Saturday, December 29, 2007

Suicide becoming a big killer

Star: PENANG: In 10 to 15 years time, suicide will take second spot as the highest cause of death in the country after cardiovascular disease.
Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) Prof See Ching Mey said in 2005, there were nine to 12 suicides for every 100,000 people compared to 13 suicides per 100,000 last year.
She said three million Malaysians have mental health problems and 130,000 of them were children.
“This shows that despite the technology and medical advancements that improve our living standards, many are actually feeling worse,” she said in her inaugural professorial lecture yesterday.
Prof See was appointed as a professor in June 2006 and her lecture was in conjunction with the USM School of Education Studies’ Teachers Day Celebration.
“Currently, there are only about 900 counsellors registered under the Board of Counsellors.
“We need more qualified counsellors and physiologists to come forward and contribute their service,” she told a press conference later.
Prof See said each organisation should have at least a counsellor or psychologists.
She suggested all companies to provide counselling services for their employees under the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) or Health Service.
When asked about mental health services in Malaysia, she said there was a slight shift from total medication dependence towards psycho-medical treatment recently.
She said while medication is still a must for some of the mental health patients, it is a better approach to help them cope by giving proper counselling.

Friday, December 28, 2007

New drug for breast cancer

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: A new chemotherapy-based treatment for breast cancer capable of increasing survival rates by over 30 per cent, has been developed.
A compound called docetaxel recently proved to be superior to the existing anthracycline-based standard of care, president of the Malaysian Oncological Society Dr Gurcharan Singh Khera said.
Two studies were conducted and proved that docetaxel was superior. The first, a seven-year study on 1,016 patients called US Oncology 9735, showed that it increased survival rates by 31 per cent. The second, known as BCIRG 001, found that survival rates were as high as 30 per cent after four-and-a-half years.
The BCIRG 001 study also showed that the disease-free survival also improved significantly irrespective of other factors that measure the severity of the cancer, such as the number of lymph nodes affected and the status of hormone receptors.
"With these advances, this much-feared disease affecting one in 19 Malaysian women is curable," Dr Gurcharan said.
He added that the main objective of treatment for early breast cancer is to rid the body of cancer cells and prevent a recurrence.
"The clinical definition of a 'cure' for cancer is if there are no signs of the disease five years after treatment.
"Since docetaxel passed the five-year test, breast cancer patients now have a more effective weapon in their battle against the disease."

No disease outbreak, says Chua

Star: JOHOR BARU: There was no outbreak of infectious disease among flood victims, and Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek described this as an achievement because the floods affected a large number of people.
“Until today, there has been no incident of infection through water or food,” he told reporters after a visit to the Sultan Ismail Hospital in Pandan yesterday.
Dr Chua said that as of Dec 26, most of the 4,582 flood victims who received medical care were there for follow-up treatment.
“Thirty-seven people were also hospitalised, but they comprised pregnant mothers, those with high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney or heart problems,” he said.
Although the flood situation has shown overall improvement, Dr Chua said the ministry still had 453 health and medical teams to provide assistance as Pahang, Johor, Kedah and Kelantan were still under high alert for floods.
“We still have about 20 small health clinics closed but operations at the Pekan Hospital have resumed and all repairs will be done immediately,” he said.
Dr Chua also said the ministry did not just provide medical attention, but also monitored food cleanliness at evacuation centres.
On a separate matter, Dr Chua said although Sultan Ismail Hospital had been open for the last one year, only 60% of the beds were used due to manpower shortage.
“We hope to fill up the vacancies in stages,” he said, adding that the hospital would also begin offering traditional medicine, including herbal and acupuncture treatment, early next year in cooperation with Nanjing University in China.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Keeping an eye on 'unhealthy' advertisements

NST: PETALING JAYA: Advertising the "benefits" of their products is not necessarily a wise thing for some manufacturers of pharmaceutical, traditional and cosmetic products.
Especially not when you have hawk-eyed officials of the Health Ministry's Pharmaceutical Services Division scrutinising every claim their advertisements make.
And it is these claims which have landed at least 36 drug manufacturers in hot soup with the Drug Control Authority (DCA) over the last seven years.
These manufacturers, caught for "enhancing" their products with scheduled poisons and other adulterants, had their licences revoked.
This year, the licences of at least six drug manufacturers were withdrawn while the registration of 19 products was cancelled, said Pharmaceutical Services Division senior deputy director Eisah Abdul Rahman.
"We look at all their advertisements, including those on brochures and flyers, with a fine tooth comb and any suspicious claims are investigated.
"Sometimes we even investigate based on the name of the product."
The bulk of the pharmaceuticals found to have been adulterated with scheduled poisons are lifestyle drugs for slimming, drugs for increasing the libido and cosmetics such as skin whitening creams.
The scheduled poisons in these drugs include Sibutramine (used in slimming pills) which can lead to adverse cardiovascular effects such as palpitation and high blood pressure.
Eisah said in most cases, the manufacturers knowingly adulterate the products after submitting "clean" samples to get the ministry's approval.
In some cases though, the manufacturers are quite "innocent" in that they were unaware that the raw ingredient they imported to manufacture their product was already adulterated at source.
There are also those who only send in certain "coded" batches for sampling, knowing that these were free of adulterants.
"But we are able to trace the culprits either through our routine sampling from the market, through their advertisements and through complaints from consumers."
Eisah said some of these drugs, especially health supplements, were sold through exclusive membership.
There were also cases where some manufacturers tried to outwit the authorities by selling their products in a package.
For example, they would combine a registered health supplement with a beverage where a scheduled poison was an active ingredient.
Examples include beverages to control body weight or 3-in-1 beverages which claim to have traditional herbs such as Tongkat Ali and Ginseng when they actually contain scheduled poisons such as sildenafil.
"They do this knowing that we can only act on the health supplement and not a food product such as a beverage which comes under the purview of the Food Safety Division of the ministry.
"But we are working around this problem," she said.
Until August, the division had seized RM28 million in unregistered and adulterated drugs.
The largest consignment was the seizure of some 1.5 million fake Viagra pills from India with a street value of RM15,446,293.
Eisah said the bulk of the drugs, estimated at some RM25.8 million, were seized during raids on manufacturing outlets while almost RM2 million worth were seized at entry points before they could be smuggled into the country.
The public can verify the authenticity of pharmaceutical products through the DCA's website at

Don't toy with safety

NST: While a large number of China-made toys are being recalled worldwide for toxin contamination, Malaysians shopping for their children's Christmas presents are largely unconcerned, telling TAN CHOE CHOE and AUDREY VIJAINDREN that they believe the authorities are ensuring that toys sold in the country are safe. Are they?
CONSUMERS in America, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom are reportedly jittery about buying toys for their children this Christmas after recalls of China-made toys worldwide due to lead contamination.

But Malaysian parents are unfazed, assuming that the authorities have checked every item on the shelves.
If there were any unsafe ones, "they would have already been recalled", says Theresa Fung, a mother of two.
"Especially big toy manufacturers like Mattel. I don't think they would want to make the same mistake twice. So I'm not really worried about buying their toys even if they are made in China."
Nearly seven out of 10 toys you pick up in a toyshop anywhere in the world today are made in China.
In Malaysia, depending on where you shop, you may find almost all the toys on sale come from China.
Does it mean all toys being retailed now are safe for our children?
Not necessarily so, as Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry secretary-general Datuk Mohd Zain Mohd Dom said: "It's impossible to perform tests on millions of toys."
He said there were "too many legal implications" that the ministry would have to deal with if its officers were to storm into a retail shop and confiscate products for testing.
To compound the problem, Malaysia does not have any mandatory toy safety standards that manufacturers have to comply with.
"The only other option would be to purchase suspected toys. But, who is going to bear the cost?"
Hence, he urged consumers to come forward with products that they suspected were hazardous.
"We will take it to Sirim (Standards and Industrial Research Institute of Malaysia) for testing. If there is a warranted reason, we will use the Consumer Protection Act to take the product off the shelves."
But this is not a satisfactory answer to consumer protection groups like the Malaysian Association of Standards Users (Masu), an affiliate of the Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca).
"We are very worried. Toy importers and distributors are not obligated or compelled to conduct testing or recall (problematic) toys.
"There's no guarantee that the items being sold to our most vulnerable group of consumers are safe!" said Masu director Ratna Devi Nadarajan.
Her concerns are especially valid, coming as they are after Fomca conducted a random testing of 24 toys from supermarkets and hypermarkets and found 23 of them containing lead on their surface.
Ratna said there was a set of voluntary standards established covering various aspects of toy safety by the Department of Standards Malaysia which has been available since 2002.
But these have never been made mandatory, although the Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs has the power to do so.
The standards include the mechanical and physical properties of toys, flammability, safety of chemistry experimental sets, and graphical symbols for age-warning labelling.
"They were adopted from international standards and are free for use by any manufacturer, importer or distributor located in any part of the world," said standards director of the Department of Standards, Rajinder Raj.
The Department of Standards provides advice to regulatory agencies in the incorporation of standards into technical regulations.
Mohd Zain, who only took office in February, admitted that his ministry had been slow in dealing with the issue of toy safety.
"But we are working with Sirim and other relevant parties to ensure the process is fast tracked. Hopefully the standards will be made mandatory by next year."
The Consumers Association of Penang says not only toys but also all children's products should be of concern.
"There is a need for mandatory safety and labelling standards, to ensure children's products have been checked and comply with the set standards," said CAP president S. M. Mohamed Idris.
He said now would be a good time to examine the trend of depending too much on commercially manufactured toys.
"Children should be encouraged to create their own toys and games from regular items -- like using wooden spoons as playthings."
Unsafe and toxic packaging, he said, was another issue that should be looked into.
Meanwhile, sales of toys are booming.
"Other than a few enquiries we've received from customers buying toys for those under the 'age 1 and below' category, business is brisk as usual at this time of the year," said a supervisor of a top toy chain in Kuala Lumpur who declined to be named.
Mattel's sales, which mainly constitutes China-made products here, also continue to be strong.
Even the news of six children in Australia slipping into a coma after swallowing China-made toy beads coated with a substance similar to the liquid psychotropic drug Ecstasy, has not affected the shopping frenzy here.
"I would say that consumers are not shying away from our products," said Mattel Southeast Asia marketing manager, Cheok Ching Won.
Some parents, like housewife Stephanie Ng, 35, feel the issue of the safety of China-made toys has been blown out of proportion.
"I think everyone's just making a big fuss. China has been making so many products for so many years, why did such safety issues surface only recently?
"I think it's a big conspiracy to discredit China-made products."

