Sunday, January 27, 2008

Do research and get opinions, say experts

NST: LASER and cosmetic consultant Dr Kuladeva Ratnam advises his patients to get as many opinions as they can.
Dr Ratnam, who has a private practice in Bangsar, believes that while the Health Ministry is playing its role in weeding out bogus operators, patients owe it to themselves to do some checking.
"All surgical procedures come with risks, but it is important to choose a surgeon who is able to handle any complication in the event of an emergency," he said.
Patients should demand a medical screening and allergy tests before going under the knife.
Said consultant occupational physician Dr Alice Prethima: "If you are scheduled for a nip and tuck and your surgeon has not asked for your medical records, this is a clear sign that he does not have your best interest at heart."
Many are unaware of the allergies they have, especially to antibiotics. There is also a possibility of being "hyper" to foreign substances that may cause complications.
With silicone and other fillers easily available, people need to be extra cautious.
"I was shocked when a woman with a bag full of liquid walked into my clinic requesting to be injected with whatever she had brought with her," Dr Alice said.
The substance turned out to be an industrial-type silicone, not for use on humans. It was claimed the liquid could enhance the breasts, hips or buttocks.
Dr Alice says that in most botched nip and tuck cases, the patients cannot identify the product that was used, making it all the more difficult to address the problem.
"Any good substance for cosmetic purposes should be sterile-packed and easily identifiable from the packaging.
"We are in an 'information age' where there is ample opportunity to do your own research and learn from other people's experiences through websites and forums."
Dr Alice warns against trying to mimic cosmetic procedures done on friends and family, as each person's body and cells react differently.
"For someone who is overweight, I would advise against having liposuction. This procedure is for clearing 'difficult' fats and not for changing your overall body shape.
"In this instance, non-invasive procedures should be considered before taking such a big risk under the knife."
When choosing the surgeon, she suggests that the patient insists on speaking to the attending doctor directly and not the receptionist or "consultant".
"Most beauty consultants work by commission and are in competition to win over customers. There are reports of clients receiving contradictory advice from the same clinic.
"Any Tom, Dick and Harry can be trained, but it is in the face of complications when the truth is revealed."
Lee Swee Seng, a mediator with Medical Defence Malaysia, says people should conduct research before any surgery.
"Do your research for whatever it is worth. Get second opinions if necessary. The Internet has proven to be a valuable avenue for information.
"It wouldn't hurt to ask the doctor if you could get in touch with one of his clients to find out about the surgery."

Courting misery with a nip and tuck

NST: SHE wanted big breasts but ended up without breasts.
Twenty-eight-year-old Anna Teoh (name changed to protect her identity) never failed to get flattering looks from men and women, yet she was dissatisfied. She felt bigger breasts would make her even more attractive and decided on breast augmentation.
She chose a doctor who came highly recommended by friends. The doctor, she was told, was from Taiwan and was in Kuala Lumpur on a holiday.
After the operation, Teoh started feeling sore. But she ignored it as the "surgeon" had warned her it was to be expected. After a few sleepless nights and days of pain, she noticed that her breasts were swollen and painful to the touch. Worse, pus was oozing at the area operated on.
She rushed to a hospital, where she underwent an emergency double mastectomy because of severe infection.
Teoh's story is but one example of how the quest for beauty can go horribly wrong.
The MCA Public Service and Complaints Department has received more than 10 complaints of cosmetic surgeries going awry, according to its head Datuk Michael Chong.
"The problem is, some of these women did not go to a properly certified surgeon. They sought out 'doctors' or 'surgeons' through advertisements in the newspaper. In some cases, the 'doctors' had conspired with beauticians to be recommended to potential customers.
"When the patients realise their lives are in danger, they seek our help and we refer them for medical treatment, or for legal advice when the cases involved certified surgeons."
He said these women would go for the surgery even when it was done in places such as hotel rooms, the backroom of a beauty salon or a house.
"No self-respecting doctor or surgeon would operate in hotel rooms. But these women choose to listen to their friends or to beauticians."
Faced with this problem, the Health Ministry ruled last October that breast implants, liposuction, eyelid surgery, laser and light-based therapies and hair transplants should not be done by private general practitioners.
The restriction also extended to the use of Vitamin C, placental extract, stem cells and growth hormones by these "physicians".
This, it appears, has had little effect, and the ministry is working on several proposals and drafts to amend the law.
In the meantime, it is business as usual for these "wellness" centres, beauty salons and "physicians". One company even promises a one-stop shop for "your every need".
One reason why some women prefer to have cosmetic surgery done by general practitioners or "physicians" at beauty parlours or hotel rooms is that it is cheaper.
According to lawyer P.S. Ranjan, a consultant in medical ethics, some patients were penny-wise and pound foolish. "They plan to save money when they go for such treatments, but basically they get what they pay for.
"They should go to someone with the proper qualifications and experience. Beauticians and traditional healers claim to do all sorts of things. These quacks and charlatans should be dealt with severely. Patients should be clear of who they are going to and have reasonable expectations."
He said cosmetic surgery had therapeutic value as it could make people happy.
"In some cases, it can improve the patient's quality of life. But, sometimes, what they really need is not a cosmetic surgeon but a good friend, counsellor, husband or boyfriend."
Added Ranjan, "You should not live by others' expectations. Symmetry is one of the things cosmetic aspects are concerned with, but all of us are asymmetrical. You can learn to live with perceived defects. After all, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder."

