Friday, March 30, 2007

Plans for Klang hospital scrapped

NST: KLANG: Datuk Seri Mohamad Khir Toyo has pulled the plug on plans by an international conglomerate to build a RM400 million hospital in Teluk Gadung here.
Klang Municipal Council (MPK) councillor Datuk Dr Teh Kim Poo said residents in the area had appealed to the menteri besar for help.
He said residents in the area did not want to live in the shadow of a huge hospital.
"It’s bad feng shui and they feel the value of their homes will drop," he said after the MPK full board meeting yesterday.
The project to build the 14-storey hospital, inclusive of a four-storey car park, at a 2.5hectare site was initially given the green light by the MPK town planning committee earlier this month.
Dr Teh, who lives 500m from the site of the proposed 150-bed hospital, also said that Klang did not need an additional hospital.
"We already have the Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital and several private hospitals and so there is no necessity to build a new one."
However, not all MPK councillors at the meeting were pleased with the turn of events.
Mohd Raof Mokhtar, who is a member of the town planning committee which approved the project, said the case was setting a bad precedent.
"As long as the proposed hospital followed MPK building regulations and specifications, it should be allowed."
He added that the project had its merits and councillors should have used their position to convince residents instead of the other way around.
Meanwhile, councillor Zainuri Zainal said the issue should have been settled in the council, instead of getting the menteri besar involved.
"It looks like a circus, with some parties instigating the public to hold a protest and sending a memorandum."
Councillor Roslinda Abdul Jamil said MPK needed to be firm instead of back tracking on earlier decisions.
MPK president Abd Bakir Zin agreed the decision to scrap the project would be a loss of foreign direct investment for Klang, but said all was not lost for the American investors who have purchased the land for the project.
"They still have the option of revising their building plans by scaling down the size of the hospital and resubmitting their proposal or build the hospital elsewhere."

Cuba wants its medical degrees recognised

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Cuba may boast of amazing medical achievements but there is one “breakthrough” still being pursued – getting Malaysia to recognise its medical courses.
The Cuban Government has been awaiting the outcome of a survey by a Public Services Department team that visited Havana last April to evaluate four medical universities.
Cuban Ambassador Pedro Monzon Barata said that with the bilateral co-operation in the field of medicine and biotechnology on the upswing, Cuba’s medical programmes should get credence here.
“Maybe our hostels and facilities are not as presentable as they are here but in terms of the courses and healthcare system, we are very solid.
“Cuba has the best doctor-patient ratio in the world and about 50,000 of our health professionals are helping out in 73 poor countries,” he said, adding that thousands of students from all over the world have graduated or are studying medicine in Cuba.
Monzon Barata said although the medical courses were taught in Spanish, students were given a six-month intensive language course and this was good enough for them to handle the course.
“Most of the medical course books used in Cuba are in English.”
The envoy said his Government had, on two occasions, offered 100 medical scholarships to Malaysia but none had been taken up so far.
“A student here approached me recently for a scholarship and she is likely to be the first Malaysian to enrol for our medical course in September,” he added.
He said a Cuban scientist would arrive here next week to begin clinical trials on an anti-cancer vaccine.
“Cuban hepatitis B vaccines have been on sale here for the past two years,” he added.

New Standards For Hospital Buildings

KUALA LUMPUR, March 29 (Bernama) -- The construction of hospitals will now have to adhere to new standards set by the Health Ministry to ensure, among others, the safety of the building.
Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad said Thursday the ministry would begin to introduce 64 "must comply" standards in the construction of new hospitals under the Ninth Malaysia Plan.
The new standards were the result of studies carried out on the design and construction of health care facilities in Australia, the United States and Britain, he said, adding that it was time for Malaysia to have its own standard.
The government had invested RM20 million to prepare the 64 new standards which would place future local hospitals on par with those of developed countries, he told reporters after opening a seminar on medical gas piping entitled "There is No Short Cut Towards Safety" here.
Initially, the focus would be on the construction of the operation theatre, which is the heart of the hospital, to ensure that the guidelines and standards were adhered to, he said.
Dr Abdul Latiff, however, denied that the move to impose such standards was due to problems faced by several newly-built hospitals in the country like the Sultan Ismail Hospital in Pandan, Johor Baharu, which had to be closed after three months in 2004 due to fungus growth and other building defects.
The one-day seminar was organised by Rasma Corporation Sdn Bhd, a leading bumiputera construction company which was involved in the piping of medical gases in several hospitals, including the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Hospital, Selayang Hospital and University Hospital.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Medicines In Malaysia: High prices claim ‘misleading’

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry will look for ways to cut the price of medicines although it maintains that they are not as expensive as claimed in a study.
"At the moment there is no problem in the price of medicines. We are still cheaper than many of our neighbouring countries," said the ministry’s pharmaceutical services division director Datuk Che Mohd Zin Che Awang.
He acknowledged that there was no control mechanism on the price of medicines but said the matter would require further study.
"We cannot say for sure whether we will control the price of essential drugs but we are trying to get the World Health Organisation to help us figure out ways to do it," he told the New Straits Times yesterday.
He said the ministry would consult the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry as price controls were under the latter’s purview.
News reports had quoted Universiti Sains Malaysia lecturer Dr Zaheer Ud Din Babar as saying that Malaysians may be paying the highest prices in the world for medicines, a finding the ministry dismisses as "misleading".
The 2005 study was conducted by University College Sedaya International and USM in collaboration with WHO and Health Action International.
Zaheer had said that doctors were marking up prices by up to 76 per cent for patented drugs and 316 per cent for generics.
Pharmacies, the study found, marked up prices by up to 140 per cent for generic drugs and 38 per cent for patented ones.
The study was published by the Public Library of Science (PLoS) Medicine, a peer-reviewed journal.
"The findings of the study are not true," Che Mohd Zin said. He explained that the researchers’ use of the international reference price (IRP) guide was inaccurate.
The IRP, he said, was used by international non-profit suppliers and as tender prices, not retail prices.
"It also does not include insurance and delivery charges.
The ministry has its own study on drug prices in the public and private sectors which was published earlier this year in the first Medicine Price Monitoring System newsletter.
"We compared our drug prices with those in Kuwait, Jordan, Australia and the Philippines and found that the cost of medicines, especially those for critical illnesses, was much cheaper here.
The division studied 238 brands for 30 commonly used medicines that were collected from 33 public and 35 private premises.
Understandably, drugs in the public sector were four times cheaper than in the private sector, and gross retail prices in the private sector were four times higher than the IRP.
Zaheer, when contacted yesterday, said he stood by his research.

Mass hysteria? Blame it on stress, anxiety and spirits

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Stress, anxiety, dissociation and the supernatural. These are cited as causes of mass hysteria.
Hospital Bahagia Tanjung Rambutan director and senior consultant psychiatrist Dr Suarn Singh said hysteria was caused by dissociation.
Dissociation is the detachment of a group of mental processes from the victim’s main body of consciousness, which results in hysteria.
Another psychiatrist, who declined to be named, said it was caused by anxiety and tension among a group of people living together, such as in boarding schools or factory hostels.
"It happens to people who share the same beliefs. It is a culture-bound syndrome," he said.
The psychiatrist said young women were more prone to it as they were less capable of dealing with examinations or work-related stress.
He said victims of mass hysteria should be separated to "break the rhythm".
"Give them time to calm down and talk to them to find out what is causing the stress."
Ustaz Mohd Arief Mohd Batcha said stress was a cause of hysteria but was quick to point out that the presence of spirits could also produce the same result.
"Worshipping a deity or object for personal gain can attract spirits to the area and innocent people will suffer."
The founder of the traditional medical centre Cakra Alam said mass hysteria could be "contagious", especially for the faint-hearted.
"Those in charge of people hit by hysteria should give them space so that they can breathe and calm down. They can also rub coconut oil on the victims’ heads and give them cold drinks to lessen the symptoms."
He advised people to avoid stress and "get closer to God" to prevent hysteria.
On Tuesday, several students of SMK Section 11 in Shah Alam were hit by mass hysteria.
Parents said the hysteria began at the boys’ dormitory last Friday and had continued over the weekend.
Other parents claimed that some of the students were possessed by spirits and the teachers there were overwhelmed.

Judge tells off health director over missing file

NST: KUANTAN: A state health department director was yesterday given a lecture by a judge on the importance of safeguarding the medical records of patients.
Datuk Dr Ahmad Razin Ahmad Mahir, who heads the Perak Health Department, was a witness in a negligence suit brought by the parents of a dead child against a private doctor.
The hearing of the case was delayed for almost a decade mainly because the baby boy’s medical records at a government hospital could not be found.
The child had suffered medical complications at birth on Nov 5, 1992, causing the private doctor who delivered it at his clinic to immediately send it to the Tengku Ampuan Afzan Hospital here.
The child’s condition gradually deteriorated before it died of a respiratory ailment four years later. Dr Ahmad Razin, who was the director of the hospital when the case was filed in 1996, told the court that he could not produce the medical records because the hospital’s present administration could not find them.
Responding to this, Sessions Court judge Sarimah Hashim said it was regrettable that the medical records could be lost and the hearing was delayed for so long because of it.
"I have to agree with the lawyers of this case that you should seriously consider the importance of safekeeping patients’ medical records as an issue here," she told Dr Ahmad Razin.
"It would be hard for the court to dispense justice to either party in this case without those records."
Both parties in the case had first requested from Dr Ahmad Razin a copy of the medical record in 1998. He had declined the request after consulting the government’s legal adviser.
"It is not the normal practice of hospitals to provide copies of medical records to patients," he told the court.
Dr Ahmad Razin had at that time replied in a letter to the lawyers that he would only produce the medical records if called to do so by the courts.
To this, M.S. Dhillon, who represents the medical practitioner, said he had sent another letter to Dr Ahmad Razin in March the next year requesting for the hospital authorities to at least ensure the safekeeping of the medical records and be ready to produce them in court when requested.
Both parties of the case were, however, later informed that the medical records could not be found.
They nonetheless decided to proceed with the case in court last year.
At the end of the cross-examination, Dhillon expressed his disappointment over what he described as the failure of the health authorities to assist the court in the case.
"As a senior medical official, you should notify the Health Ministry about this case so that the safekeeping of medical records could be improved," he told Dr Ahmad Razin.
Harinder Singh, who represents the child’s parents, also expressed disappointment that the case had dragged on for so long due to the missing medical records.
He nonetheless told the court that his clients would pursue the case and instead rely on other witnesses.
The child’s parents had claimed that the private medical practitioner was negligent in causing it to suffer birth asphyxia which occurs when a baby does not receive enough oxygen before, during or just after birth.
They are suing for an unspecific amount in damages.
In his defence, the medical practitioner claimed that the child had suffered congenital pneumonia at birth.
The case will be heard again on May 9.

