Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Locally-cultivated herbal supply to be increased to meet growing demand

NST: The local herbal market is expected to be worth RM333.7 million a year by 2010, but is lacking sufficient supply locally.
As a result, herbs have to be imported to meet local demand, said Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry parliamentary secretary, Datuk Rohani Abdul Karim.
She added that local traditional herbal medicine manufacturers imported 65 per cent of their herbs which could be planted locally.
The balance comes from the 35 local factories which process the herbs.
Replying to a question by Datuk Ronald Kiandee (BN-Beluran), she said that at present, only 1,500 hectares, of which 50 per cent comprise small-holdings, are planted with the crop.
She also said that steps will be taken to ensure a constant demand for the herbs processed by local factories, while growers will be encouraged to practise "contract farming" to avoid any wastage.
She was replying to a question by Tan Sri Hew See Tong (BN-Kampar) who wanted to know the efforts being made to encourage and widen the market for herbal medicine at the national and international levels.
She said the herbal industry has good prospects in the local market, especially in the perfume, toiletries and cosmetics’ industries.
"Herbs are also supplied to health centres and spas which are increasing in number," she added.

Malaysian men overweight and unhealthy

Star: PETALING JAYA: More than three-quarters of urban men in Malaysia are heavily overweight, with some even morbidly obese.
This troubling conclusion was drawn from the Subang Men's Health Research, a randomised, community-based study jointly conducted by University of Malaya and the Malaysian Society of Andrology and the Study of Ageing Male to look at the health status of men in Subang Jaya, an urban community in the Klang Valley.
The results of the study that have just been released reveals how unhealthy many of these men are.
Of the 1,050 men above 40 who responded to the study, 76.7% of them fall into the Body Mass Index categories of overweight, obese and morbidly obese (using Asia-Pacific criteria).
More than half of them also have large stomachs, measured as a waistline of more than 90cm or 35 inches, said Datuk Dr Tan Hui Meng, the lead researcher for the study and a consultant urologist.
"This is shocking. Abnormal waist circumference is so important because it independently increases the risk of cardiovascular disease," said Dr Tan.
He was also alarmed to find that almost 30% of the men were found to have diabetes and pre-diabetes. This means that about one in three men have high blood glucose and are at risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, nerve problems and eye problems.
"The risk of a male diabetic dying of a heart attack is double that of a non-diabetic," Dr Tan warned.

Illegals Are Human Too, Says Health Ministry

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 30 (Bernama) -- Government hospitals will continue to provide treatment to foreign nationals, including illegal immigrants, on humanitarian grounds.
Health Ministry Parliamentary Secretary Datuk Lee Kah Choon said this was part of the ministry's duty which included ensuring that illegal immigrants were not the source of infectious diseases.
"At the Health Ministry, we adopt a humanitarian policy because when sick people come to our hospitals, we have to give treatment to them no matter if they are illegal or legal immigrants.
"Secondly, we have to treat immigrants with communicable diseases like malaria or cholera. Otherwise, they will become the source of outbreak of the diseases," he said in reply to Donald Peter Mojuntin (BN-Penampang) in the Dewan Rakyat Wednesday.
Lee said that 78,177 illegal immigrants or 4.4 per cent of the total number of patients received treatment in government hospitals in Sabah in 2004. Last year, the number was 77,114 or 4.8 per cent.
Three government hospitals in the state which treated the most foreign nationals were the Duchess of Kent Hospital (18,863), Tawau Hospital (14,558), and Lahad Datu Hospital (9,977).

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Khazanah to take control of Pantai

Business Times: KHAZANAH Nasional Bhd moved yesterday to take control of Pantai Holdings Bhd, the country's biggest healthcare firm, from its Singaporean shareholder and help cool a political hot potato for the Government.
Matters became hot when politicians and lawmakers started questioning Singapore-based Parkway Holdings Ltd's takeover of Pantai and its two government concessions in the medical field.
The politicians from the ruling political party said they were unhappy that the concessions - one for health screening of foreign workers and another for the provision of state hospital services - had fallen into foreign hands.
Parkway moved into Pantai last year after buying the bulk of its shares from Pantai's chief executive officer Datuk Lim Tong Yong.
Lim had acquired a 32.85 per cent interest in the company from former Prime Minister Tun Mahathir Mohamad's son, Mokhzani Mahathir, in 2001.
This prompted Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, two weeks ago, to say the government was seriously studying the matter, and resulted yesterday in Khazanah's sudden strategic move.
For a start, Khazanah has bought a 6.6 per cent stake, or 30.92 million shares, in Pantai through its wholly-owned unit Pantai Irama Ventures Sdn Bhd for an undisclosed price.
It will then buy the entire 26 per cent stake owned by Parkway for RM2.65 a share. Pantai Irama will then make a general offer (GO) to purchase the rest of the shares at the same price, which values Pantai at RM1.25 billion.
"We believe the strategic interests of the nation will be protected in this manner, and the commercial interests of Pantai and its investors - including both major and minority investors - will also be served with this partnership," Khazanah said.
Pantai closed at RM2.51 last Friday. The shares were suspended from trading yesterday. Trading will resume today.

Pantai recently turned down offers from two consortia of investors to acquire its subsidiaries - Pantai Medivest Sdn Bhd and Fomema Sdn Bhd - both of which hold the concessions.
Fomema holds a 15-year concession to carry out medical check-ups for all foreign workers in the country. The concession expires in September 2012.
Pantai Medivest holds a 15-year concession from October 1996 to provide hospital support services in Negri Sembilan, Malacca and Johor.
Medivest and the Fomema group of companies are Pantai's main sources of income, accounting for about half of Pantai Holdings' group sales and over 40 per cent of the group's operating profit.
Parkway, however, will not exit Pantai completely. It will buy 49 per cent of Pantai Irama from Khazanah and will manage hospitals under Pantai.
Under the GO, Pantai Irama will also make an offer of RM1.53 each for all outstanding warrants and RM2.53 per irredeemable convertible unsecured loan stocks.
For the GO to proceed, Pantai Irama must have more than 50 per cent of Pantai. Due to the small premium in the offer, Pantai is unlikely to be taken private, some analysts said.
"What is interesting is to see Khazanah and Parkway coming in together to manage Pantai. Khazanah's move is good in a sense that it helps to calm the political storm swirling around Pantai.
Khazanah said its investment in Pantai is strategic.
The deal complements its other healthcare ventures in India and allows it to tap further into the Malaysian hospital market.
It currently has shares in Malaysia's pharmaceutical firm Pharmaniaga Bhd and India's Apollo Hospitals.

Cuba-Malaysia cooperation to develop vaccines

Star: PENANG: Cuba may be best known for its fine cigars, old-world charm and Cold War past but it is also a hotbed of biotechnology activity.
Realising the potential for collaboration, Universiti Sains Malaysia is now working with Cuba’s Finlay Institute to develop vaccines for tuberculosis (TB) and meningitis.
USM vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dzulkifli Abdul Razak said: “Finlay is teaming up with our medical school in Kelantan to produce the vaccines.
"We are currently waiting for RM127mil funding from the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry to undertake the five-year project.”
The partners would work on producing a TB vaccine first, he added.
“Cuba’s biotechnology is second to none even among developed nations. It has produced 12 vaccines, of which three are first in the world,” said Prof Dzulkifli.
He said although diseases such as TB, meningitis, malaria and cholera were rife, research on the ailments was lacking because pharmaceutical giants could not make money out of such Third World diseases.
Thus, USM would take on research in this areas even if they were not viable ventures, he told newsmen after opening the aerodynamics laboratory at USM’s engineering campus in Nibong Tebal on Tuesday.

Ministry To Issue Guidelines On Formula Milk For Older Babies

PUTRAJAYA, Aug 29 (Bernama) -- The Health Ministry will issue guidelines on the sale of formula milk for children aged more than a year.
The move was to ensure they met the needs of growing children, especially in terms of the vitamin, mineral and protein content, said Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek, Tuesday.
He said the ministry would discuss the matter with formula milk producers next month to get their views.
"The guidelines are based on the World Health Organisation's standard. They are important because some children totally depend on baby formula when in fact, a child aged above one year needs more than this," he told reporters after launching the ministry's Merdeka Month celebrations here.
He said the move did not mean that baby formula contents were not according to the children's needs, but they might not be sufficient.
"That is why we want to meet with the producers to tell them what our requirements are," he added.
Anyway, no baby formulas could replace breast milk, he said.
On the hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD), Dr Chua said the disease in Sarawak differed from the one in the Malaysian peninsula.
"In the peninsula, it is an endemic disease which means it is always there and normally, it does not cause death, but in Sarawak, for some unknown reasons, it can result in death."
He said he had discussed the matter with Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan and the ministry might cooperate with the state government in studying the uniqueness of the disease in the state.

Chua: Matrons must focus on teaching trainee nurses

NST: PUTRAJAYA: Matrons and nursing sisters must concentrate on their core business, which is to train nurses on probation during ward rounds, said Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek yesterday.
He said a study by the ministry last year showed that 80% of them were doing more administrative work and had neglected their main role of supervising and teaching trainee nurses.
“They are not doing their core business but side business now, which is probably easier than doing ward rounds,” he added.
“It is now compulsory for them to go on ward rounds. Their failure to do so results in failure to monitor and supervise new nurses, which will also affect the quality of our future nurses,” he said.
He said trainee nurses were inexperienced and should be taught the finer skills of nursing during their practical training in hospitals.
Dr Chua was speaking to reporters after witnessing a signing of agreement between the Health Ministry and Nilam Healthcare Education Centre Sdn Bhd to make use of facilities at hospitals and community polyclinics to teach and train students pursuing diploma courses at Nilam College of Nursing and Allied Health Sciences.
Dr Chua said that starting this year, matrons and nursing sisters had been given the task to be mentors to trainee nurses and to assess their performance before they could register as qualified nurses with the Nursing Board.
“All the new nurses will be subjected to this new mentor system,” he said.
He added that the move was part of the Government’s plan to develop and upgrade human capital under the Ninth Malaysia Plan.