40 MMA members to call for crisis meeting

Star: PETALING JAYA: About 40 medical practitioners, led by Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) past president Datuk Dr P. Krishnan, will petition for an emergency general meeting (EGM) tomorrow to discuss issues raised by the Registrar of Societies (ROS).
“This meeting is to justify the issues raised by the ROS and to take necessary action against the office-bearers for wilfully contravening the constitution which is against the Societies Act, and for putting the association into public disrepute,” Dr Krishnan said yesterday.
He added that the MMA Council had not acted at all on the issues.
“The current office-bearers intend to hold a council meeting only in January and that is simply too late.
“I feel they are not at all bothered by the seriousness of the accusations that the ROS has made against them,” Dr Krishnan said.
The association could be deregistered if it did not explain the violations to the Societies Act 1966 by Dec 28, said Dr Krishnan.
“This is a serious matter and we will press for the EGM to resolve this matter before the deadline,” he added.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Duped by agents for medical seats

NST: PUTRAJAYA: Forty Malaysian students were cheated of RM40 million by unscrupulous agents, who promised them a place to study medicine at the Kasturba Medical College in India.
Higher Education Minister Datuk Mustapa Mohamed said parents and students went all the way to India before realising that they had been duped of their hard- earned money.
"They have made a police report on the matter. We consider this a serious problem and we are looking at publishing the names of those who have done this, so that others will not fall prey to their antics," he said after meeting 42 out of the 63 agents responsible for getting Malaysian students seats in medical colleges abroad.
He said Kasturba Medical College was recognised by the government and its intake was done directly and not by an agent.
"There are no agents involved when it comes to recruiting students for the Kasturba Medical College in India. I am sad to say that their money is burnt."
Mustapa said parents must always check on several matters before enrolling their children in medical colleges abroad, like whether the college was recognised and whether it had been issued with the No Objection Certificate (NOC) from his ministry.
Malaysian Medical Association (committee on medical education) chairman Datuk Dr N. Athimulam, who was also present, said parents and students could check on the names of the 334 medical colleges recognised by the government through the Malaysian Qualification Agency's website.
He added that parents and students could also learn the proper way to enrol for medical studies through a book published by the MMA.
"The book is available in stores for RM15, but secondary school students can get a copy from the library for free.
"As for the cheating, we view this matter seriously. We urge parents to check with the colleges or universities before enrolling their children abroad. Don't believe everything the agents say."
Dr Athimulam also said that parents should not "persuade" agents if their children were not eligible for medical seats in international colleges.
"We have received complaints from several agents saying that many parents say they don't mind paying extra if the agents obtained medical seats for their children in colleges abroad, despite their cumulative grade point average being less than 3.0."
He said there were 12,000 medical students in countries like India, Ukraine, Russia and Indonesia, while 8,000 were studying medicine locally.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

WHO decides on Malaysia

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia has been selected as the host country for the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Global Services Centre.
Located in Cyberjaya, the centre will handle all of WHO's back room operations. The estimated 200 staff required at the centre by the end of 2008 will be mostly Malaysians.
WHO assistant director Namita Pradhan said that although all 192 member countries had been potential host sites, the Philippines, India and Malaysia were short-listed.
“An independent committee evaluated what was on offer, what was going to be made available and chose Malaysia as the best location,” she said at the signing ceremony at the Health Ministry between WHO and the Malaysian Government.
Namita said the decision was based on the skills mix, salary level, costs, standard of living and whether international staff could relocate easily to the centre.
She said the centre would handle WHO’s back office work such as running the entire organisation’s payroll, processing transactions and procurements. She said 90% of the staff would be Malaysians.
“We are committed on our part. We will do our best to upgrade their skills,” she said, adding that this included training them locally as well as in Geneva for four to six weeks.
The centre would start work in the second week of January with a small contingent of 26.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said in his speech that Malaysia was honoured.
“Cyberjaya was chosen because it's Malaysia's 'Silicon Valley' and the infrastructure there has the latest technology with fibre optic cabling in each building providing connectivity to all parts of the world,” he said.
The single global system will link 147 countries, including six regional offices and the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
It is estimated that by the end of 2008, local staff would number 200, with about 15 to 20 WHO officials, Dr Chua said.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Check nutrition labels on fast food before tucking in

NST: PUTRAJAYA: Come the new year, you may want to read the print on your burger wrapper before taking a bite.
The compulsory labelling of fast-food products takes effect from Jan 1 and with its implementation, you will be able to know if you are consuming too much salt, fat or carbohydrates.
Launching the guidelines on labelling yesterday, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said fast-food operators were now obliged to state the calorie, carbohydrate, fat, protein, salt and sugar content of their products.
These figures must also be translated into the recommended nutrition intake (RNI) percentages so consumers can know the percentage of their daily intake requirement that will be met.
The Health Ministry hopes that the move will educate Malaysians and enable them to make better decisions about the amount and frequency of fast food that they eat.
Dr Chua said to date, only three -- KFC, A&W and McDonalds' -- of the 20 fast-food companies were ready to label their products.
"The rest must do so by Jan 1, failing which I will announce their names in the newspapers and use administrative measures to penalise them," he said, adding that the industry had been told six months ago about the compulsory labelling of their products.
The nutritional information must be displayed prominently, either on the food wrappers and cups, or on posters, pamphlets or on the table-tops.
However, the labelling requirement does not apply to seasonal promotions.
Dr Chua also launched guidelines on fast-food television commercials that can be shown during children's programmes.
Fast-food companies are also banned from sponsoring children's TV programmes.
Children's programmes are defined as those aimed at children between the ages of 4 and 9.
The ban on sponsorship and commercials during children's shows is already in place.
The guidelines also state that commercials during other programmes cannot give inaccurate or confusing information on nutrition, cannot encourage people to eat more fast food, cannot create the impression that fast food can replace a complete and balanced diet, and cannot refute the Malaysian dietary guidelines issued by the Health Ministry.
The Association of Accredited Advertising Agents (4As) is to monitor the compliance of fast-food companies to the guidelines, as the ministry wants the industry to be self-regulated.
4As president Datuk Vincent Lee, who was present at the launch, said the industry was looking at a commercial which might be in violation of the guidelines and was considering pulling it off the air.
The commercial shows a working mother who was shopping for fresh produce at a supermarket for dinner but changes her mind when she sees the long queue at the cashier and opts for fast food for the family instead.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

One number for distressed folk to call for help

Star: PUTRAJAYA: 15999 – this is the number to call if you are a victim of domestic violence, child abuse or a natural disaster.
This hotline, called Talian Nur, will be the lifeline providing early intervention for these victims. It is also meant to make it easier for the authorities to provide welfare and care for those in need.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, when launching the integrated one-stop call centre established by the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, hoped the public would use it properly and not make crank calls.
He added that those responding to the calls must be responsible to take quick action as the callers may be in an emergency situation.
When testing the line later, Abdullah advised the operator answering his call to provide feedback to the ministry on shortcomings of the hotline to ensure the system worked smoothly.
Speaking to reporters earlier, minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil said the 29 call agents would be working in three shifts to answer calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from the call centre in Kuala Lumpur.
The ministry’s current two helplines – TeleDera and Healthline – have been consolidated with Talian Nur, she said, adding that police would also help to deal with calls involving criminal activities.
She, however, hoped that those wanting to call the police would continue dialling 999.
“The call centre allows assistance to all types of social-woes victims with greater speed,” she said, adding that the hotline was a necessity with the increasing number of social issues and natural disaster cases being reported.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Cord blood banks yet to register with ministry, says Chua

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Private cord blood banks, which are supposed to register with the Health Ministry, have yet to do so.
“They have not applied for registration yet. Our officers have visited them,” Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek told reporters on Monday.
He had announced on Nov 21 that the three existing centres would have to apply for a licence from the ministry within three months and would be registered under the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998.
They would have to adhere to guidelines drawn up by the National Committee on Stem Cell Services.
The Cabinet had also decided to disallow the future setting-up of private cord blood banks because, while it had huge potential to treat specific diseases, there were still ethical issues to be studied.
In taking them to task again on Monday, Dr Chua said that using cord blood in the treatment of diseases was currently limited.
Cord blood can be used to treat illnesses such as lymphoma, leukaemia and thalassaemia.
“The chances of using it are very low and there is also the question of adequate quantity needed,” he said.
“Besides, the storage facility has to be good because blood has a limited lifespan.”
Dr Chua added that it was also questionable whether cord blood could be used to treat diseases like leukaemia because it was likely to already have the predisposition for the disease.
He also said the stem cell transplant centre at the Ampang Hospital would be able to carry up to 120 such operations once it was upgraded under a recent allocation from the Government.
Currently, the hospital was able to do about 40 stem cell transplants yearly.
“There is still a waiting list of 35 patients,” he said.
The private sector, he said, charged between RM100,000 and RM200,000 per operation while it cost RM40,000 if carried out in the public hospital.
“Singapore charges RM400,000. The time has come to develop the National Cord Blood system to meet the needs of the rakyat,” he added.