Cuban Anti-Cancer Vaccine To Be Clinically Tested In Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR, March 28 (Bernama) -- A therapeutic anti-cancer vaccine being developed by Cuban scientists is expected to give new hopes for patients in the advanced stage of lung cancer in terms of a longer survival rate and better quality of life.
Known as Epiderma Growth Factor (EGF), the vaccine, discovered by Dr Gisela Gonzalez Marinello of the Centre of Molecular Immunology in Cuba in 1992, will be clinically trial-tested in Malaysia for the first time.
Dr Gonzalez, who is also its project manager, said 230 advanced stage lung cancer patients had been identified in 12 hospitals to participate in the clinical tests in what could be a landmark trial for the drug.
She said based on previous clinical trials in Cuba, Canada and United Kingdom, the vaccine had demonstrated its ability to promote longer survival rates of up to six months, and up to two years in some cases, while helping to improve the quality of life among lung cancer patients who responded to the vaccine.
She told Bernama in an interview here that the EGF was safe, had no prolonged side effects and could be used in tandem with chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Dr Gonzalez stressed that the vaccine was not a cure for cancer but helps to fight against the growth of cancerous cells, adding that it was administered through monthly injections on four different parts of a patient's body.
Set to begin in May, the clinical trial in Malaysia is expected to take about two-and-a-half years and is being sponsored by Bioven Sdn Bhd, a local company specializing in advanced technology and life sciences.
Bioven chief executive officer Dr W. Shermal Perera, who was present at the interview, said the clinical trial would be monitored by the Cancer Research Centre of the Kuala Lumpur Hospital.
"This clinical trial in Malaysia is important to us because the data collected will be used to penetrate Europe and other countries," he said.
Bioven has the intellectual property rights for EGF here and in Southeast Asia.
Dr Perera said: "We have bought the licence and the patent has been assigned to us. We have the rights for Europe, Australia, Japan and New Zealand as well." EGF, now in the process of getting registered in Cuba, is expected to be marketed in that country in the next few months.
"In Malaysia, we hope to get it approved and register within the next three years," he added.
He said if the clinical trials went well, Malaysia would become the second country after Cuba to have the drug.
He also urged lung cancer patients keen on the clinical trial to contact the company.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Hospital facing RM1m suit over ambulance delay

NST: GEORGE TOWN: A factory engineer yesterday filed a RM1 million suit against the Kepala Batas Hospital, accusing it of gross negligence leading to his wife’s death.
Abdul Ghafur Mohd Ibrahim accused the hospital of being directly responsible for Yusnita Abas’ death by failing to give her prompt treatment.
The 37-year-old quality assurance engineer with a factory in Prai, named the Kepala Batas hospital director and the government as defendants.
He is seeking RM4,194 in special damages, RM1 million as general and exemplary damages, interest and other costs deemed fit by the court.
Ghafur, who filed the suit at the High Court here through his lawyer, Jagdeep Singh Deo, claimed the hospital’s failure to provide an efficient emergency service was outrageous and condemnable.
In his statement of claim, Ghafur said his wife had gone to the hospital about 1pm on Oct 11 last year complaining of severe headache.
He claimed Yusnita was made to wait more than five hours before blood test results showed she may have a clot in her brain.
Yusnita was then rushed to the Seberang Jaya Hospital about 7.30pm where a CT scan confirmed her condition.
She was then taken back to the Kepala Batas Hospital only to be rushed to the Penang Hospital in another ambulance.
However, she was pronounced brain dead by the time she arrived at 10.40pm.
Yusnita died about 3.30pm on Oct 13.
Ghafur claimed his wife’s death could have been avoided if she had been properly diagnosed and given prompt treatment at the nearest neurosurgical centre.
He also accused the defendants of failing to provide an efficient ambulance service.
Ghafur said the defendants had been negligent as they failed to ensure that ambulances at the Kepala Batas Hospital were in good working condition and filled with petrol at all times.
He claimed his wife was a healthy person who died when she was just 31 years old, leaving her husband and three children, aged between two and 12.
Ghafur claimed his wife’s death had caused severe psychological and emotional stress and trauma to his family.

Why Malaysians pay more for medicines

NST: GEORGE TOWN: Malaysians are paying through their noses for medicines that should cost a fraction of their market price.
While their pockets get lighter, pharmacists and medical practitioners are laughing all the way to the bank.
It appears that Malaysians may, in fact, be paying the highest prices in the world for medicines.
A study by a team of local researchers showed that pharmacies marked up prices by up to 140 per cent for generic drugs and 38 per cent for patented drugs.
The research was conducted by University College Sedaya International and Universiti Sains Malaysia in collaboration with the World Health Organisation and Health Action International.
The results of the 2005 study were published in the PLoS Medicine journal yesterday.
Doctors marked up medicine prices by up to 76 per cent for patented drugs and 316 per cent for generics.
(A generic drug is a drug that is bio-equivalent to a branded drug, but is usually sold at a lower price.)
Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Dr Zaheer Ud Din Babar, one of four researchers involved in the study, said the absence of a price control mechanism for drugs was among the reasons for such high medicine prices.
He said add-on costs also had a substantial impact on medicine prices in Malaysia.
Dr Zaheer said, in Sri Lanka, the wholesale mark-up at pharmacies was just eight per cent while retailers’ mark-up was 16 per cent.
In Kenya, the private retail sector (for imported medicines) has a wholesale mark-up of 15 to 30 per cent and a maximum retailer mark-up of 20 to 33 per cent.
In Peru, the imported generic medicine mark-up by distributors was 36 per cent, while retailers’ mark-up was just 33 per cent.
"If you think it is unfair to compare Malaysia with only poor countries, then we have data to compare with prices in Belgium, Germany, France, Ireland and Italy.
"The wholesale margin for these countries is not more than 23 per cent. Only The Netherlands is 56 per cent."
Dr Zaheer was speaking at the day-long seminar on "Equitable access to medicines for Malaysians: A way forward through a medicine pricing policy" at USM’s main campus, here, yesterday.
One of four speakers at the seminar, he presented a working paper titled "Evaluating medicine prices, availability, affordability and price components in Malaysia".
Dr Zaheer said Malaysia had no history of price control on retail medicines.
"Recent research suggests that increasing the available choices of generics on the market does not, on its own, bring down prices.
"We seriously need to have a pricing policy, which takes into account the maximum wholesale and retail mark-ups as well as regulatory pricing for generics and patented drugs."
He said it should be investigated why generics were expensive and generic availability of drugs was poor.
Dr Zaheer said most countries had pricing regulations and some, like France and Italy, even regulated drug prices directly through a price control mechanism.
In the United Kingdom, the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority monitors prices through the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme, which controls the prices of branded prescription drugs.

Cervical cancer vaccine

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: A vaccine to prevent cervical cancer and vulvar and vaginal pre-cancers in women, called Gardasil, was launched in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
It is the first vaccine to prevent cervical cancer, a disease caused almost exclusively by a highly common sexually transmitted virus called the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) that includes over 100 different strains.
Gardasil, first launched in 2006 and approved in over 40 countries, was approved by the Drug Control Authority of Malaysia last October.
Gardasil offers protection against four strains – Types 16 and 18 that account for some 70% of cervical cancer cases and Types 6 and 11 cause 90% of genital warts cases.
In Malaysia, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer after breast cancer.
“Gardasil is a major advancement in the prevention of cancer,” said Dr Suresh Kumarasamy, chairman of the Gynaecological Oncology Sub-committee of the Obstetrical and Gynaecological Society of Malaysia (OGSM), at the media launch.
“The vaccine has been shown to be effective in studies done on women between 16 and 26. The majority of women who are diagnosed with cervical cancer are between the ages of 40 and 50.
“We hope that the vaccine will protect the generation of females now. It will not make a major impact on those in their 50s because many are already infected.”
National Cancer Society of Malaysia executive director Dr Saunthari Somasundaram told The Star that cervical cancer is more prevalent among Malaysian women than most people realise.
“It is just something that women don’t talk about because it is intrinsic to femininity,” she said.
“Some 1,500 Malaysian women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year.
“Pap smear tests, which start at the cost of RM5 or RM10 from government clinics to below RM100 in private hospitals, are readily available. Yet most women just don’t take it."
NCSM is offering the vaccine at a subsidised price of RM999 at its Women’s Cancer Detection & Breast Clinic.
For more information call 03-2698 7351.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Ministry seeks answers for ambulance delay