Monday, August 28, 2006

There’s life after breast cancer

NST: KUALA TERENGGANU: To matron Chong Chee Yong, the diagnosis of breast cancer seven years ago was too much to bear. Depressed, the 63-year-old believed she had been given a death sentence.
It was a visit by a group of survivors while she was being treated in Kuala Lumpur that made her realise that there was life after breast cancer.
That experience led to Chong’s decision to help other women diagnosed with breast cancer.
"It’s critical to have people around you at such a time. Patients are afraid. They’ve heard the horror stories and worry, especially about the chemotherapy and its side-effects. You seldom hear the stories of survivors," she said.
After returning home from her treatment, the matron with over 30 years of nursing experience founded Rakan Cakna in 2003. The breast cancer support group now has 40 members. Cakna is local slang for caring.
Every year, the group gives emotional support to about 50 women. it holds regular gatherings, including high-tea three times a year.
Chong visits the hospital three or four times a week to offer support to new patients.
"You can see the effects of your visit on a patient, and as you talk to them you learn from them too. In a way, it’s a form of therapy for me, and I’m happy I can stand by them at such a trying time."
She recalls a patient named Maimun, who was diagnosed when her cancer was in an advanced stage.
Chong says Maimun was lying in bed sobbing when she introduced herself as a breast cancer survivor.
Maimun immediately sat up, grabbed Chong’s hand, and bombarded her with questions and vented her frustration.
"Cancer can be frightening, but I told her there was hope. This is why I encourage survivors to make themselves visible," she said, adding that she still kept in touch with Maimun.
She also volunteers at Persatuan Hospis Terengganu, which cares for terminal cancer patients.
She would love to see more survivors come forward as volunteers.
It could be something as simple as holding someone’s hand and talking to them, she said.
"I take solace in Mother Teresa’s words, ‘The whole world is like a drop in the ocean. But if you don’t put a drop in, the ocean remains one drop less’," she said.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Para-counsellors for first line of treatment

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: From next year, neighbourhood counsellors will help ease the emotional burden of those facing psychological problems after tragedies.
Under pilot projects to be carried out by the Welfare Department, community leaders and volunteers will be trained in the first-stage of counselling.
The department’s deputy director-general (planning), Meme Zainal Rashid, said the "para-counsellors" would do their best at their level to help people, especially those who have lost loved ones.
"When someone in the community loses a loved one, these para-counsellors can step in and provide counselling. And if they feel that the person needs professional help, they can refer them to us and we can take over," she told the New Straits Times.
She said the department will train core groups of people "and we will then see where it goes from there".
Although the project is still on the drawing board, the department is confident that it will be a success.
Meme Zainal said the department would identify several communities for the pilot projects. The department is currently over-extended in efforts to deal with those needing psychological counselling as it only has 40 trained counsellors nationwide.
With para-counsellors, the full-time counsellors will be able to provide more indepth assistance to patients.
The department’s counsellors work on a referral basis, with patients having come themselves or been referred by family members. The department does not have a unit which proactively identifies people in need of counselling.
The exception are cases where the department is conducting social intervention programmes and feels that a person is in need of help.
Meme Zainal said the department conducts social intervention programmes when large numbers of people are affected by catastrophes such as fire, floods and landslides.
"We provide various types of help including financial assistance. If we feel that someone needs counselling, we will conduct sessions for that person to reduce the trauma," she said.

Living on edge from grief, depression

NST: They are among modern-day heroes, picking up the emotional pieces after personal tragedies — without professional help. Many pull through with innate courage, determination and strength. But things are set to change next year when "para-counsellors" make their appearance.
KUALA LUMPUR: They may appear fine on the outside but grief and depression are tearing them apart inside.
If nothing is done to help them, they may descend deeper into a psychotic state that may eventually lead to suicidal feelings.
Those most susceptible to this are people who have lost their loved ones, especially in tragic circumstances.
According to Prof Dr T. Maniam of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s psychiatry department, they are likely to experience a myriad of emotions and psychological trauma.
He said they needed to be counselled by trained professional counsellors, psychologists or psychiatrists.
More often than not, however, they are given no such help.
In a society where a stigma is still attached to the act of seeking psychiatric help, many go through life after suddenly losing a loved one without professional help.
Some seek solace in family members while others distance themselves from those around them.
In most cases, Dr Maniam said, people who lost a loved one to disease or old age only needed the support of family and friends.
However, in some cases, especially where the death occurs in tragic and especially horrendous circumstances, there was every possibility that the experience may be psychologically traumatising.
There was also the possibility of the person feeling guilty for having survived if indeed they were involved in the incident.
"All this can give rise to what is called acute stress disorder. They may have anxiety attacks or feel fear.
"They may try to avoid any situation which bears any sort of resemblance to the traumatic experience.
"They may have flashbacks and intrusive memories.
"In most cases, they get over this in a few weeks.
"But if it continues for more than a month, then psychiatrists will diagnose this as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which needs professional assistance," he said.
Dr Maniam said grief sometimes led to depression.
"Those suffering from PTSD or depression should seek some sort of counselling."
He said family members and friends need to recognise certain tell-tale signs of people under psychological stress.
There may be bouts of depression, the person may not be able to function properly or may have psychotic symptoms such as hearing voices or suicidal tendencies.
"If these should happen, then it is not just normal grieving any more. It has become an illness," he said.

Ministry to probe ‘kitchen drug’ claim

Star: PENANG: The Health Ministry will investigate a claim by the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) that paracetamol, an oral painkiller, is being widely used in restaurants to soften meat.
Parliamentary secretary to the ministry Datuk Lee Kah Choon said it would investigate the claim although it had never received reports that paracetamol was being used as a cheaper alternative to commercially available meat tenderisers.
“I have never heard of such a practice but we will investigate this serious allegation,” he told newsmen after opening CAP's Health Exhibition at the Penang Hospital foyer yesterday.
Lee said the ministry viewed such allegations seriously because the extensive use of paracetamol could lead to multiple organ failure.”
CAP president SM Mohd Idris had earlier claimed that some cooks used paracetamol to make meats tender as it was a cheaper alternative.
CAP also urged the Government to ban the sales of products with high sugar content in school canteens and organise an anti-sugar campaign.
Lee said he would forward CAP's concerns to the Education Ministry, as “there is an urgent need to create awareness of the dangers of consuming too much sugar.”

Illegals Blamed For Rise In Contagious Diseases

PENANG, Aug 26 (Bernama) -- Illegal immigrants have been cited as the cause for the rise in malaria, polio and tuberculosis cases in the country.
"The illegal immigrants are spreading contagious diseases in Malaysia," said Health Ministry Parliamentary Secretary Datuk Lee Kah Choon.
According to him, most of the illegal immigrants were found to be carriers of the deadly malaria, polio, tuberculosis and many more contagious diseases.
He pointed out that health screening was not conducted on the illegals before they entered the country.
"Contagious diseases are on the rise again and the main source is the illegal immigrants," he said when opening a Health Exhibition organised by Penang Consumer Association (CAP) here Saturday.
He added that most of the contagious diseases including malaria and polio had been eradicated before but reappeared when more immigrant workers started entering the country illegally in the last few years.
He said the Health Ministry was cooperating with various agencies to control the spread of contagious diseases in the country.
Meanwhile, Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) president S.M Mohd Idris said many Malaysians became ill because they consumed too much sugar.
"Each Malaysian consumes an average of 140 grammes of sugar daily which is three times more than the recommended amount," he said.
He said CAP would try to educate consumers about the danger of consuming too much sugar which could cause incurable diseases such as diabetes.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Kuching Health College Gets More Facilities

KUCHING, Aug 25 (Bernama) -- The Public Health College here will have more facilities by 2008 to boost its capacity.
Sarawak Health Director Dr Yao Sik King said the RM20 million project comprised the construction of lecture halls, accommodation for the trainees, an auditorium and sports facilities.
When completed, the college could accommodate 400 trainees compared to only 150 presently.
"With this, we can produce more health officers and quality medical assistants," she told reporters after launching a festival at the college Saturday.
She also said the State Health Department would set up a RM15 million training centre.

Drug Replacement Therapy Is A Success, Says Health D-G

PETALING JAYA, Aug 26 (Bernama) -- Drug Replacement Therapy (DRT) for the hardcore drug addicts is a success, with 84 per cent retention rate from more than 1,200 drug addicts who had undergone a pilot project under the `Harm Reduction Programme'.
Health Ministry Director-General Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said out of that, 71.5 per cent had been gainfully employed and were now back into society.
"That was just a pilot project we started in 2005 for six months and we found that the retention rate was 84 per cent, which we considered as successful, and in some areas, 100 per cent," he told reporters here Saturday.
A 70 per cent retention rate is considered successful according to the World Health Organisation, said Dr Ismail after opening the 3rd National Conference on Addiction Medicine.
Encouraged by that, he said the government was now ready to go for the second phase and targeted to rope in 5,000 hardcore drug addicts for 2007, 10,000 for 2008 and 2009 respectively and 15,000 by 2010.
"In phase two, more hospitals, more clinics, more private sectors will be involved and more doctors will be engaged," he said.
The pilot project involved eight hospitals, two government clinics and eight private clinics.
Under the DRT, hardcore addicts especially the intravenous drug users are given methadone -a substitute drug, to help reduce their addiction. The methadone is taken orally under supervision of a doctor at the clinic who handles the drug rehabilitation programme.
When introduced by the government last year, several parties had caused an uproar as they were concerned that the programme might back-fire.
Dr Ismail said the government felt the bold move would help curb the drug problem in the country before it escalated into a bigger problem including the increase in HIV/AIDS infection among drug abusers.