Be true to patients, not insurers

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Duty before profit.
This is the advice from Malaysian Medical Association president Datuk Dr Khoo Kah Lin to doctors.
He said they should be guided by clinical expertise and not insurance companies.
"Although the insurance coverage depends on how much premium you pay, the companies should not restrict doctors from conducting tests they think are necessary for patients.
"Doctors know what's best for their patients," he said.
Life Insurance Association of Malaysia president Sonny Tan, however, denied that insurance companies were restricting coverage to only certain cases and tests.
"Insurance companies don't own the hospitals. We can't dictate what doctors should or shouldn't do," he said.
Tan added that doctors should not concentrate on how much money their patients were paying to determine what kind of treatment should be given to them.
"If you go to private hospitals, the first thing they will ask is 'do you have insurance coverage?'. This is a sad thing," he said.
He added most insurance companies were not making money from healthcare as the cost of private healthcare increased every year.
"Medical cost increases by about 13 per cent a year. But we can't easily raise premiums as it will affect our customers," he said.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek yesterday highlighted the issue of insurance companies restricting coverage to only certain cases and tests conducted by doctors.
He had also expressed concern over exorbitant rates charged by private hospitals, saying "the rates are going up by the day and are profit-driven".
Dr Chua had said that the government was concerned about the steep charges and the matter had been discussed by the cabinet.
Malaysian Medical Council president Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said the council had received complaints on hospitals billing patients exorbitantly.

SLAMMED: Exorbitant charges, unnecessary tests, coverage restrictions

NST: Health minister concerned as patients query RM3,000 'how are you?' bills.
PUTRAJAYA: Imagine, you're in hospital and the doctor comes around 15 times a day to ask "how are you?"
Now think about the bill. At RM200 per visit, you end up forking out RM3,000 a day, just on consultations - needed or otherwise.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek told the cabinet about two patients who experienced this and the ministers were not happy.
The government, he said, was concerned about the exorbitant charges at some private hospitals and the "unnecessary" tests they recommended.
"Some doctors feel that the investigations are necessary. These are, however, debatable and contentious.
"The public has the right to lodge complaints with the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) and Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) if they are unhappy with the services or ethics of doctors," Dr Chua said after a meeting with the MMA yesterday.
The MMC, he said, could issue warnings, suspend doctors or de-register them if they were guilty of committing an offence.
But he added that it was inevitable that the cost of healthcare would rise because of the increasing cost of medication, equipment, and the introduction of information technology into hospitals.
He also said that the Health Ministry's enforcement unit had shut down 29 clinics for various offences and caught 19 bogus doctors.
Enforcement will be beefed up next year when 30 officers are added to the current 70-man team.
On the meeting with MMA, he said the ministry agreed that insurance companies should not limit doctors' fees and tests in their policies.
The insurers are subject to the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998 and must register with the ministry.
"They are subject to clauses under the law... this includes the services by doctors to patients covered by insurance companies. We feel the clinical judgment of medical practitioners should not be compromised by these companies."

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

USM lecturer bags innovation award

NST: GEORGE TOWN: Universiti Sains Malaysia bagged the prestigious national innovation award for human tissue transplant techniques last month.
Medical lecturer and surgeon Dr Suzina Sheikh Abdul Hamid, 40, beat 13 contestants from the public sector after producing high quality bone grafts and skin substitute for about 10,000 bone disease patients this year.
The improved grafts also provide relief to patients suffering from moderate burns or related skin ailments.
An ear, nose, throat specialist, Dr Suzina, who is the co-ordinator at the USM Health campus, attributed the success to her team of surgeons.
She also acknowledged the technical assistance from Malaysian Nuclear Agency and other government agencies. The only tissue bank in Malaysia is at USM.
"USM has managed to enhance the existing technology in producing durable sea coral as well as bovine bone graft for human tissue replacement.
"Our objective is to produce graft tissues from local donors and modify them to suit individual needs," Dr Sunzina said yesterday.
Another recipient of the award in the product category was Prof Sureswaran Ramadass, who came out with an advanced video conferencing system that is adaptable to all personal computers.
The national innovation award was introduced last year as part of the initiatives by the government to strengthen the country's human capital development.
Meanwhile, seven other USM researchers received various accolades at the 56th World Exhibition of Innovation, Research and New Technologies at Brussels from Nov 22 to 25.
Three of them bagged gold medals while the rest were awarded silver medals in the fields of engineering and sciences.
USM vice-chancellor Datuk Dzulkifli Abdul Razak urged Malaysians to showcase their unique inventions overseas.
"It is important for Malaysian inventions to gain international recognition, particularly from scientifically advanced countries.
"Positive review will encourage other Malaysians to come out with more inventions."

Sick of docs who overcharge

Star: PUTRAJAYA: A patient who was checked on 15 times a day while he was staying at a private hospital was charged RM3,000. Another was billed RM2,000 for the 10 times he was checked on.
These patients have the right to file official complaints.
Ticking off private hospitals and doctors who hit patients with ever increasing fees, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said the Cabinet was concerned about these exorbitant charges on patients, including unnecessary tests.
“Certain parties are trying to rake in profits by charging patients too much,” he told a press conference yesterday after meeting officials of the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA).
“The public has a right to complain. There are guidelines for charges. Some doctors, who are famous, increase their charges to control the number of patients they see.”
Dr Chua said they could complain to the MMA or the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) which has the power to take action on complaints, especially on ethical issues such as issuing warning, suspension or deregistration.
He also said that charges by doctors would continue to increase because of the rising healthcare cost for medication, equipment and IT components.
“It is not just to look after the sick but also a business undertaking where the profit line is important to shareholders,” he said.
Under the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998, he said 29 clinics had been sealed and 19 “fake” doctors traced.
On the extension of housemanship from one year to two years, Dr Chua said it was important for patients to get proper treatment from qualified doctors.
A total of 603 housemen failed to get fully registered from the 1,200 yearly from 2001 to 2004. It was 176 in 2001, 162 in 2002, 102 in 2003, 118 in 2004 and 45 two years ago.
“These figures are worrying for a developing country. It is nearly 10%. Most is for poor work performance and some of them just take unpaid leave and disappear because they say the medical profession is not suitable for them. This cannot continue,” he said.
Dr Chua said senior doctors had been instructed that they must supervise and train the younger ones.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Indirect ads lure teen smokers

NST: BANGKOK: Malaysia has the highest percentage of teenage smokers aged 13 to 15 compared with other Asean countries.
Nearly 40 per cent of teenage boys and at least 11 per cent of teenage girls in this country are smokers.
In comparison, nearly eight per cent of Cambodian teenage boys are smokers and under one per cent of Laos teenage girls are into the habit.
These figures were released by the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (Seatca) in its first "Asean Tobacco Control Report Card" yesterday, during the first regional media workshop on tobacco control.
In explaining the results of the 2002 study, Seatca policy development adviser Mary Assunta Kolandai said the high prevalence of teenage smoking is an indication of the indirect advertising by tobacco companies at events targeting teenagers.
These included music concerts, Formula One and World Cup sponsorship.
Direct and indirect tobacco advertising is currently banned in Malaysia's mass media. However, there is no such ban on the Internet and the short messaging service (SMS), forms of communication popularly used by teenagers.
Kolandai said promotions were now concentrated on fancy cigarette packaging to lure the young.
"These include glow-in-the-dark packaging and designs depicting teenage craze such as hip-hop and fast bikes."
Anti-smoking campaigns such as "Tak Nak" should continue, said Dr Zarihah Zain, who is senior principal assistant director at the Health Ministry's Tobacco Control Unit and Framework Convention Tobacco Control Secretariat.
"There will be a lot of public debate when campaigns are run continuously," she said.
Dr Zarihah said anti-smoking activities should not just be targeted at teenagers, who were less likely to stop if the campaign was not directed at adults as well.
"They will ask why they are being targeted and not adults."
More male adults smoke in Malaysia (46.4 per cent) compared with Singapore (21.8 per cent), Thailand (36.9 per cent) and Myanmar (42.9 per cent). But Malaysia has the lowest percentage of adult female smokers (1.6 per cent) among Asean countries.
Almost 31 per cent of the adult Asean population are smokers, accounting for 10 per cent of the world's 1.25 billion adult smokers. Malaysia makes up 2.9 per cent of the total adult smokers in Asean.