NST: GEORGE TOWN: The Health Ministry wants to know why the ambulances at Kepala Batas Hospital had run out of petrol, possibly costing a 31-year-old woman her life.
The ministry has begun investigating the tragedy after it was highlighted by the New Straits Times on Friday.
State Health Committee chairman P. K. Subbaiyah said the hospital director briefed the ministry about the incident following the newspaper report.
"I understand officials will be going to the hospital soon to conduct a thorough investigation and find out what happened there," he said yesterday.
Subbaiyah said he had been briefed about the case by the Kepala Batas Hospital director Dr Mohamad Sabri Othman following the report.
Factory worker Ghafur Mohd Ibrahim had that said his wife Yusnita Abas’ death could have been avoided if she had received prompt treatment.
Ghafur said Yusnita developed a severe headache and went to Kepala Batas Hospital for treatment about 1pm last Oct 10. He said no one attended to her till 6pm when she lapsed into semi-consciousness.
She was rushed to the Seberang Jaya Hospital for a CT scan, where it was found that she had a blood clot in the brain, and needed to be sent to Penang Hospital for treatment.
The ambulance driver said he had to take her back to Kepala Batas first, because his ambulance could not make the trip from Seberang Jaya to Penang.
Ghafur said they were in for another shock. When they arrived back at Kepala Batas, none of the ambulances had petrol, and more precious time was wasted in going to get some.
He said the shocking state of affairs was confirmed by Dr Mohamad in a letter dated March 2.
Ghafur said no one had contacted him since.

Ambulance deaths not recorded

NST: THE Health Ministry does not keep records of deaths in ambulances. Its parliamentary secretary, Datuk Lee Kah Choon, said the ministry did not have such details.
He said the standard operating procedure was to ascertain if a patient was fit to travel from one hospital to another in an ambulance.
His answer stunned Datuk Dr Mohamad Shahrum Osman (BN-Lipis).
"I am shocked that the ministry does not keep records of ambulance deaths."
Shahrum said he sought the statistics as he had read of accident victims dying in ambulances on the way to hospital.
Lee said the ministry did, however, have statistics for ambulances involved in accidents. There were 46 accident cases involving ambulances last year, in which two deaths were recorded.
Opposition leader Lim Kit Siang later told reporters that Lee’s answer was proof that all was not well with the Health Ministry.
"The insensitivity demonstrated in Lee’s answer is unacceptable," he said citing the case of Yusnita Abas, 31, who was pronounced brain-dead upon arrival at the Penang Hospital in October last year after her transfer from the Kepala Batas Hospital was delayed because its ambulances were out of petrol.

Government needs bigger health budget

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s current annual health budget of RM10bil is not enough and should be doubled so that the people can enjoy better healthcare.
And even after doubling the budget, the amount would still be below the World Health Organisation’s recommendation of RM25bil or 5% of the country’s gross domestic product, according to the Coalition Against the Privatisation of Healthcare secretary Dr D. Jeyakumar.
The coalition is a composition of 81 non-governmental organisations.
“The increase in allocation for the improvement of health facilities can come from taxation and Petronas revenue of RM50bil last year.
“It is the responsibility of the Government to ensure that all citizens and other residents have access to safe and adequate healthcare.
“There should not be any general services tax to supplement the health budget,” Dr Jeyakumar said at a recent healthcare seminar organised by Fomca at Universiti Malaya.
He said it was ironic that the Government was the largest shareholder of groups managing private hospitals.
“On one hand, the Government is in charge of building and maintaining public hospitals and, at the same time, the Government, through the Finance Ministry owns a major stake in private hospitals.
“It is not proper for the Government to have its feet in the public and private sector. More of the public can be served if the Government cuts its commitments in the private sector,” Dr Jeyakumar said.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Dealer of deadly herbal sex booster to be charged soon

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: It was promoted as a herbal health supplement especially for men. Those who consumed it found that it gave them something extra — it boosted their libido.
Introduced in the local market four years ago, MaxonHerbs, after it was registered with the National Pharmaceutical Control Bureau as a health supplement, became a hot topic among the men since it was claimed to be completely herbal.
It even became lucky draw prizes at golf competitions replacing traditional prizes such as "Boston" bags and putters and was also widely distributed in goodie bags.
On Jan 10, MaxonHerbs was deregistered by the bureau when it was found to contain two chemical adulterants which can cause numerous health problems.
Tests carried out on samples sold in the market found aminotadalafil, a US Food and Drug Administration-approved drug used as treatment for erectile dysfunction.
A bureau official said aminotadalafil can interact with nitrates contained in some prescription drugs and may lower blood pressure to dangerous levels.
"Consumers with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or heart disease who often take nitrates can suffer other health problems, especially since they are not aware that aminotadalafil was present in the product," he said.
Tests on MaxonHerbs also disclosed a second compound called hydroxy-homosildenafil which is also used to treat erectile dysfunction.
The Kuala Lumpur enforcement branch of the Health Ministry’s Pharmaceutical Services Division conducted raids in the city in January and seized 343 boxes of MaxonHerbs worth a few hundred thousand ringgit.
MaxonHerbs was initially registered with the bureau as a traditional herbal health supplement said to, among others, increase energy, reduce fatigue, improve men’s health, ease urination and relieve backache.
Health Ministry pharmaceutical services division deputy director Ershah A. Rahman said this was the first time the division had come across a product which contained two Scheduled Poison substances used for erectile dysfunction.
"This is dangerous and poses a high risk to consumers."
She advised consumers not to use the de-registered product as the concentration of the adulterates was unknown.
Aminotadalafil and hydroxy-homosildenafil, she added, were safe to use under doctor’s prescription and with the patient taking them closely monitored.
"Those who take the product can suffer breathing difficulties and even heart failure," said Ershah.
Among the other side effects are headache, facial flushing, upset stomach and blurred vision.
"Long-term users of this de-registered product can also lose their vision due to the high dose of the scheduled drugs in them."
Ershah advised members of the public to report to the authorities if they come across anyone selling MaxonHerbs, in outlets or through direct sales.
The distributor of the product will soon be charged in court under the Poisons Act 1952 and if found guilty is liable to a fine not exceeding RM5,000 or two years’ jail or both.

Hospitals to adopt HIS

Star: PETALING JAYA: The Health Ministry may settle for HIS (hospital information system) after THIS (total hospital information system) did not work out too well in Selayang and Putrajaya.
THIS was touted as an information technology concept, which integrates the clinical, management and financial systems of a hospital.
The so-called paperless system is designed into modules to cover all aspects of a patient’s record from clinical to administrative.
HIS is a partially paperless system that also covers in-patient and outpatient management, pharmacy, patient billing and medical records tracking.
“It will not truly be paperless, which would be nice if it were.
“But in a practical sense THIS may not be easy to implement,” Health Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican told The Star.
The Selayang Hospital was the first hospital to apply THIS in 1999 to create a “paperless and filmless” work environment.
Several types of software were combined to create THIS.
Its main software stores medical records of patients and is linked to other medical sections such as laboratories.
Since then, other hospitals have been designed on the THIS concept, including Putrajaya Hospital, Sultan Abdul Halim Hospital in Sungai Petani and Temerloh Hospital.
Dr Ismail said the Selayang and Putrajaya hospitals revealed “challenges” in the software, mindset change among healthcare providers and the system itself.
“We are not saying that Selayang Hospital was not successful.
“It was a bit of a learning curve for us to be truly paperless. THIS might not be doable. We may settle for HIS,” he said.
He added that while 13 government hospitals with THIS would remain, the ministry would, in stages, implement HIS in all other hospitals.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Male support for breast cancer screening for women is now here