20 minutes thrice a week

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Exercise 20 minutes daily at least three days a week. This is Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak's advice to inactive Malaysian adults.
He said an inactive lifestyle could contribute to an increase in chronic diseases.
“Every individual, family and community must regard physical activity as an important practice,” he said in his speech read by Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek at the launch of “Jom Makan Secara Sihat 2006” campaign at Dataran Merdeka yesterday.
“Physical activity encompasses daily routine, including work, recreation, exercise and sports. It does not have to be rough activities.”
Najib cited the Second National Morbidity and Health Survey, which showed that 31% of Malaysians had never exercised, while only 12% exercised adequately.
“The number of Malaysians who exercise is lower than in countries such as Australia, Canada and the US which is about 40%; and the situation is worrying. If the people are healthy, the country will prosper.”
Besides exercising, Najib also reminded Malaysians to adopt a healthy lifestyle by ensuring a balanced diet, developing healthy minds, avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.
He said Health Ministry estimates showed that each year, about 10,000 Malaysians died from illnesses related to smoking.
“Although we have achieved progress, we cannot be satisfied and have to work harder to improve our health. I hope the 'Jom Makan Secara Sihat' programme this year will be able to open up people's minds to focus on healthy living,” he added.
He said Malaysians must choose suitable food for their health.
He also pointed out that the survey showed that mental problems such as depression were apparently more prevalent among children and teenagers.

No topics taboo when teaching about sex

NST: PUTRAJAYA: A major exercise to arm students with knowledge about sex and reproductive health is ready to be rolled out and no subject is taboo — even if it is masturbation, homosexuality or abortion.
The main thrust for this is provided by the Reproductive and Social Health Education Guidelines, over 160 pages long, covering topics as diverse as teaching a child what kind of "touching" is right or wrong, contraception, teenage crushes and the dangers of online sexual predators.
The Education Ministry has worked with the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), experts and religious groups for three years to form these guidelines. They are now in the final "polishing and filtering" stage, says the ministry’s parliamentary secretary Komala Devi.
"We hope they can be released soon. This is certainly not a textbook or sex manual; in fact, abstinence is advocated in the guidelines.
"But we have decided to be very detailed on a wide variety of issues for the benefit of the teachers and facilitators who will be using the guidelines to teach children.
"We have recognised there are very sensitive areas.
"The intention is not to alarm anyone but with the current information available to children via the Internet, television and magazines, we can’t be ostriches and ignore these topics," she told the New Straits Times.
The ministry will not introduce sex education as a subject, but is providing the guidelines to be taught across subjects such as Biology, Science, Physical Education, Moral Studies and even in languages, where they can become an essay topic, for example.
At this point, the ministry considers it unfeasible to have a sex education class every week and overload the current curriculum, when the subject can be better addressed in existing classes by teachers who already have some experience in talking about reproduction, for example.
The Education Ministry also hopes to incorporate sex education in co-curricular activities, such as including elements of the guidelines in activities conducted by clubs like the Red Crescent or Club Pro-star — a school club spreading awareness on HIV/AIDS.
It intends to rope in facilitators or experts from NGOs to conduct talks or use multimedia approaches on the subjects, and aims to provide the guidelines to Parent- Teacher Associations and other relevant groups.
The ministry may also disseminate elements of the guidelines in the media to "educate the public".
Most importantly, it has also been training teachers with the help of NGOs most familiar with the subjects, such as "P.S. The Children", and is ready to assist teachers who may find it awkward or difficult to handle these subjects.
The guidelines cover five levels — Level I (children aged four to six), Level II (seven to nine years), Level III (10 to 12 years), Level IV (13 to 18 years) and Level V (19 years and above).
Children aged four to six, for example, do not learn what homosexuality or bisexuality is but are taught about the "Touch Continuum" and how to say "No" to the "wrong touch". They will be given a brief introduction to HIV/AIDS, mostly on how "HIV is a virus that can make you easily susceptible to many illnesses if you get infected".
Older children are exposed to sexual orientation and how "sexual orientation may change" in the course of one’s life.
The language is neutral and on subjects like homosexuality or bisexuality, it has follow-up points such as "most religions regard homosexuality as wrong".
The part on masturbation has notes such as: "One can avoid the temptation to masturbate by focusing on other activities and keeping busy".
Teenagers whose "hormones are running wild" are counselled on peer pressure, infatuation, platonic or exploitative relationships, love, and how some youngsters may use lines like: "If you love me, you would have sex with me".
It touches a lot on how abstinence is the best, and safest route, but also includes sections on contraceptives, such as condoms, diaphragms, pessaries and birth control pills.
And on abortion, a controversial subject, it includes notes such as "abortions could lead to loss of life", and how abortions conducted by dubious practitioners are dangerous.
For those 19 years and above, the information touches more on relationships, marriage, parenting and even sexual dysfunction, in addition to the topics on sexual diseases and symptoms.
Symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia and syphilis are tackled in some areas of the guidelines, as well as the need to be tested and treated for such diseases.
Komala says other new areas are for teachers to touch on sexual violence and where children can and should seek help, as well as the current sexual predators lurking in cyberspace.
"With all the current news about perverts online trying to lure young children, we want students to know that they should be careful when on the Internet, and not to trust all they read or hear on it."
Will the guidelines, which have still to go through several ministries and agencies before they are submitted to the Cabinet, be watered down?
"We hope not, because these guidelines took three years to complete with a wide range of feedback from across the board, including religious bodies. Besides, we cannot water it down until there is no information left.
"Difficult or not, we have to accept that these children are getting information from elsewhere, so we have to be more proactive. We are preparing them for real life."

Friday, August 25, 2006

Government hospitals ‘bleeding’ a doctor a day

NST: At least one doctor a day leaves the public service for private practice, despite efforts over many years to stem the flow.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek says: “Many Government hospitals and health clinics nationwide are not fully operational because we are short of trained manpower.”
Frustration over delays by the Public Services Department (PSD) in approving doctors’ allowances, promotions and other perks is one of the reasons cited for the exodus.
Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Datuk Dr Teoh Siang Chin says: “Some (doctors) lose patience and decide to leave. Our concern is the young specialists leaving the public sector.”
Dr Teoh added that the MMA has been calling for a restructuring of the entire public healthcare system. Among their suggestions is the formation of a Medical Commission, independent of the PSD, to handle healthcare workers in the public sector separately from other public servants.
He said the restructuring would offer more flexibility. For example, extra incentives could be given to those who work in less popular fields.
Meanwhile, a medical lecturer at a public university said employing foreign doctors is not the solution for the shortage of medical personnel and can lead to tension.
“Local doctors and professors are often not too happy when a foreign doctor is made head of department,” said Dr Kuljit Singh.
If the Government agrees to restructure the public healthcare service, he said, better pay for doctors in both public and university hospitals might encourage more doctors to stay on, and Malaysians working overseas might find it attractive to come home.
According to the Health Minister, based on a population of 26 million, the country is short of 21,500 medical officers, 3,700 dentists, 8,600 pharmacists and 130,000 health scientists (those who work in laboratories, do research and other behind-the-scenes medical work), in both the public and private sectors.
On top of this, said Dr Chua, there is a shortage of about 10,000 specialists.

10 more specialist hospitals under 9MP

NST: The Health Ministry is planning to enhance specialist care in the country, increasing the number of specialist hospitals and creating “hub centres” for certain specialist treatments.
Of the 125 Government hospitals and six special medical institutions, 45 are specialist hospitals.
As well as enhancing the services provided by the existing specialist hospitals, an additional 10 will be built under the Ninth Malaysia Plan, said Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek.
“There are plans to create hub centres for certain specialised treatments, such as Selayang Hospital for gastroenterology, hepatology, hepatobiliary surgery, rheumatology and transplant surgery, colorectal surgery, ophthalmology, hand and microsurgery, and Serdang Hospital for thoracic vascular surgeries,” he said.
Under the Plan, hub centres for stem-cell studies, a tissue bank and nuclear medicine will also be set up, he added.
The Ministry also plans to develop 26 types of sub-specialty treatments, and will train specialists in areas like cardiology, cardiothoracic surgery, neurology and neurosurgery, infectious disease medicine, micro and hand surgery, reproductive medicine, pain medicine, and psycho-geriatric medicine. Some hospitals have already started to provide these additional services.
Dr Chua said that of the 45 specialist hospitals only 32 provide at least five of the basic specialised treatments — general medicine and surgery, obstetrics and gynaecology, paediatrics and orthopaedics.

