Friday, June 30, 2006

HIV: The Rising Fear Factor

NST: PUTRAJAYA: It is scary. People who know full well that they are HIV-positive are donating blood. Last year, 124 blood donors were found to be infected with the HIV virus.
And the Government, worried by a projection that there will be 300,000 HIV/AIDS-positive Malaysians by 2015, wants to put a stop to this.
It is proposing mandatory jail for anyone who donates blood knowing he or she has HIV/AIDS.
This is one of the basket of measures the Government plans to introduce to fight the scourge. Another is to make it compulsory for Muslim couples to undergo an AIDS test before being allowed to marry.
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said yesterday the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 would be amended to provide for fines and a jail term.
Saying the number of HIV-positive people who donated blood rose from 107 in 2004 to 124 last year, Najib added: "It must be made a crime as there is a prevalence of such incidences. If you knowingly donate blood when you are HIV-positive, you could cause the death of other people. That’s why we are taking it seriously."
He said this after chairing the first meeting of the Cabinet Committee on HIV/AIDS here. Also present was Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek.
Dr Chua said his ministry would push for a mandatory jail term for the offence.
"Blood donated to hospitals is used to save lives. There are people who know they are HIV-positive and yet they purposely donate their blood.
"There are cases where they cheat while filling forms, saying they are negative. But when we run checks, their record shows that they are HIV carriers. They do it deliberately despite knowing their status," Dr Chua said, adding that in many countries this had been criminalised.
He said some donors failed to inform the authorities despite being told that they had newly contracted the disease.

Najib also said the Health Ministry and the World Health Organisation had projected that there would be over 300,000 Malaysians with HIV/AIDS by 2015. Currently, the figure stands at 71,676.
He said it was expected that over 6,000 would be infected with AIDS a year, unless effective measures were taken to address the problem.
The Cabinet Committee, he said, decided on several steps to curtail the spread of HIV/AIDS.
They include compelling Muslim couples to undergo HIV/AIDS screening prior to marriage.
The Islamic Development Department, Najib said, would be directed to discuss with the state governments on introducing this ruling.
He said initiatives to increase awareness of the disease, including through "shocking messages" were in the pipeline, as were talks to captive audiences such as National Service participants and Friday prayer congregations at mosques.

The government is also working to free drug users of their addiction through better implementation of the methadone substitution therapy.
He said it cost the Government RM5 for every 40 milligramme of methadone. It was now looking at sharing the resources of countries such as Hong Kong, Thailand and Germany which sourced their supply for between RM0.45 and RM2.60.
The methadone substitution therapy, he said, had proven effective. Ninety per cent of 1,200 pilot users of this method were no longer drug dependent, he added.
Najib also said while statistics showed that 70 per cent of HIV/AIDS patients were drug addicts, there was also an alarming increase (22 per cent) in the number of those who contracted the virus through sexual intercourse.
The number of women with HIV/AIDS had grown from 1.2 per cent of the total figure in 1990 to 12 per cent, he said.

HIV has found its place among the ‘straight’

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: HIV can no longer be referred to as a "gay disease" or a disease that involves injecting drug users as it has found its place among "straight" men and women.
A total of 1,218 heterosexuals were infected with the virus in 2002. This increased to 1,307 the following year. In 2004, the number dropped to 1,271 but is on the rise again.
The number of homosexuals and bisexuals who became HIV-positive in 2002 was 51, rising to 151 the following year and to 222 in 2004. The 2004 report by the Ministry of Health’s AIDS/STD section said there had been a steady increase in the reported number of cases among homosexuals and bisexuals since 2000. Cases were concentrated in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur.
An infectious diseases expert said: "The gap is narrowing between the number of homosexuals and heterosexuals becoming infected with HIV."

Fighting AIDS: Blood test for couples poser

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Should couples who want to get married take a blood test to determine whether they are HIV-positive?
The Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) is all for it, but the Malaysian AIDS Council (MAC) has reservations. The Malaysian Hindu Sangam is considering whether such a law should cover Hindus as well.
Jakim director-general Datuk Mustafa Abdul Rahman said compulsory testing for Muslim couples was being carried out in seven States: Johor, Kelantan, Terengganu, Selangor, Perak, Perlis and Malacca.
He was commenting on a proposal yesterday by the Cabinet Committee on HIV/AIDS to make it compulsory for Muslim couples to undergo such a test before being allowed to marry.
"Jakim and state Islamic affairs departments have agreed that couples about to get married must be tested and now, following the decision by the Cabinet Committee, we will expand this to the other States," he said when contacted.
He said he would meet state department officials to discuss plans to implement this as soon as possible.

MAC, meanwhile, feels that compulsory testing could compromise confidentiality and the quality of counselling.
"MAC has always been very, very uncomfortable with this," council president Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman said.
"While we encourage people to come forward for testing, especially with the treatment available, there should be adequate dissemination of knowledge and counselling, especially if they are HIV-positive."
UNAIDS and the World Health Organisation recommend that testing be voluntary and confidential, accompanied by counselling and conducted only with informed consent, meaning that it is both informed and voluntary.
Both bodies support mandatory screening for HIV only if blood is destined for transfusion or for manufacturing blood products.
Dr Adeeba said a one-off test would not help if people were not aware of what HIV was all about.
(The blood result of someone who is HIV-positive may show that he or she is free of the virus if they have taken the test during the window period when the virus is not yet present in the body. This requires a second test. First tests may show a false positive, which means a second, and sometimes third, test is required.)
"Everyone should come in for testing but it should not be forced upon them," Dr Adeeba said.
"We have compulsory testing in prisons and drug rehabilitation centres and we are not seeing it as being really effective."
She said testing would not make a difference if it did not lead to behavioural changes.
"Yes, people need to know their status, but they also need to know how to handle it," she said.

Catholic priest and moral theologian Rev Dr Clarence Devadass said there should be a law to make it compulsory for a HIV-positive person to tell his or her partner and their family of their status, but agreed that voluntary testing was acceptable.
"We encourage couples to do blood tests. It is for your own general health," he said.
He said if an individual knew that he or she was HIV-positive and refused to tell their partner or potential spouse, society had a responsibility to inform the uninfected partner.
"That’s the principle of justice, which outweighs the principle of confidentiality," he said.
Devadass also welcomed the idea of promoting HIV/AIDS awareness to captive audiences, saying the Catholic stand was abstinence.
He said the Catholic church did not condone the needle-exchange programme, the distribution of condoms or methadone substitution therapy.

The Hindu Sangam will consider whether HIV testing should be made compulsory for Hindus, said its president, Datuk A. Vaithilingam.
"I am not saying we are formaking it compulsory at the moment because we have to consider all angles first. We have to be very careful," he said.
The Hindu Sangam will next month call for a meeting of national Hindu organisations and spiritual leaders to discuss the matter.
Asked whether he was for compulsory testing, Vaithilingam, who is also the vice-president of the Malaysian AIDS Council, said: "Not yet. We want to go through everything very carefully."

Noodles high in boric acid

Star: BALIK PULAU: Noodles in Penang and Selangor have high content of hazardous boric acid, Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek warned.
A random survey carried out in April showed that Selangor topped the list with 19% of samples containing dangerously high levels of boric acid, followed by Penang (16%), he said.
Dr Chua said hokkien mee contained 33% boric acid, wantan mee (18%) and yellow mee (6%).
Stressing that high boric acid content in food could cause nausea and lead to death and kidney failure, he warned that stern action would be taken against noodle manufacturers who flout the regulation.
Under the Food Act, those liable can be fined up to RM20,000 and be jailed two years.
“We are taking stern action. We have seized the products containing excessive boric acid and initiated court action,” he said after visiting Balik Pulau Hospital here yesterday.
“The highest cases were found in Klang, Selangor, and in Kepala Batas, Sungai Dua and Butterworth in Penang.”
Dr Chua announced that he would approve RM600,000 for the hospital to purchase additional facilities such as haemodialysis and X-ray machines.

He said the Cabinet had directed his ministry and the Higher Education Ministry to form a committee to improve the Teaching Hospital programme to reduce cost of training medical students overseas.
“We want to include all 131 hospitals in the programme. Now only 98 hospitals are involved,” he said.
“The committee will look into how to make full use of local specialists and experts to train medical students.
“The Government spends RM330mil a year to train medical students overseas. It costs a student about RM1mil to study medicine in Ireland, and RM700,000 in Australia.”