Daily Express: Kota Kinabalu: Men Care or Male Support for Breast Cancer Screening for Women, a breakthrough programme, is now in Sabah.
In a nutshell, it is a matter of getting the support of husbands, brothers, sons - in the fight against breast cancer.
An all-encompassing programme, it was initiated last year to encourage men to become more knowledgeable about breast cancer, adopt a new attitude of care and be supportive of breast cancer screening in women.
To get the programme off the ground, a three-day Training Workshop on "Male Support for Breast Cancer Screening for Women" for service providers of women's health is being held in the State capital.
This is to address the lack of education and knowledge in men regarding breast cancer.
Launching the training workshop at the Likas Square, State Director of Welfare Services, Datuk Hj Mastor Samin was happy to note that this was the first time it has been held in East Malaysia since the inaugural one was held in Shah Alam by the National Council of Women's Organisations (NCWO) and Federation of Family Planning Associations, Malaysia in Selangor last November after the official launch of Men Care.
He reminded the participants that breast cancer is the Number Two killer among women in the world.
"It is the Number One cancer among Malaysian women and the leading cause of death from cancers."
Mastor, who is Chairman of the Sabah Council of Social Services, said Men Care aims to educate and gain the support of husbands, fathers and other members of the male community in this endeavour.
"Essentially, we want the involvement and participation of men to provide support for early detection and timely treatment of breast cancer.
That way, it will reduce the suffering associated with the disease and improve prognosis and chances of survival."
Calling on men not to take breast cancer lightly, he said: "The important message to women and men is that breast cancer can be cured if detected and treated early. Early screening and treatment saves lives.
"Thus the men in women's lives, especially husbands, play a decisive role in ensuring that the women go for screening at the nearest centres where breast screening options are available." The methods of early detection are mammography, breast self-examination (BSE) and clinical breast examination."
The Director urged husbands not to leave their wives in the lurch if the latter are diagnosed with breast cancer.
"Your support and help is very crucial in each and every step of her journey to recovery."
Men Care is a collaborative effort by NCWO, Pfizer Malaysia and Asia Foundation.
In Sabah, this project is jointly organised by the Sabah Family Planning Association (SFPA) and NCWO, and sponsored by Pfizer Malaysia.
Pfizer Malaysia Corporate Affairs Manager, Noor Yang Azwar Kamarudin said Pfizer Malaysia supports the project through a grant of RM170,000 in partnership with The Asia Foundation.
NCWO Health Commission member, Piaro Kaur said NCWO embarked on the project to involve Malaysian men in providing appropriate support to women for early screening and treatment of breast cancer.
Despite the many breast cancer awareness campaigns in Malaysia, the uptake of screening among women is still low, she pointed out.
"For some women, especially in the rural areas, it is simply a matter of lack of awareness and information about breast cancer.
For a large number of women, their greatest fear is the reaction of their husbands, and that the husbands may neglect or abandon them.
"Hence, there is a need for men to play a more prominent role in breast cancer screening and awareness."
According to Piaro, a series of training workshops for healthcare service providers will be rolled out in five regional centres in Malaysia.
"The road show begins in Sabah, followed by Sarawak (April), Kelantan (May), Penang (August) and Johor (September). These providers will in turn cascade the information down to the menfolk within their respective areas."
More than 36 service providers of women's health and male advocate groups are attending the training workshop which ends on Sunday.
The training facilitators are Dr Anita Boay, Piaro and Balbir Bhabra Kaur.
The participants were introduced to a comprehensive training manual and handbook for service providers as tools in their breast cancer awareness programme.
Speaking on behalf of SFPA President, Dr Teo Tu Huah, the association's Council Member, Dr Philip Yap said breast cancer is still very much a stigmatised disease.
"Many still associate it with bizarre beliefs and values such as 'Éa suffering on earth for the atonement of sinsÉ' or 'Éa curseÉ', and the list goes on."
He said the RTR Breast Cancer Support Group is grateful to the Sabah Council of Social Services for its financial support since 2001.
"We (SFPA) look forward to the support of more honourable bodies towards our RTR Support Group in terms of fiscal means or donation of related equipment for training and education such as breast models."
Also present were SFPA State Manager, Yong Su Fung and MPMS Executive Secretary Joanne Lee.
Pzifer Malaysia's Medical Advisor, Dr Alaster Allum, who also spoke, said due to the stigma of the disease, some women are left with uncertainties and without support.
"Hence the importance of this project - Men Care - as it addresses the vital need for a patient's support network, where partners are equipped with adequate knowledge on breast cancer and how to help their loved ones deal with it.
"An initiative of this nature serves as a reminder that there is an ongoing need for breast cancer education to keep the disease at bay. Secondly, with untiring support from men, women need not walk the path to recovery alone because Men Care."
Dr Alaster described the partnership with NCWO as one of shared dedication and commitment to the community, saying "This is a fine example of how Pfizer is 'Working for a Healthier World'."
Quoting the Ministry of Health, Pfizer Malaysia's Medical Advisor, he said it is estimated that 27,000 new cancer cases are detected each year and breast cancer is the leading cause of death among Malaysian women.
"In 2003 itself, 3738 new cases of breast cancer were reported. This means one in 20 women will develop cancer in her lifetime.
On a personal level, we have all been affected by breast cancer either having someone close to us diagnosed of the disease or are survivors of breast cancer."
Meanwhile, breast cancer survivor Unis @ Hasnah Yabi, 48, who is a housewife, gave a testimony of her experience during the "Sharing of Experiences" session. Willeze Matambun, 41, a medical assistant from Kudat, also related his encounter with at least four cases of breast cancer since his training days at a college in Sarawak.

Impulsive teens make for many problems

NST: SERI KEMBANGAN: More than a third of adolescent girls admitted to government hospitals end up there because of pregnancy or problems with childbirth.
And nearly half of the boys in the same age group sought treatment for accidental or self-inflicted injuries or poisoning.
These statistics show that a large number of adolescents, those aged from 10 to 19, are suffering from much more than teenage angst.
According the Health Ministry figures in 2005, 48,000 adolescent girls were admitted to government hospitals, and close to 41 per cent were there for pregnancy and related problems.
Forty-six per cent of the 65,345 boys admitted had hurt themselves either on purpose or accidentally.
"We cannot afford to play the blame game when addressing issues such as accidental pregnancy, abortion, Mat Rempit and others," said Health Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican at the launch of the Fifth National Adolescent Health Symposium.
"It’s time we got together and addressed their needs. Their mindset, environment and expectations are different from those of our generation. It’s a whole new ball game."
Dr Ismail said adolescent health issues had long been neglected because they were generally physically fit and rarely had organic disorders.
He added that hospitals may soon have wards specifically for adolescents.
"Adolescent health is a new area of medicine in Malaysia, and there is a big gap between the demand and supply for specialised services to address the unique needs of adolescents."
Malaysian Association of Adolescent Health (MAAH) president Dr Nazeli Hamzah said adolescents did things impulsively, craving instant gratification with little regard to the long-term effects of their actions. "This is because the adolescent brain is still being developed, and the emotional side of the brain is not properly connected to the thinking side."
Dr Ismail said the definition of health was not merely the absence of disease, but a complete state of well-being. With the emerging interest in mental health, adolescent issues are gaining prominence.
He said the number of adolescents who received counselling had increased from 11,887 in 2004 to 21,216 in 2005.
Additionally, 2,499 were referred to hospitals or other agencies for further management.
The symposium was jointly organised by MAAH, Mal- aysian Medical Association (MMA), Health Ministry, National Population and Family Development Board, Federation of Family Planning Associations and the Malaysian Pediatrics Association (MPA).
Present were Health Ministry’s Family Health Development Division director Dr E.G. Palaniyappan, MPA president Professor Dr Zulkifli Ismail and MMA president Datuk Dr Teoh Siang Chin.

Breast Cancer Survivors Help Create Public Awareness On Disease

KUCHING, March 24 (Bernama) -- The number of breast cancer cases in Sarawak can be brought down further with the support of the disease survivors in creating public awareness on prevention.
State Social Development and Urbanisation Minister, Datuk Seri William Mawan, said about 70 new cases were reported and admitted to the Sarawak General Hospital (SGH) here every year for treatment.
"There has been a substantial decline in the number of cases over the years and the people telling the stories are the breast cancer survivors themselves, who feel the need to share their personal experiences through the spirit of voluntarism," he told reporters after opening the Sarawak Breast Cancer Support Group (SBCSG) Centre here.
The centre, named "Matahari" is run by the SBCSG, which has 154 registered members, and provides resources and a helpline, especially to women newly diagnosed with cancer.
As was the case worldwide, Mawan said, breast cancer was the second biggest cause of morbidity and mortality among women in the country, with the Health Ministry investing a lot money to provide the necessary infrastructure and manpower to combat it and other types of cancer.
However, the government's efforts effort alone were not enough to deal with the potentially curable yet lethal disease as the public must be made aware of the importance of its early diagnosis, understanding and acceptance of modern treatment modalities and their side effects, he said.
Earlier, SBCSG president Suriani Rapaiee said the support group was initiated by one of the survivors together with the oncologist and staff of the SGH radiotheraphy unit in 1993.
"The survivors felt they needed their own 'little nest', where they would be able to interact, seek psycho-social support and share in a more comfortable and private environment at their own time and pace," she said.
Besides reaching out to other isolated survivors, the group organises talks on breast cancer and prevention as well as exhibitions with the support of non-governmental organisations and the community.
Suriani said it would also target the village security and development committees and secondary schools as part of its voluntary community programme in Sarawak.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Plan to woo tourists to medical centre

NST: KLANG: Medical tourism may soon feature as an attraction here with a proposal to build a multi-million ringgit medical centre in Teluk Gadong.
An international conglomerate, comprising local and foreign investors, has purchased a 2.5-hectare site for the project, which is awaiting approval from the Klang Municipal Council (MPK).
The plan includes a 14-storey medical centre, inclusive of a five-storey car park, which will cater to affluent and foreign patients.
Among the treatments to be offered are plastic surgery, dentistry and treatment for chronic diseases.
Klang councillor Alex Thiagarasan confirmed that MPK had been mulling over details of the proposed development for two years.
"The quality of the medical treatment and services proposed by the investors has the potential to put Klang on the world map in terms of medical tourism.
"They are looking to provide services equivalent to, or better than, what is being offered by hospitals in Thailand which is known internationally for medical tourism."
When approved, the project would take up to two years to complete.

Plan for better medical facilities at camps

NST: PASIR PUTIH: Each National Service camp will have its own medical staff, and ambulances will be stationed at isolated camps.
These are among the proposals by a joint technical committee from the NS Department and the Health and Defence Ministries that must be approved by the Cabinet.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said each camp clinic would have a doctor, three medical assistants and two trainee nurses. At the moment, they are staffed by two community nurses.
"We will also suggest adding more stretchers, inhalers for asthmatic trainees and other basic medications," he said after a surprise visit to the NS camp at Kisana Beach Resort yesterday.
"The technical committee has also found that several camps were too far from a hospital. They will need an ambulance as part of the medical services upgrade," he said.
The estimated cost of this alone is RM20 million.
"The technical committee also plans to look into the physical exercises the trainees must do."
Dr Chua also discussed the criticisms of the National Service. He said the majority of the 100,000 trainees who had gone through the programme had no complaints.
"On claims that diseases are spread through the camps, such things happen outside as well. The outbreaks reported in the camps, such as chicken pox, have not been that serious. There has not been one report of an outbreak of serious illnesses like dengue fever."
On conditions at the Kisana Beach Resort camp, Dr Chua said everything was in place although there was room for improvement.