Medical Specialists Told To Register With NSR

PETALING JAYA, Aug 24 (Bernama) -- The government wants all medical specialists in the country to get themselves recognised by registering with the National Specialist Registrar (NSR).
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said the move was necessary to prevent the public from being duped by false medical practitioners who claimed to be experts.
To be recognised as a specialist, one has to apply to the Malaysian Medical Academy (MMA) Secretary who would submit the application to a sub-committee who then would evaluate the candidate's application based on experience, training, skills and exposure.
"Once the committee is satisfied with the application, the applicant will then be recognised as a specialist," he told reporters after the opening of the 40th Malaysia-Singapore Medical Congress and the official launch of NSR here Thursday.
Also present at the event was the Sultan of Perak Sultan Azlan Shah who is also the Royal Patron of MMA.
Chua said getting registered now would be to the advantage of the medical practitioners as registration with NSR would be made compulsory when the Medical Act 1971 is amended and gazetted next year.
This was because each registration would take three to four years to process, he added.
Under the current practice, medical practitioners were only required to be registered with the Malaysian Medical Council. The registration however did not discriminate between a doctor and a specialist.
Chua said the NSR recognition was only good for five years, and the medical practitioner would need to reapply again to be recognised as specialist.
Those who were members of the academy would be charged a fee of RM1,200 per application, while non-members must pay RM1,500.

Doc fight over

Star: PUTRAJAYA: The “doc fight” is over.
After a long standoff between doctors and the Health Ministry, agreement was reached on the implementation of the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998 and Regulations (2006) yesterday.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said he hoped that with the agreement hammered out, doctors and dentists would adhere to the provisions.
He said the ministry made some concessions after considering that there had been some changes to the healthcare sector since the Act was first mooted 13 years ago.
But the ministry stood firm on its decision to register clinics.
“All doctors must register their clinics by the end of November. There will be no postponement,” he said after a two-hour meeting yesterday between the ministry, the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) and the Malaysian Dentist Association (MDA),
Failure to register could result in hefty fines of RM300,000.
The ministry also stood firm on patients’ rights. Every patient now has the right to know the expenses he might incur, especially at a hospital, for his treatment, and has an avenue for his complaints.
“He will have the right to take his grouses to the health director-general if the doctor he complains against fails to act after a month,” he said.
“But we will no longer require doctors to produce the certificate of fitness for occupancy and fire department certificate when registering their clinics. They just need to show their current assessment rate and their annual practising certificate. This is because many doctors now have clinics in shopping malls.
“Doctors also do not need two witnesses to attest to their character,” he said.
Among others, doctors do not have to adhere to provisions to submit the floor plan of their clinics with specifications relating to details such as pipes, toilets, generator sets, the requirement of a public telephone at every clinic, the reporting of social or welfare contributions to the ministry, and the submission of particulars of staff members other than doctors and dentists.
“The requirement for every medical clinic to have emergency first aid equipment, and for every doctor to perform such treatment, is relaxed for those like dermatologists and dentists,” stressed Dr Chua.
He said the ministry had also decided that a medical practitioner should head the enforcement team under the Act.
Should the health director-general refuse an application to register a clinic, he would have to give reasons for it.
The Act had been criticised by doctors who claimed that the hefty fines penalised them; provisions unfair; and that it would lead to doctors practising defensive medicine.
There are currently about 7,500 general practitioners in the country.
MMA president Datuk Dr Teoh Siang Chin said the association was pleased with the agreement , and that it was “reasonable and very encouraging.”

Adjustments yes, but Healthcare Act stays

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: There will be some flexibility but the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act will come into force without major changes.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek, who met with representatives of private hospitals and clinics, has put his foot down, saying that there will be no compromise on patients’ rights, safety and quality of health care.
While admitting that some adjustments were necessary, he said provisions to protect patients’ rights — for example the right to know, to consent, to air their grievances, to receive emergency treatment and quality care — remained unchanged.

Flexibility allowed in some cases include:
• Provision of public telephones in clinics is no longer required.
• Except for those that perform major surgeries, clinics need not have power generators.
• Only the annual practising certificate is needed to register clinics and hospitals. The deadline to register is extended to the end of November;
• The certificate of fitness for occupancy and the certificate from the Fire and Rescue Department may be substituted with a copy of the current assessment rate. The accurate scale floor plan can be replaced with a sketch plan that includes dimensions of physical structures for the registration.
• Requirement for two referees to attest to the character of doctors is done away with and the particulars of staff other than the medical or dental practitioners employed by clinics are no longer required.
• There is no need to report social or welfare contribution activities. Doctors are given a year to rectify minor structural non-conformity after the date of registration, and,
• The Director-General of Health is required to give reasons for refusing to issue a licence or register any private hospital or clinic.

During the meeting, Malaysian Medical Association president Datuk Dr Teoh Siang Chin, Malaysian Dental Association president Dr Wong Foot Meow and Federation of Private Medical Practitioners Association of Malaysia president Dr Steven Chow agreed to get their 8,000 over members to register before the Nov 30 deadline.
Dr Chua said the ministry had no problems with the registration of private hospitals.
Dr Teoh said they were pleased to have reached an agreement with the ministry on some of the grouses raised by doctors.
Overall, Dr Wong said, the Act was good as it helped doctors to have good clinical practice.

Mobile surgery unit an eye-opener

NST: KENINGAU: A new mobile surgery unit has enabled eye doctors to travel to remote hospitals to treat patients.
Standard Chartered Bank Malaysia, through their "Seeing is Believing" project, contributed RM190,000 to purchase the equipment, which has been in use since last September.
The bank's chief executive officer, Shayne Nelson, said 26 eye camps would be conducted every year, with two volunteer doctors at each eye camp to perform 10 operations.
"The target is to help 200 to 260 Malaysians regain their eyesight each year," said Nelson.
Since the launch of the project, Standard Chartered has raised RM380,000, of which RM160,000 was channelled to the Malaysian Medical Association Foundation Eye Fund for the purchase of lenses over three years.
The 1996 National Eye Survey showed the people in Sabah had the most number of eye-related problems in Malaysia.
Ninety-year-old Misah Dugol was one of the patients selected for a cataract surgery.
"I'm a bit scared but I think I will feel a lot better after the surgery," she said before she was wheeled in for the operation.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Longer maternity leave issue put on hold

Star KUALA LUMPUR: The Women, Family and Community Development Ministry will temporarily cease discussions on its proposal for longer maternity leave.
Its minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil said that although a few ministries had agreed to the proposal, others were concerned that the extended leave would affect productivity and pose as an inconvenience to various sectors.
"This is only a temporary setback and not a failure. We have called for a temporary ceasefire so we can look at all the concerns that have been brought up.
"Once we have worked through their concerns, we will once again attack and push it.
"After all, it may seem like a huge extension but it is just an extra eight working days leave we are asking for," said Shahrizat at the annual one-day Women's Summit held on Thursday as part of the National Women's Day celebrations.

Enforcement Of Private Healthcare Regulation After Fine-Tuning

PUTRAJAYA, Aug 24 (Bernama) -- After almost eight years of the enactment of the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998, the Health Ministry, medical practitioners and dentists Thursday agreed to the implementation of the regulation after it has been fine-tuned.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said some adjustments were made to suit the needs of the present situation instead of the situation 13 years ago when the law was first mooted.
"The Ministry of Health would like to stress that there is no compromise where patients' rights, safety and quality of healthcare are concerned," he told reporters after a meeting between the ministry and the Malaysian Medical Association and Malaysian Dental Association at the ministry, here.
He said provisions to protect patients' rights, for example the right to know, to consent, to air their grievances, to receive emergency treatment and quality care remained unchanged.

The adjustments involved:

* Provision of public telephones in the clinics is no longer required as most people carry mobile phones and clinics have fixed line telephones that could be used during emergency.

* All clinics are no longer required to have generator sets except those performing major operations.

* For registration of clinics and hospitals, only the annual practising certificate (APC) is now required instead of both the (APC) and the full registration certificate, thus the need to produce a police report if one loses his full registration is no longer required.

* Certificate of Fitness for Occupancy and Fire Department certificate may be substituted with a copy of the current assessment rate, and accurate scale floor plan is no longer required and can be replaced with a sketch plan that includes dimensions of physical structures for the registration.

* Requirement for two referees to attest to the character of doctors is no longer required for the registration.

* Particulars on staff members other than medical or dental practitioners employed by clinics are no longer required.

* Clinics are not required to report social or welfare contribution activities to the ministry.

* Minor structural non-conformity to the specifications will be given up to one year to be rectified after the date of registration.

* The Director-General may now give reasons for a refusal of a license or registration.

Dr Chua said necessary amendments to the regulation would be done in due course.
He said the end of November deadline for registration requirement would stay and would not be extended and all State Health Departments had been instructed to facilitate the applications for registration and not to reject them.
The act, he said, intended to ensure the provision of a minimum standard of healthcare services to the rakyat.
"With this clarification, the ministry hopes that doctors and dentists will not delay in registering their clinics," he said.
Dr Chua stressed that the enforcement of the regulation would be headed by a medical practitioner and not just an ordinary enforcement officer.
Asked whether there was a compromise reached by the three parties, the minister said: "It was not a compromise. It is a fine-tuning of the regulation so that the act can be implemented and doctors and dentists can comply with the act."
Malaysian Medical Association president Datuk Dr Teoh Siang Chin said the agreement reached today would eliminate many unregistered medical practitioners and ensure the needs of medical practitioners were taken care of.
"The act ensures good quality practices. We are happy with what we have achieved today," said Malaysian Dental Association president Dr Wong Foot Meow.

Najib: Time for toilet revolution

Star: PETALING JAYA: It is time for a "toilet revolution" to take place in Malaysia, where having clean, comfortable and beautiful toilets is the way of life for all.
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said having a clean toilet culture did not only reflect the people's civilisation and quality of life, but also went hand-in-hand with developing the tourism industry.
"The condition of our toilets can also be used to measure our socio-economic and education levels and it is also associated with good health and manners, upbringing, housekeeping and high level of civilisation.
"We need an effort, a national effort, if we are to change the culture and attitude of the people with regards to having clean toilets," Najib said, adding that the "toilet revolution" had already started in other Asian countries.
He told this to reporters at the launching of the National Toilet Forum & Expo 2006 here on Thursday.

