malaysia for 30 years, through Gleneagles Penang.

Fomema Fear Factor

Malay Mail: The Government is said to be concerned with certain aspects of Fomema's operations it deemed ‘sensitive’, from a national security standpoint, now that its parent, Pantai Holdings Bhd, is run by foreign concerns.
Sources said Fomema, as a concessionaire responsible for medical examinations of all foreign workers in Malaysia, is considered a high-security operation.
The company deals with sensitive information related to the legal foreign workforce and has on-line links with several government agencies, especially the Immigration Department.
This concern was heightened last week after the new owners instructed its auditor from Singapore to go through the books and the entire operations of Fomema, and another subsidiary, Pantai Medivest Sdn Bhd.
Fomema was expected to give the auditor “complete access to sensitive and critical information of the Malaysian healthcare policies and strategies”.
Among others, Fomema has been asked to furnish details on the number of workers tested and the tests carried out on them since 2004, and for it to furnish a listing of all sub-contracting agreements.
It was also asked if the Government had made any queries in changes of shareholding, and for Fomema to furnish the relevant correspondence on this.
Singapore’s Parkway Holdings Ltd in September bought 31 per cent in Pantai, which gives it effective control of Malaysia’s largest private healthcare provider, including Fomema and Medivest.
Fomema was set up in 1997 upon being awarded concession by the Government of Malaysia to carry out the monitoring and supervision of the medical examinations of foreign workers under the annual mandatory health-screening programme in Malaysia. Chief among its contributions is the creation of a centralised database on the foreign workforce for the Government to access.
This includes vital information and vital statistics relating to communicable diseases to facilitate immediate counter-action and prevention plans.
While the latest figures could not be immediately ascertained, Fomema screened 700,000 foreign foreign workers throughout the country in 2003.
Its operations involve 3,300 panel doctors nationwide.
Medivest, meanwhile, is the concessionaire responsible for strategic medical services and policies for the southern region.
It handles 22 government hospitals, most of which are in Johor, and linked to a centralised database that amalgamates information on all government hospitals.

Non-Muslims urged to test, pre-nuptial HIV screening good

NST: Non-Muslims in Johor are encouraged to go for a pre-nuptial HIV screening following the success of a similar programme for Muslims.
The screening for non-Muslims, however, is voluntary. For Muslims, it is mandatory.
Johor enforced the ruling after a high percentage of Muslim men were found to be HIV-positive, and it raised the spectre of HIV-infected children.
State executive councillor Dr Robiah Kosai said the State Government was keen to extend the scheme to non-Muslims, for the welfare of their families.
"We cannot stop non-Muslim couples from marrying if they choose not to go for the screening. There will be no compulsion. It will be entirely voluntary," she said.
Dr Robiah, who heads the Women, Family and Social Development State Committee, said the Johor Welfare Department, in association with selected non-governmental organisations, would conduct special courses and counsel couples who did not object to the programme.
"The module used will be similar to the one we have for Muslims," she told reporters after a dialogue with fishermen at Parit Jawa fishing village, 12km from here.
HIV tests have been mandatory for Muslim couples planning marriage in the State since Nov 13, 2001.
The move initially drew considerable flak from the public, medical associations and religious bodies who claimed that such testing without an individual’s consent was not in the interest of public health.
They had also argued that compulsory HIV testing risked social stigmatisation and discrimination.
But the programme has since been adopted by several States after it was found to be effective in curbing the spread of HIV.
Under the programme, Muslim couples wanting to marry must undergo an HIV test at a government hospital or clinic, and deliver their doctor-certified test results to the religious authority conducting their wedding.
Couples certified fit and healthy will be issued a certificate and their marriage can be solemnised.
If either the man or woman tests positive, he or she has to undergo three months of counselling and medical treatment.
The intended partner of the infected spouse-to-be will be informed about the latter’s HIV-positive status, and it will be up to them if they wish to proceed with the marriage.

Marina slams ministry’s move

Star: The Health Ministry’s decision to implement a harm reduction programme to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS should have been made public only after it was proven to be successful, said outgoing Malaysian AIDS Council president Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir.
In a frank interview with Mingguan Malaysia, she said there was actually no need to announce the programme – which will see the free distribution of needles and condoms to addicts.
“I was told that the minister wanted to 'test the market’. But we cannot test a market which doesn’t really understand the situation.
“We should have carried out the programme quietly while educating society on the matter at the same time,” she said.
Marina said the harm reduction programme should begin at once and on a larger scale, noting that it would not reach those most at risk on time if it were first introduced as a pilot project.
In announcing the programme in September, Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek had said the pilot project would start next month. Some religious leaders have since claimed that the move would condone free sex and encourage drug abuse.