Illicit sex bad for health

Star: OUT of 5,529 heart attack deaths in Asia , 34 happened during sex. Of that number, 27 were having illicit sex, reported Berita Minggu on Sunday.
This figure showed that illicit sex could be stressful to the heart, which could also lead to sudden death.
Dr Wong Teck Wee, a cardiologist and physician at Universiti Putra Malaysia ((UPM), said that research conducted last year revealed that a heart patient in a “hasty situation” would suffer angina, which could lead to atherosclerosis that caused a narrowing of the artery and insufficient blood supply to the organs.
The paper said that heart attacks took place when atherosclerosis stopped blood from flowing to the heart.
In his paper , A good heart for good sex, presented at a forum on Saturday, Dr Wong was quoted as saying that a heart patient should control his emotions, not get overstressed, watch his diet and perform at least 20 minutes of physical exercise daily.
At the same forum, UPM family health specialist Dr Zaiton Ahmad emphasised the importance of health.
She said that society tended not to place health as a priority, so much so that it has affected one’s career, studies and family harmony. In 1988, 29.4% of deaths in Peninsular Malaysia were caused by cardiovascular diseases, she said.

Fomema fees to be reduced

Star: JOHOR BARU: Mandatory medical check-ups for foreign workers will be cheaper in the future.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said they were in the process of reviewing the medical fees paid by employers to Fomema.
“The current fees can be reduced. Right now, it costs RM185 for a male worker and RM195 for a female. The Cabinet has agreed that we study this. We are studying how we can reduce it to a more reasonable rate,” he said after launching a book fair here yesterday.
However, Dr Chua refused to speculate on the reduced amount.
He also dismissed a call by a non-governmental organisation to abolish mandatory medical check-ups.
On Sunday, the Coordination of Action Research on HIV/AIDS and Mobility (Caram Asia) urged the Government to scrap mandatory testing for foreign workers and to opt for voluntary testing.
Regional coordinator Cynthia Gabriel was quoted as saying that voluntary testing would help encourage illegal foreign workers to come forward.
Dr Chua said the ministry disagreed with the organisation’s views, as there was still a need for mandatory testing.
“Every year, the Ministry of Health, through Fomema, conducts tests on foreign workers one month after they have landed in Malaysia. We find that 2% to 3% are not healthy.
“At the end of the year, they have to take a second mandatory test, and the results still show that 2% to 3% are not healthy,” he said.
Dr Chua added that there were 25,000 to 30,000 foreign workers, including maids, with infectious diseases who could spread them to Malaysians.
“Can you imagine 25,000 to 30,000 people walking around with HIV, tuberculosis, syphilis and Hepatitis B and C?” he asked.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Medical mistakes inevitable

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Medical mistakes happen, no matter how careful the doctors are, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said yesterday.
"Even in the best hospitals in the world, mistakes still happen. In Malaysia, the rate is between three and five per cent, which is acceptable," he said after launching the National AIDS conference.
Chua said government hospitals treated about 39 million outpatients as well as some 1.9 million admissions each year.
"We can imagine that even in the best situations some mistakes will still happen."
He said patients who were not satisfied with the services provided by government hospitals could lodge complaints.
"We give a guarantee that if there is a basis for a complaint, it will be investigated by a committee comprising experts from the private sector to increase their confidence.
"In the case that happened in Klang, we don't understand why there was so much publicity.
"If they are not satisfied with our service, then why come to our hospital? They came on Nov 26. According to logic, if you don't have confidence in our doctors, then why come?"
He said the parents had to be rational.
"Whatever mistakes that happened, we have already admitted it publicly and apologised. We are sincere in doing what is best," he said.
In the Klang case, a man is suing the government for RM2 million over a bungled hospital procedure that resulted in the amputation of his baby's forearm.

Need help? Call this new number

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Feeling depressed, helpless, confused or maybe financially desperate? No problem, just contact the Welfare Department's call centre for help.
By Wednesday, there will be a new five-digit phone number that anyone in Malaysia can call to reach one of 29 call agents at the centre -- 24 hours a day, 365 days a year -- to seek welfare aid.
It is designed to complement the 999 police emergency hotline, said Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil.
"This is the long arm of welfare going into Malaysian homes to help out. Our target groups are women, family, children, the disabled, the elderly, the poor, and just about anybody who needs our help.
"It's time for us to have a single point of contact so that anyone who needs help on social and welfare-related issues can get an immediate response."
With the setting up of the call centre, the ministry's two existing hotlines -- Teledera (1-800-88-3040) under the Welfare Department and Healthline (03-26938877) under the National Population and Family Development Board -- will be abolished.
Teledera was for the public to report cases of domestic violence and child abuse, while Healthline dealt with queries on reproductive health and sexuality.
On average, Teledera received between five and 10 calls a day while Healthline was getting up to 30 calls a day.
"We were operating the two lines quietly before this. Those who knew about them could reach us. Those who didn't, well... they weren't widely known."
Admitting that the ministry hadn't been too happy with these hotlines, Shahrizat said she found them especially lacking in follow-up services.
The new call centre is an integration of Teledera and Healthline. However, its aim is wider as it seeks to provide emergency help to everyone in need of welfare services.
In addition, it will compile client details for future follow-up so that welfare staff can determine whe-ther the problems have been properly resolved.
"A reference number will also be given to each case received. Of course, all information will be kept confidential," Shahrizat said.
The call centre will be managed by the ministry, with input from a private consultancy.
Call agents have also been trained in basic counselling to enable them to deal with callers' queries efficiently and effectively.
"But they are not counsellors and where necessary, they will pass the calls to the respective district welfare officers, who are on 24-hour standby, to reach out to those who need immediate help."
The centre is equipped with Voice Logger, which records every conversation between an agent and a caller.
It also has a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System, an application that is able to store relevant data on the caller as well as the nature and status of the enquiry.
"Under the CRM, such information can be retrieved periodically for analysis," said Shahrizat.
However, it is not a toll-free number -- callers are charged four sen a minute.
"We want genuine people who need help to use this, not pranksters.
"It's only four sen so anyone can afford it. If you need help, we'll definitely call back.
"If you have a sickly elderly mother who needs medical attention and you don't know who to turn to, call us.
"If you know of a child being abused, call us. If you or someone you know has been physically abused by her husband, call us."
The call centre has been on trial run since Nov 14 and will be officially launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Wednesday.

Sex education can protect children from the abuse

NST: CHILDREN with disabilities can be trained to avoid sexual abuse by educating them about their anatomy and teaching them about personal safety, said experts.
"It's important to teach them what is safe and unsafe touching and educate them about their body, including their private parts, especially when they are approaching puberty," said T. Kamaraj, manager of the Selangor and Federal Territory Association for Retarded Children.
He said children have to be taught to say "no" when they are uncomfortable with the way they have been touched.
"Some of our kids never say 'no', they just keep quiet. That's dangerous. They must respond or react in some way," he added.
Madeleine Yong of Protect and Save The Children said because of their trusting nature, children with disabilities are easily enticed.
Some would even exchange a kiss for sweets and the abusers would usually pick vulnerable children, gain their trust and, in some instances, even gain the trust of the parents.
"They usually desensitise the child with a touch while saying 'well done' and each time the touches become more violating," she added.
Last year, P.S. The Children and a parent support group, Dignity and Services, with funding from World Vision, produced a personal safety curriculum for children with learning disabilities.
They plan to push this pilot programme to schools next year.
"Schools and parents need to be open to the personal safety programme. Parents' participation is crucial in the teaching of the programme. But before they learn this, they need to be given basic education on sex," she added.
"It's important to vet new staff. Once recruited, they must be given continuous training about appropriate attitude and behaviour when interacting with the disabled and the dynamics of sexual abuse," said Metillda John of ED Dignity & Services.
Experts agree that there is a need for more advocacy on the rights of those with disabilities.
"Public awareness in Malaysia is very low. We are a developing nation.
"We should be doing more to educate the public to respect the disabled like everybody else," said Kamaraj.