Latest Anti-drug Campaign Targets Students

KUANTAN, Aug 24 (Bernama) -- Some RM2.5 million in taxpayers' money will be spent on the latest anti-drug campaign targeting secondary school students this year, Deputy Education Minister Datuk Noh Omar said Thursday.
The money will be used to fund various awareness activities including anti-drug seminars, exhibitions, carnivals, advertising and to conduct urine test on randomly selected students.
Noh said the campaign will cover schools, especially urban schools, nationwide.
"The drug menace must be tackled at the school level... It must be nipped in the bud," he said when closing the national level Drug Prevention and Education Carnival 2006 here Wednesday night.
He said students must be guarded and protected from the influence of drugs especially syabu, psychotropic pill and metaphatamine.
Some 8,802 students from 171 schools have taken the urine test so far this year and 32 tested positive.
Last year, some 27,412 students from 847 schools took the urine test and 156 tested positive.
Noh said anti-drug authorities were keen to have more students taking the urine test in the future but said the national anti-drug agency (AADK) needed to use a new and faster testing method to achieve the objective.
There are 10,000 schools in Malaysia with a combined student population of about five million.

Men with weak hearts suffer letdown in bed, too

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: A great number of men with weak hearts find their performances between the sheets a let down.
A study found that about a third, or 33.7 per cent, of patients with coronary artery disease suffer from severe erectile dysfunction (ED). A further 56.3 per cent of the patients surveyed suffer from mild to moderate ED.
"Everybody knows that the older you get, the less it functions. However, we found that ED seems to be more prevalent among heart patients," said Dr Ramesh Singh Veriah.
The interventional cardiologist at Universiti Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) led a team of researchers who studied 510 patients with coronary artery disease (also called ischaemic heart disease or IHD) at its cardiology and geriatric clinic.
The study polled men between 36 and 92 years with surprising results.
"The results indicate that 90.4 per cent of my patients cannot get an erection or have trouble doing so. That’s terrible," said Dr Ramesh.
The UMMC, which has a dedicated heart centre, had decided to embark on the six-month study as both IHD and ED have similar risk factors. The study was completed in May.
The risk factors include hypertension, diabetes, smoking, hyperlipidaemia (high cholesterol), lack of physical activity, stress and obesity.
IHD is a condition that affects the supply of blood to the heart which could lead to a heart attack, while ED is the inability or difficulty in obtaining and maintaining an erection.
Dr Ramesh said of those surveyed, 58.4 per cent were diabetic while 64.5 per cent had high blood pressure. A total of 39.6 per cent had high cholesterol, 42 per cent were non-smokers and 40.4 per cent were ex-smokers while the remaining were still nicotine addicts.
"We also found that ED did not discriminate by race, but diabetes and high blood pressure are very significant predictors."
Dr Ramesh said many patients were keen to take part in the study and those found to be suffering from ED were eager to seek help.
"Many consider ED a taboo subject to talk about even with their doctors but once the taboo is broken, they want help."
As heart disease is the number one killer in the world, ED has become a big problem, he added.

Checks at construction sites to curb dengue cases

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Health checks will be conducted at construction sites and foreign workers’ dormitories in an effort to keep dengue cases from spiralling in the coming months.
Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr Fong Chan Onn said the directive for Labour Department officers to immediately check the premises of these foreign workers came after the Health Ministry sounded the alarm on the possibility of more dengue cases ahead.
“The ministry is concerned because foreign workers have been known to stay and live in areas that are potential aedes-breeding grounds,” he told reporters after the weekly Cabinet meeting here yesterday.
“We are also warning human resources managers to keep their workers’ dormitories clean, according to the ministry’s guidelines.”
The ministry, added Dr Fong, was also concerned with foreign workers chalking up RM140mil yearly for treatment at public hospitals and abusing the system meant for Malaysians.

State-of-the-art toilets for KL

Star: PAYING RM1 to use an air-conditioned fully-automated street toilet (AST) for 15 minutes is set to be a new experience for Malaysians and tourists soon.
Twenty of the hi-tech toilets made by GBH Bhd will be placed at various parts of Kuala Lumpur soon, two of them in the Jalan Bukit Bintang area by the end of this month.
The automatic street toilet measures 2.25m x 6.2m and is 2.6m high and weighs about 3.5 tonnes.
Users will need to slot in coins, amounting to RM1, to use the toilet.
However, users should take note that the automatic door will open by itself once the 15 minutes are up.
GBH group general manager Tan Ah Cheun said a pre-recorded verbal warning would be given at the 14th minute.
“Any user who needs to stay longer than 15 minutes will have to come out of the cubicle and pay another RM1, provided there are no users waiting to get in.
“Otherwise, common courtesy will need to prevail and it might be a matter of who needs it more urgently,” said Tan.
He said Kuala Lumpur City Hall has ordered 20 units of the AST and the first two would be located at the Jalan Bukit Bintang area in Kuala Lumpur.
Tan said the sitting pan has an automatic seat cleaner that would wash, scrub and dry the pan after every use.
The same cleansing will be applied to the squatting pan while the floor of the entire toilet would be automatically washed after every five users.
Each cubicle comes with a seated toilet and a squat toilet and is also disabled friendly and big enough to accommodate a wheelchair.
Users with children up to six years old could enter the cubicle at the same time, said Tan, adding that the cubicle also included a baby nappy changing station and a juvenile waiting seat with a strap-on seat belt.
Tan said GBH has recommended to the authorities that every AST be manned by a janitor.
“Each cubicle is equipped with an emer- gency button and the user will be able to communicate with the janitor upon activating the button.
“Every assistance, including opening the door from the outside, will then be provided,” explained Tan.
He said GBH has recommended that the standard operating hours for each AST to be between 7.30am and 11.30pm with provisions for extension.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Talking about safe sex ‘does not promote sex’

NST PUTRAJAYA: Not talking about safe sex will not stop young adults from having sex, so why not talk about it?
Director-General of Health Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said that while we were still conservative about discussing these issues, not doing so would only lead to bigger problems.
A recent study by Universiti Teknologi Mara lecturer Mazlin Mohamad Mokhtar found that half the young adults aged 18 to 25 were likely to be having sex. Eighty per cent did not use contraceptives.
Dr Ismail said sex should be discussed openly, because like it or not, young adults were going to engage in premarital and unprotected sex.
"They do it anyway. Talking about taking precautions is not encouraging them to have sex," he said.
He made it clear that whoever was "eligible" (to have sex) must practise safe sex.
"And the operative word is ‘eligible’," he stressed.
He added that society had become more open to discussing these issues, which was also why the Health Ministry provided stewardship for condom distribution and needle and syringe exchange programmes to contain the spread of HIV among drug users.
"These are taboo subjects, but we decided that we had to put aside conservatism in the larger interest of ensuring a healthy community," he said.
Education about safe sex can also go a long way towards reducing the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STI).
Dr Ismail said: "The most troublesome, the most menacing, the most critical right now is HIV/AIDS, and most people are aware of what we have done to combat it. We can use the same model for other STIs."
Apart from HIV, some common STIs are gonorrhoea, syphilis, herpes, candidiasis, chlamydia, genital warts and mycoplasma genitalium. Symptoms for many STIs include discharge, an unpleasant odour, pain when urinating, itchiness and redness.
"STIs are a lifestyle disease. As long as people have more than one sexual partner, there may be a problem because they are at risk," he said.
Dr Ismail’s advice to those who feel they may be at risk was to go for testing.
If left untreated, STIs can have serious consequences. Gonorrhoea, for example, can cause infertility and untreated syphilis can lead to chest pains and dementia.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Call to make lifeguards compulsory at public pools

Star PENANG: The Malaysia Lifesaving Society (MLS) wants the stationing of lifeguards at public swimming pool to be made compulsory.
Its president Datuk Ismail Shah Bodin said he had observed that there were no lifeguards at some pools that were owned by local authorities.
“Something has to be done before it is too late. We have heard of many drowning cases in pools,” he said.
He said this after launching the third National and first International Invitation DHL Lifesaving Sports Challenge Penang 2006 at Penang International Sports Arena (Pisa) here on Saturday.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Cabinet Minister Wants Sex Education Introduced

SUNGAI SIPUT, Aug 20 (Bernama) -- A cabinet minister is urging the government to quickly introduce sex education in schools, a move she said would curtail rising unwanted pregnancies in Malaysia.
Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil argued that Malaysian children need sex education as "most young people do not know the risks of having sex".
"So the time has come for us to make sure that sex education is introduced in schools so that they are aware of the consequences of having sex," she said.
Shahrizat added: "These youngsters need help and guidance. So I think we cannot delay (the introduction of sex education) anymore."
The Malaysian government has been reluctant to introduce sex education in schools fearing a backlash from the conservative rural population.
Shahrizat also said was advocating for sex education to be taught in school because the Malaysian society always blamed young women when they got pregnant outside marriage.
"This (unwanted pregnancy) is not the problem of young women alone. This is also the problem of the family and the society.
"But everytime an unmarried girl got pregnant, the society would blame her. This is not fair. That is why we should have sex education in school," she argued.
She added that gender bias in Malaysia also contributed to rising cases of baby dumping among unmarried girls. She reiterated that baby dumping is a crime which tantamount to murder.
"Those who know of any unmarried girls who are pregnant should inform the welfare department so that these girls can be given protection and help," she said.