When care is as vital as cure

Star: PENANG: Datuk Dr T.P. Devaraj, the first Malaysian to be listed in the World Medical Association’s 100 Caring Physicians, has always believed that compassion combined with modern medicine would open the door for a patient’s recovery.
“Sometimes all you have to do as a doctor or a nurse is just to sit and listen to your patients and see how best you could help them cope with their illness’,’ he said in an interview at his Jesselton Avenue house yesterday.
Describing the recognition as “part and parcel of good medical practice”, Dr Devaraj, 81, said cure should not be the primary objective as care shown to a patient was equally important.
In all humility, he said that he had only done what he had to do but it would be a meaningful journey if his work inspired others to embark on a good cause.
Dr Devaraj was instrumental in the establishment of the Penang Family Planning Association, the Hospice at Home Programme and the Penang Hospice Home.
He has been involved in community work since he graduated from the University of Singapore in 1952.
After completing his housemanship in Singapore, he returned to Malaya in 1954 and served at the Penang Hospital until his retirement in 1979.
He was among the founder members of the Malaysian Medical Association (MAA), was its president in 1983 and had served many years in MAA’s ethical committee.
Dr Devaraj is passionate about the Hospice programme, which he considers a new development in the country.
“At the time when we wanted to introduce the Hospice programme in 1992, there was a serious gap in our health system where there was a lack of patient support in terms of providing care for a patient after diagnosis”.
The programme has since been extended to 18 other towns such as Seremban, Tawau, Kuching and Sandakan, among others.
Another project close at heart for Dr Devaraj is the Penang Hospice Home in Air Itam, which began operations in February 2001 as an eight-bed hospital.
“We have never turned away anyone who has come to the hospice for help,” Dr Devaraj said.
He expressed hope that there would be more community involvement in providing care for patients.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Fikri finds his heart

NST: A young Malaysian has given two people a new lease of life. The man suffered head injuries after an incident on Thursday and was declared brain dead. His organs, save his cornea, were harvested for transplant.
Malaysia’s mechanical heart boy has got a new heart and a chance at a longer life.
Muhammad Fikri Nor Azmi underwent a 10-hour heart transplant surgery at the National Heart Institute yesterday.
The institute declined to comment on the transplant but the New Sunday Times understands that he is in a stable condition.
It is learnt that a team of 30 medical personnel was involved in the operation. It is also understood that the donor was a young boy who was declared brain-dead.
Fikri was diagnosed with dilated cardio-myopathy, a heart disease which can lead to heart failure, when he was an infant and his heart started showing signs of deterioration only early this year.
He was put on the organ donor waiting list in March but doctors at the institute found that a delay would severely strain his heart, leading to the failure of other organs.
In July, he became the first person in Asia to be fitted with a mechanical heart. But doctors made it clear that the Implantable Ventricular Assist Device (IVAD), or mechanical heart, was only a temporary measure.
In recent months, he has encountered several complications. The latest required surgery to replace a faulty air-compressor line of the mechanical heart.
The IVAD helps the heart by taking over most of its functions.
Connected to the heart, it reduces the strain on the organ.
Patients in the United States and Europe have been known to survive for a little more than a year after being implanted with the IVAD, which costs RM100,000.

Design blind-friendly facilities, planners urged

Star: PENANG: Town planners are told to design facilities that are friendly to the blind and visually impaired group.
State Health, Welfare and Caring Society Committee chairman P.K. Subbaiyah said although awareness on the needs of blind persons was higher, blind-friendly facilities were still lacking.
“We need to make the surroundings friendly to the blind, so that they can enjoy a better quality of life,’’ he said at the White Cane Day celebration at St Nicholas Home for the Blind in Bagan Jermal here.
He represented Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Abdul Rashid Abdullah. The White Cane Day was on Oct 15 but the celebration was postponed due to the fasting month.
Subbaiyah called on the public to show their caring attitude towards blind people.
“It is displeasing to note that some motorists refuse to stop their vehicles to give way for blind pedestrians to cross the road,” he said adding that some motorists parked their cars in the middle of walkways, posing obstacles to the blind.
“We must do everything we can to help the blind,’’ he said while lauding non-governmental organisations and corporate bodies, including Intel which were involved in helping the poor.
Some 100 staff from Intel accompanied the blind in a “fun walk” from St Nicholas Home to Pulau Tikus market and back.