D-G: Heal the holistic way with behavioural medicine

Star: PENANG: Medical practitioners should invest in and adopt behavioural medicine to treat and curb illnesses, Health Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said.
He said studies have proven that the application of behavioural medicine in treating patients resulted in positive outcomes.
“There is need to develop a multidiscipline medical care system. Behavioural medicine is the interdisciplinary field concerned with the psychosocial aspect of illnesses, health and healing. It promotes spiritual and mental well-being that are crucial to a person’s physical well being,” he said in his keynote address at the Conference of Behavioural Medicine.
“It is a holistic way to treat illnesses and the Health Ministry has established the Institution of Behavioural Research and introduced tradition and contemporary medicine, where behavioural medicine is the key element, in three hospitals.”
Datuk Dr Teng Hock Nan, who attended the conference on behalf of Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon, said the change of approach to behavioural medicine was appropriate.
“Life and work have become more competitive and stressful. It changes the kinds of illnesses we have to deal with,” he said, adding that holistic methods of treatment were needed to treat and curb such diseases.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Brush teeth well, beat heart woes

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: People who do not brush their teeth properly may be putting themselves greater at risk of developing heart diseases.
The Health Ministry's Oral Health Division director, Datin Dr Norain Abu Taib, said there was increasing evidence of the relationship between oral bacteria and life-threatening conditions, such as heart diseases, diabetes and respiratory ailments.
She added that periodontal diseases, in particular, were a life-threatening health risk.
Dr Norain said this when she launched an Oral-B "Plaque-Free Malaysia" campaign at the Giant hypermarket in Bandar Kinrara yesterday.
She said studies had also found that gum diseases could increase a person's risk of developing diabetes.
"In Malaysia, the number of people with diabetes is increasing and it is important to make people aware of this link between oral infections and systemic diseases."
The National Oral Health Survey of Adults found in 2000 that only 9.8 per cent of Malaysians had healthy gums.
"Clearly, the oral health messages and oral hygiene instructions received in our younger days need to be regularly reinforced to ensure continued compliance."
The Oral-B campaign hoped to raise awareness on the importance of choosing the right toothbrush and brushing techniques.
Shoppers at Giant can take an Oral-B test to check their plaque.
"I wouldn't have realised my problem with plaque because you can't see it with your naked eye," said Jay Chong, 28, after the test.
The campaign booth will be open until Thursday.

The bad and ugly side

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Smoking will be banned in more public places, among them the National Service training camps.
This squeeze on smokers is part of the government's efforts to reduce their numbers. Appearing soon will be pictures depicting smoking hazards on cigarette packs.
The Health Ministry's parliamentary secretary, Datuk Lee Kah Choon, said it was difficult to have a 100 per cent smoke-free environment.
Hence, by increasing the number of non-smoking areas, the government hopes smokers will kick the habit.
"Every year, we get about 100,000 NS trainees and we want to educate them about leading a healthy lifestyle."
He declined to give a time-frame on the smoking ban in NS training camps, but said the authorities were working towards this.
Lee said his ministry was working with the Human Resource Ministry on plans to make all workplaces smoke-free. "It will take time to draw up the regulations, so I cannot give any target.
"Cigarette smoke deprives everyone of a clean and healthy environment. I hope the day will come when non-smokers can sue smokers for the damage caused by secondhand smoke."
He added that the government was confident the public would eventually accept a smoke-free environment as a natural thing, just like non-smoking flights.
The government plans to reduce the number of smokers through a comprehensive programme, which includes education in schools, enforcement and stop-smoking assistance, such as the ministry's information line (03-88834400) and the 105 "quit smoking" clinics nationwide.
The ministry is planning to have pictures showing the results of smoking on cigarette packs. Currently, cigarette packs carry a warning on the side panel.
Malaysia, which ratified the World Health Organisation's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2005, is required to display warning messages on at least 30 per cent of the cover of cigarette packets.
In Thailand and Singapore, which are also party to the FCTC, warning pictures such as unflattering teeth and a patient with damaged lungs are on the cigarette packets.
Lee said the government faced a battle with tobacco companies whenever they tried to reduce the price of cigarettes. "When the price is reduced, the young may be encouraged to pick up the habit."