Chua Questions Accuracy Of Medicines Pricing Study

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 20 (Bernama) -- Medicines in Malaysia are not more expensive than in developed countries and the findings of overpricing by two universities is inaccurate, said Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek.
He said there are more than 1,000 types of medicines in the country and accurate information on them could only be obtained from an in-depth and comprehensive study.
"If a study only focuses on 40 medicines in the market, the outcome will not be accurate," he told reporters after attending the fifth session of Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman's convocation here Sunday.
Dr Chua was commenting on the findings of the study in Penang, Johor Baharu, Kota Baharu and Kuala Lumpur covering branded and generic medicines in 20 public hospitals, 32 retail pharmacies and 20 medicine dispensing doctors.
The two universities claimed the study found the prices of the medicines were 10 to 16 times more expensive than the International Reference Price (IRP) in the methodology used by the World Health Organisation.
Dr Chua said the ministry had since two months ago begun collecting information through registration of medicines by firms and pharmacies and will make it public in due time.
He said imported drugs were expensive but only some were used in this country and researchers who conducted studies should not be too hasty in announcing their findings.
Generic drugs were monitored constantly and there was no reason for their prices to escalate, he said.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Meeting the medical needs of unwed mothers

NST: HOSPITALS have their fair share of unwed women who come to deliver their babies.
Kuala Lumpur Hospital’s Medical Social Work Department works with single mothers referred to it.
Its main duty is to contact and inform the mother’s family of her condition.
Senior medical social officer Harolhanam Mohamed Wahid said the family was usually given counselling to deal with the shock and to accept the baby.
"Many agree to care for the babies. Only a handful decide to give them up for adoption."
Among patients he sees daily are prostitutes, drug addicts and under-age girls who did not go for pre-natal check-ups.
Their babies are usually underweight or are HIV-positive.In 2004, the department conducted a survey on unwed mothers with 152 respondents.
They found that the number of single mothers had steadily increased over the last five years.
In 2004, there were 325 single mothers. Seventy-seven per cent were Malays, followed by Indians (six per cent), Chinese (five per cent) and others (12 per cent).
Harolhanam feels the huge disparity between races was due to non-Malays going to private hospitals.
The survey also revealed that 81 per cent were poorly educated.
"These girls are usually unemployed or can only find jobs at factories. And this is where the problems start.
"Usually, their boyfriends take them out and spend money on them and the women feel compelled to repay them in some way."

Friday, August 18, 2006

Ignorance about TB resulted in 4,000 deaths, says official

Star: MACHANG (Kelantan): Ignorance about tuberculosis (TB) has resulted in nearly 4,000 deaths from the disease in Peninsular Malaysia in the past four years, with Kelantan registering the most number of cases.
The number is increasing and TB has become the main public health concern in the state, said Kelantan health department director Datuk Dr Ahmad Razin Ahmad Maher.
The state has recorded 676 deaths up to June this year since the past four years. This compared to 3,933 fatal cases over the same period for the whole of peninsular Malaysia.
“Although there are adequate medication to combat the disease, late diagnosis due to the patients’ lack of attention, has seen deaths increasing together with higher rate of infection, '' Dr Ahmad Razin said in his speech at the opening of the state level World Tuberculosis Day here on Friday.

Government Still Committed To Built Children Hospital

JOHOR BAHARU, Aug 18 (Bernama) -- The government is still committed to a promise it made many years back to build a hospital specifically for children, Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said Friday.
He said the promise, made by former Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng, had never been forgotten as even the Prime Minister's late wife Datin Seri Endon Mahmod had tried to push for it to be build.
"There is also the question of paediatricians. The country is short of them. Our estimate puts their current number at around 550 and 216 of them are with the Ministry of Health," he said.
Dr Chua said this when speaking at the 1st Asean Congress of Paediatric Surgery and the 28th Malaysian Paediatric Association Annual Scientific Congress here.
He was also responding to the events organising co-Chairman, Datuk Dr Zakaria Zahari, who in his speech urged the government to fulfil the promise it made.
Dr Chua said that in Australia there was a ratio of one paediatrician to about 5,000 children below the age of 18 years.
"If we were to apply this ratio here, it would mean that we are presently short of about 1,500 paediatricians. To achieve this ratio by 2020, we would need to produce at least 140 paediatricians per year from now, whereas our present production is only about 35 per year at most," he said.
He said that currently there were only 10 government hospitals that provide paediatric services and the nation's first Department of Paediatric Surgery was only formed at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital in 1991.
"Even now, most surgical problems involving children outside of the major hospitals are still being performed by general surgeons. This problem is compounded by the fact that there are presently very few full-time paediatric surgeons in public service," he added.

50 New HFMD Cases Detected In Sarawak, 14 Children Hospitalised

KUCHING, Aug 18 (Bernama) -- The Sarawak Health Department detected 50 new cases of the Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) in the last 24 hours causing 14 children to be hospitalised, Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri George Chan said.
Updating the press on the status of HFMD in Sarawak, he said that in the 24 hours until 10 am Friday, 19 of the new cases were detected in Kuching, Miri (14), Sibu (nine), Bintulu (four), Sri Aman (two) and the rest elsewhere in the state.
Dr Chan, who is also the chairman of the state's Disaster Relief Management Committee, said the latest figures brought the number of children infected since the disease was first detected to 13,740, with Sibu recording the highest number at 3,016 followed by Miri (2,852), Kuching (2,105), Bintulu (1,756), and Sarikei (945).
HFMD epidemic has hit Sarawak twice this year, with the first surfacing on Jan 29 and the second on May 7.
The second wave of the outbreak has forced the temporary closure of 25 kindergartens and nurseries as part of pre-emptive measures to contain its spread.
The outbreaks have claimed 13 lives so far, including seven who were tested positive for the deadly Enterovirus 71 (EV71).
The Health Department has also stepped up efforts to contain the latest outbreak. Yesterday, the Health Ministry approved an additional RM667,250 to purchase medical equipment for the various hospitals in the state to stem the tide.

Eight Baby Formula Companies Censured For Contravening Code Of Ethics

JOHOR BAHARU, Aug 18 (Bernama) -- Eight of 12 multinational companies marketing instant baby formulas in the country have been censured for contravening ethics governing their sale, said Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek.
He said that the companies were censured after it was found that they had violated the ethics on at least three occasions and among the actions that had been taken was barring them from advertising their products for a year.
"The companies had been found disseminating inaccurate information in their promotional campaigns to entice mothers to buy their products, which they claimed were endorsed by medical specialists," he told reporters after launching the Asean Paediatric Surgery Congress and the 28th Malaysia Paediatric Association's Scientific Congress here Friday.
"It they continue to flout the rules, their names will be published in the print media. We have not resorted to that action yet," he said, adding this would be better than slapping them with paltry fines.
Arguing that breast feeding was still the best option for babies' growth and development, he said the ministry's statistic had shown that about 29 per cent of breastfeeding mothers did it until their babies were six months old while the rest for only a week or at the most a month after the baby was born.

Drafting committee bypassed by ministry

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: The original drafting committee was never presented with the final form and structure of the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998.
Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) past president Datuk Dr Abdul Hamid Abdul Kadir said the committee was bypassed by the Health Ministry that sent the Bill to Parliament.
"It was never shown to us before being presented in Parliament," he told the New Straits Times.
He said the committee also did not see the final form and structure of the regulations which accompanied the Act.
Dr Abdul Hamid said the committee was not involved in formulating punishments for contravention of various requirements in the regulations.
"These were finalised before Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek and Director-General of Health Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican took office."
Dr Abdul Hamid said he was the MMA president between 1996 and 1997 when the Act was drafted.
He had represented the MMA in discussions on the Act during that period after which his successor took over.
Besides him, others in the committee were representatives of the Malaysian Medical Council, the Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia, the College of General Practitioners (Academy of Family Physicians Malaysia), the Federation of Private Medical Practitioners Associations Malaysia and the Academy of Medicine of Malaysia.
"The meeting was chaired by senior officers, on rotation, from the Health Ministry with a secretary (also from the ministry)," he added.
He said some five to six meetings were held during the drafting of the Act.
The draft was completed in early 1997 with subsequent meetings looking at the regulations.
Dr Abdul Hamid said the committee secretary had presented state regulations from the USA with the committee selecting various sections on the structure and requirements of clinics and hospitals in good faith.
He said the regulations were finalised after the Act was passed in 1998 and gazetted in in April this year.
He said some requirements in the regulations needed study and amendments before being enforced.
"At least two professional bodies have submitted their memoranda to the minister who has agreed to study them. But the process of registering private medical clinics should not be held back but perhaps extended to early next year."
Dr Abdul Hamid said it was improper at this stage for medical practitioners to boycott the Act and regulations or to carry out street protests.

High degree of sexual promiscuity and ignorance on campus

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: They either have no fear or are ignorant. Either way, Malaysia’s best and brightest are flirting with AIDS and death every day, suggests a survey of private colleges and public universities.
One in two young adults are having sex. Unnerving? Try this. Eighty per cent of them do not use contraceptives.
Latest figures show that sexually-active university and college students, between the ages of 18 and 25, do not even think about condoms when they hop into the sack.
Physical pleasure seems to outweigh the risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STD), said researcher Mazlin Mohamad Mokhtar of Universiti Teknologi Mara.
"You would expect this kind of feedback from the general population. Certainly not among university and college students who are supposed to be better educated," she said.
Mazlin, a UiTM lecturer, conducted the study on sexual and reproductive health, knowledge, attitude and behaviour among students in two private colleges and two public universities.
The institutions cannot be named.
While the study showed that only 11.3 per cent admitted to having premarital sex, 55 per cent said their friends were sexually active.
"According to the World Health Organisation, when a young adult says his or her friend is having premarital sex, they are talking about themselves as well," Mazlin said, adding that of this figure, half had more than one partner.
Respondents were asked 16 questions, of which only 7.8 per cent got 13 to 16 questions correct.
"The majority got between eight and 12 answers correct. That is not good because it leans towards a low level of understanding," Mazlin said.
The study, done on behalf of the University of Aberdeen in the United Kingdom and completed in July last year, polled 727 respondents.