Team up to combat AIDS, says Najib

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Professional bodies and non-governmental organisations must work together to bring an end to the spread of HIV and AIDS.
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said that although there had been a decline in the number of reported HIV/AIDS cases from 6,756 in 2003 to 5,830 last year, this had been negated by an increase in cases among women in the last 10 years.
"This is a worrying trend that needs serious attention, as during that period, the number of infected women rose from four to 15 per cent," he said.
His speech was read out by Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek at the opening of the National AIDS Conference 2007 and commemoration of World AIDS Day here yesterday.
Najib also said a concerted effort was needed from the various parties involved to work together through the National Strategic Plan (NSP).
He said HIV infections through sex had increased dramatically in the past five years from 18.2 per cent to 31.9 per cent.
The NSP, introduced last year, is a long-term plan with six major strategies which include reducing vulnerability to infection among women, youths and children.
Najib said that based on projections, the government expected some 300,000 Malaysians to be infected with HIV if no concrete action was taken to handle the problem within the next eight years.
He added that some actions which had been taken by the government such as the needle and syringe exchange programme (NSEP) and Methadone maintenance treatment programme (MMT) had already proven effective, and would be extended to drug rehabilitation centres as well as prisons.
The NSEP programme was recently introduced in Alor Star, after achieving success in Kuala Lumpur, Johor Baru, Penang, Kuantan and Kota Baru.
The MMT programme, he said achieved a retention rate of 75.11 per cent, exceeding the World Health Organisation (WHO) by between 55 per cent and 60 per cent.
To help realise the NSP, Najib said RM500 million had been allocated by the government.
This amount would help 15,000 drug addicts in the NSEP and another 25,000 in the MMT programmes, he added.
He said imam, religious teachers and officers as well as others should play a role in informing Muslims about the dangers of the disease. He said a special module would be available to them to educate the public.

More women getting infected with HIV/AIDS

Star: PUTRAJAYA: The gap between women and men infected with HIV/AIDS has narrowed drastically with one female victim now for every 15 male victims.
Ten years ago, there was just one woman to 80 male patients, according to the Malaysian AIDS Council records.
This surge in the number of HIV-positive women was a cause for concern, said council president Prof Adeeba Kamarulzaman.
She said a large majority of the women were not infected as a result of “their own action” but by their partners.
“It is sad that awareness of the disease is still lacking but we are doing our best to feed them with information so that they can take precautions.
“The awareness is particularly important among younger Malaysians,” she said after the flagging-off of the Riding for Life campaign yesterday.
The campaign saw 150 cyclists, including 11 HIV-positive individuals, riding from the administrative capital to Malacca to raise funds and public awareness on the disease in conjunction with World AIDS Day yesterday.
Adeeba said the event was aimed at collecting RM250,000 in donations for the Circle of Hope campaign, to be channelled to the Children’s AIDS Fund as well as to finance medical schemes and provide business aid to members.
“The disease does not choose its victims. If we are responsible and practise safe sex all the time, we can prevent infection.
“However, it is sad that some women get infected because their partners are promiscuous and irresponsible,” she said.

Practise safe sex, says Chua

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Practise safe sex and be faithful to your partner.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek gave this advice in view of the rising number of HIV infections in the country due to unsafe sexual practices.
“Abstinence is still the best way. And be faithful to your partner,” he told reporters after opening the First National AIDS Conference and launching the national-level World AIDS Day here yesterday.
“It also boils down to both partners being responsible. Do not blame anybody,” added Dr Chua, who was representing Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
He said recent statistics showed that the number of infections due to sexual intercourse had increased from 18.2% in 2002 to 31.9% last year, although the number of daily infections had been reduced from 19 five years ago to 13 currently.
“Anyone can be a source. We still need to be careful,” he warned, adding that the increasing number of women being infected with the virus was worrying, saying it had increased from 4% to 15% in the last 10 years and normally affecting those aged between 20 and 35.
Dr Chua said among the reasons for the increase was the lack of understanding Malaysians had about HIV.
“They may not understand that you can get infected because of a one-night stand,” he said.
There were 78,784 infections reported from 1986 to June this year and 10,909 have died.
Asked about a recent study that showed 36% of respondents supported a “quarantine” policy for people living with HIV, Dr Chua said the Government would not institute such a programme.
In his speech read out by the Health Minister, Najib said new approaches were needed to increase the effectiveness of control and prevention so it would reach the target groups.
“Through good surveillance, the high-risk groups and relevant factors can be identified,” he said.
“Besides this, it is important for everyone who is at risk to know their HIV status or the individual to know that they are at risk.”

Saturday, December 01, 2007

More deaths from diabetes than cancer

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Being rich and lazy is not a healthy combination.
Experts have pinpointed this as one of the main reasons why many Malaysians were getting diabetes, causing the number of diabetics to jump by almost 50 per cent in the last 10 years.
Universiti Sains Malaysia Kelantan professor of medicine and director of campus Dr Mafauzy Mohamed said many Malaysians were on a "see food diet", which meant eating whatever they saw.
"Being rich means more food is exposed to us, so this means we eat more. Modern technology, where everything is done with a click of a button, is also not encouraging a healthy lifestyle as people are having less exercise," he said during a media briefing on ways to protect the diabetic eye at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre yesterday.
Although diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death in the world, Dr Mafauzy said in Malaysia, more people die from diabetes compared to AIDS and cancer-related illnesses.
He also dispelled the myth diabetes was only associated with urban folks.
"That perception is no longer true as we have found that more kampung folk are getting diabetes as a result of their food intake and less exercise, " he said.
Dr Mafauzy said a diabetic also had a higher risk of getting other complications like renal failure, blindness, reduction of life expectancy by five to 10 years, cardiovascular disease and nerve damage which is seen in almost 70 per cent of patients.
Some patients also had to undergo amputation due to prolonged diabetes.
"But the most harmful for a diabetic patient is to be diagnosed with a serious eye illness, " Dr Mafauzy said.
He explained that blindness occurred when the small vessels of the eye were damaged by the consequences of diabetes such as increased glucose and raised blood pressure.
"One of the common eye diseases experienced by a diabetic is diabetic retinopathy, which arises from changes in the blood vessels of the retina, a nerve layer behind the eye that senses light. These changes restrict blood flow to the eye and causes blurring of vision, " he said.
However, through the advancement of technology, experts have come up with a product called Fenofibrate Intervention and Event Lowering in Diabetes (or Field) which reduced the chances of diabetic eye disease by more than 30 per cent.

Nation faces grim statistics

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: In less than 10 years, about 300,000 Malaysians are expected to be infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Health Ministry deputy director-general Datuk Dr Ramlee Rahmat said the estimate would become a reality by 2015 if no efforts were made to stop the spread of the disease.
Between 1986 and June this year, a total of 78,784 HIV cases were reported nationwide. More than 10,900 patients have died.
"The majority of HIV cases in our country are among intravenous drug users, who are infected through the sharing of contaminated needles.
"In the past five years, there has also been an increasing trend of HIV infection through sexual activities," said Dr Ramlee yesterday.
He was launching the Best Practices of Youth Peer-to-Peer Education on Prevention of HIV/AIDS in Malaysia handbook at the Legend Hotel.
The handbook is a joint effort between the ministry and the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) to document some of the country's best peer education programmes.
It was launched in conjunction with the First National AIDS Conference on "Celebrating Youth Leadership in Action".
Dr Ramlee said 18.2 per cent of HIV cases in 2002 were from sexual activities and this increased to 21.5 per cent in 2003, 23.3 per cent in 2004, 25.6 per cent in 2005 and 31.9 per cent last year.
"We want the youth to be empowered by equipping them with the knowledge and skills to protect themselves," he said.
Also present was Unicef East Asia and Pacific regional adviser for AIDS Wing-Sie Cheng, who announced that one of the world's most popular football clubs, Manchester United, had recently contributed RM500,000 to Unicef through its "United for Unicef" partnership.
"The donation will be used to promote and enhance youth activities by six Prostar youth centres in Kedah and one in Perlis," she said.
Prostar, or "Program Sihat Tanpa AIDS Untuk Remaja" (Healthy Living Without AIDS Programme for Youth), was set up in 2004 by the Health Ministry and Unicef.
It is to provide young people with a safe space to meet, have fun and access to peer-to-peer support and information on HIV and AIDS.

Difficult to capture realities of infection

NST: COMING to terms with the causes and effects of HIV and AIDS seems a long-drawn battle.
Existing policies seem to favour one high-risk community -- like the needle and syringe exchange programme targeted towards injecting drug users -- over others, like sex workers and men who have sex with other men (MSM).
(MSM include both gay men and men who consider themselves "straight" but occasionally seek the services of male or transsexual sex workers.)
"We are trying to do something with the drug users but the MSM and the sex workers are a bit harder to tackle because of issues like criminalising sex work and MSM acts, therefore providing information and prevention tools are difficult," Malaysian AIDS Council (MAC) president Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman said.
"We haven't paid any attention to them. MAC, I know, has something to do, but we have our own constraints," she added.
Things do not look too good where infection rates are concerned, as she said the country will continue to see a rise among non-injecting drug users.
This also means the average person who has sexual relations and does not use condoms, a subject the Malaysian government admittedly shies from and the public largely chooses to ignore.
Dr Adeeba commended the government's stronger political and financial will exercised in the last two years, especially with the harm reduction policies but cautioned that results would not be immediately seen.
The positive aspect, she said, was that non-health agencies like the police and prisons were involved in harm reduction therapy.
The infectious diseases specialist said that it was difficult to predict the number of people who will die from AIDS.
"With treatment, people can live 20, 30 years longer. The problem is, we don't know how many should be on treatment or are on treatment."
Deaths due to AIDS may not be put down as the cause of death, as most families request it so. So it is difficult to capture the actual realities of AIDS.
"We don't have a good grip on what is happening. And in terms of surveillance, we don't have good policies in place," Dr Adeeba said.