Ambulance drivers must know first aid, says Chua

Star: AMBULANCE drivers must be able to perform first aid as they are part of the emergency response team, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek.
He told Nanyang Siang Pau that those with some experience could help save lives instead of just being drivers.
He said the ministry had made it compulsory for the drivers to join a short-term medical training course.
Dr Chua said the ministry would also operate an ambulance hotline centre to coordinate the operations of all ambulances.
Once an emergency call is received, it would inform the vehicle nearest to the address.
Dr Chua said the hotline was being tested in Johor, Penang, Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur.

Make sure it is an emergency

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The majority of the 33 million outpatients treated yearly at government hospitals and health clinics go to the accident and emergency (A&E) department but only about 30% need emergency treatment.
This means the A&E facilities are swamped with patients and those who really need urgent treatment are forced to wait, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek who appealed to Malaysians against taking advantage of the A&E facilities just because it was convenient.
“If they have an itch, they come to the A&E. And those who need swift treatment sometimes have to wait,” he told reporters yesterday after opening the 4th Asian Conference on Emergency Medicine 2007.
He added that patients with non-emergency conditions should instead make the effort to seek treatment during the daytime at the outpatient department.
On emergency medicine in the country, Dr Chua said pilot projects such as using motorcycles to be the first responders during an emergency or accidents and call centres to streamline hospital services and other agencies such as the St John’s Ambulance were being carried out.
He said that ambulance drivers were being trained to have basic first aid skills so that patients could be treated before reaching the hospital.
On a case at the Seremban Hospital where a man alleged that his month-old nephew nearly suffered brain damage and paralysis because of the careless treatment given by staff, Dr Chua said the matter would be investigated.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Man to sue over ambulance delay

NST: GEORGE TOWN: A factory worker claims that his wife would be alive today had she received prompt medical treatment, and he blames a hospital’s ambulance service for the delay.
Ghafur Mohd Ibrahim said yesterday that his wife, Yusnita Abas, 31, complained of severe headache about noon on Oct 13 last year. She went to a private doctor.
"The doctor advised her to seek treatment at the general hospital and she promptly went to the Kepala Batas Hospital," he said.
"She was at the hospital at 1pm, but was not attended to until she lapsed into a semi-consciousness state around 6pm."
Ghafur said doctors later realised Yusnita was suffering from a ruptured blood vessel and ordered that she undergo a CT scan at the Seberang Jaya Hospital.
The doctors also told him that Yusnita would have to undergo emergency surgery at the Penang Hospital if the CT scan showed there was a blood clot in her brain.
"It was later confirmed that there was a blood clot, but the ambulance that had rushed my wife to the Seberang Jaya Hospital was unable to take her to the Penang Hospital.
"The driver said the ambulance was in a bad condition and he needed to take another one from the Kepala Batas Hospital, so we drove back."
However, Ghafur was in for another shock when they reached the hospital. They were told that all the ambulances were out of petrol.
"It was close to 10pm by the time the problem was sorted out, and they only managed to take my wife to the Penang Hospital about 10.45pm.
"My wife was pronounced brain dead by the time we arrived at the Penang Hospital.
Yusnita died two days later.
"The doctor told me my wife could have been saved had she been brought in for surgery earlier."
Ghafur said he wrote to the Kepala Batas Hospital director demanding an explanation, and the latter replied through a letter dated March 2.
In the letter, which was made available to the New Straits Times, Dr Mohamad Sabri Othman acknowledged the incident and expressed his condolences.
He informed Ghafur that the hospital had taken several administrative steps to ensure that a similar incident did not recur.
These included disciplinary action against some staff and more stringent monitoring of the log book for ambulances.
The officers in charge of ambulances at the hospital were also directed to ensure proper maintenance of the vehicles and ensure they were never out of petrol.
Ghafur said he was not satisfied with the explanation and planned to sue the hospital for damages.

Princess nurses world-class goal

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Perak princess Raja Datuk Seri Azureen Sultan Azlan Shah yesterday became the first president of Masterskill College of Nursing and Health, a private higher education institution.
The princess said there was a lack of awareness of the importance of the role played by healthcare professionals such as nurses.
As president of the college, she hoped to instil pride in the students in their chosen vocation and to emphasise that it was not a second-class profession.
Raja Azureen said there was a critical shortage of nurses worldwide and the college was geared to train world-class nurses who can serve internationally.
Raja Azureen is also the president of the Malaysian National Society for the Deaf and patron for the Riding for the Disabled and Friends of the National Library.
College chief executive officer Edmund Santhara said the college aimed to make nursing a "brand" by exporting qualified, respected and admired nurses to the rest of the world.
"Malaysia has the right ingredients to produce top-notch nurses who can serve anywhere in the world, given our diverse cultures and multi religions and languages.
"We want to be on the world map, the Top 10 in providing healthcare professionals in the world by 2010.
"We are paradigm shifters. If there are not enough hospitals in Malaysia to train nurses, we send them overseas," Santhara said.
The first batch of trainees were sent to the Chettinad Institute of Research Hospital, Chennai, in India, for three months recently for their practical training.
The 1,200-bed hospital was the most high-tech in southern India, Santhara said.
He said the Sultan Azlan Shah Foundation had donated a 100ha piece of land between Jelapang and Chemor for the building of a campus.
The college has applied to upgrade to a university and is awaiting approval from the Ministry of Higher Education.
The Masterskill College of Nursing and Health offers three-year diploma courses in nursing, physiotherapy, medical imaging, pharmacy, environmental health, medical laboratory technology and health care.

Recognition For Traditional Medicine Degrees From China Necessary

KUALA LUMPUR, March 22 (Bernama) -- The degrees for traditional medicine specialists from China or any other country should be recognised by the government to avoid any misunderstanding when the integrated hospitals are set up, a non-government organisation (NGO) here said Thursday.
The secretary of the Malaysian Federation of the Associations of Chinese Traditional Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists, Ng Po Kok said the government should look into this aspect because once the concept became a reality, medical experts from China or the other countries might have to be taken in to work in government hospitals.
"Regardless of whether the medical experts are from China or other countries, their qualifications must be recognised by the government," he told Bernama.
The Higher Education Ministry should speed up the process of recognition to enable the medical experts to work in government hospitals in this country, he added.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek announced last year that experts in traditional medicines from Beijing University, Shanghai University and Nanjing University would assist in the implementation of the integrated hospitals.
Three hospitals have been picked for the project. They are Kepala Batas Hospital, Putrajaya Hospital, and Sultan Ismail Hospital in Johor Baharu.
Last February, Deputy Higher Education Minister Datuk Ong Tee Keat said once the Malaysian Qualifying Agency (MQA) was approved, it would help speed up the recognition of the qualifications.
He added that Chinese medical experts or ‘tabib’ usually preferred to work on their own because they could earn more money.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

No miracle cure

Star: Be wary of traditional medicines that claim to cure serious ailments.

THE country got a wake up call to take a closer look at traditional and complementary medicine (TCM) in 2002 when Singapore actress Andrea De Cruz suffered liver failure after taking some slimming pills. The pills were subsequently banned in Malaysia and Singapore. We were reminded that we should be wary of advertisers’ promises about the efficacy and safety of such products.
However, most of us have short memories and soon enough, unscrupulous advertisers were back in action again. Some recent advertising claims have caught the attention of the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA), which is concerned over uncontrolled use of TCM which claims to “cure” serious ailments like cancer and chronic diseases like hypertension and diabetes.
Malaysian Oncological Society president Dr Gurcharan Singh says 80% of cancer patients only come forward when they are already in the late stages of the disease. He stresses the need for greater public awareness of the signs and symptoms of cancer, and that patients should get evidenced-based treatment.
“It is very unfortunate that some patients have been misled into believing that treatment for cancer, such as chemotherapy and radiation, are so terrible that it would be better to die than to go through treatment.
“The fact is, medical science has made many advances and cancer treatment has come a long way. Just because you’ve been diagnosed with cancer doesn’t mean it’s a life sentence. Many have responded well to conventional Western treatment and have gone on to lead full lives,” Dr Gurcharan adds.
While the MMA is not against TCM, it strongly believes that there should be adequate control to ensure it is practised honestly and ethically. Due to advertising gimmicks and publicity, people are misled about the value of herbal treatment for serious ailments and chronic medical conditions that require early treatment and regular follow up.
Those diagnosed with cancer feel they have been pushed to the edge of the cliff and so understandably, grab hold of whatever gives them hope, be it TCM or some other “miracle cure”. Many are willing to fork out large sums of money for products, in the desperate hope of getting better.
“Many patients could have been treated and saved if they had done the right thing by coming forward to have their cancer treated early,” said Datuk Dr Lee Yan San, the MMA representative on the Health Ministry’s Standing Committee on TCM.
Statistics show that those with high blood pressure and diabetes are able to live longer if their conditions are carefully monitored and under control, with medication.
“Any form of exercise such as wai tang kong, tai chi or chi kong is encouraged. However, these should be not be promoted as something with miracle benefits,” Dr Lee adds.
Dr Lee, whose father was a Chinese sinseh, readily admits that some TCM treatments, for example certain herbal products, have been found to be useful for certain ailments through clinical usage over a long period of time. However, some advertisements overstate and make claims which can’t be substantiated and this amounts to misinforming the public.
Currently, only Western medicine is governed by strict laws against such publicity. The Health Ministry approves traditional medicine on safety and quality but not on efficacy. TCM does not undergo full procedures of clinical trials to prove their efficacy.
In Malaysia, the government bans advertisement of TCM for 20 diseases including cancer, hypertension, diabetes, AIDS and kidney failure. Yet, advertisements claiming to cure such diseases still appear.
“Some years ago, there was a three-day full page advertisement in a Chinese press claiming a certain diet and herbs from the United States can help cancer patients. We feel it is wrong to offer false hope to terminally ill patients who are desperately seeking for cures,” Dr Lee says.
“Consumer confidence is further boosted by erroneous assumptions that ‘natural’ means ‘safe’. The public fails to realise that herbs contain active substances and some may be potentially harmful.”
The message is clear: While patients may want to try alternative therapies, they must come forward to seek evidence-based conventional Western therapy first.