These are some of the findings.
• One-third (34 per cent) thought condoms cannot help prevent the spread of HIV
• One-fourth said a person could be infected with HIV through a bite from a mosquito, flea or bed bug
• Sixty per cent thought that a man would be able to tell when a woman has STD
• More than half (53 per cent) said a person with STD would show symptoms.

Mazlin said many respondents had a basic knowledge about sexual and reproductive health but "this did not translate into the right behaviour".
Although 65 per cent said they did not think it was okay for unmarried couples to have sex, it did not tally with the number of those admitting they or their friends engaged in premarital sex.
A specialist in charge of the genito-urinary medicine clinic at the Institute of Respiratory Medicine, Dr Akbal Kaur, said she had seen patients as young as 14 suffering from STD as a result of unprotected sex.
"Gonorrhoea seems to be the commonest among young adults. One of the reasons is because they have multiple partners," she said.
Dr Akbal sees about 20 patients a day and five to 10 of them are young adults.
Most had never heard of genital warts, syphilis, gonorrhoea or chlamydia — all different types of STD.
Some did not know that sex led to having babies, she added.
"I once asked a young patient: ‘You know you are menstruating right?’, and she nodded.
Then I asked her: ‘Do you know that because you are menstruating every month, when you have sex, you can get pregnant?’ She gave me a blank look."
She has come across patients who, after being treated for STD, come back with the same or a different problem because after the first experience, only a small number is moved to use contraceptives.
This cannot be comforting news for a country where 19 people are diagnosed as HIV-positive every day.
Dr Akbal said if present trends of sexual behaviour continue, there would be a spike in the number of reported HIV cases.
Commenting on the findings, Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman, of the Malaysian AIDS Council, said: "These are shocking but not altogether surprising findings. I am sure it is not what everyone would like to believe but unfortunately that is the reality of life today."

RM565m hospital almost complete

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: After five extensions, the RM565-million Hospital Sultanah Bahiyah in Alor Star is ready — almost.
Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu expects to hand over the hospital to the Health Ministry after five postponements since 2002.
Even then, the 730-bed hospital will be without a bio-safety level 3 mortuary, which will only be ready on Oct 31.
Samy Vellu said the two-month delay was to allow the contractor, MH Projects Sdn Bhd, to obtain international certification for the mortuary.
The mortuary, which was in the process of being built, will hold bodies of victims of diseases such as Avian flu, HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.
Samy Vellu said the Public Works Department was closely supervising the company which was working round the clock on the project.
The New Straits Times understands that the completion of the 730-bed hospital was initially postponed due to a lack of skilled workers following the Government’s Amnesty Programme for illegal foreign workers in 2002.
The second extension from March 15 to Dec 14, 2004 followed a request by the Health Ministry for neurology and neuro surgery services, upgrading of mortuary, request for four intensive care units, a paediatric ICU and invasive cardiology and cardiothoracic services.
This was followed by the third extension from Dec 15, 2004 to June 15, 2005 to widen the access road to the hospital with the fourth extension from June 15 to Dec 31 last year to upgrade the VIP suite to a royal ward.
The fifth extension until Aug 31 was to repair damage caused by a fire on June 10 last year.
Meanwhile, Director-General of Health Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said the ministry would work closely with the PWD in the construction of all hospitals and other buildings due to problems faced with contractors.
He said the problems included not meeting deadlines, construction defects and non-compliance with specifications.
This was decided at a meeting between ministry and PWD officials last Wednesday.
The officials decided that all Health Ministry projects would be closely monitored by State and district hospital directors from the onset.
Dr Ismail said problems would be addressed immediately at State-level meetings between the PWD, contractor and the ministry officials.
He said it was decided at the meeting that the PWD and the ministry would only accept completed projects after ensuring that contractors met all the requirements.
"We may blacklist contractors who do not deliver on time. Most of the problems arise when the work is sub-contracted," he added.

Chua: Clinics had no drips... nothing

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Doctors at two clinics in Setapak declined to treat undergraduate Lee Kean Yip, 18, who bled to death nearby last month as they did not have drips.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said they should have at least given first aid to the first-year Tunku Abdul Rahman College student.
"They had no drips... nothing. Would you like to be a bleeding accident victim and go to the nearest clinic where the doctor says he cannot treat you because he does not have drips?" he asked.
Dr Chua said this episode showed why the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998 was needed. The legislation, which requires general practitioners to improve their clinics and have emergency equipment, is being snubbed by many doctors.
He said emergency equipment could comprise "very simple things such as drips and oxygen masks to very complicated things like that available in an Intensive Care Unit".
"We do not require them, however, to install anything complicated," he said.
Dr Chua said every practising doctor should be able to render first aid, including cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
Lee had been walking back to his rented room after supper when he was accosted by two men on a motorcycle, one of whom slashed him with a parang after he refused to hand over his wallet.
It was reported that passersby appealed to staff at the clinics to come and treat Lee but they declined stating that they did not have drips.
A partner at one of the clinics said that a couple informed his nurse that someone had been stabbed and was in critical condition.
A doctor on duty that night informed the couple that the clinic did not have facilities to handle such injuries but urged the couple to bring the youth for treatment.
"The doctor’s duty is inside the clinic and not outside. That is the policy. People should be aware of that regulation. We are not a mobile clinic," he said.

Meanwhile, Dr Chua assured doctors that their reservations over the Act would be looked into. This would be done in amendments to the Act which are on the drawing board.
The minister said he was aware that some aspects of the Act were no longer relevant and these would be removed.
He said the ministry was getting feedback from the public and stakeholders.
Dr Chua and Director-General of Health Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican will meet Malaysian Medical Association officials on Aug 24 to discuss fine-tuning of the Act.
On claims by some doctors that the Act was draconian and appeared to criminalise them, he said this was untrue as "no law can touch them if they uphold good clinical practice and behave like professionals".
"They must understand that this law is meant to keep out the few black sheep," he said, appealing to doctors not to wait until the last minute to register their clinics with the ministry.
On concerns over the floor plan at clinics, Dr Chua said all that was required was a simple layout on the location of the doors, registration counter and emergency treatment room.
"The floor plan does not even have to be up to scale. Some doctors say they don’t even know how to draw a floor plan. I don’t know how to respond to this," he said.

Sarawak struggles to cope as haze and HFMD take toll

NST: KUCHING: The haze enveloping the southern part of Sarawak is stretching the resources of the State Health Department which is struggling to contain the hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD).
It is also disrupting school outdoor activities and threatening the National Day parade.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan, chairman of the State’s Natural Disaster and Relief Management committee, said he was "overworked and underpaid" in having to tackle the HFMD, haze, drought and probably the floods at the end of the year.
As Kuching crept towards the "very unhealthy" air quality zone — as denoted by an API reading of between 201 and 300 — the Health Department yesterday alerted all hospitals and clinics to monitor acute respiratory-related illnesses as the number of cases reported here had breached the "alert number".
Dr Chan said yesterday more than 200 cases were treated daily at government polyclinics and the Sarawak General Hospital (SGH) in the city.
The alarm bell is triggered when the number passes the 50 cases-a-day mark. Dr Chan said the number of asthma cases had also breached the alert number of 50 a day in the city.
The Medical Department has instructed the State Education Department to direct schools to cancel co-curricular or outdoor activities.
The haze that pushed the air pollutant index (API) in Kuching to 161 at 5pm yesterday, has also stretched the resources of the Fire and Rescue Department now battling plantation fires in Samarahan, Gedong, Sri Aman and Betong.
The department said it had to redeploy about 100 men from the least haze-affected areas in Miri, Limbang and Lawas to Kuching to join the 200 men battling the fires since last Friday. The deployment starts tomorrow.
Although Dr Chan said the fires were under control, the blaze in plantations in the four areas continued unabated and were contributing to the worsening haze there.
The number of areas in the State now in the unhealthy air quality category — indicated by an API reading of 101 to 200 — has increased from four to seven. Apart from Kuching, the other areas are Samarahan (155), Sibu (151), Petra Jaya (148), Sri Aman (144), Tebedu (137) and Sarikei (119).
Places with poor visibility were: Kuching, 1.5km; Sri Aman, 1km; Sibu and Miri, 6km; Bintulu, 3km; Labuan, 7km; Kota Kinabalu, 8km; (Peninsular Malaysia) Prai, Butterworth and Sitiawan, 7km; Petaling Jaya, 9km; and Alor Star and Kluang, 6km.
Dr Chan said three plantations in Gedong were being investigated to see if they had flouted the ban on open burning.
State fire chief, acting deputy director Morni Mamat said there were fires on 2,000 hectares of plantation land in the four areas. He said more than 500ha were burning in two plantations, Ladang Nangkung and Ladang Smog, in Kota Samarahan; three plantations, Ladang Melor, Gemilang and Sg Skrang in Gedong; and five plantations in Sri Aman.
Morni said the fires, particularly in Gedong, were difficult to put out as the area was largely peat soil and the fires were burning underground.
"Water supply is also a problem as the dry season had dried up drains and rivers in the area."
Morni said they had dug firebreaks to confine the fires in one area. The fires are expected to be doused in a week.
Flying to the rural areas is now subject to delays and cancellations as rural airports could be closed due to the haze. Yesterday, two flights to Mukah were cancelled.
Although a question mark still hangs over the National Day parade, work to complete the grandstand at Padang Merdeka here and viewing galleries along the routes the parade will take is in full swing.
"The decision to carry on or cancel (the parade) may be made two days before the date," Dr Chan said, adding that the decision would have to be made by the Federal Cabinet.