Register only for genuine specialists

Star: PUTRAJAYA: There is no room for any “wannabe” in the National Specialist Register (NSR) to be launched in August.
“If you do not meet the criteria to be on the list, then you are not a specialist,” said Health Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican.
The registration process, which would include a check on credentials and competency, was vital to maintain and safeguard the highest standards of specialist practice in the country, he told reporters here yesterday.
Describing the register as a landmark move, he said action could be taken against those who falsify information to claim they were specialists.
Dr Ismail said because there was no such register at the moment, the exact number of specialists in the country, especially in the private sector, was not known.
The Medical Act 1971, he said, was being amended to include a provision to register specialists. He hoped it would be passed this year.
“The NSR will ensure that doctors designated as specialists are appropriately trained and fully competent to practise at the expected higher level of care in the particular specialty.
“Until the Act is passed, credentialing of specialists will be undertaken by the National Credentialing Committee established by the ministry.
“Practitioners admitted to the NSR will be deemed to be specialists under the amended Act,” he added.
Dr Ismail said the NSR would be a source of reference for the impending National Health Financing Scheme, where payment for service would be based on the credentials of the practitioner.
He said the NSR was important once Malaysia opened its doors to foreign medical specialists in compliance with the General Agreement on Trade in Services.
The registration exercise for the NSR is a joint effort between the ministry and the Academy of Medicine of Malaysia (AMM).
Those who meet the stipulated criteria can register with the NSR secretariat housed at the academy. The fees are at RM1,200 for AMM members and RM1,500 for non-members. The NSR registration is renewable every five years.
The AMM, set up in 1969, has 2,200 members from various specialities.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek will launch the NSR on Aug 24 at the ministry’s annual congress. Registration can be done online at

Govt Hospitals To Churn Out Doctors

PENANG, June 29 (Bernama) -- The public hospitals will be transformed into teaching hospitals to churn out doctors, says Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek.
He said the Cabinet decided this Wednesday in efforts to produce more doctors and reduce the cost involved in sending medical students overseas.
A committee jointly chaired by the secretary-general and director general of the Health and Higher Education Ministry has been established to look into the matter.
Dr Chua said the committee would look into ways on how the hospitals could be modified to accommodate classrooms, seminar rooms, research and development rooms and lecture rooms.
When met by reporters after visiting the Balik Pulau Hospital here, he said currently 98 of the 131 hospitals are being used by the 10 private and 9 public institutions of higher learning for the clinical training of their medical students.
The experienced specialists in the hospitals would tutor the medical students, he said.
He said while the specialists' new role as "lecturers or presenters" would not disrupt hospital operations, the big number of students may not provide a comfortable atmosphere for the patients and therefore it must be implemented carefully.
The rules and the implementation methods would be worked out by both parties.
Dr Chua said the government spent RM330 million annually to sponsor 530 medical students overseas and if they could be trained locally it would contribute to big savings.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Apathy a reason for rising dengue cases

Star: The ignorant and indifferent attitude of Selangor residents is one of the reasons why the state has the highest number of dengue cases in the country.
Last year, the number of cases in the state numbered 9,178, with 12 deaths. Cases in Selangor alone contributed almost 27% of the total number of cases in the country, a grave cause for concern for the state government.
On Tuesday, state exco for tourism, health and consumer affairs Datuk Dr Lim Thuang Seng said Selangor residents should work with the state government to curb the disease.
“The state is going all out to do its part but residents should also buck up and be more proactive.
“They should know the dangers of having unkempt compounds and must be particularly vigilant during the rainy season when there is usually a surge in dengue cases,” he explained.
“When the authorities carry out fogging, residents should be cooperative and let them in.
“They should also participate in gotong-royong activities organised by residents' associations,” he added.
Lim was speaking after visiting several dengue-prone areas under the jurisdiction of the Kajang Municipal Council (MPKj). Accompanying him were officers from the council and the Hulu Langat District Health Office.
According to Lim, the number of dengue cases recorded in areas under MPKj and the Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSj) were at an alarming level.
Bandar Teknologi Kajang in Semenyih is one of the areas often prone to dengue but efforts to curb the disease were still unsatisfactory.
Aedes larvae were found in several locations and almost all the situations could have been prevented if residents were more concerned for their health and surroundings.
Tyres stacked in the front compound of one house, old plastic trays kept in the garden of another house and discarded water containers around the playground were all breeding grounds for the larvae.
Similar scenes were witnessed in Bandar Baru Bangi while larvae were also present in water collecting in plastic sheets discarded at the temporary MPKj store located on private land on Jalan Low Ti Kok.
At a briefing at the Hulu Langat District Health Office earlier, Lim was told that the World Health Organisation (WHO)-sanctioned programme called Combi (Communication for Behavioural Impact) was successful in reducing 75% of the dengue cases in Sections 3 and 4 of Bandar Baru Bangi in 2004 and 85% of dengue cases in Kampung Sungai Ramal Dalam last year.
The Combi only works if residents are willing to take a serious role in efforts to curb dengue.

Drastic Increase In New Cases Of HFMD In Sarawak

KUCHING, June 29 (Bernama) -- The number of new cases of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) in Sarawak increased drastically to 71 yesterday.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan in his daily update Thursday said the highest number came from Kuching, followed by Bintulu, Miri, Sri Aman, Sibu and Betong.
"There are 11,062 cumulative cases," he said, adding that 16 new hospital admissions were reported but there was no critically ill case.
For the past two months since the first HFMD case was detected in February, the number of new HFMD cases had been dwindling with an average of 30 to 50 cases per day.
Last week, a two-year-old boy from Marudi became the latest fatality of the HFMD outbreak in Sarawak, prompting the state goverment to put on hold its decision to declare the state HFMD-free.
The latest case brought the death toll to 11.

Online Course In Occupational Medicine For Socso Panel Doctors Launched

PETALING JAYA, June 29 (Bernama) -- A web-based certificate course in occupational medicine is now available to Social Security Organisation (Socso) panel doctors.
Launched by Deputy Human Resources Minister Datuk Abdul Rahman Bakar here Thursday, the course is made available by the ministry, Zenith Institute of Medicine, Socso and the Malaysian Society of Occupational Health Physicians.
"The programme consists of 30 reviewed articles on occupational medicine authored by experts in the field. Ten assessment questions are set for each article and a pass is awarded to candidates who score a minimum of 60 per cent for each article completed," Zenith Institute president Wong Mei Chan said at the launch.
The overall objectives of the course are to identify workplace hazards, assess the hazards, suggest intervention strategies and familiarise the panel doctors with legislation governing workers and their health.
Wong said the launch of the online course had made e-learning possible to busy doctors throughout Malaysia and offered them the opportunity to learn from experts in the field from the convenient comfort of their homes or offices.
Malaysian Society of Occupational Health Physicians president Datuk P. Krishnan told reporters after the launch that the society was happy to support the online certificate course.
"This course, while giving the medical practitioners a basic knowledge in occupational medicine, also meets the requirement of Socso to have all its panel doctors trained in occupational medicine," he said.
Considering it as an innovative project, Krishnan hoped the course could give more information and awareness to the panel doctors on the problems faced by their patients.

HIV/AIDS Blood Donors May Be Jailed

PUTRAJAYA, June 29 (Bernama) -- The government proposes to impose mandatory jail sentence besides a fine on HIV/AIDS sufferers who falsify information on their condition to donate blood.
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 would be amended to provide for this.
"There have been several cases of HIV and AIDS sufferers who donated blood. We want to make it a crime," he told reporters after chairing the meeting of the Cabinet Committee on AIDS here.
"You can kill people by that act. If you knowingly donate blood when you are HIV+, you could cause the death of other people. That's why we are taking it seriously," Najib said.
Last year, 643 blood donors were found to be infected with various viruses, seven of them with HIV/AIDS.
And this is the scary picture painted by Najib if effective measures are not taken to curb HIV/AIDS -- a projected 300,000 Malaysians will contract the disease by 2015.
He said the trend of the disease in Malaysia was most worrisome with about 11,000 HIV/AIDS cases and 8,334 deaths recorded last year.
"On average, 6,000 HIV/AIDS cases are reported annually, 70 per cent of them involving drug addicts," he said.
He said the percentage of women infected with HIV rose 10 times from only 1.2 per cent in 1990 to 12 per cent last year.
"This trend will rise because the spread of the disease through sex will rise, so the spread of the disease among women will increase," he said.
Among the measures decided upon today to check the disease is to require all the states to conduct HIV/AIDS screening on Muslim couples intending to get married.
The states that have not done so are Kedah, Penang, Negeri Sembilan, Sabah, Sarawak and the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur and Labuan.
Najib said the important thing was to raise the people's awareness of the dangers of HIV/AIDS through various channels like the media, talks and Friday sermons.
He also said that the committee agreed that the supply of methadone should be increased to bring down the current price of RM5 per 40mg of the drug. Methadone is used in therapy for drug addicts.
Najib said the pioneer methadone replacement programme which started last October with 1,200 drug addicts had proven effective with 85 to 90 per cent of them now free of drug and 71 per cent to 90 per cent having found jobs.
Phase two of the programme in 2006-2007 will be extended to all government hospitals.

Hospitals urge public to change perception

Star: PENANG: The public tend to associate non-profit hospitals which provide cheaper medical care as sub-standard and patronised by those with lower social status.
Expressing concern, Mount Miriam Hospital chief executive officer Andy Wee said the public should dispel such a wrong perception.
“Mount Miriam is a non-profit hospital and we are among the country’s most comprehensive cancer care centres.
The perception that cheaper treatment was synonymous with sub-standard care was wrong, he said.
“We are currently the only hospital up north equipped with a Linear Accelerator radiation treatment machine.
“The machine alone costs about RM6mil, and within the next few months we will invest RM7mil more to upgrade our facilities and purchase a Stereo Static Radio Surgery treatment machine for the hospital,” he said in an interview yesterday.
He was asked to comment on Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek’s statement that the country’s non-profit hospitals were struggling to survive as the number of patients seeking treatment at such institutions was dropping drastically.
He said this was because of public perception that those who sought treatment there were of lower social status.
Penang Adventist Hospital, Mount Miriam and Lam Wah Ee Hospital are among the 12 non-profit hospitals in the country.
Wee said it had always been a struggle for non-profit hospitals to survive but Mount Miriam was fortunate as the public and non-governmental organisations had always contributed generously to the hospital.
Lam Wah Ee medical superintendent Yip Kok Thye said it might be true that most non-profit hospitals were struggling to stay afloat amidst rising costs but Lam Wah Ee actually recorded a 4% increase in the number of patients treated last year.
“As long as non-profit hospitals are able to provide the highest standard of care at affordable rates, Malaysians will be mature enough to value the service,” he said.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

More Men Keen To Become Nurses

KOTA BAHARU, June 28 (Bernama) -- More men are keen to join the nursing profession, a career associated with for women, said Universiti Sains Malaysia Hospital (HUSM) acting director Dr Zaidun Kamari.
"When we opened up new intake for nurses, we received a lot of applications from men.
"In the last intake, we enlisted five males, and this year we are offering 10 places to them," he told reporters after signing the memorandum of understanding (MoU) between HUSM and Murni Nursing College and Poly-Tech MARA College, here Wednesday.
Murni Nursing College was represented by its chief executive officer Ridwan Shoib and Poly-Tech MARA by Dr Ahmad Roslan Johari.
Also present was Universiti Sains Malaysia vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dzulkifli Abdul Razak.
Under the MoU, HUSM agrees to provide practical training to the nursing diploma students of both colleges for five years.
The students of both colleges are allowed to use the equipment and facilities at HUSM during their 10-week clinical training.
HUSM has also forged cooperation with Kolej Ugama Sultan Zainal Abidin, Universiti Institut Teknologi Mara, Kolej Teknologi Islam Melaka, Kolej Islam Selangor Darul Ehsan and the Perak Medical College.