A true friend of the Befrienders

Star: MALACCA: Apart from investing in a furniture factory here, a Taiwanese man has also put his money into the business of helping the depressed by supporting Befrienders Malacca.
The 57-year-old, who only wanted to be known as Cheng, has donated RM100,000 to help the counselling group move into a centre of its own in Ujong Pasir.
“I have enough money for my own wants and my family’s needs. Rather than spending the money frivolously or just investing it to acquire more profits, why not put it to good use?” he said.
Cheng, a member of the Tzu-Chi Buddhist group in Taiwan, did not merely give cash to the group.
He also roped in a local contractor, Sheng Yong Engineering Works Sdn Bhd, to renovate the new centre, providing work worth some RM40,000 for free.
Chen visited the centre twice while the renovations were ongoing to make suggestions on what could be done to make the place more comfortable.
“I know I could have just donated the money and not given it further thought, but I felt I should help in every little way. We should all contribute to the best of our abilities,” he said.
Befrienders centres worldwide provide emotional support to the depressed.
As a result of his efforts, the Malacca group moved into its new home on Dec 11 and is now able to extend its services from just phone counselling to include face-to-face sessions.
Volunteer Amy Lee, who had approached Cheng, said the group would not have been able to get the centre, a 20-year-old house – purchased for RM130,000 – without his help.
“I was speechless and could not believe it when he told me he wanted to give RM100,000. I thought it was a dream,” she added.
According to Cheng, he had been moved by her account of two Befrienders Malacca volunteers who had rushed to a high-rise apartment to save a suicidal man after receiving a call from him.
He said while he also donated to other charities, including Tzu Chi, he was supporting the Befrienders because people with troubles did not always approach religious bodies.
“If they can help people just by listening to them, then I’ll consider the money well spent,” he said.
Apart from Cheng and the contractor, a painter also chipped in by charging the group just RM500 to repaint the centre.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

MMA Founder Member Gets International Recognition

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 17 (Bernama) -- Past president of the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) Datuk Dr T. P. Devaraj has won recognition for his work as one of 65 "Caring Physicians of the World".
"He is the first doctor from Southeast Asia, and the first from Malaysia, to be selected," treasurer of the MMA's Penang branch Dr S. P. Palaniappan said Saturday.
Penang-based Devaraj, an MMA founder member, was one of 65 physicians selected from 55 member countries of the World Medical Association (which has 84 national medical associations as its members) and featured in a book, "Caring Physicians of the World".
A copy of the book was presented to him at an award ceremony at the Penang Club earlier this month and a citation would be made at the MMA's national AGM in June next year, Palaniappan told Bernama. Devaraj was in government service from 1952 until 1979.
"He is vice-chairman of the National Cancer Society and has been fully devoted to the hospice home care programme in Penang, caring for patients with cancer or other terminal illnesses and providing moral support, comfort and solace," said Palaniappan.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Pacts on health and education cooperation inked

The Star: PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia and China have signed two Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) on cooperation in health and education.
The MoU on health will allow the two countries to work more closely in such areas as the control of infectious diseases, pharmaceuticals, primary healthcare, medical and health research development, food safety and traditional and complementary medicine.

Two Private Specialist Hospitals For Terengganu Next Year

KUALA TERENGGANU, Dec 16 (Bernama) -- Patients in Terengganu no longer have to seek specialist treatment in Kelantan or Pahang when two private specialist hospitals open here next year.
State Welfare, Health, Community Development and Women's Affairs Committee chairman Datuk Rosol Wahid said Friday that the hospitals, located in Jalan Batas Baru and Jalan Kamaruddin, would be operational in September.
Speaking to reporters after closing a Gastroenterology Symposium at the Kuala Terengganu Hospital (KTH) Day Care Treatment Centre here, he urged patients who were better off patients to go to the private hospitals so that the low-income patients could go to the government hospitals.
He said the state government would contribute 60 beds for the isolation ward of the hospital next next year to house suffering from dengue fever, bird flu and diarrhoea.
He also said that the operation theatres at the Kuala Terengganu and Kemaman hospitals had been repaired and would be operational soon.