RM2m suit over baby's bungled procedure

NST: SHAH ALAM: The government has been slapped with a RM2 million suit over a bungled hospital procedure that resulted in the amputation of a baby's forearm.
The father of baby Lai Yok Shan filed the suit on her behalf at the High Court here yesterday.
The suit did not name the first two defendants while the third and fourth defendants are the Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital director and the government.
The plaintiff's lawyer Gobind Singh Deo said the first two defendants were the doctors involved in the procedure and they were not named as their identities have yet to be revealed by the hospital.
The first and second defendants are the houseman and the consultant involved in the case at the Klang hospital.
He said an application to get their details would be made to the court and help would also be sought from the Attorney-General's Chambers on this matter.
The father, Lai Kian Khee, is seeking RM1 million in aggravated damages and another RM1 million in exemplary damages.
He is also seeking general damages, special damages, costs and any other relief deemed fit.
According to the statement of claim, Yok Shan, born prematurely in late July, was given a strong antibiotic injection.
However, the first defendant, who gave the intravenous injection after consulting with the second defendant, had injected a wrong part of the baby's left arm.
This led to an infection and the forearm had to be amputated on Sept 1.
The suit also stated that the first defendant was negligent as the injection was given to a wrong part of the arm while the second defendant was negligent as instructions were given over the phone.

Medical funds approved within 14 days

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Some patients seeking aid from the Medical Assistance Fund are rejected as they insist on being treated at private hospitals although the treatment concerned is available at government hospitals.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek, who said this, added that other reasons included the applicants being non-citizens, public sector staff applying although they were already entitled to medical coverage and patients who had already received treatment.
“I want to emphasise that applicants must fulfil all the requirements. We can approve applications within 14 days.
“The patient and hospital can begin treatment once we approve it, even before written approval is given,” he told reporters last night before the Rainbow of Life Forces (ROLF) All-Star Charity Dinner, held to raise funds for the Blue Ribbon campaign for child cancer victims.
Up to October, RM30.6mil from the fund has been disbursed to 2,263 patients, 83 of them cancer patients, for treatment and the purchase of equipment.
Dr Chua said help could be given to child cancer sufferers for treatment like stem cell transplants, adding that counselling could also be offered to the parents involved at government hospitals.
Some 1,200 children are diagnosed with cancer annually, with 40% diagnosed with leukaemia and 10% with lymphoma.
In his speech, Dr Chua said treatment often had significant and long-term impact on a child’s health.
“One parent, often the mother, may need to give up her job in order to take care of the child. Thus, child cancer patients and their parents are often under severe stress and need strong support,” he said.
During the function, it was announced that the Prime Minister's wife Datin Seri Jeanne Abdullah had contributed RM50,000 to the fund from proceeds raised during P. Ramlee - The Musical charity show while AMP Radio Networks donated RM100,000.
A charity auction was also held which included an autographed jersey from the Hong Kong All-Stars football team and jerseys of Manchester United football star Ryan Giggs and England captain John Terry. A total of RM205,000 was raised. A soccer match will be held here today between the Hong Kong and Malaysia All-Star teams to raise more funds.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Hospitals to offer traditional cures

Star: THREE hospitals in the country have been picked by the Health Ministry to offer complementary medicines and treatment for patients.
They are Putrajaya Hospital, Kepala Batas Hospital in Penang and Sultan Ismail Hospital in Johor Baru.
Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad said the hospitals were chosen as pioneers to experiment the integration of traditional treatment and modern medicine.
Replying to Dr Rozaidah Talib (BN-Ampang), he said apart from providing herb-based treatment for cancer patients, the hospitals were also given permission to introduce Malay massage as rehabilitative treatment for post-stroke patients.
"If the treatments are scientifically proven to be effective, the ministry would consider endorsing the medicine as a catalytic substance to treat certain diseases," he said.
According to Dr Latiff, there was a high awareness level among the public of the effectiveness of certain traditional products, especially herb-based food or drinks with therapeutic ingredients.
"Refreshing herbs such as tongkat ali, kacip fatimah and mengkudu have flooded the local market and some herbs like misai kucing have been proven to help treat bladder stone problem."
He said the hospitals would employ experts from Chinese universities to research the effectiveness of various herbs in treating cancer and hire trained masseurs to provide the traditional massages.

Training our own paediatric surgeons

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: There is only one paediatric surgeon in the country trained in laparoscopic surgery and the Health Ministry wants to increase this number over the next few years.
“We want to train as many as possible. There is only one and we have a long way to go,” director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said yesterday after opening the International Inaugural Paediatric Surgical Seminar organised by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM).
Another future plan was to have Malaysia eventually known for carrying out such training regionally and internationally, he said.
Overall, there were 20 paediatric surgeons in both the private and public sectors.
He said it was necessary to branch out into the speciality because there was a demand for it.
UKM was starting up an advanced surgical skills centre at Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan, where it would provide training, research and services in laparoscopy and minimally invasive surgery.
It has engaged Adelaide-based paediatric surgeon Prof Dr Tan Hock Lim to help establish the centre.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Pharmacies flouting law

Star: JOHOR BARU: Nearly a quarter of pharmacies in Johor were found to have violated pharmaceutical regulations.
The offences include selling of controlled drugs without doctor’s prescriptions, operating illegally and having unlicensed pharmacists.
Johor Local Government and Health Committee chairman Datuk Halimah Sadique (BN-Pasir Raja) said written warnings had been issued to the respective outlets.
“Action will be taken if they continue to violate the regulations,” she said in reply to a question posed by Dr Abdul Rashid Abd Mokti (BN-Sedili) at the Johor State Assembly here yesterday.
In the operations conducted, Halimah said 32 out of the 150 pharmacies checked were found to have violated pharmaceutical regulations.
Dr Abdul Rashid also proposed for the installation of CCTVs at these outlets but Halimah rejected this as it would be difficult to tell the drugs sold.
Low Teh Hian (BN-Pengkalan Rinting) proposed for the department to issue a list of drugs approved by the Health Ministry (KKM).
Halimah said all items approved would have the KKM number.
She also urged consumers to check the ingredients of a product and not be taken in by its packaging.

Halal vaccines soon

Star: PUTRAJAYA: A special paper on the use and certification of halal vaccines at public hospitals will be presented to the Cabinet soon.
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said both the Health Ministry and biotechnology firm National Institute for Natural Products, Vaccines and Biologicals (9BIO) would collaborate on the paper.
He was speaking to reporters after witnessing the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Islamic Development Department (Jakim) director-general Datuk Wan Mohamad Sheikh Abdul Aziz and 9BIO chairman Tan Sri Aseh Che Mat here yesterday.
The MoU will see 9BIO forming a team with Jakim to visit sites producing vaccines to certify its halal status.
At present, most of the vaccines in the country are imported and are not certified by Jakim.
Earlier, 9BIO chief executive officer Datuk Dr Nor Shahidah Khairullah said the company aimed to produce its own vaccines within two years once its factory in Enstek City was completed.
“Among the vaccines targeted for halal certification are those for children, such as polio and flu, and that for cervical cancer against the human papillomavirus,” she said.
Wan Mohamad said the MoU would help Malaysia and other Islamic countries in the production of halal vaccines.
“We hope that this will make Malaysia the reference and research centre for halal vaccine production in the future,” he added.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Pilot system to detect mistakes being tried out at KLH

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: A pilot incident reporting system where mistakes in treatment can be detected is being tried out at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said a culture of safety would only develop when people were not afraid to report mistakes and when people were able to sit down and learn how to correct those mistakes and improve.
“One of the important prerequisites for this to occur is an incident reporting system. This is currently being piloted at the KLH under the guidance of a World Health Organisation (WHO) consultant.
“This makes Malaysia among the first in the world to comply with WHO standards. However, incidence reporting and problem solving is only part of the solution. The other part involves prevention,” Dr Chua said at the Malaysian Society for Quality in Health (MSQH) public forum.
The text of his speech was read out by the ministry’s medical practice director Dr Mohd Khairi Yakub.
It is understood that the incident reporting system comprises a standard two-page form which collects information on anything that may have gone wrong during a medical procedure.
Healthcare providers involved in the procedure could fill up this form anonymously with the ultimate goal of providing information to rectify procedures so that the same mistakes do not recur.
The form addresses seven areas, namely the patient, task and technology, healthcare provider, team, work environment, policy and procedures and external factors.
It is also understood that the reporting system would be extended nationwide and this would allow all public hospitals to learn from each other’s mistakes and improve.
MSQH president Datin Siti Sa’diah Sheikh Bakir said the society had accredited 61 public hospitals and 17 private hospitals which accounted for more than 50% of hospital beds in the country.
“The accreditation ensures international safety and quality standards are adhered to and hospitals are surveyed every three years to make sure they are always improving,” she said.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

NS trainees must declare health

Star: PENANG: National Service trainees are strictly required to answer all 31 questions in the health declaration form.
National Service Council chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said that parents must also counter-sign the declaration enclosed with each national service (NS) notification.
“The trainees must answer honestly, accurately and truthfully because the NS Council and NS Department are very concerned about trainees’ health,” he said.
Trainees were required to submit the forms to their camp commandant at the pick-up point on the first day, Lee said.
Trainees must also inform the commandant if they become unfit after entering the camp for doctor’s verification.
“If the trainees have any illness, they should go to a government clinic or hospital for a medical check-up,” he said after checking the new Sri Mutiara national service camp at Balik Pulau here during a working visit with NS Department officers on Friday.
Lee said that the trainees with health problems needed to go to one government doctor to ascertain whether they were fit for camp.
He said that if the trainee was unfit he or she must submit a form for exemption with the doctor’s remark to the NS Council where a committee would decide on the exemption.
He said that there would be three paramedics stationed at each of the 81 camps nationwide.
He said that the first batch of 37,000 students selected for NS from Dec 29 to March 11 would receive their notices at the end of this month or latest by early December as notices had been sent via Pos Malaysia beginning Nov 17.
A total of 110,000 students were selected to undergo NS training next year, he said.