Easier For MOs In Rural Areas To Further Studies

KUALA LUMPUR, June 28 (Bernama) -- Medical officers serving in rural areas would find it easier to go for post-graduate studies under incentives being considered by the government for officers posted to rural areas, the Dewan Rakyat was told Wednesday.
"We may give additional merit points for medical officers serving in rural areas who wish to further their studies," said Deputy Minister of Health Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad.
Replying to Raime Unggi (BN-Tenom), he said medical officers should discard the perception that it was difficult to live in the rural areas because the facilities there were being upgraded to match those in the urban areas.
Dr Abdul Latiff said the government was targeting a 1:600 ratio of medical officers to patients by 2015.

Number Of Smoking Women Jumps 100 Per Cent

KUALA LUMPUR, June 27 (Bernama) -- The number of smoking Malaysian women jumped 100 per cent in 2003 compared to 1996, the Dewan Rakyat was told Tuesday.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Health Ministry Lee Kah Choon said 2003 saw an eight per cent growth in the number of women smokers compared with four per cent in 1996.
The statistics were based on the ministry's second National Health Morbility survey in 1996 and a Universiti Putra Malaysia study in 2003.
The study also revealed that the increase in the number of women smokers was noted in both rural and urban areas.
Lee said the ministry had identified four factors, namely physiology, psychology, social and environment, to be the main influence that promoted the smoking habit among the feminine gender.
Replying to a question from Datuk Goh Siow Huat (BN-Rasah), Lee said the physiology factor influenced urban women to smoke as they thought the habit promoted weight loss.
"The psychology factor is linked to image, addictive and to overcome low self-esteem as the smokers isolated themselves and make cigarettes their companion," Lee said.
He said a lot of women were also influenced by their peers and family members who smoke.
Lee said the tobacco companies' aggressive promotional activities, including handing out free cigarettes and sponsoring sports carnivals, further worsened the situation.

Non-profit hospitals struggle to survive

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Non-profit hospitals are struggling to survive as the number of patients seeking treatment at such institutions is dropping drastically, Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said.
He said patients were now turning away from such hospitals because people seeking treatment in these places were perceived to be of a lower social status.
This development is worrying those who have been relying on these hospitals.
“These hospitals are slowly closing down one by one or losing their definition as non-profit institutions,” he said in an interview yesterday.
There are about 12 non-profit hospitals in the country such as Penang Adventist Hospital, Mt Miriam Hospital and Lam Wah Ee Hospital in Penang, as well as Chinese Maternity Hospital and Tung Shin Hospital in Kuala Lumpur.
Although these hospitals depend on donations to subsidise operations, payment from patients were still needed to keep the hospital running.
They are exempted from paying the 28% corporate tax imposed on private hospitals.
Dr Chua said patients had the ultimate choice when it came to hospitals.
“Our patients tend to depend on branding even when it comes to hospitals. They don’t want to be associated as someone with lower status when they are sick,” he said.
Association of Private Hospitals vice-president Datuk Teddric J. Mohr said there were a lot of advantages which non-profit hospitals could bring to Malaysians.
“They can help out public hospitals,” he said.
He said in the United States, 80% of its hospitals were non-profit, compared with Malaysia where there were only 12.
“At the same time, we have 200 private hospitals here,” he said.
Mohr, who is Penang Adventist Hospital president, said that in the United States non-profit hospitals must collect 5% more than the bottom line, which they have to use to replace equipment so that they could keep themselves modern.
He said the hospital industry was very complex and extremely competitive and institutions have to face the constant challenge of having to keep up with new medical equipment and knowledge.
A spokesman for the Chinese Maternity Hospital said the Government did not provide any subsidy and because of this, it was unable to refurbish extensively.
“Our institution has very attractive packages but are unable to compete with other private hospitals. Our midwife delivery package is as low as RM388 while for consultants, it ranges from RM1,000 to RM2,000.
“If five-star private hospitals offer almost the same packages, patients would prefer to go there,” he said, adding that traffic along Jalan Pudu at certain periods of the day would also put some patients off.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Detecting defects their aim

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: The Damansara Women’s Specialist Centre has defended a method it uses to allow parents to choose the gender of their child.
"We would like to stress that our emphasis has always been on screening for chromosome abnormalities," said group administrative director Wenddi- Anne Chong.
She said the centre’s pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) technology allowed for identification of an embryo’s gender in patients with sex-linked diseases, such as haemophilia (which afflicts males), and Down Syndrome.
"It also allows the determination of sex of the embryos, in particular, for conditions with a sex-linked disorder, so that only embryos of certain sex without inherited diseases are selected for transfer into the mother’s womb," she said in a statement.
The New Sunday Times on June 24 reported the centre’s first PGD baby, 18-month-old boy Yau Tack being born to Wong Ngan Chui, 36.
Yesterday, Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said "a tough Act" was being drawn up to prevent fertility clinics from using assisted reproductive technology to determine gender, physical or social characteristics in babies.
Chong said the PGD involved testing early-stage embryos for chromosomal abnormalities, so that only healthy embryos were selected for transfer into the mother’s womb.
The centre’s data showed that in Malaysia at least 30 per cent of the embryos of patients below 35 had chromosomal abnormalities.
This increased to 36.2 per cent for those aged 35 to 37, and over 50 per cent for women over 37.

Law to ban designer babies

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The Government has said ‘no’ to designer babies. A new law, now being drafted, will forbid parents to choose the gender of their yet-to-be born child.
“To choose a baby based on its gender, the colour of its eyes or hair will not be allowed,” Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek told reporters at Parliament lobby yesterday.
“We are against people who want to determine the sex of their babies. This is unacceptable as it will cause serious socio-economic implications on society.”
Designer babies are those with specific physical, social or gender characteristics.
Under the new law, the Health Ministry has the power to stop fertility clinics which intend to carry out the so-called assisted reproductive technology (ART) involving pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) procedure for genetic testing and selection of embryos through in-vitro fertilisation.
There are about 30 of such clinics in the country.
The new law, however, allows gender selection only if the parents or their family members are afflicted with serious genetic conditions, such as haemophilia or Down Syndrome, which are usually associated with males.
Dr Chua clarified, however, that artificial insemination to help childless couples have a baby is not wrong.
He was commenting on a news report on the country’s first designer baby, who was born in December 2004 at a private medical centre.
The minister said the proposed legislation was based on guidelines agreed to by the Malaysian Medical Council on June 13
He said the guidelines stated that medical practitioners would not be permitted to select the sex of babies based on social reasons.
The ART guidelines also mentioned that it would be unethical to analyse and select: ·THE inherited characteristics of embryos (intelligence, height, hair and eye colour), and
·ANY social or psychological characteristics or conditions that are not associated with disability or a serious medical problem.
The guidelines added that PGD should only be used to avoid severe and life-threatening genetic diseases, which might affect the baby.
Dr Chua said when the law is implemented, offenders would be hauled up by the council.
He also said that the acceptable ratio of male to female population is 105:100.
“If people are allowed to choose males over females, this would create a social imbalance, like what is happening in China and parts of India,” he added.

Cadbury chocs in Malaysia safe

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Cadbury chocolates sold in Malaysia are safe for consumption.
There is no need to worry as the seven types of Made-in-Britain Cadbury chocolates cited for possible salmonella contamination are not sold in Malaysia.
Managing director of Cadbury Confectionary (M) Sdn Bhd Blair Sailes said the seven types of chocolates were recalled in Singapore, Britain and Ireland.
The seven types are 250g Cadbury Dairy Milk Turkish; 250g Cadbury Dairy Milk Caramel; 250g Cadbury Dairy Milk Mint; Cadbury Dairy Milk 8 chunk; 1kg Cadbury Dairy Milk; 105g Cadbury Dairy Milk Button Easter Egg; and Cadbury Freddo 10 pence.
“The Cadbury chocolates here are 100% safe. They are not affected at all by the salmonella contamination,” he said.
He said 90% of the Cadbury chocolates sold in the country were made locally using only local ingredients, while the other 10% were imported from Australia and New Zealand.
“None of the Cadbury chocolates here are imported from Britain,” he said yesterday.
Health Minister Datuk Chua Soi Lek had said his officers had been alerted to check on the chocolate products to ascertain whether any were imported from Britain.