PSD Refers To A-G 44 Medical Students Who Remain Abroad

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 15 (Bernama) -- The Public Service Department (PSD) has referred to the Attorney General (A-G)'s Office the case of 44 PSD sponsored medical students who failed to return after completing their studies overseas.
Parliamentary Secretary in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Mohd Johari Baharum said the students did not apply to defer their return to Malaysia adding that their act violated the terms of agreement with the PSD.
"The government has agreed to allow students to stay back for between one and four years but with permission from the PSD and on several conditions," he said in reply to a question by Tay Puay Chuan at the Dewan Negara Thursday.
He said the conditions, among others, was that the students were pursuing studies at a higher level or waiting for their spouses to complete their studies or training.
After which, he added, the students would be required to return home and to register their names with the Public Service Commission (PSC) and the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) to facilitate their appointment in the civil service.
There were 264 Malaysian medical students abroad who did not return after completing their studies. They were among 165 students whose applications to stay back were rejected.
Mohd Johari said government-sponsored students who failed to return after completing their studies would have to pay back all the cost incurred which included for their study fees, allowance and flight tickets.
"Previously in 2003, such students will be fined RM160,000 but now they will have to pay for all the costs, including allowance.
"For example, the cost of studying medicine in Ireland is almost RM1 million, as such they will have to pay that amount," he added.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Endon's Death Triggers Awareness On Cancer

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 15 (Bernama) -- Prime Minister's wife Datin Seri Endon Mahmood's death due to breast cancer last Oct 20 was wept by the nation and sparked off awareness among the public of how dangerous the disease can be.
It also got various quarters, both from the government and the private sector, organising programmes to encourage the public to make early check-up for cancer as well as calls for research to find an antidote for the disease.
Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, not wanting others to suffer like his beloved wife, had also expressed the need for more research in health care, particularly in prevention and treatment of cancer, for the benefit of the poor.
Towards this end, the Health Ministry is in the final stages of presenting to the government an Action Plan on Cancer Prevention which contained, among others, diagnosis, treatment, herbs and traditional medicines which could be used in cancer treatment.
The Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) had embarked on a large scale herbal farming to identify plants which could be used as antidote for cancer while the Malaysian Cancer Council (MAKNA) had allocated RM1.1 million for the setting up of a mobile team for cancer checks.
MAKNA president Datuk Mohd Farid Ariffin said an alternative method for treatment of cancer should be identified for those who could not afford modern treatment, which was costly.
Besides cancer, there was also concern over dengue cases with more than 1,000 people reported infected by the disease every week early this year.
Until last October, the number of dengue cases reported in the country was 34,485, including 1,736 dengue haemorrhagic cases, with 86 deaths compared to the same period last year with 26,870 cases and 84 deaths.
Selangor recorded the highest number of cases (11,367 with 24 deaths), followed by the Federal Territory (5,027 cases with 14 deaths) and Penang (3,129 cases with seven deaths).
The year 2005 also saw the government intensifying efforts to check the spread of HIV/Aids. One of them was providing free syringes and condoms for drug addicts.
Statistics showed that 18 people died of HIV/AIDS everyday in the country with the number of HIV patients expected to increase to 300,000 by 2015 from 65,000 people currently.
The spread of the Avian Influenza or bird-flu in several neighbouring countries had also put Malaysia on the alert throughout the year.
Although no case had been detected in the country, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that 133 people had been infected by the disease until Nov 29. Sixty-eight of them died.
Among the measures taken by the Health Ministry was to monitor cases of influenza-like illnesses.
The ministry also produced a document on "National Influanza Pandemic Preparedness Plan" (NIPPP) which outlined guidelines to be observed in preventing the outbreak of the bird-flu in the country.
The Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Ministry is also drafting an enactment, which among others, would require individuals to obtain licence to rear chicken and for slaughtering of chicken be done only at designated government and private slaughter-houses.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Kiwanis to set up centre in Ipoh