Prisons to have panel clinics by next month

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: By early next month, prisons throughout the country will have their own panel clinics.
Deputy Internal Security Minister Datuk Fu Ah Kiow said all 37 prisons would be provided their own doctors, who would be aided by hospital assistants.
“This is to ensure the prisoners are given the best medical treatment and check-ups will be conducted as often as necessary to ensure the health of inmates,” Fu said after attending the launch of a 25-page colour pull-out published by China Press Berhad in conjunction with the 200th Police Day celebrations this Sunday.
He refuted a report published in a local English daily yesterday that the situation in prisons had reached a critical level and there was great concern over the fast spreading of diseases among prisoners.
“Congestion is a factor but we are in full control of the situation. I have said earlier that the problem of overcrowded prisons or detention centres will be eased with the completion of 16 new facilities, hopefully, by end of the year,” he said.
Nine of the prisons under construction are in Jawi, Bentong, Macang, Sungai Uda, Kuching, Penang, Johor Baru, Lahad Datu and Linggi.
The new facilities can hold 15,000 prisoners.
The RM3.1bil projects will house administrative sections, workshops and training areas, health facilities, clinics, visitor blocks, basic sports facilities, kitchens and dining halls, staff clubhouses and workers’ quarters.
Presently, prisons and detention centres can hold 31,000 people, but there are 39,000 prisoners in the country.
Fu said the Simpang Renggam detention centre was slightly overcrowded and inmates would be moved to the Kamunting centre.
He also refuted claims published in the report that prisoners had been afflicted with HIV/AIDS after being placed with other inmates.
“The claims are baseless. In the first place, prisoners who are afflicted with HIV/AIDS had the virus before they were caught. Such prisoners are placed separately,” Fu added.
Prisons Department deputy director-general Datuk Zulkifli Omar said overcrowding in prisons was a manageable problem that could be dealt with through the implementation of short and long-term plans.
“We will be introducing the parole system soon as has been decided by the Cabinet.
“Another step taken will be to implement a Community Service Order, whereby those charged with very small offences would not have to be sent to prison – instead they can serve their sentences in other ways,” he said.

Things looking up for Down Syndrome kids

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: More people are now aware that Down Syndrome is not infectious and parents with children afflicted by this ailment are no longer keeping them at home.
Toh Puan Ena Ling, patron of Kiwanis Down Syndrome Foundation (KDSF), said there is a lot more knowledge about the syndrome today.
“When the foundation was established 18 years ago, it had two objectives – to educate Down Syndrome children from six months to six years of age, and to create public awareness about Down Syndrome,” she said.
Ena Ling was attending the World Down Syndrome Day event held at Pantai Medical Centre (PMC) here organised by KDSF and PMC with the theme “Celebrating Diversity”.
They joined organisations worldwide in paying tribute to the Down Syndrome community. March 21was chosen as it is symbolic in signifying the presence of extra genetic material on the 21st chromosome, which results in Down Syndrome.
About 80 children, parents, caregivers and hospital staff attended the event held at PMC hall.
PMC chief executive officer Choy Wah Wei said the Down Syndrome incidence is one in every 660 live births and although there is no cure, children with the syndrome will benefit from loving homes, early intervention, special education, appropriate medical care and a positive attitude.
The celebrations also included performances from individuals with Down Syndrome. One of them, 10-year-old Hang Chuen Wern, asked , “Do you see me like others?” and 32-year-old Eugene Wong told his life story as a testimony of what a person with Down Syndrome is capable of as he was active in school and is currently working with KDSF.
KDSF National Centre chairman Tee Han Cheong said parents with Down Syndrome children can contact the centre for support, advice and education for their kids at 03-78030179 or visit

Fake sex pills seized

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: A whopping RM14mil worth of counterfeit sex stimulant pills closely resembling Viagra were seized in Penang on March 13.
It was the biggest seizure of a single drug in Malaysian history.
The Health Ministry's pharmacy enforcement team, together with Customs officers who conducted the bust, sensed something was amiss when the “little blue pills” were labelled as vitamins.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said the container from Singapore had 142 boxes of pills called “Miagra,” which were discovered to contain Sildenafil – the active ingredient in Viagra.
“The RM14mil pills were labelled as vitamins but upon closer inspection the drugs were found to be unregistered and illegally brought in.
“It is believed that the pills were for the Malaysian market while some of them could have been for Thailand.
“We are still conducting investigations to identify the company responsible for this,” said Dr Chua, adding that details of the investigations could not yet be revealed.
Chua said that if found guilty, the culprit could face a fine of RM50,000 or be sentenced to three years' jail, or both, under the Drug Sales Act 1952.
Speaking to the press after officiating the Health Ministry Media Awards Night here yesterday, Dr Chua cautioned all men not to use such illegal and unregistered drugs as they could be dangerous.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Subang Jaya has highest number of dengue cases

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Subang Jaya recorded the highest number of dengue cases in the first 11 weeks of the year.
As of last Saturday, the municipality recorded 1,023 suspected dengue cases with five deaths, outstripping Shah Alam, which recorded 711 cases.
Parliamentary secretary to the Health Ministry Datuk Lee Kah Choon said that for this year, the number of suspected dengue infections stood at 12,086 cases.
“This number is still high, particularly for areas in Selangor and Federal Territory, which continue to be the hotspots for dengue infections,” he told reporters after a briefing with health and local authority officers at his office here yesterday.
Lee said the Government remained concerned over the lack of effort shown by some residents in the Klang Valley in controlling the spread of the disease and the breeding of aedes mosquitoes.
“For instance, we have had problems with abandoned houses and barred premises, which proved to be obstacles to health officers checking for mosquito breeding.
“Residents must also keep an eye out on houses undergoing renovations. More often than not, these premises are not taken care of and unwanted materials are just dumped outside the compound and clog up drains.
“We can’t fine or compound these property owners even if the rubbish is found to be a breeding ground for aedes because it is outside their premises.
“The neighbours should instead make sure that the rubbish is collected or disposed of properly because if there is any breeding of mosquitoes, they are the ones at risk of contracting dengue,” he said.
Lee said the ministry was also mulling over the possibility of setting up “dengue centres”, like those currently set up by the health officers in the Petaling district.
“Our officers establish a 200m radius around a dengue hotspot and methodically carry out fogging, eradication and education programmes.
“But under the dengue centre system, the residents staying within the area are roped into these programmes and then given a map showing the area where cases have surfaced,” he said.

Vector-borne diseases a growing threat, says doc

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Deforestation and ever increasing migration numbers are among the reasons for a rise in vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue.
Researcher and former head of the Institute of Medical Research (IMR)'s Parasitology Unit Dr V. Indra said the cutting down of forests would lead to animals like monkeys being forced to wander into areas inhabited by humans.
“This means the monkeys (who also act as reservoirs) would be carrying whatever parasites they have with them. The mosquitoes that usually feed on the monkeys will also tag along, increasing the risk of vector-borne disease transmission,” she said in a plenary paper at the 43rd annual scientific seminar of the Malaysian Society of Parasitology and Tropical Medicine here yesterday.
Dr Indra said the different vectors for such diseases were present in Malaysia and the country has to ensure it was ready to fight the parasites that can be transmitted.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek, in his speech read by IMR director Dr Shahnaz Murad, said there was a need to speed up approaches to combat infectious diseases.
“Our enemy in the form of infectious agents is only one. Diseases that could have been confined to one nation today, due to migration of population, travels and globalisation, possess sufficient potential to be pervasive enough to reach the shores of another,” he added.
Dr Chua said the rise in temperature due to global warming,natural disasters and unhealthy lifestyles have pushed countries into very vulnerable positions.
“Increasing temperatures may be conducive to vector-borne parasite transmission, and this facilitated by floods and unpredictable rains, could pose challenges in the future.”

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Unruly traffic conditions lead to charging for parking at KL hospital

Star: PETALING JAYA: The decision to charge for parking at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital was because of unruly traffic conditions, traffic jams and misuse of the parking facilities by the public, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek.
"Parking has become a complicated matter and there have been many complaints from staff, doctors and nurses who work at the hospital, that they can't find parking," he told reporters on Tuesday after the media launch of the 24th Kiwanis Treasure Hunt.
"It becomes more dangerous when they are on call and reach the hospital with no place to park their cars.
"The Cabinet has decided that it is time to charge for parking and have a more orderly system where staff get priority. It is not a question of revenue, it is to give better services."
He added that there were instances of the public parking their vehicles at the hospital parking lots for the whole day and only leaving in the night or the next day while others made it their main route causing traffic jams.
Subsequently, he said that from the 1,600 parking lots, 1,300 would be reserved for staff like doctors, nurses and those involved in providing services, especially during emergencies.
Chinese newspapers had reported yesterday that visitors to the hospital have had to drive around looking for parking because the doctors and nurses have taken up most of the lots.
It also voiced complaints from the public that while they have to pay for the parking, they were still unable to find lots to park.
One patient said that he missed his appointment because he could not find parking.
Dr Chua said that the payment charged by the company, which was appointed through an open tender, was minimal.
Among the negotiations with the company was that it would be free for hospital staff, RM2 for the public with no more than RM10 a day, while a flat rate of RM2 was being considered for relatives of patients with chronic diseases.