Noh: Need to spice up anti-drug campaigns

Star: MARAN: Anti-drug awareness campaigns should no longer be confined to cosy conference and seminar rooms but conducted in open spaces with plenty of activities, Deputy Education Minister Datuk Noh Omar said.
He said the conventional way of holding forums and seminars in hotels, lasting half a day, had been ineffective and should be discontinued.
“There should be more activities involved, such as sports, entertainment, exhibitions and demonstrations,” he told reporters yesterday at a state-level anti-drug campaign launched by Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob at the Bandar Jengka mini stadium here.
“The aim is to get many people under one roof and spread the anti-drug message.”
Citing the three-day event which ended yesterday that included a motor-cross show as an example, Noh said it attracted different types of crowds daily.
Noh, also the Umno anti-drug bureau chairman, said the new approach was more practical and had a chance to succeed.
He said the ministry would continue to hold anti-drug awareness campaigns among students, similar to motivation camps aimed at improving their studies.
“We hope students will be able to get a balanced guide on how to get good grades and not get involved in drugs. What is the point of achieving good grades when addicted to drugs?”
Noh also urged parents whose children had undergone treatment and rehabilitation to give them a second chance, so as to prevent them from returning to their old habits. Many who kicked the habit became addicts again because family members turned their backs on them, he said.
“They had no place to go to and returned to their old friends, continuing to indulge in unhealthy activities,” he added.
“Family support is very crucial to help them get back on the right track.”
Noh said the ministry had also instructed all schools to include anti-drug messages in their speeches during assemblies.
He said anti-drug campaigns would be more effective with the public's cooperation, as it would be an uphill task if left entirely to the Government and relevant agencies.
“This problem is of national proportions, affecting everyone regardless of age, education level and political belief,” he said.
Adnan, in his speech, lauded the efforts of volunteers from non-governmental organisations such as the Drop-In-Centre, whose members are mainly former drug addicts.
He said they had worked tirelessly with the state government by holding talks and sharing their past experiences with the public in the hope of creating awareness of the bad effects of drug addiction.

No plan to give free Hepatitis vaccination

Star: THE Health Ministry has no plan to provide free Hepatitis B vaccination to those born before 1989, who are believed to be prone to liver cirrhosis.
Utusan Malaysia reported that Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Latiff Ahmad said there was no guarantee the vaccine could prevent the disease among that category of people.
Dr Latiff said the ministry did not intend to provide free vaccination as it would not be effective for that group of people, given their lifestyle, eating habits, smoking, alcohol consumption and age.
He was commenting on the statement by Liver Foundation president Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican, who said those born before 1989 were prone to the illness.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Govt Says No To Designer Babies

KUALA LUMPUR, June 26 (Bernama) -- The creation of "designer babies" will not be allowed in this country except for medical reasons, Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said Monday.
As such, he said, the ministry was drafting a new act which included guidelines on the matter and was expected to be announced by the year-end.
"According to the guidelines being drafted, sex selection for social reasons is not permitted.
"Sex selection is, however, allowed if a particular sex predisposes a serious genetic condition like haemophilia and Down's Syndrome," he told reporters at the Parliament's lobby.
It was recently reported that Malaysia's first designer baby was born in December 2004 using the Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) method at the Damansara Women's Specialist Centre.
The centre started offering this service two years ago and was the first to so in the country.
PGD, which enables the diagnosis of more than 200 genetic diseases and the determination of the embryonal sex, is not available in government or university hospitals.
Dr Chua said there were about 30 private fertility centres in the country.
To a question, he said the PGD method, if not controlled, would cause a negative effect in the long run where the number of males would greatly outnumber the females.
The accepted ratio between male and female in Malaysia is 105:100 and Dr Chua is worried that this may increase to 120:100 if parents are allowed to choose their babies' gender as has happened in China.
"We are not against infertile couples seeking medical treatment to have babies but they should not choose the sex," he added.
Although the guidelines and new act had yet to take effect, he said, medical practitioners should stop any efforts to create designer babies.
Asked whether today's announcement would cause a rush to create designer babies to beat the deadline, he said: "We have ways to handle it".

Check on Cadbury chocolates

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Checks will be carried out immediately on made-in-Britain Cadbury chocolate products being sold in Malaysia.
The move by the Health Ministry follows a decision by three countries to recall seven types of made-in-Britain Cadbury chocolates over fears of possible salmonella contamination.
Singapore is the third to recall the products, after Britain and Ireland last Friday.
The ministry’s Food Safety and Quality Division director Dr Abdul Rahim Mohamad said he would check with Britain’s Food Safety Authority and with Cadbury Confectionery (M) Sdn Bhd.
A decision would only be taken after getting the feedback from the two bodies, he said when contacted yesterday.
However, he downplayed fears of contamination, saying that most of Malaysia’s Cadbury products were either locally made or imported from Australia.
Health Minister Datuk Chua Soi Lek said he had alerted his ministry’s officers to check on the chocolate products and discussions would be held with the company to ascertain whether any products from Britain are imported here.
According to wire reports, the Singapore Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority was still tracking down stores that sold Cadbury chocolates specially imported from Britain.
The reports said the authority also advised consumers who bought certain Cadbury products to return the products to the places they were purchased.
The recall was done "purely as a precautionary measure" as some of the products "may contain minute traces of salmonella", Cadbury said.
Most Cadbury bars sold in the republic are imported from Australia, according to the reports.
However, chocolates imported from Britain are available at the Cold Storage supermarket chain, which has promptly suspended sales of the products.

The products recalled in Singapore are:
• 250g Cadbury Dairy Milk Turkish;
• 250g Cadbury Dairy Milk Caramel;
• 250g Cadbury Dairy Milk Mint;
• Cadbury Dairy Milk 8 chunk;
• 1kg Cadbury Dairy Milk;
• 105g Cadbury Dairy Milk Button Easter Egg; and
• Cadbury Freddo 10 pence.

Sex education in schools: Course from next year

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: A course on sexual behaviour may be taught in primary and secondary schools next year.
The issues likely to be tackled will include human reproduction, marriage and sexually-transmitted diseases.
Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, saying that sexual education was likely to be on the school curriculum next year, did not specify the subjects to be broached.
But Education Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, unveiling guidelines on sex education late last year, had identified some of the topics to be taught.
His ministry issued the guidelines to several ministries for feedback.
Shahrizat said her ministry was currently working with the Education Ministry on redefining points in the draft on sex education in schools.
She was, however, unable to say which areas of the draft needed rectification.
"The draft will be tabled in Cabinet soon for approval and is likely to be implemented by next year," she told the New Straits Times.
She spoke after launching the Federal Territory Road Safety Campaign.
The Government hopes Malaysians will become more respectful of gender and sexuality with the introduction of sex education in schools.
In the long term, it hopes that this will reduce sex crimes.

Act not meant to punish doctors

Star: JOHOR BARU: The new Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act is not designed to punish doctors, said Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek.
He said the Act was introduced to improve the quality of healthcare and related facilities.
Describing the Act as being “long awaited”, Dr Chua said that many countries already had such an Act to regulate the medical practice.
“We are the only ones without it,” he said, adding that doctors who practiced the right procedures and had good clinical practices would have no problems.
“Don’t focus on the punitive element of the Act. The punishments are only for those who do not abide by the regulations, not the majority of the doctors who are good,” said Dr Chua.
He said that the Act was important to regulate the practices of some doctors, particularly those who had been in service for decades and were still operating with outdated equipment.
He said that he received many complaints about doctors who changed the needles, but did not change the syringe after use even though it was disposable, while others reused their suture strings on the next patient after removing stitches on a patient.
He said that all complaints brought against medical practitioners would be investigated to ensure that both patients and doctors were protected.
Earlier in Putrajaya, Dr Chua said the Government would study the effectiveness of using graphic images on cigarette packs to shock smokers into giving up the habit.
“We want to know how effective this method is,” he said.
He was responding to calls for these images to be included in the Government’s Tak Nak campaign.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Sunday Interview: New Act will ensure patients get better care

NST: Director-General of Health Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican is prepared to go the distance to enforce legislation ensuring higher standards in private healthcare services. Some in the medical profession are not happy with the scope and practicality of the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998. Dr Ismail tells ANNIE FREEDA CRUZ that the Act will benefit the public as it spells out conditions for the private healthcare sector, ranging from qualifications of personnel to renovations of premises. But this has struck a negative chord among doctors, who fear the threat of fines and imprisonment could prove a dampener on private practice.

Q: Is the private healthcare sector justified in its grouses over the enforcement of the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998?

A: Whenever you introduce something new, you wake people up from their complacency, and they get rattled and air their grievances. Sometimes, they do so without making an attempt to understand why this is being done.
Many accusations have been levelled at us, ranging from being unfair to doctors to degrading the medical profession. Such outbursts are expected when we make changes.
But people must be prepared for change. It is not as if we are suddenly introducing these changes.
We have often mentioned the implications of the Act, which was passed in 1998. The regulations took eight years to take effect.
We would like to inform doctors and the public that there were consultations with interested parties during the formulation of the Act.

Q: Why the need for the Act when there are other pieces of legislation currently governing the sector?

A: We have the Private Hospitals Act 1971, Medical Act 1971 and Dental Act 1971, but these Acts only regulate professional practices not health- care facilities and services.
We found that these Acts were inadequate to regulate the present healthcare facilities and services.
The Malaysian Medical Council is not given an enforcement arm, and that makes it difficult to act or enter unlicensed premises such as clinics to act on public complaints.
The existing law is insufficient to address new developments in healthcare facilities and services.

Q: What does the Health Ministry hope to achieve through the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act?

A: We will be able to enhance social interests and ensure that the private healthcare sector provides the best service.
Among other things, it ensures that basic emergency care is not clustered around affluent areas and that the sector does not charge unreasonably.
Unhappy patients will have an avenue to air their grievances.
With the Act and its regulations, we will increase the scope of control and coverage of private facilities and services, maintain integrity, and enhance the professionalism of health- care professionals.
We will also ensure patients’ rights to quality, safety, accessibility and equitable healthcare.

Q: So the drafting of the Act and the regulations had input from the relevant parties?