Mental illness afflicts more than 3 million Malaysians

Star: OVER three million Malaysians – or 16% of the population – have been diagnosed with mental illness, reported Tamil Nesan.
Quoting Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek, the paper said this was shown in the findings of a national health and morbidity study that was carried out last year.
The study also showed that the number of Malaysians suffering from mental sickness had risen 6% over the past 10 years, Dr Chua said when launching the national-level World Mental Health Day event in Sungai Petani.
He said 20.3% of the sufferers are children below 16 and 19.5% are senior citizens aged 70 and above.
Mental stress among young people was mainly due to bad examination results, family pressure and lack of support from society.
Dr Chua said some students felt the pressure even when they do not get straight As and because they felt humiliated, stupid and useless.
Some take suicide as the way out, he said, adding that there were 20 to 30 suicides among 100,000 Malaysians each year.
Dr Chua said some mental patients remained uncured because they resort to bomohs.
He said the ministry has only 145 psychiatrists, while the country required another 300 experts.

New flying docs expected in six months

Star: KUCHING: A new permanent provider for the flying doctor service (FDS) in Sarawak is expected to be appointed in six months.
In the meantime, the state health department would hire an interim service provider with the help of the Health Ministry and the Department of Civil Aviation.
Assistant Minister of Public Health Dr Soon Choon Teck told the Sarawak State Assembly yesterday that the process was expected to take a month.
“The interim service provider must use twin-engine helicopters fitted with emergency medical service equipment to improve the safety and quality of the service,” he told Lihan Jok (BN-Telang Usan).
He added that the current 15 mobile health teams visiting FDS locations by land would also continue their work while the appointments were being finalised.
Dr Soon said a new contract for the FDS using the new specifications had been awarded to SAR Helicopters Sdn Bhd for 2007-2010.
However, the contract was terminated on Nov 12 because SAR Helicopters had been unable to fulfil it.
“They did not provide any service in January 2007. From February to June 2007, they were only able to provide partial service, which at best was only 26.9% of what was expected,” Dr Soon said.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Cord blood storage questionable

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Doctors have expressed concern about the storage and effectiveness of cord blood.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said the complaints were on how long cord blood could be kept and unsubstantiated claims by private cord blood banks.
“The doctors want us to control matters like the advertising. So there will be guidelines from the ministry that will have to be adhered to,” he said, adding that the guidelines would be drawn up by a National Committee on Stem Cell Services.
Dr Chua said while cord blood was stored to potentially treat diseases such as lymphoma, leukaemia and thalassemia, there were claims and advertisements stating that it could treat illnesses including diabetes, cerebral palsy and regenerative disease.
“There are a lot of unsubstantiated claims.
“Besides, we do not know how long it takes for the samples to become defective during storage or if the quantity collected is enough,” he said.
He said private cord blood banks in the country charged between RM2,500 and RM5,000 for registration followed by a yearly subscription of between RM125 and RM250.
At present, there are three cord blood banks operating in the country.
The American Association of Paediatrics, in its latest policy statement, stated that private umbilical cord blood storage as a “biological insurance” should be discouraged because there was not enough evidence to support the routine harvesting and storage of umbilical cord.
Dr Chua said the ministry received an annual allocation of RM16.8mil and a one-off grant of RM15.6mil to boost its cord blood services.

Rules on nip-and-tucks

Star: PUTRAJAYA: To ensure that beauty treatments do not turn ugly, the Health Ministry has drawn up a set of do’s and don’ts on aesthetic medicine.
With immediate effect, private general practitioners are not allowed to carry out procedures such as breast implants, liposuction, eyelid surgery, laser and light-based therapies and hair transplant.
They also cannot deal with unapproved agents, inject non-evidence based products like Vitamin C, placental extract, stem cells and growth hormones.
The list, drawn up following a meeting last month with relevant stakeholders, will be included in the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998 under the director-general’s directive.
A definition of aesthetic medicine has also been drawn up. It states it is a branch of medicine dedicated to creating a harmonious physical and psychological balance using non-invasive and minimally invasive treatment modalities.
The modalities have to be evidence-based and scientifically proven on matters such as the anatomy and skin physiology.
Director-general of health Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said yesterday that only trained and credentialed personnel could do Botox treatment.
He added that the general practitioners could, with proper credentials and training from a recognised institute, advise on matters such as medical cosmetology, chemical peels, cellulite control, hair removal and nutrition.
“It does not mean the general practitioner has no role but they should be concentrating on procedures which are not invasive,” he said.
He added that because aesthetic medicine was not a recognised medical speciality in Malaysia, the word “aesthetic” was not allowed to be displayed on signboards.
Dr Ismail added that a proposal would be submitted to register specialists in aesthetic practices in the registry being compiled by the Malaysian Medical Council and Academy of Medicine.
He said it was necessary to draw up such guidelines because the ministry was concerned about developments in the field and wanted to keep unscrupulous practices at bay.
“If you want to look pretty, do it the right way. Make sure the right people provide you with the services,” he said.

Girl's death: Panel probe claim hospital was lax

Star: PENANG: A five-man panel has started investigations into alleged negligence in the treatment of Year Six pupil, S. Subashini, who died at the Seberang Jaya Hospital, after apparently hanging herself.
State Health, Welfare and Caring Society Committee chairman P.K. Subbaiyah said the panel started talking to medical officers and staff of the Seberang Jaya and Sungai Bakap hospitals yesterday.
He said the panel would also invite Subashini's parents to give their statements.
“We view this matter very seriously and want to be transparent in our investigations.
“Any negligence on the part of the hospital authorities will be dealt with appropriately,” he told reporters outside the state assembly hall here yesterday.
S. Subashini, 12, was sent to the hospital after she was found with a blanket around her neck in her house at Changkat, Nibong Tebal last Saturday.
Her father G. Sivakumar, 36, alleged that the hospital had neglected to ward her in the intensive care unit despite her critical condition. Instead, she was admitted to the general ward and pronounced dead the next day at 4.05am.
The panel, headed by Ipoh Hospital physician Datuk Dr K. Chandran, comprises forensic pathologist Datuk Dr Bhupinder Singh, Penang Hospital psychiatrist Dr Lai Fong Hwa, Penang Hospital anaesthesiologist Datuk Dr Jahizah Hassan and private practitioner Dr B. Ravichandran.
Subbaiyah said the inclusion of Dr Chandran and Dr Ravichandran was because the state wanted to be impartial in its investigations.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Move to make sure all doctors have required skills

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Newly qualified doctors will have to undergo two years' compulsory housemanship from next year.
Currently, they only have to do a year of housemanship.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek, who announced the Cabinet decision yesterday, said the move was considered important to increase the knowledge, skills and experience of graduate medical officers.
“This will improve the quality of services and healthcare standards,” he said.
A rotation system of four months in six departments will be implemented. With the newest inclusion being the accident and emergency department, the rest are medical, paediatric, general surgery, orthopaedic, obstetrics and gynaecology.
“We have observed that in the past few years, about three to five per cent of graduate medical officers do not get full registration because they have weaknesses in knowledge or skills,” he told reporters before chairing his ministry’s post-Cabinet meeting.
“We cannot let this continue. We hope the move is seen as a positive one by future graduates and we are confident the rakyat (people) will support us.”
After the two-year housemanship, the doctors would have to serve their three years' compulsory service with the Government or its agencies, he said.
Dr Chua said the ministry would apply to the Government to place them under the U43 grade upon completing the two years' housemanship compared to the current U41. The U43 pay scale is RM500 more than U41.
He said the doctors would be able to pursue their specialist courses or Master’s after serving two years' compulsory service compared to the current situation whereby they can only apply to further their studies after three years.
About 1,200 local medical students graduate annually.
Dr Chua also announced the Cabinet’s decision to disallow the future setting up of private cord blood banks because while it was a new service with huge potential to treat specific diseases, there were still ethical issues to be scrutinised.
He said the existing centres would have to apply for a licence from the ministry within the next two months and would be registered under the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998.