More 'quacks' doing beauty jobs

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: The number of cosmetic surgeries performed by individuals, including doctors, who are not trained in the field, is on the rise.
Dr Peter Wong, president of the Malaysian Association of Plastic, Aesthetic and Craniomaxillofacial Surgeons (MAPACS), said this was regrettable and it had resulted in many cases of botched cosmetic jobs.
"Many patients who are otherwise healthy have become miserable as a result. Even death has been reported," he told the New Straits Times.
He said cosmetic surgery was a very difficult area that required many years of training and experience and it was best done by those who were specialised in the field.
"The public is advised to check on the credentials of the 'doctor' before allowing themselves to be put under the knife, rather than just relying on recommendation or hearsay from someone who may have personal or monetary interests," said Dr Wong.
Commenting on the recent incident where a botched work on a 44-year old Datin has resulted in her fighting for her life, Dr Wong said people should be made aware of the dangers when they went to unqualified doctors.
He supported the efforts by the Health Ministry to check unethical practices by unqualified persons or doctors who had not been trained in the field of plastic and cosmetic surgery.
Dr Wong urged the public to report cases of botched jobs to the authorities so that action could be taken.

Datin critical after cosmetic surgery

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: The wife of a member of parliament is fighting for her life following a botched cosmetic surgery.
The Health Ministry has picked up a doctor, in his 30s, for questioning.
The 44-year-old woman, a Datin, is now on a life-support machine at a private hospital and her condition is classified as very critical.
All she wanted was to look good. She had an eye bag surgery, a tummy tuck and liposuction. Now, she is unconscious and has been hooked to the life-support machine since last Friday.
"We are investigating the case and action will be taken against the doctor if he is found not qualified to do the surgery or had performed shoddy work," Director-General of Health Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said yesterday.
"If we have strong evidence against him, then he will have to face the consequences. We will not compromise where patient safety is concerned," he told the New Straits Times.
Ministry officials are also checking the status of the clinic and its operating licence to ascertain if it had flouted the Private Healthcare Facilities and Service Act and other regulations.
It is learnt that the Datin had gone to the clinic in Klang on Jan 9 to do an eye-bag surgery and subsequently decided to also get a tummy tuck and liposuction.
It is believed that an orthopaedic surgeon who did a three-week correspondence course in aesthetic medicine performed the almost eight-hour surgery.
The Datin, who encountered complications on the night of the surgery, was rushed to the National Heart Institute (IJN) the following day and later transferred to a private hospital upon request from her family.
A plastic surgeon, who declined to be named, said the woman could have suffered brain damage.
Dr Ismail said the ministry was coming out with guidelines on aesthetic medical practices.
Those who want to go into such practice must have evidence-based training and procedure.
"We do not allow doctors who have completed a three-week correspondence programme to do aesthetic medicine and surgery," he said.
Asked if the surgeon involved in the Datin's case would face the Malaysian Medical Council disciplinary board, Dr Ismail said this would depend on the outcome of the investigation and also if an official complaint was lodged against him.

Doctor fined RM120,000 for not registering clinic

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: A doctor who has operated his clinic for 10 years without registering it was fined RM120,000 by the Sessions Court yesterday.
Dr Basmullah Yusom earned the dubious reputation of being the first person in the country to be convicted under the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998.
Dr Basmullah, 44, had been operating the Al-Hilal Medical Centre Sdn Bhd at No 55, Jalan 5/76B, Desa Pandan, off Jalan Kampung Pandan, since 1998.
The father of eight, who was charged on Dec 13 last year, had pleaded guilty to committing the offence at the premises at 10pm on July 11 last year.
Sentencing was fixed for yesterday. Under the act, he was liable to a maximum fine of RM500,000.
In mitigation, Dr Basmullah, who was unrepresented, pleaded for leniency, saying he did not register his clinic as he wanted to sell it and that he was not the only person running the clinic.
"I have financial problems and I still have to pay RM7,000 for the clinic and RM10,000 in personal loan," he said.
"My wife is not working and I am the sole breadwinner for my family."
Dr Basmullah said he had since moved to Putrajaya claiming it was cheaper to live there and that he had sold his car and was using a motorcycle.
"This financial burden is already a punishment itself for my mistake. I promise not to commit any offence again."
DPP Norfiza Mohamed Noordin from the Health Ministry pressed for a deterrent sentence.
"Unlicensed clinics make it hard for the ministry to monitor them to ensure that they do not illegally sell drugs or conduct illegal abortions. This is to ensure public safety.
"Being busy and having financial problems are not excuses for not registering the clinic," she said.
Judge S.M. Komathy Suppiah fined Dr Basmullah RM120,000 or three months' jail.
At Press time, he had not paid the fine and was taken to the Kajang prison.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Crucial role of homograft banks