A: During the consultations, our role was to prepare the substantive part of the law such as the procedures, standards, criteria for premises and services, registration, approval and licencing.
The Attorney-General’s Chambers advised us on the enforcement powers, offences and the penalties.
The ministry also held roadshows nationwide to explain the implications to people. Until June 20, 43 roadshows were conducted.

Q: What were the salient aspects of the roadshows?

A: We explained that the old laws were not comprehensive enough to cover new areas of healthcare in the light of medical progress.
We explained that the professional laws governing doctors, dental fraternity and the nurses were not sufficient to ensure qualified and competent professionals treated patients in specialised areas such as at haemodialysis centres, maternity homes, and hospices.

Q: Did Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek meet Dr Steven K. W. Chow (president of the Federation of Private Medical Practitioners’ Associations) over their grouses?

A: Yes. The federation raised concerns about the possibility of litigation. They were told not to worry about it, but to be more concerned about proper documentation of treatment.
We reminded them to ensure safe and quality practices. It is not easy for litigation to occur. I feel strongly that the law will help healthcare providers offer better services.
It’s time to realise that some of the older facilities may not have what it takes to control infection and sterile conditions.

Q: Some general practitioners are making a fuss over the RM1,500 fee for clinic registration.

A: This is a one-off payment. I do not understand the fuss. If the clinic had been operating for 30 years, it means it would cost the doctor only RM50 per year.
It does not mean they have to raise fees to treat patients. Their arguments are not convincing.
I am aware that some trivialise the recommendations relating to physical structures.
We are not asking them to do this for cosmetic reasons. It has to do with minimal standards at, among other places, haemodialysis centres, daycare centres and operation theatres.

Q: Why the need for these specifications?

A: The specifications are to ensure adherence to specific standards in establishing and operating healthcare facilities and clinics, taking into consideration aspects of infection control, stability in certain areas, clinical barriers to communicable diseases and comfort of patients.
Our recommendations will make the environment more conducive for patients.
The intention of the law is to improve the quality of healthcare and promote quality clinical practice for patients’ safety.
The majority of general practitioners have complied with the law. Only a few old clinics may face problems.
I am prepared to give them more time (a year) to comply.
If they still had difficulty and the reasons given were justified, we could always consider a longer period on a case-by-case basis.

Q: What about claims by doctors that the Act is too severe in terms of fines, besides the economic effects on them?

A: These two issues are being brought up each time our officers brief them. They say they have to pay RM1,500 for clinic registration besides underwriting the cost of renovations.
They are also unhappy over what they see as the punitive aspects of the Act.
But hardly any of them focused on the issues of safety, quality and public interest.
These issues also involve the importance of basic emergency care, capping of charges for procedures and the right of patients to understand why a procedure is necessary.
The focus each time is economic infringements and poor morale of doctors.

Q: Are their fears justified?

A: Is it easy to send doctors to jail? They must understand that I fully sympathise with them.
Those who practise medicine according to the code of professional conduct prepared by the Malaysian Medical Council should have no fear. One must be confident that he or she is doing the right thing.
I would advise doctors to keep proper documentation of their clinical findings, investigations and treatment plans, including advice given to patients.
The severe penalty is a reflection of the seriousness attributed to the medical profession. We are dealing with lives.
The fines of up to RM300,000 or six months’ jail are not meant to criminalise doctors.
We would like to assure doctors that we will enforce the law carefully and judiciously.
I must emphasise that it is the profession that is looking into the issue of errant doctors or practice. We are not the "police", they are.

Q: The Federation of Private Medical Practitioners’ Associations of Malaysia is unhappy that the Act requires private doctors to provide basic emergency medical treatment.

A: Every doctor should know about basic life support. If they have forgotten, it is time to re-learn.
It would be embarrassing when, during a dinner for example, someone collapses and the person who is providing the resuscitation is a layman who has learnt the skills, while doctors in attendance become mere spectators. I am surprised to hear that some doctors have forgotten how to read ECGs.
All we are asking of them is not to deny anyone the basic emergency services.

The Sunday Interview: An improvement or obstruction?

NST: Federation of Private Medical Practitioners’ Associations Malaysia president Dr Steven K.W. Chow tells KOH LAY CHIN why the profession is uncomfortable at the prospect of doctors being fined or jailed for doing their jobs the best they can.

Q: Some private practitioners say the Act makes them feel like criminals.

A: Our feedback shows that the greatest discomfort for the medical profession is the introduction of unprecedented punitive elements into the Act.
For doctors out there making an honest living, these punitive clauses with fines of up to RM300,000 and jail terms of up to six years or both, are absolutely incomprehensible.
It is as if they are running gaming outlets and other potentially immoral activities.
What the punitive element of this law does is manifestly excessive. Imagine similar legislation for other professional services like teaching, accounting and law.

Q: Why are general practitioners complaining of the possibility of minor renovations to their premises?

A: Full compliance involves problems of renovating premises, relocation or perhaps even starting all over again.
It is wrong to dismiss it as a minor inconvenience. How can I renovate if I have to close down for two to three months?
Many of our practitioners have been efficiently practising medicine in premises that were designed to suit the needs of the day.
But with the new law, these premises and routines can be deemed sub-standard and sometimes unlawful. There is also the element of cost.
What about approvals from landlords and local authorities?

Q: Could cost of treatment go up as claimed by some general practitioners?

A: They fear that the abundance of specific regulations may help disgruntled patients resort to litigation. Their grievances may not necessarily be justified.
The law provides no protection whatsoever for the doctor against trivial and frivolous civil action.
At the end of the day, professional medical indemnity premiums will escalate. The legal advice to doctors is for them to protect themselves at all times and to minimise risk.
The end result unfortunately will be the increase of defensive medicine, which increases health-care costs.

Q: What of the argument that costs can be controlled by adhering to the professional Fee Schedule already in place?

A: If one looks at the prescribed Fee Schedule in the Regulations, it is clear that the fees charged by most private doctors are well below what is prescribed by law.
In cases of hospitalisation, the major portion of medical costs like hospital bills remain unregulated by the Act.

Q: Is it practical for private doctors to have equipment to conduct ECGs?

A: Good and caring doctors should not turn away patients coming to clinics in emergencies. But the basic equipment needed for the expected level of care, including the use of an ECG, should commensurate with the type of practice.
For most GPs, this is not an issue. Equipment like ECG machines and urinary catheters are inappropriate in clinics operated by psychiatrists, dermatologists or people in other sub-specialties who are not involved in acute primary care medicine. These specific differences should be fine-tuned in the regulations.

Q: Some doctors have said that the ministry should set its own house in order, with regard to public hospitals.

A: We believe our public hospitals are doing a great job. We know that the ministry has already set in motion the various quality programmes for public hospitals.
We look forward to being complementary partners in providing a seamless, integrated, public-private healthcare service in Malaysia.

Q: What do you feel about the move to involve practitioners in welfare and social contributions?

A: We believe patient’s rights should be safeguarded. We believe that patients should be allowed to see doctors of their choice.
We need the Ministry of Health to give us all the administrative and legislative support in this aspect.
But having regulations that prescribe details like the size of rooms and toilet paper holders, clearly have nothing to do with safeguarding patient’s rights.
In many instances, we hope that these requirements will be amended and crafted in general, rather than specific terms.
As far as welfare and social contributions are concerned, it is our view that such contributions have been regularly made by private doctors.

Q: Your members have complained about the harsh punitive action on errant GPs.

A: It is true that those who practise sound medicine have nothing to fear.
However, sound medicine can be practised in almost any conceivable situation, be it in a cramped mobile field clinic or in an attap hut in the jungle.
I think it is important that we project the correct view to the public as to exactly what we are safeguarding. The majority of doctors out there practise quality, affordable and compassionate medical care.
The law should administratively protect and nurture this group as they form the backbone of private healthcare. Regardless of how good you are or how careful you may be, things can go wrong.
The unfortunate thing is that when this happens, the doctor will also be judged not by the soundness of his medicine but by whether he has adhered to the many expressed provisions of the law.

Q: The ministry has met with your federation many times, indicating a consultative, co-operative approach. What do you hope for?

A: We hope to project the true spirit of the law by proposing amendments to specific cumbersome regulations.
We hope that at the end of the day, the law can, in addition to protecting the patient, protect good medical care and the doctor that dispenses it. It should also be able to act effectively against the minority who blatantly practise bad medicine.

Q: The ministry has said it will give time to those affected, for compliance and time to understand the Act better.

A: Many doctors have practised good medicine peacefully all their life without any enforcement officer knocking on their doors.
This Act introduces a new ball game altogether. From now on, good clinical practice alone is not enough.
It has to be packaged along with good administration processes and standard operating procedures.
The entire operation of their practice is now micro-managed by regulations and every infringement, however, small or irrelevant is theoretically punishable.