Sun2Surf: IPOH: An average of 86 babies in the state are born with Down's syndrome every year and this has prompted the Kiwanis Down's Syndrome Foundation to establish its first centre in the northern area.
Kiwanis Club of Ipoh president Steven Chong said the centre is scheduled to open next year and initially take in 50 children at an estimated operational cost of RM100,000 in its first year.
He urged the parents of such children here, Penang and Kedah to enrol their children in an infant development or early intervention programme.
"The progamme offers special instruction in teaching language, cognitive skills, self-help and social skills. The centre is open to those aged between one and six years," Chong said.
"Appropriate programmes administered by parents to their children during the early developmental stages will improve the children's chances of developing their fullest potential.
"Our objective is also to see that parents are given professional counselling. Many are already seeking help as to how they can understand and care better for their children.
The centre will be the seventh started by the foundation. The others are in Petaling Jaya (headquarters), Klang, Malacca, Johor Baru, Seremban and Kota Kinabalu.
"The club has embarked on several programmes to raise funds to meet the expenses," he said.
Kiwanis Ipoh is organising a charity dinner on Dec 18 at the Bougainvillae Counrty Club to raise RM20,000.
Sunway City, Giant Superstore, the Lost World of Tambun and the club are jointly organising a charity run on Jan 22 to raise RM50,000.
For details, call Chong at 012-5883386, Ng Bee Keong at 019-3116650 or Tony Goh at 012-5663722.

Medical Expert Says No Need For Ear Squats To Remove Items

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 14 (Bernama) -- A medical expert Wednesday told the Commission of Inquiry probing a video clip of a woman forced to do ear squats in the nude at the Petaling Jaya police station that there was no need to do ear squats to discharge foreign items inserted in the vagina or rectum.
Dr Zainab Samsuddin, an obstetrics and gynaecology specialist with the Kuala Lumpur Hospital, said that squatting alone was sufficient to eject foreign objects from the rectum and vagina and that ear squats in fact had a high probability of retaining these items.
"This is because in a squatting position the pelvic muscles relax, allowing any foreign object to be ejected. When a person stands these muscles contract, so when a ear squat is performed the muscle contracts and relaxes so this is not much use for ejecting the object. With squatting alone, the objects are easier to come out," she said.
She was testifying before the commission headed by former chief justice Tun Mohamed Dzaiddin Abdullah and comprising former MCA deputy president Tan Sri Lim Ah Lek, former Bar Council president Kuthubul Zaman Bukhari, Wanita Umno legal bureau chief Datuk Kamilia Ibrahim and Datuk Hamzah Mohamed Rus, who serves as secretary.
Dr Zainab said that a person with good pelvic muscle control could retain a foreign object in the rectum or vagina but if the person was made to squat for a longer period the inserted object would eventually come out.
"Not only is the position important but most important is the strength of the pelvic muscle of the person. But chances are higher (that a foreign object could be expelled from the body) if the person was squatting. Ear squat would only nullify the effects of squatting," she added.
She said that while the number of ear squats done by a person was not a matter of concern, the duration in which a person squats played a major role in retrieving objects hidden in the orifices.
She said doing ear squats did not mean that foreign objects hidden in the rectum or vagina would be expelled from the body but in reverse, objects could be retained.
Holding the ear while doing ear squats did not have any bearing on expelling foreign objects hidden in the vagina or rectum as holding the ear was just to stabilise the person while doing the ear squats.
"Ear squats have a sound basis. I won't say that it is not effective at all but squatting is a faster and easier way to get foreign objects hidden in the rectum or vagina out of the body," she added.
She said that to improve the procedure of removing hidden foreign objects from the rectum or vagina, one had only to squat and cough as the pressure of the cough would help eject the foreign object.

The commission also heard the testimony of Assoc Prof Dr Ashraf Mohamed Hashim, an expert in Islamic studies attached to the International Islamic University Malaysia.
From a religious point of view, Ashraf said that displaying one's "aurat" was wrong, unless it was absolutely necessary.
He was asked by the commission if a suspect could be stripped naked and a search conducted on the person's body.
"Even when there is a necessity, it should not be total. The degree in which a person could be stripped is not conclusive. A person can only be stripped to a needed degree.
"Doing ear squat is allowed but only when it is necessary. Body search is also allowed by Islam but there must be reasonable suspicion that the person did indeed commit an offence," he added.
Dr Ashraf said there was no need for a person to expose her top while doing ear squats.
He suggested that suspects use an apron-like garment as this was allowed from the "syarak" point of view.
He said doing ear squats naked should be corrected by the police as it was incorrect from the religious point of view.