Training manual to tackle sexual issues faced by children with disabilities

Star: PETALING JAYA: A training manual to tackle sexual and reproductive health issues for children and teenagers with disabilities is in its final stages of development by the Health Ministry.
Its minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said that the manual would focus on the personal care and safety of the child with special needs to prevent them from getting abused.
"We have to face reality that sexual harassment will continue to happen," he told reporters on Tuesday after the media launch of the 24th Kiwanis Treasure Hunt.
"The manual is to help doctors and people to identify and treat. There are guidelines and procedures to follow especially when the person is unable to communicate effectively."
The treasure hunt is organised by the Kiwanis Club of Kuala Lumpur which hopes to raise RM125,000 to help the Kiwanis Down Syndrome Foundation National Centre here, Joy Training Workshop in Malacca, Kiwanis Orphanage in Batu Pahat and other Kiwanis Club of Kuala Lumpur community service projects.
Earlier in his speech, Dr Chua said that Down Syndrome was the most prevalent chromosomal disorder which occurred about one of every 650 births.
This meant, he said that 770 children in Malaysia were born with the disorder yearly and that about 46,200 children and adults have Down Syndrome assuming that the lifespan of a person with the condition is 60 years.
"This figure could even be larger, as no study has been done on the actual situation," he said.
He said that early detection and intervention were important to getting "better outcome" for babies with Down Syndrome adding that more than 90% of deliveries were in hospitals and all babies were examined by doctors before discharge.
Children who have Down Syndrome features will be followed up by the paediatrician and go through check ups for confirmation.
Dr Chua said that child developmental screening is also done at all health clinics, community clinics and mobile clinics throughout Malaysia and any suspected case of delayed development is closely monitored and started on early intervention programme.
There are also 140 health centres, which provide rehabilitation services for children with special needs including Down Syndrome.

Samy Vellu Explains Cause Of Delay In Building Alor Setar Hospital

KUALA LUMPUR, March 20 (Bernama) -- A period of up to one year to verify the strength of the foundation of the Sultanah Bahiyah Hospital in Alor Setar that was built on former soft padi-growing land was partly contributory to the overall delay in the construction of the facility, the Dewan Rakyat was told Tuesday.
"The padi land was soft and the foundation had to go down some 120 feet (36 metres). We needed up to one year to ensure that the foundation was really strong," said Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu when replying to a supplementary question from Dr Tan Seng Giaw (DAP-Kepong).
Dr Tan had wanted to know the reason for the delay in the construction of several projects of the Works Ministry, including the Sultanah Bahiyah Hospital.
Samy Vellu said the construction was also delayed by several additions that had to be made to the hospital building because the safety level had to be taken into account at each step of the construction.
"At first, the construction went on as per the time specified in the contract but subsequently there was a request from higher authorities for a hospital such as the National Heart Institute (IJN).

Monday, March 19, 2007

Your office could be making you sick

NST: PUTRAJAYA: If the building you work in is "sick", there is a likelihood that you too could fall ill.
And you could also fall ill even if you are a long distance away from it.
This is called the Sick Building Syndrome, where the building-related illnesses can be caused by chemical and biological agents in the buildings.
Exposure to them can cause pneumonitis, occupational asthma, tuberculosis and hypersensitivity.
Public Works Department health branch director Datuk Puteh Kamariah Mohamad said individuals could also contract multiple chemical sensitivity or environmental illnesses where they could develop sensitivity to even low levels of certain chemicals, due to extended exposure.
"Why all the concern now?
"People are spending more than 90 per cent of their time indoors," she said in a working paper highlighting that this concern is also related to the fact that humans consume 25,000 litres of air a day.
She classified three kinds of hazardous particles and aerosols that are light enough to be suspended in the air.
These are from construction activities, printing or photocopying.
There are also some chemical reactions in which vapours condense to form particles like dust, smoke, fumes and mist.
Puteh Kamariah said cleaners, adhesives, furnishings and even flooring could produce airborne chemicals.
A Mayo Clinic research showed that 97 per cent of chronic sinusitis cases are caused by moulds.
Highlighting the dangers of these microscopic organisms which grow and produce incessantly, she said they could also be the cause of other problems like asthma and allergies.
The countless spores released end up in the nose and lungs where there is warmth, dampness and nutrients.
Meanwhile, a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health study on occupants of buildings showed that the occupants suffered a myriad of symptoms, including (in order of frequency) eye irritation, dry throats, head- aches, fatigue, sinus congestion, skin irritation, shortness of breath, coughs, dizziness and nausea.
Puteh Kamariah said the Green Buildings initiative, launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Thursday, would help promote buildings that are designed not only to eliminate wastage of energy and natural resources but also provide a healthy environment for people to live and work in.

Alor Star hospital ready soon

Star: THE Sultanah Bahiyah Hospital in Alor Star that was handed over to the Health Ministry by the Works Ministry will be opened in September, Mingguan Malaysia reported.
The hospital project, which took off in August 2000, was supposed to be completed in 2003, it said.
It ran into controversy when Sultan of Kedah Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah showed his displeasure over the delay in his speech during his 79th birthday celebration recently.
Health Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican was reported as saying that the ministry needed six months to carry out checks on the hospital before it was fully operational.
He said it was a normal procedure as the ministry wanted to make sure everything ranging from the equipment to the facilities were in order.
“We have received a letter from the Works Ministry on the handing over," he said, adding that the hospital would have 730 beds with 23 normal wards and 11 intensive care units.

No Fast-food Adverts During Children's Peak Hours Please - Lee

SEREMBAN, March 18 (Bernama) -- The Health Ministry will propose for fast-food advertisements not to be shown on television during children's peak hours to prevent the young from being influenced.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry Datuk Lee Kah Choon said the proposal covered air time between 4pm and 8pm on weekdays and from 10am to 12pm on weekends.
This was because most children programmes including cartoons were shown during that period, he told reporters after launching a health camp and exhibition hosted by Gerakan here.
"Besides, fast-food operators should also label the calorie content in the products so that the public know the effects.
"We also hope they will show the amount of calorie needed by the body and the amount contained in the food served so that consumers know how much to take," he said.
Lee said the ministry had met the food operators and they had agreed to the suggestion.
The draft proposal was in the final stage and would be submitted to the Cabinet soon, he said.
It would be up to the Cabinet to decide on the proposed advertisement ban in the electronic media, he added.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Internet self-cures dangerous

Star: JOHOR BARU: Better education and technology access are encouraging more people to browse the Internet looking for cures and self-medication, putting themselves at great risk of seriously worsening their health.
In a bid to separate the false promises, myths and facts about heart disease and cancer, the National Committee on Community Services of Malaysian Red Crescent Society and the Parkway Healthcare Group are holding a public seminar on the latest advances in managing and treating these diseases.
According to Parkway Cancer Centre medical director Datuk Dr Ang Peng Tiam, there were cancers such as testicular cancer that had high chances of being treated.
For those concerned with getting bald after undergoing che- motherapy treatment, Dr Ang said there were drugs that could prevent such loss now.
The “Early Detection – The Path To Cure” seminar will be held at The Zon on March 24.

Physios not keen to work in goverment homes for disabled

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Physiotherapists in Malaysia are not interested in working in government-run homes for the disabled, said Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk G. Palanivel.
“We have enough physiotherapists in the country, but they don't like to work in the government homes for the disabled.
“And that is a problem,” he told the press after launching the Living and Learning Aids for Handicapped Children project here yesterday.
He said that the positions were available, and the allocations for hiring them were already in place.
“But what is lacking are the therapists.
“We have advertised and called for people to fill these positions, but nobody wants to do it,” he said.
According to the Ministry's Social Welfare Department director-general Datuk Rafek Reshidullah, there are 11 homes for the disabled that are in need of physiotherapists.
At the event organised by the Rotary Club of Kuala Lumpur in partnership with Siemens, 100 children received 100 pairs of hearing aids valued at RM550,000 in total, in the first phase of their project.
Club president David Teh said that in phase two and three of the project, they aimed to help the visually impaired and mentally challenged children by providing aids such as magnifying glasses, talking watches, personal learning tools and balancing tools.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

More using sleeping pills, few complaints

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: While the use of sleeping pills in Malaysia is increasing, there are very few cases of patients suffering from unusual side effects, a psychiatrist said.
Hospital Bahagia Tanjung Rambutan director Dr Suarn Singh said very few people had complained of side effects, such as waking up in the middle of the night or wandering around without having any recollection of it.
"These side effects occur very rarely," the senior consultant psychiatrist told the New Straits Times yesterday.
Dr Suarn was commenting on a report in the NST yesterday on the findings by the US Food and Drug Administration, which claimed that some of the most widely used sleeping pills could cause strange behaviour, like driving and eating while asleep.
He said doctors prescribing common drugs such as zolpidem and midazolam (which are marketed in Malaysia under the brand names Stilnox and Dormicum respectively) would always advise patients and their families about the possible side effects.
"Most general practitioners prescribe these drugs as they give immediate relief to patients who have trouble sleeping.
"These drugs are short-acting, which means they only knock you out for a few hours and you feel fresh and well-rested when you wake up."
Dr Suarn said the increase in the use of sleeping pills among Malaysians could be due to a rising number of people suffering from depression, as insomnia was a symptom of depression.
He said doctors were being trained to identify depression and prescribe the appropriate treatment instead of symptomatic medication.
Sleeping pills, classified as psychotropic drugs, are available on prescription only.
An anaesthetist said he was sceptical about prescribing sleeping pills to patients and only prescribed Dormicum or Valium in rare cases.
"Even then, I only prescribe a maximum of two pills. If they need more, I refer them to a specialist.
"Very often, we can tell if the person is abusing the sleeping pills, by the symptoms they display when asking for the medication."
He said he had prescribed Stilnox before, based on a patient’s request, but had never heard of anyone suffering from side effects after taking it.
Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society president John Chang said patients on sleeping medication had to follow the correct dosage, as an overdose could cause unusual side effects.
"While sleeping pills are helpful to those having trouble sleeping, it can be harmful if too many are taken. Patients must listen to their doctors and follow the correct dosage."
He also advised patients not to take sleeping pills with alcohol or other medication.
The Health Ministry’s pharmaceutical services division director Datuk Mohd Zin Che Awang said there had not been any cases where patients on Stilnox had suffered side effects.
"So far, we have not received any complaints of adverse reaction to this medication," he said.
Quoting the MIMS Reference system, Mohd Zin said anterograde amnesia could occur in patients using Stilnox, and this was already stated on the product label.