HFMD death toll up to 11 in Sarawak

NST: KUCHING: Another child has died from the hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) in Sarawak.
The 16-month-old toddler, from Kampung Dagang in Marudi, succumbed to the disease at the Miri Hospital about 11pm on Friday.
He was evacuated by helicopter to the better-equipped Miri Hospital at noon that day, when he became critically ill.
With this, the death toll from HFMD in the State stands at 11.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan said yesterday the death had dealt a setback to plans to declare the epidemic over.
The last HFMD death, that of a five-year-old girl from Kapit, was on May 7.
Dr Chan, who is the State’s disaster and relief management committee chairman, said that before the epidemic could be declared over, the State had to register two incubation periods — about 28 days — which are incident-free.
The term "incident free" refers to a period where there are no deaths, and fewer than 40 new cases are reported each day.
With the latest death, the whole process has to be repeated.
The disease has afflicted 10,861 children in the State, with 43 new cases reported by noon yesterday.
Of these new cases, 11 were admitted to hospitals, while the rest were given out-patient treatment.
Sibu has the highest number of cases, with 2,604 reported, followed by Miri with 2,006 cases, Kuching (1,456), Bintulu (1,333), Sarikei (920) and Mukah (770).
The majority of children afflicted by the disease were under the age of four.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

M'sian Medical Team Hands Over Equipment To Dr Sardjito Hospital

YOGYAKARTA, June 24 (Bernama) -- The Malaysian Armed Forces Medical Team, which is about to leave for home after a month-long relief mission to earthquake hit Yogyakarta, Saturday handed over some of its medical equipment to the Dr Sardjito Hospital here.
Apart from equipment for major and minor surgery, the 76-strong team which is led by Col Dr S. Jegatheesan, also handed over unused medicines and disposable apparatus they had brought for the Malaysian Field Hospital set up in Jodog, Bantul near on May 28, the day after the 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit.
The items were received by the hospital's Chief of Disaster Team Prof Dr Sutaryo and Medical Director Dr Budi Mulyono.
According to Dr Jegatheesan, Dr Sardjito Hospital was chosen because it is the main referral hospital in the province, which has population of 3.4 million.
Speaking to Bernama earlier, he said the team would be leaving for home on June 28, after serving exactly one month in the devastated province and that it had provided treatment for some 3,500 survivors, which included 35 emergency surgeries, many minor operations and daily wound dressings.
Dr Jegatheesan, whose Yogyakarta tour of duty is his third such overseas mission, said the one month the team spent in Bantul was worth every minute of it as its members had the opportunity to learn to give their best under the worst of situations.
"Especially for the many first timers in the team, who now have gained immense experience practising in field conditions, which is totally different from a hospital set up," he said while paying tribute to the commitment by the men and women who made up the team.
Perhaps the repeated thanks from none other than the province's Governor himself, Sri Sultan Hamengku Buwono X, who is also the Sultan of Yogyakarta, aptly summed up the general appreciation by his subjects for the assistance rendered by the Malaysians, more so as they were the first foreign relief mission to arrive and the last to leave.
The sultan had also conveyed his heartfelt thanks to the Malaysian government and its people at every opportunity he got, including to visiting Malaysian dignitaries such as Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, Deputy Information Minister Datuk Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Malaysia's Ambassador to Jakarta Datuk Zainal Abidin Zain.
On Thursday, he had the opportunity to thank the Regent of Perak, Raja Dr Nazrin Shah, who led a state government delegation comprising Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohd Tajol Rosli Ghazali, State Exco members and 10 other VIPs, including the Chairman of Bernama Datuk Mohd Annuar Zaini, who were here to present donations.

Civil Servants Should Strive For Good Health, Says PM

KUALA LUMPUR, June 24 (Bernama) -- Government employees should strive to keep fit and stay healthy and not solely focus on improving their productivity, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said.
"Indeed, we all want greater development and a stronger economy, but we must be healthy and happy too," he said when officiating the 32nd Finance Ministry Sports Carnival at the Bukit Jalil Stadium here Saturday.
"Civil servants should do lots of exercises and participate in sport activities to maintain optimal health," he said.
He said sports also brought people together and helped enhance inter-personal as well as inter-departmental relationships.
"It is meaningless to live long when we are not healthy. We do not want our society to have this problem," he said.
Abdullah also stressed that civil servants should participate actively in sports activities organised by Government departments or ministries.
Among the agencies that participated in the carnival were the Treasury Department, Bank Simpanan Nasional, Royal Customs and Excise Department, Inland Revenue Department, Employees Provident Fund, Bank Negara Malaysia, Securities Commission and Property Valuation Department.

Stigma worse than HIV infection itself

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: The stigma attached to HIV victims and the discrimination they face may be far worse than the infection itself.
They have been identified as the most important factors holding back victims from seeking treatment.
Public health expert Datuk Dr Faisal Ibrahim said many victims could not fight these factors and shied away from treatment.
"Why should they hide? People should not look at them as criminals because they are not," he told the New Straits Times.
To date, there are 70,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country but the National HIV/AIDS Treatment Registry published 2003 showed that only 1,785 were undergoing highly active anti-retroviral therapy in government hospitals.
Dr Faisal said providing access to treatment was one of the core objectives of the soon-to-be finalised National Strategic Plan on the Control and Prevention of HIV/AIDS.
The plan which details strategies to combat the epidemic until 2010 was endorsed in March by the Cabinet which also approved RM300 million to implement it.
Implementation is likely by next month with Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who chairs the Cabinet committee on HIV/AIDS, to oversee it.
The RM300 million will be used for prevention, education, diagnosis, treatment and care programmes and is distinct from the Health Ministry’s budget of RM200 million for the purpose.
Dr Faisal said a good way to encourage victims to come forward was to make use of infrastructure at the community level.
He said existing health infrastructure should be maximised to help HIV victims.

Only three prisons with qualified docs

Star: KUANTAN: Only three prisons in the country have qualified medical doctors to attend to detainees, Deputy Internal Security Minister Datuk Fu Ah Kiow said.
He said 31 others under the Prisons Department only had one medical assistant each.
“Only the Sungai Buloh, the Kajang male and the Kajang female prisons have one doctor each,” he told reporters after presenting excellent service awards to 104 prison staff members yesterday.
On top of that, Fu said there was still a shortage of medical assistants in 24 other institutions, including the Henry Gurney Schools, detention centres and drug rehabilitation centres.
“If the detainees are seriously sick, they will have to be sent to a government hospital as medical assistants are not qualified doctors,” he said.
Fu said this arrangement created manpower and logistic problems.
He said the department had submitted a proposal to the Government to appoint panel doctors from the private sector in their locality.
“The doctors can be put on call and we can seek their help during emergencies,” he said.
Fu said the Health Ministry and Finance Ministry wanted more details on the proposal.
On overcrowding in the prisons, Fu said 51% of inmates were those who had been convicted while 28% were those under remand.
He hoped the courts would speed up proceedings, especially those involving illegal immigrants.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Young ambassadors stress a healthy lifestyle

NST: They come from different backgrounds and live on opposite sides of the globe, but both share a passion for working to prevent HIV/AIDS.
The Malaysian landed in HIV/AIDS work the hard way — via remand. The Bahamian was gradually drawn in by a friend whose family had been split up into children’s homes when their mother was killed by the virus.
Now, both use their youth and their experience to reach their peers as Young Ambassadors of Positive Living (YAPL) bearing the motto, "Youth working with Youth".
Hafizi Harun, 28, was chosen as ambassador of the "Youth Against Drugs" programme by Minister of Youth and Sports, Datuk Azalina Othman Said, and as the Commonwealth Youth Programme’s YAPL for Asia in March.
Last month, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi presented him with a special award as National Youth Ambassador.
Keith Kemp, 23, is a YAPL in the Bahamas, where he is a voluntary counselor and testing trainer for the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Regional Training.
"I’m a risk-taker," admits Hafizi, who started smoking when he was 11. By 13, he was sniffing glue and smoking ganja. By 16, he was injecting heroin.
"I shared needles a lot," he recalls. "My friends warned me I could get HIV/AIDS, but once I was hooked or felt withdrawal, I didn’t have time to think about HIV/AIDS and death. I just wanted a hit."
In 1997 he was caught and remanded at the Sungai Buloh prison for drug possession.
Since it was his first offence, the judge sentenced him to a fine or six months’ jail. His parents paid the fine and took him straight to Persatuan PENGASIH Malaysia, an NGO run by former drug users.
It was a blood test that turned his life around: "I thought I had a 90 per cent chance of being infected, and I deserved it," he says.
"I was tired of living, lonely, empty and had no goals. When I found out I didn’t have the virus, I thought everything happens for a reason.
"It was a gift from God. He chose me for a purpose, so I had to do something positive."
Now the training manager with PENGASIH, Hafizi notes that in Malaysia the main mode of transmission for HIV/AIDS is intravenous drug usage. The second is sex.
"It’s all about risky lifestyles that could lead youth to be infected with HIV," he stresses.
"Prevention needs to focus on avoiding risks like drugs, promiscuous and unprotected sex, gangsterism and crime."
He also works with people already infected to encourage a positive lifestyle.
Meanwhile in Nassau, Kemp trains 150 young people in peer leadership, counseling and education on HIV/AIDS. Over the past year, they have spoken to more than 15,000 young people.
"We use young people to reach their peers, not just telling them not to have sex but why they shouldn’t. We show them what’s important, how to prioritise, how sex could damage their future with HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections and teenage pregnancy."
Kemp and his team also visit schools once a year, classroom by classroom, for a week of "Family Life" classes.
Some of the team are HIV positive, although Kemp himself isn’t.
When they visit schools and youth organisations, they take someone who is HIV positive and let him or her sit in the audience.
"Then we call them up to tell their story," he explains. "It changes the audience’s perspective, because they never would have guessed. This combination of education and experience is something new."