Extra funds for fighting HFMD in Sarawak

NST: KUCHING: The Health Ministry has approved an additional RM667,250 for fighting the hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) in Sarawak.
This is on top of the RM1.36 million already approved early this year at the start of the outbreak.
"The extra fund will be used to purchase additional medical equipment such as syringes, infusion pumps and pulse oxymeters and cardiac monitors for the various hospitals in the State," the Health Ministry parliamentary secretary Datuk Lee Kah Choon said yesterday.
Thirteen children have died of HFMD, including seven who were tested positive for the deadly Enterovirus 71 (EV71).
Lee said although the outbreak appeared to be waning, the continued presence of human EV71 in the community was still a cause for concern and continuing vigilance.
"Therefore, the Health Department is continuing with the activities to contain the outbreak," he said.
He added that the number of HFMD cases was showing a downward trend, from 430 cases reported in the July 23 to 29 period to 326 cases from July 30 to Aug 5, and down to 310 for the Aug 6 to 12 period.
Lee said a total of 198 cases were reported from Aug 13 to 16.
He reminded parents to monitor the health of their children and impose self-quarantine at home if they were ill.
"This means that they should keep their children at home and not send them to schools, kindergartens or take them to public gatherings if they are not well."
Meanwhile, seven kindergartens in Miri and another in Sri Aman were ordered closed due to HFMD outbreak for two weeks, beginning yesterday.
This brings the total number of childcare centres and pre-schools ordered closed to 25 since last month.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan said yesterday that 37 new cases of HFMD were reported in Sarawak as at 10am yesterday.
He said 15 were in Miri while Bintulu had eight cases, Kuching (6), Sri Aman (3), Sibu (3) and the rest in other towns.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Haze causes increase in respiratory diseases in Kuching

Star: KUCHING:The Sarawak General Hospital and government clinics here have reported a sharp jump in the number of respiratory tract infection cases as the air quality worsens.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam said the hospital and clinics were now treating some 200 cases daily of respiratory diseases, like asthma and conjunctivitis, up from the normal 40 to 50 cases.
“The 200 cases per day is the alert level,” he told reporters after attending a briefing on the deteriorating haze from heads of relevant government departments and agencies at Wisma Bapa Malaysia here on Wednesday.
He said the state education department had been asked to direct all schools to stop their outdoor activities.
Some 1.3 million pieces of surgical masks are ready for distribution, particularly to people involved in vigorous outdoor work.
The city's air pollutant index (API) reading as of 7am yesterday was 154, up from 127 at 5pm on Wednesday. The visibility was at its lowest in recent days.
Other badly hit towns were Samarahan and Sibu, which have API readings of 155 and 143 respectively. Poor visibility has forced some cancellations and delays to flights.
Dr Chan, also the state disaster relief committee chairman, said there were 642 hotspots in Kalimantan, Indonesia and 75 statewide on Thursday.
He advised Malaysian-oned plantation companies in Indonesia to stop open burning as the way to clearing land for planting in order to reduce the haze problem.
“We have requested an aircraft from TUDM to do cloud seedings,” he added.

Angry doctors issue ultimatum to MMA leaders

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: In all his 20 years as a doctor, Datuk Dr Teoh Siang Chin has not seen so much anger being vented by medical practitioners.
They are unhappy with the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998, which makes it compulsory for doctors to upgrade their clinics and have equipment for emergencies.
As president of the Malaysian Medical Association, Dr Teoh is also feeling the brunt from the several thousand members, who have issued this ultimatum to MMA office bearers: resolve this issue or resign en bloc.
"We just cannot believe the amount of anger they are venting," said Dr Teoh when asked to comment on doctors planning to stage protests against the Act which came into force on May 1, this year.
The MMA leadership is caught in the middle between a group of angry doctors and the ministry which is firm on its implementation of the Act and Regulations 2006.
Dr Teoh said the MMA has already submitted a 37-page memorandum to Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek a month ago.
On Tuesday, Dr Chua said, he would take into account what was in the memorandum when proposing amendments to the Act as he acknowledged that there has been a lapse of 13 years since it was mooted before being passed, and now to be enforced.
Dr Chua, who is to meet MMA leaders and doctors on Aug 24, agreed that some sections in the Act needed amendments as they were no longer relevant to current times.
While awaiting the amendments, the minister has asked the over 7,500 private practitioners to register. So far less than 10 per cent have done so.
The MMA is also equally concerned that only a small number of doctors have registered to date.

Dr Teoh said: "We know it’s their rice bowl and some have been practising for 30 years. They have been very professional about their work but the demands in the Act have really angered them."
Among them are the RM1,500 registration fee with which they have to submit details such as the plan of the organisation, which includes the location of doors, windows, air-conditioners, ventilators, toilet, staff identification, billing procedures, infection and vector control and basic emergency care services.
Dr Teoh said many of the requirements were not relevant for lone practitioners.
"I agree that the hesitation in registration may be due to the lack of clarity regarding the details of the requirements for registration. Many doctors have not got a copy of the Act and the information they get is from the MMA and the ministry’s road shows," he said.
(Dr Chua admitted that some of the confusion was also due to those who conducted the road shows were not able to give the best answers to questions raised by doctors.)
On Dr Chua’s statement that the MMA was a party to the discussions on the Act, Dr Teoh said: "We would like to point out that this was only in the early stages, the last briefing being in 2003. There have been no meetings to discuss the final version of the Regulations."
He said some of these regulations would inevitably lead to defensive medicine and additional bureaucracy.
He said many doctors’ attention would be diverted from patient care as the real and opportunity cost of registration, renovations and upgrades required by the specifications of toilets and taps (among others) may be in excess of RM20,000.
"These costs will inevitably be passed on to the consumers," said Dr Teoh.
He said for clinics in rented premises, some of the structural changes were impossible and the frustration vented by many experienced GPs practising in the same clinic for decades was surely a prelude to them prematurely giving up practice, which would be a great loss to the communities they have served for so long.

Federation of Private Medical Practitioners Association president Dr Steven Chow said they were against the call for boycotts and street protests.
"We urge all private practitioners not to join this call for such drastic action as it will be counter-productive to the positive development thus far. The association is in the advanced stage of working out an agreement with the ministry to approach issues arising from the implementation of this Act," he said.
He said the ministry has agreed to consider most of the proposals and recommendations made by them for amendments to the Act and the Regulations.

OSH systems to improve safety at NS camps

Star: BANGI: All 80 National Service (NS) camps will be equipped with occupational safety and health management systems aimed at enhancing a safe and healthy environment.
The move spearheaded by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (Niosh), should serve to assure parents whose children were in national service.
“It doesn't mean that the current safety level is not good, it's just that we feel the responsibility to further enhance it by providing better infrastructure and consultation,” Niosh chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said yesterday.
He said Niosh officers had already visited some camps to make risk assessments for all equipment and infrastructure and were expected to complete the task in all NS camps within the next six months.
Lee said the Health Ministry would also be involved in this programme to ensure that the trainees' health was not compromised when at camp.

Don: Malay breast cancer patients at loss

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The majority of Malay breast cancer patients prefer to seek the help of a bomoh rather than go to a hospital during the early stages of cancer.
They seek hospital care when it is too late. As such, more Malays die of cancer.
University Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) surgery department head Prof Dr Yip Cheng Har said that based on latest statistics of the medical centre in 2004, 40% of Malay breast cancer patients went to hospitals only when the disease was at the critical stage.
“Most Malays prefer traditional treatment during the early stages. Among Chinese patients, only 15% go to hospital during stages three and four of the cancer,” she said.
“It has been proven that breast cancer can be treated with conventional (Western) medication through chemotherapy, surgery, radiotherapy, hormone therapy or a combination of the therapies.”
She said that Malay patients preferred traditional treatment because they were promised 100% recovery and told that it was painless and that no surgery was needed.
“There are also Chinese who seek traditional treatment. But the majority are Malays,” she said.
Malays also had a lower survival rate compared with the Chinese and Indians due to late diagnosis and treatment.
“Survival data over five years show that less than 46% of Malay patients survived compared with 63% for the Chinese and 57% for the Indians,” Prof Yip said after receiving RM100,000 for the UMMC Breast Cancer Resource Centre from Avon Cosmetics (M) Sdn Bhd.
The donation was for the resource centre's breast prosthesis fund to help patients who cannot afford prosthesis after undergoing mastectomy (surgical removal of the breast).
Universiti Malaya Pro-Chancellor Toh Puan Datuk Dr Aishah Ong, who was present, urged Malay breast cancer patients to change their mentality and seek treatment from hospitals before the cancer turned critical.
“I am not saying that traditional treatment is not good but they have to go to hospital if they have breast cancer, and our government healthcare services are free,” she said.
Prof Yip said that prosthesis or artificial breasts provided physical and emotional support for patients who have had their breasts removed.
“Of 300 breast cancer cases in UMMC, 240 go through mastectomy and very few of the patients choose reconstruction of breasts,” she said.
“Not everyone can afford a prosthesis because a good one costs between RM400 and RM500 while a bra for a prosthesis costs between RM100 and RM200.”