Housemen to serve an extra year

NST: PUTRAJAYA: Medical graduates will have to serve an additional year of housemanship beginning next year.
During the period, housemen will undergo four months' training each in the fields of medical, paediatrics, general surgery, orthopaedics, gynaecology and emergency.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said the cabinet gave its nod to the one-year extension as it would provide future doctors with more experience, skills and knowledge.
He added that the extended training would also benefit the people as it would enhance the quality of the local healthcare industry.
Each year, some 1,200 medical students graduate from local public and private universities.
Dr Chua also said four companies handling private cord blood banking had been given two months to register with the Health Ministry.
The cabinet has given approval to the ministry to monitor their operations and ensure that they followed guidelines and maintained standards issued by the National Stem Cell Service Committee.
Dr Chua said their registration was made compulsory following complaints from the public.
The problems surfaced with the appearance of advertisements claiming that stem cells could cure various illnesses, although at present it has only been proven effective in helping cure leukaemia and thalassaemia.
He said the cabinet also approved an annual allocation of RM16.8 million for cord blood banking in public hospitals.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Not all in favour of anti-smoking proposal

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: The proposal by the Health Ministry to ban smoking in more public areas, including open-air eating premises, received mixed reactions.
The Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners' Association (Presma) and Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) commended the proposal.
"It's a good move to protect second-hand smokers, especially children. But the government should be firm and prohibit smoking in all public areas," said Presma president Jamarulkhan Kader.
MAH executive director B. Sarjit Singh said the proposal was welcome but more awareness campaigns should be carried out.
However, the Malaysian Indian Restaurant Owners' Association president Datuk R. Ramalingam Pillai said it would be difficult for them to implement the ruling.
"We welcome the move but it will be a problem because we sell cigarettes in the premises," he said.
Last week, the New Straits Times reported that the Health Ministry was finalising the Tobacco Product Control Bill which will see smoking being banned in National Service training camps nationwide, open-air eating premises, health centres and factory buses.
The bill is being drafted and would be presented to the cabinet by early next year.
Health Ministry parliamentary secretary Datuk Lee Kah Choon said restaurant owners should change their mindset as more customers would visit their premises when the ruling was implemented.
He said the ministry was looking forward to banning smoking in more public places in the future.
Lee said smokers in the country spent at least RM15 million daily on cigarettes.
The amount was based on the estimated expenditure of three million smokers nationwide which could increase to four million by the year 2020.
He said the figure was alarming and more aggressive efforts were needed to curb the situation.
"It's a waste of money and the government has to bear the cost of treating the diseases caused by smoking," he said at Klinik Kesihatan Tanglin yesterday.
Lee had launched the Stop Smoking Infoline which offers help and information for smokers , with tips to quit the habit.

China food on alert list

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Honey, oyster sauce and dried mushrooms are among food products from China which have been placed on the food alert list for contravening regulations in Malaysia.
Data from the Health Ministry Food Quality and Safety Division indicated, in samples taken on specific dates, that pesticide residue was detected in the dried mushrooms on four occasions from April to July this year.
Drug residue was found in the honey sample taken in June while the cancer-causing agent 3-MCPD was found in oyster sauce tested in May.
There were 32 Chinese products placed under the ministry's Food Safety Information System (FoSIM) level five alert, where products are held, tested and then released, from January to October this year.
There are six levels of alerts – the first is auto clearance and the sixth is auto rejection.
Other products included frozen eel, seaweed, frozen royal red prawns, shitake mushrooms and salted turnip. All other China-imported food items were put on level four alert which requires examination.
Food found to have contravened the Food Act 1983 and Food Regulations 1985 was either destroyed or returned to the country of origin.
Malaysia imports US$680mil (RM2.3bil) worth of food items from China yearly.
Thailand had 17 food products on the list while nine food products from India contravened regulations including groundnut kernels in which aflatoxin, a cancer-causing agent, was found on six occasions from sampling done from March to September.
Six products from Indonesia including natural honey, kicap manis, prawn crackers and chilli sauce were also put on the watch list.
Roasted seaweed from Singapore was found to contain metal contaminants on four occasions from July to September.
In all, 103,480 imported food consignments were tested until September. A total of 49 consignments were rejected or destroyed.
Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek told reporters yesterday that the quality of imported food was safe because of constant monitoring at 36 entry points with the cooperation of the Customs Department and other agencies.
Dr Chua said the monitoring and inspection of food and premises was also carried out.
“Some operators do not practise cleanliness. That is why food poisoning happens from time to time, including at school canteens. They think that if the food is cooked, it is safe to be eaten,” he said, adding that factors like how the food was kept and the equipment used also contributed to food poisoning.
From January to June this year, a total of RM416,260 in fines was collected from 2,290 cases. The ministry also shut down 2,957 unsanitary food outlets.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Teach kids 'to deal with stress'

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: More students will kill themselves if they are not taught how to deal with competition and modern day stress.
Psychologists yesterday warned that the trend was on the rise in Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore, and that it was only a matter of time before it becomes a norm in Malaysia.
Monash University and Sunway Medical Centre consultant clinical psychologist Paul Jambunathan said more children were becoming obsessive and compulsive due to competition and pressure.
"That's because society expects a lot more from them. The focus now is on academic excellence and many children are unable to meet the needs," he said.
He added that parents wanted their children to excel academically while schools were all out to out do each other.
Jambunathan was commenting on the death of 12-year-old Subashini Sivakumar of SRJK (T) Ladang Simpah, Nibong Tebal, who was found hanging two days ago from the ceiling of her room with a blanket tied around her neck.
She is believed to have been in a state of depression for achieving 4Bs, 2Cs and a D in the examination. She had promised her parents she would score 4As.
Jambunathan said no one had taught her to deal with stress or showed her that suicide was not the answer to "failure".
"But she felt her results were not good enough. I feel she might have been trying too hard to meet other people's expectations", he said.
He said children learn to resolve their problems from their surroundings and models including cartoon characters.
Children also watch movies that focus on suicide, gangsterism, shooting and other negative aspects of life, he added.
HELP University College clinical psychologist Dr Ng Wai Sheng agreed that suicides were on the rise because of competition and stress.
"If the social support systems are not strengthened, we will end up with increased social emotional problems," she said.
"When her goals were not met, she felt like a failure", she said, adding that Subashini, her parents and teachers, were victims of an increasingly competitive world.
She said people needed to realise that suicide was not just confined to people with mental problems but could involve normal people caught in stressful situations.
Kuala Lumpur Hospital child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr Toh Chin Lee said parents should know the strengths of their children and develop them accordingly.
"They should be realistic about their expectations. Parents should remember that scoring As is not the only thing for a child," he said.
He added that children who could not take academic pressure should be allowed to excel in other fields.

Health staff for NS camps

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Each of the 81 national service camps will have four medical assistants and nurses stationed there starting from the Dec 29 intake.
Right now, there is none.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said the move involved about 300 health personnel, to be loaned from public hospitals and clinics operating near the camps.
“The health personnel will be rotated on a three-month basis. They will be given a two-day course to expose them to the kinds of sicknesses or injuries trainees may incur.
“We have also recommended to the National Service Council that in the long-term, they should train health personnel of their own,” he told reporters after meeting council chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye here yesterday.
Dr Chua said it was decided that a sick trainee who did not recover after 24 hours be referred to the nearest hospital immediately.
As for placing doctors at these camps, he said there was no clinical justification to do so at present.
”The medical assistants and nurses are trained to take medical history and make diagnosis of simple complaints,” he said.
He added the mobilisation of these staff was not expected to stress the existing personnel or level of service at public hospitals and clinics.
“We have some 40,000 medical assistants and nurses throughout the country. Those placed at national camps will be entitled to the usual allowances,” he said.
The next intake for the 110,000 trainees will begin on Dec 29. Each camp has about 400 trainees at one time.
The programme had come under fire last year after several deaths involving trainees. As at May, there had been 12 fatal incidents.
He also reminded camp commandants and trainers not to smoke in front of their charges.
Lee said the council would bring up the proposal to train its own health personnel at a meeting with the National Service Department on Dec 13.
He reminded trainees to answer all 31 questions in the declaration of health status forms.
“This is compulsory. The forms will also have to be counter-signed by their parents,” he said, adding that only those who were fit would undergo the programme.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Minister: Show plans benefit patients

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Companies offering health packages have been asked to convince the health ministry that they were not just out to make profits.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek wants managed care organisations (MCO) to show proof that those who signed up for their packages had gained from them.
"The health packages must be fair and beneficial to patients when they seek treatment at designated hospitals. Patients should not be shortchanged," he told the New Straits Times.
He said people signed up for packages because of the escalating health cost. They also wanted doctors to do the necessary tests and treatment.
"Of late, the ministry has been receiving a lot of complaints about how patients with health packages have been shortchanged by the MCO. Doctors, too, have complained that their fees have been reduced and a limit had been imposed on clinical examinations," he said.
MCO is a commercial body that enters into a contract with healthcare providers to provide programmes or packages within an agreed monetary arrangement.
Examples of MCO are health insurance companies, third party administrators, health maintenance organisations, preferred providers organisations, and the panel doctors system.
Dr Chua said MCO had been operating in health-related business in the country since the mid-90s and there had been several issues raised about their operation.
Among them is the disclosure of patient information and the practice of capping chargeable fees and limiting tests and procedures.
MCO are required to register with the ministry. They can register online at