Youth approach to HIV pandemic

NST: Creative approaches are urgently needed to tackle the global HIV/AIDS emergency. At the Sixth Meeting of Commonwealth Youth Ministers in The Bahamas recently, Ministers and youth workers told SANTHA OORJITHAM how they are tackling the pandemic.
BAHAMIAN teenager Bodine Johnson performs a hair-raising shirt drama, My Name is AIDS, in Nassau to drive home her message. In Trinidad and Tobago, Mobafa Baker hopes to recruit football players from the country's World Cup team as HIV/AIDS "warriors".
And in Malaysia, Hafizi Harun’s band reaches out to teenagers and Mat Rempit (motorcycle racers) who hang around Central Market, Kuala Lumpur, through rock music.
They are all using creative approaches to spread positive messages on healthy living and HIV/AIDS among the youth. And that’s just what the Sixth Meeting of Commonwealth Youth Ministers in The Bahamas recently is urging member countries to do.
Every day, over 14,000 people are infected with HIV/AIDS. More than half of them are young people living in the 53 Commonwealth countries. Young women are three times more likely to be infected than young men.
To tackle this "global emergency", Commonwealth Ministers in their communiqué called for "youth-centred approaches" and a focus on life skills, lifestyles and behaviour change.
The ministers and national youth representatives at the gathering shared their experiences tackling the deadly virus.
In her speech, and in a booklet which she passed around to delegates, Minister of Youth and Sports Datuk Azalina Othman Said focused on the "Youth Against Drugs" campaign, noting that 76 per cent of HIV/AIDS cases in Malaysia were intravenous drug users. She explained that youth, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and tertiary education institutions worked together to create awareness of the dangers of drug abuse and the challenges of HIV/AIDS for young people.
Sports was one of the creative approaches recommended at the gathering, to provide positive role models, break down barriers through teamwork and to educate young people about HIV/AIDS in communities which were difficult to reach.
Azalina pointed out that the National Fitness Council — a collaboration between her ministry, the Ministries of Health and Local Government and the Department of National Unity in the Prime Minister’s Department — had been using sports to promote a positive lifestyle for the past two years. Her counterpart in The Bahamas, Neville Wisdom, often used the example of two young women athletes who were offered full scholarships by an American university.
"One, Eldece Clarke-Lewis, chose to go. She made the right choice and ended up an Olympic sprint medallist."
The other, says the Minister of Youth, Sports and Housing, decided not to go: "She ended up hanging around in the wrong circles, contracting AIDS and dying shortly after. That easily demonstrates what sports can and should do to encourage young people into healthy lifestyles and to take advantage of productive opportunities."
Music is another language that can reach the youth. Persatuan Pengasih Malaysia, run exclusively by former drug users, has set up a band that performs across the country. In Kuala Lumpur, for example, 28-year-old training manager Hafizi has performed at teenage hangouts such as Central Market, Bintang Walk and Tasik Titiwangsa.
"We play rock and alternative music," explains the Young Ambassador for Positive Living under the Commonwealth Youth Programme. "Between songs, the band members share their experiences and disseminate information about HIV/AIDS."
Over in Nassau, 23-year-old Young Ambassador for Positive Living Keith Kemp says such life skills should include budgeting and family planning. The voluntary counsellor and testing trainer for Caribbean HIV/AIDS Regional Training also recommends part-time jobs and internships: "I applaud the requirement here that before you graduate from high school you must have 40 hours’ work experience."
Baker, the new chairman of the Pan-Commonwealth Youth Caucus and Sub-Regional HIV/AIDS Officer for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Port of Spain, welcomes the call for youth-centred approaches.
Baker also talks about HIV/AIDS and other social issues on the Chat Room radio talk show that he hosts.
Health services should offer a lot of counselling and guidance for youth, urges Johnah Josiah, Kenya’s national youth representative to the meeting in The Bahamas and programme director of the International Youth Development Network. But many don’t have a "youth touch".
"When youth come in with STI and opportunistic infections such as HIV/AIDS, people victimise them with their questions, as if they had committed a crime," says the youth consultant for UN Habitat. "But if the counsellor is close to your age, you can open up."

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Malaysia Calls For Asean Cooperation In Handling Health Emergencies

KUALA LUMPUR, June 21 (Bernama) -- Malaysia has called on Asean member countries to formulate national policies for inter-country cooperation to fight against any health emergency.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek, who made the call, said they should share technical expertise and promote collaboration between centres of excellence.
National laws should also be harmonised to deal with cross border issues and multi-sectoral alliances both within and between countries, he said at the 8th Asean Health Ministers Meeting in Yangon, Myanmar, Wednesday.
The text of his speech was issued to Bernama here.
He said Asean member countries have in the past profited from the grouping's traditional spirit of working together and such spirit should be extended to include health emergency.
Dr Chua said a key challenge of the 21st century will be to address health issues or health emergencies through international cooperation in a spirit of partnership.
He said the scale of health emergencies are often too vast to be handled by one country alone.
"Globalisation is making countries increasingly interdependent and with the growth in international travel and commerce, many health problems are also extending beyond national boundaries," he said.
Dr Chua suggested that all Asean member countries strengthen human resources and organisational capabilities to prevent and manage health crises.
He said they should train their health workforce in surveillance, rapid response and outbreak control.
His ministry had started an Epidemic Intelligence Programme, a two-year in-service training programme, to improve the level of health emergency preparedness, he added.

Malaysia Is Now Free From Bird Flu

PUTRAJAYA, June 22 (Bernama) -- Malaysia has been declared free from the bird flu, or Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N1 virus, which resurfaced early this year after it was successfully eradicated last year.
Agriculture and Agro-Based Industries Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, in making the announcement Thursday, said the declaration was made based on the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) standard after there was no evidence of the disease three months after the last eradication and disinfection.
The declaration took effect yesterday, he said.
"Based on the OIE standard and also the result of the monitoring, the three months or 90 days have lapsed, so Malaysia is declared free from the HPAI or bird flu disease," he told reporters here.
Muhyiddin said the last report was sent to the OIE on June 19.
The first HPAI H5N1 case this year was detected in Kampung Pasir Wardieburn, Setapak, Kuala Lumpur on Feb 19, followed by the second in Kampung Changkat Tualang and Ecopark, Bukit Merah Lake Town Resort, both in Perak, on March 16.
The third outbreak was reported in Kampung Permatang Bogak, Seberang Perai Utara, on March 20 and the virus was also detected in birds and chickens in Titi Gantung, Perak, on March 21.
Muhyiddin said the success in eradicating the disease in the country for the second time was achieved through hard work from the ministry staff, especially those in the Veterinary Services Department, and support from various government agencies like the health department, Cityhall, local authorities, police, immigration, customs as well as the poultry farmers, importers, the media and the public.
However, the precautionary measures must be maintained in view that the neighbouring countries were still not free from the disease and this could pose a high risk to Malaysia, he said.

50pc jump in dengue cases

NST: SHAH ALAM: The authorities and health officials in Selangor are scrambling to check an upsurge in dengue cases in the wake of the recent heavy rains.
The Menteri Besar is also concerned about the emergence of a new, more virulent strain of dengue.
Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo said cases of dengue in at least two municipalities were up by almost 50 per cent in the second week of June.
Fifty cases were detected in Subang Jaya, up from 27 in the first week, while in Shah Alam the number of cases had jumped from 34 to 48.
He said there has been a significant increase in Kajang and other areas as well. Seven people had died of dengue this year.
Khir said a new strain of dengue that attacked the kidneys, liver and heart had surfaced recently and was a serious cause for concern.
Most cases of dengue, he said, occurred in urban areas. "Urban homes usually have potted plants that collect water, as well as water bowls for pets that are not changed regularly."
Khir said the compounds of vacant houses were another breeding ground for the Aedes mosquito, and local authorities were authorised to enter and conduct checks if there was suspicion that mosquitoes were breeding.
"If a new case of dengue is detected, homes in a five-kilometre radius, including vacant properties, may be checked."
Abandoned projects may also be contributing to the outbreak. There were 97 such projects, including 52 housing projects, that would be monitored.
He urged residents to take precautions and work with the local authorities to check the outbreak.

Ministry draws up flu pandemic action plan

Star: YANGON: The Health Ministry has come up with an action plan to be implemented should an influenza pandemic breaks out.
The plan, which provides a policy and strategic framework for a multi-sector response, contains specific advice and action to be taken not only by the ministry but also by other government departments and agencies, as well as non-governmental organisations.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said there was a growing concern over the imminent threat of an influenza pandemic that could have very devastating consequences worldwide.
He said the plan was to ensure that resources were mobilised and used efficiently during the pandemic period.
“Influenza pandemic simulation exercises have been carried out at both state and national levels to ensure that the Plan of Action is workable,” said Chua who was speaking at the Eighth Asean Health Ministers Meeting in Myanmar yesterday.
He added that Malaysia, with its expertise from its two decades-long involvement in influenza virus surveillance, would be offering its services to the WHO Collaboration Centre for Influenza via the Institute for Medical Research.

Cassava Linamarin For Cancer Treatment

KUALA LUMPUR, June 21 (Bernama) -- A natural cyanide-generating system used by the cassava plant against predators could be harnessed to provide treatment for cancer, according to a finding by Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM).
Four researchers led by Dr Norhafizah Abdullah from the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, said laboratory research had proven that the cassava plant which contained potentially toxic levels of a cyanogen called linamarin could lead to self-destruction of cancer cells.
"The in-vitro cytotoxicity assays showed linamarin extracted from the cassava plant inhibited growth and killed various cancer cells in ovarian cancer, leukaemia and breast cancer," she said.
Dr Norhafizah was speaking to reporters after a press conference to announce UPM's winning products at the Invention and New Products Exposition 2006, held recently at the Monroeville ExpoMart, Pittsburgh, United States.
She said, linamarin had yet to be tested on either animal or human being but she anticipated a bright future as an alternative treatment for cancer.
"The team is currently scrutinising the cyanogen and working on how to ensure that only the correct amount of linamarin is released in the human system to avoid any side effects," she said, adding that a high cyanide content could be regarded as toxic.
Currently, she said, the team had selected the biodegradable PLGA nanoparticles as the carrier due to their easy dissolution in the system without exerting any side effects to the body.
Nanoparticles are used to deliver drugs, formulated for targeted delivery to the lymphatic system, arterial walls or spleen for long-term systemic circulation.
"Another important aspect of the substance is that it could be used to treat various cancers compared to readily available products involving specific treatment for specific cancer.
'The Isolation and Encapsulation of Cassava Linamarin in Biodegradable Nanoparticles for Cancer Cells Targeting' is one of UPM's latest research that won the Gold Medal Award at the INPEX 2006 under the Biology-Related Products category.
Another of UPM's outstanding product was the Enhanced Micro Mobility Test-Bed in Multicast Based Mobile Ipv6 Wireless Network that bagged five prestigious awards, including Special Award for Best Invention from the Pacific Rim.
UPM vice-chancellor Prof Dr Nik Mustafa Raja Abdullah earlier told the media that the achievements were testimony that Malaysia had produced world-class researchers.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Association upset over designer babies