Colleges urged to team up for nursing degree courses

Star: IPOH: Colleges offering nursing courses are encouraged to do twinning programmes with local and foreign universities.
Higher Education Ministry deputy director-general Prof Dr Mahani Zainal Abidin said currently only four out of the 27 colleges nationwide offered degree courses.
“It will also make nursing a promising vocation for the youngsters at colleges,” she told reporters after conferring a private institution of higher learning status to Hospital Fatimah’s School of Nursing here yesterday.
Dr Mahani said nursing was in high demand among school leavers and the ministry received a lot of applications to set up new nursing colleges.
“There are a lot of applications but we will not simply approve them. There are many aspects that need to be examined before we can give our approval,” she said.
She also said the ministry was studying the different fee structures imposed by nursing colleges nationwide.
“We cannot understand why there are big differences in the fees imposed by the colleges,” she said, citing one college which charged about RM50,000 for a diploma. “We can’t determine if the RM50,000 fee is reasonable as we realise nursing courses involve a lot of equipment and practical work,” she said.
On a related matter, Dr Mahani urged colleges to encourage more males to take up nursing as a career.
She said the profession needed more male nurses to tend to elderly male or Muslim patients who might be uncomfortable with female nurses.

Two weeks for industry to fine-tune plan

Star: PETALING JAYA: The fast food industry has been given two weeks to fine-tune its proposal to the Health Ministry on issues such as dietary labelling and advertisements.
The proposal would be submitted to Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek.
The ministry’s food safety and quality division director Dr Abd Rahim Mohamad said yesterday the first technical committee meeting on the matter emphasised on the ministry’s needs and social obligation of the fast food industry.
The committee would decide later on the need to have legislation such as banning television advertisements during programmes for children under 12.

Handover of Alor Star’s hospital completed

Star: KOTA MARUDU: The controversy over the handing over of Alor Star’s new RM500mil Hospital Sultanah Bahiyah has been resolved. The hospital is now in the hands of the Health Ministry.
Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu said yesterday that the letter on the handover had been sent to the Health Ministry.
“The matter is settled. I already called my D-G and the official handover letter was sent on March 15 (Thursday),” he said after a briefing at the district office here.
“We do not have any more problems regarding the land issues.”
The new hospital, which will replace Hospital Alor Star, had initially been scheduled for completion in 2003 but had been delayed several times.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek had expressed regret over the delays in the handing over of the hospital.
Samy Vellu, meanwhile, said that the RM330mil works on upgrading the Kota Marudu-Ranau road would be implemented soon.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Similar cases reported in Malaysian hospitals

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Sleeping pills have caused unusual side effects in at least three cases in Hospital Kuala Lumpur, said the head of its Department of Medicine.
A patient dosed with the sleeping pill, Stilnox, woke up in the middle of the night, and wandered around the general ward, said Datuk Dr Jeyaindran Sinnadurai.
The patient told the nurse who found him that he was looking for the door to his garden.
The nurse brought him back to his bed, where he quickly fell asleep, said Dr Jeyaindran, who had prescribed the sleeping pill.
"He was in a dream state, and he must have thought he was at home."
The next day, the patient did not remember what had happened the previous night.
His family said that he had not sleep-walked before.
This happened two years ago when the 65-year-old professional was admitted for depression.
"We put him again on the same drug the next day, and he sleep-walked again," he said.
It did not recur when Dr Jeyaindran gave him a different drug.
"It’s not a common side effect but it can happen," he said.
"Doctors should inform patients of such side effects so that family members are more prepared."
Dr Jeyaindran has continued to prescribe Stilnox for patients, and no similar side effects have emerged.
But it is not the only sleeping pill that has caused such side effects.
Another patient, prescribed Dormi- cum, woke up, had a conversation with his wife, did some chores around the house and went back to sleep.
He could not recall any of it the next day, Dr Jeyaindran said.
A third patient, also on Dormicum, woke up and sent emails to friends and colleagues.
Sleeping pills are often prescribed to give temporary relief to those suffering from stress, depression and chronic insomnia.
Health Ministry’s pharmaceutical services division director Datuk Mohd Zin Che Awang said all drugs carry warnings of adverse effects, which doctors should relay to patients and their family members.
"Many don’t, thinking there will not be any adverse effects."
Sleeping pills, classified as psychotropic drugs, are available on prescription only.

More ready to fight HFMD

Star: MIRI: All hospitals in Sarawak are now equipped with facilities to quickly identify the usually lethal Enterovirus 71 (EV71) strain of the hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD).
This means the state authorities can move more swiftly to contain any outbreak and hopefully prevent deaths as they need not rely on outside help to identify this dangerous strain.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam said the state government and health authorities had made significant headway in dealing with the HFMD that killed up to 13 people during last year’s outbreak around this time of the year.
“Before this, we had to send samples taken from infected people to Kuala Lumpur and even Australia in order to positively identify the virus.
“Now, Sarawak can identify the EV71 within 72 hours. This is important because EV71 usually brings serious consequences.
“It is very infectious. It can spread from one group of people to another within days, even from one housing estate to the next.
“Now we are better equipped to deal with any such outbreak,” he told a press conference yesterday.
Dr Chan, who is chairman of the State Disaster Relief Committee, said that so far this year the HFMD in the state had not erupted to the level it was during this period last year.
The number of new cases is only about 30 daily and there have been no deaths.
“The number of cases daily has not reached a level that can be considered worrying,” he noted.
To a question, he said the state health department remained baffled as to why the HFMD EV71 strain showed up in a cycle of every three years.
“There are still no results from the studies we have conducted on this aspect (since the January 2006 outbreak),” he said.
On a separate matter concerning the grouses over the state land lease renewal, Dr Chan said the Sarawak United People’s Party had forwarded its input to the state government based on the feedback from members of the public throughout the state.

Building with fungus and leaky pipes still under warranty

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Ampang Hospital’s contractors will have to rectify the problems in the building as it is still under warranty, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek.
During yesterday’s visit to Ampang Hospital, which is reportedly infested with fungi in its ceilings and had leaking sewage pipes, Dr Chua said new buildings were expected to have glitches.
“The warranty only expires in September, so all the problems will be repaired,” he told reporters after a briefing with hospital director Dr Zaidah Hussain and Selangor Health director Datin Dr Ang Kim Teng.
The RM404mil hospital, one of four built to reduce congestion at Kuala Lumpur Hospital, was meant to be the national reference centre for haematology cases.
Dr Chua said it was all right for fungi to grow in hospitals as long as it was not in sensitive areas such as the operation theatre, intensive care unit and cardiac care unit.
“We will close the place if there is fungus in sensitive areas, just like we closed Pandan Hospital (in Johor) because there was fungus in the operation theatre,” said Dr Chua, adding that at the moment there was no need to close Ampang Hospital.
He was commenting on two reports in The Star on Tuesday and Wednesday highlighting complaints from staff and patients that the hospital’s ceilings were fungus-ridden and that faeces fell from the sewage pipes.
Dr Chua explained that the ceilings in the paediatric clinic were fungus-ridden because the clinic was located below the intensive care unit, where the air-conditioning was set at a temperature between 18°C and 20°C and turned on24 hours a day compared with the clinic, which has its air conditioning turned on only eight hours a day.
He also urged the public not to have “fungus phobia” as many antibiotics such as penicillin and amphetamine were made from fungus.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Public hospital for Shah Alam

Star: SHAH ALAM: Selangor's capital will have its first public hospital soon. It will be built on a 12ha piece of land in Section 7 to reduce the congestion at the Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital in neighbouring Klang.
State Health, Tourism and Consumer Affairs Committee chairman Datuk Dr Lim Thuang Seng said yesterday that the project was approved by the Health Ministry last year and tenders for the construction have been awarded.
Construction is expected to be completed in two to three years, he added.
The new 300-bed hospital, costing about RM300mil, would be the 12th public hospital in Selangor.
Shah Alam has several private hospitals but no general hospital.
Dr Lim said the new hospital would have an emergency unit and various specialist sections such as paediatric, orthopaedic, ENT (ear, nose and throat), obstetrics and gynaecology, physiology and anaesthesiology.
“The new hospital can provide better services to people here besides reducing the burden on the overloaded Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital,” he said.