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: The medical technology used to produce "designer babies", or children meeting the parameters of parental specifications, should instead be utilised for diagnosing medical conditions.
The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) has expressed its disappointment at the use of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis testing techniques, or PGD, to determine a child’s gender, eye colour, musical or athletic abilities.
MMA president Datuk Dr Teoh Siang Chin said in a Press statement that PGD should be used to diagnose serious medical conditions that could cause suffering or impairment of some sort and not for trivial pursuits.
According to the association, PGD is an advanced technology in pre-natal screening, using various techniques like serum screening, molecular tests or ultrasound.
He said the MMA was concerned that many of the screening tests were being offered without proper counselling before hand.
"We support the use of prenatal genetic testing on those who are known to be at risk of carrying an affected child due to family history or previous affected pregnancies," said Dr Teoh.
He was commenting on a story in the New Straits Times recently on the success of the Damansara Women’s Specialist Centre which helped a woman in Ipoh, Perak, to conceive a baby boy using the PGD technology.
Dr Teoh said the MMA was saddened to see such medical advances being trivialised.
"The authorities should come up with guidelines to prevent this country from becoming a haven to such practices," he said.
"Commercial interests should not dictate the development of the medical profession in the country."

Hardness is what counts for couples

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Ask any couple if the hardness of a male erection matters when it comes to sexual satisfaction and the answer you will get is very likely to be “yes”.
This was the most common response globally from the Pfizer Global Better Sex Survey (GBSs).
The survey was conducted through interviews with 12,563 men and women in 27 countries.
The data collection in Malaysia was done via phone interviews from Dec 12 to Jan 4, with respondents aged between 25 and 74.
Revealing the key findings here yesterday, Pfizer Malaysia medical advisor Dr Vicknesh Welluppillai said Malaysian men and women regarded getting and maintaining a hard erection as critical to a good and satisfying love life.
Consultant urologist Dr Peter Ng Eng Pin said there were four types of erection hardness.
“Grade 1 is when the penis is larger but not hard, Grade 2 when the penis is hard but not hard enough for penetration, Grade 3 is when the penis is hard enough for penetration but not completely hard and Grade 4 is when the penis is fully rigid.”

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

UNDP wants Malaysia to do more on AIDS

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: While Malaysia has met the development targets of the United Nations in several areas, it is still wanting when it comes to combating the HIV/AIDS scourge.
“This is very serious and Malaysia needs to work hard in this area,” said UN Development Programme (UNDP) expert Dr Richard Leete.
“The number of people infected with HIV/AIDS has increased over the last 10 years.
“In 1995, there were 15,000 people with HIV/AIDS, and the number has since jumped to 71,000,” said Dr Leete, the UNDP resident representative for Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei.
He said discriminatory practices against people with HIV/AIDS should be eliminated.
Combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases are among the United Nations' millennium development goals. These include eradicating poverty, achieving universal education, promoting gender equality and empowering women, and improving health.
The other goals are ensuring environmental sustainability, addressing the needs of migrants and refugees, and developing a global partnership for development.
Dr Leete recently launched a report on the goals from the human rights perspective, which was compiled by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia from a dialogue that it jointly organised with the UNDP.
On the eradication of poverty, Dr Leete said Malaysia had managed to reduce the problem dramatically although there were still many rural and indigenous people who were living on meagre earnings.
“Poverty personifies the digital divide between the urban and the rural,” he said.
“For example, the ethnic people in Bau, Sarawak, have good food to eat but they do not have electricity or modern sanitation.”
He added that the UNDP was happy that the 9th Malaysia Plan had made a reference to the plight of indigenous communities and the need for measures to reduce the disparities.
Another thing that needs focus is the rights of elderly people in rural areas.
Said Dr Leete: “Some elderly people do not even have pension schemes. So, in short, they work till they die.
“They have a right to a decent life in old age, especially the elderly women.”

More clinics under 9MP

Star: SEGAMAT: The more than 4,000 government clinics nationwide are not enough to cope with the increasing number of people needing health services, said Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said.
Therefore, the Government has to build more clinics, especially in Sabah and Sarawak and the east coast states of Terengganu, Kelantan and Pahang, he said.
These would be built under the 9th Malaysia Plan, he told reporters here yesterday.
“It is not true that we are only concentrating on building hospitals. We also give attention to the need for health clinics,” he added.
Dr Chua said from the RM10.5bil allocated to the ministry under the 9MP for these projects, Johor would receive RM1.04bil. Besides this, RM3bil would be spent on improving medical equipment.
“It is our duty to provide the facilities and equipment especially for districts that do not have private health care services,” he said.

Ismail assures private docs over new law

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Doctors have been assured that any enforcement by the Health Ministry under a new law compelling private clinics to adhere to certain regulations will be carried out carefully and judiciously.
Its director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican promised the ministry would also not tolerate any high-handedness by its enforcement officers.
“I want to give them the guarantee we’ll be careful when enforcing the legislation, and that we won’t send them to jail for the slightest offences,” he said in an interview here yesterday.
“I am sympathetic, and understand their grouses, especially the doctors with rather old clinics, and that they need time to upgrade their facilities and infrastructure.
“However, our latest survey of general practitioners in the country showed most of them have already complied with the requirements.
“Only a minority have failed to do so. We have given them six months to fully comply and are prepared to stretch this grace period to up a year.”
Dr Ismail said doctors had also known about the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act since 1998, when it was first passed by Parliament, and that they already had eight years to voice their opinions about it.
“If there are provisions we are not comfortable with, we may amend these later,” he said.
Dr Ismail was commenting on a report that doctors were opposed to the Act, which provided for, among other things, hefty fines for offences, which made them look like criminals.
Under the new law, doctors are liable to fines of up to RM300,000 or a jail term of up to six years, or both, if they failed to have their clinics licensed or registered.
There was also a provision for private medical clinics and private dental clinics to have a system to deal with basic emergency services.
Dr Ismail said the ministry would not compromise on the requirement for basic emergency services to be put into place.
“They must be prepared to assist patients seeking emergency care,” he said.
“We are not asking them to provide incubation or even other emergency procedures. But they must be able to check the patients’ blood pressure, pulse, provide drip and refer to them to other hospitals.
“They cannot brush off the patient and say sorry they cannot provide these services.
“For those who have forgotten the principles of ABC (airway, breathing and circulation), this is the time to re-learn it.”

Co-curriculum involvement to count for 10% in varsity intake

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Eggheads take note. Just scoring all As will no longer guarantee you a place in competitive courses like medicine. Being active in sports and taking part in competitions will, however, give you an edge.
This follows the Government’s decision to assess applicants based on their academic achievement (90%) and co-curriculum involvement (10%) for this year’s public university intake.
Higher Education Management Department director-general Prof Datuk Dr Hassan Said warned that because of the new method, not every student with a CGPA (Cumulative Grade Point Average) of 4.0 who applied would receive a place in medicine.
“Under the new system, a student will get a maximum of 90 marks for his academic grades. His co-curriculum grade is added to this for a grand total of 100 marks. We no longer use just the CGPA grade alone,” he said.
For example, a CGPA of 4.00 is worth 90 marks, while a CGPA of 3.00 is equivalent to 67.5 marks (3.00x0.25x90). A student’s academic marks would then be added to his co-curriculum marks, say 7.5, to get the grand total (67.5+7.5=75).
“Those with a CGPA of 4.0 but scored zero marks in co-curriculum would lose out to a student with a CGPA of 3.6 who was active in hockey or badminton at state or country level. The latter would get more marks in total than the person who scored 4.0.
“There were instances of students with a 4.0 CGPA not getting their first choice,” Prof Hassan told a press conference yesterday to announce this year’s public university admission figures.
He said students are given up to 10 marks for co-curriculum participation. Only a student’s two highest scores from his involvement in either associations, sports, uniformed units or national service will be taken into consideration. National service trainees received six points.
“The students calculated and filled up their co-curricular marks themselves based on the information we gave the schools.
“If we had a doubt, we double-checked with their schools. We also checked the marks of all those who scored over 6 in their co-curriculum activities.
“From next year, however, the Ministry will obtain the marks directly from their schools and institutions,” he said.
“If you play computer games in your room you won’t get any marks. But if you are active on the sports field, you will receive points.”
He explained that previously the Education Ministry had taken co-curriculum marks into consideration for students’ entry into public universities but this was stopped when meritocracy was introduced in 2002.
“When meritocracy was introduced, it was decided that entry into university would be based on academic merit only. But the Cabinet decided last year that to ensure we produce more holistic individuals, we should once again take students’ co-curriculum marks into consideration,” he said.
A total of 40,016 students have been accepted for the 2006/07 academic year, a slight increase over last year’s figure of 39,976.
In line with government policy, of this number, 59% are doing science courses and 41% arts.
For the first time since meritocracy was introduced in 2002, Indians have gone above 6%.
As for medicine, there has also been a marginal increase in the number of places offered, from 910 last year to 925.
Last year all STPM and matriculation students with a CGPA of 4.0 who applied were successful in their bid to do medicine.