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Besides direct organ transplants from brain-dead patients, selected hospitals have homograft banks where, for example, heart valves, corneas, certain tissues and bones are kept for use when the need arises.
Since 1992, the National Heart Institute (IJN) has had a homograft valve bank following requests from cardiac surgeons for quality-controlled, cryo-preserved heart valve homografts.
Homografts are tissues extracted from one species and implanted into a member of the same species.
In the case of cardiac homografts, the tissues are the aorta with the aortic valve and the anterior mitral valve leaflet; the main pulmonary artery, including the first few centimetres of the branch pulmonary arteries, and the pulmonary valve.
"The homografts are for patients with various cardiac diseases. In the majority of these cases, the outcome has been excellent. Before, all the homografts were flown in from tissue banks overseas," said head of the IJN Department of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care Unit, Datuk Dr Syed Abdul Aziz Syed Zin.
Dr Syed Abdul Aziz said the tissues were extracted from fresh cadavers and cryo-preserved for use in patients who need aortic valve replacements, or for the treatment of congenital heart diseases.
"IJN has successfully retrieved, prepared and implanted cardiac homografts in more than 110 patients.
"The homograft unit at IJN comprises cardiothoracic surgeons and perfusionists/medical technicians who are involved in retrieving, processing and cryo-preserving homograft tissues for storage." he said, adding that children particularly, can benefit from homografts, where the need for small-sized prostheses and freedom from anti-coagulants are critical.

Getting more to donate organs

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: There were only 25 organ donors last year. That is why health authorities are planning to spend RM2 million this year to get more people to pledge their organs.
The National Transplant Resource Centre is planning to revamp its call centre to make it easier for donors to contact it, said its chief transplant co-ordinator, Datin Dr Lela Yasmin Mansor.
It is also recruiting additional staff.
There are plans to employ a director of promotions and a director of communications.
Dr Lela said the centre would also place advertisements on organ donation to create greater awareness of its importance.
"We will also be going to schools to educate children on organ donation.
"With the co-operation of the Education Ministry, we plan to hold competitions to gauge their perceptions and views on the donation of organs," she told the New Straits Times.
Dr Lela said information kits on organ donation would be prepared for distribution to school-children and adults.
Last year, the authorities harvested three hearts, five livers, two lungs, eight heart valves, 16 corneas and five bones from 25 brain-dead patients.
In 2006, there were also 25 organ donors who donated 13 kidneys, a heart, six livers, a lung, 16 heart valves, 19 corneas, three skin implants and six bones.
Between 1976 and last year, 206 people donated 435 organs and tissues.
Kuala Lumpur Hospital Ne-phrology Department head Dr Ghazali Ahmad said there was a need for a dedicated full-time national co-ordinating organ transplant team for the programme to be successful. At present, those on the team are volunteers.
"Their weekends are spent going around holding talks, workshops and group sessions with community leaders and the public on organ donation.
"They even try to get the families of organ donors to speak on why they decided to donate the organs of their loved ones."
He said when there were organ donors, these volunteers swung into action by going to the hospitals to harvest the organs and bringing them back.
Often, it was the same surgeons who performed the transplants.
"These are dedicated people who sacrifice being with their families to promote and do organ transplants to save lives," said Dr Ghazali, adding that it was not easy for them as they had other jobs to do in hospitals.
The New Straits Times also learnt that the records of patients on the waiting list were not regularly updated, making it difficult to contact them.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

More checks to safeguard food

Star: PUTRAJAYA: The Health Ministry will step up checks to ensure that festive foodstuff from China is safe for consumption.
Director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said state health departments will be told to send out their officers next week to carry out more checks on all food, especially those from China.
“We will tell the states what to focus on,” he said.
Food found to have breached regulations in the past would come under specific scrutiny.
They include mandarin oranges and mushrooms for pesticide residue, dace fish for malachite green, waxed duck, preserved fruits and vegetables, seaweed for heavy metals and honey for antibiotics.
For domestic products, inspectors will target meat for banned substances such as beta agonist, expired food products and labelling.
Any suspected food product would be seized, Dr Ismail said.
Food found to have contravened the Food Act 1983 and Food Regulations 1985 would either be destroyed or returned to the country of origin.
In the past, honey, oyster sauce and dried mushrooms were among products from China that were on the food alert list in Malaysia.
Past Health Ministry data showed that pesticide residue was detected in dried mushrooms on four occasions last year.
Drug residue was found in honey samples and the cancer-causing agent 3-MCPD was found in oyster sauce.
From January to October last year, 32 Chinese products were placed under the ministry’s Food Safety Information System level five alert, where products are held, tested and released.
Other products included frozen eels, seaweed, frozen royal red prawns, shitake mushrooms and salted turnips. All other China-imported food items were put on level four alert, which requires examination.
“So far, there have been no major problems,” Dr Ismail said.
Checks are expected to continue until the end of February at entry points and premises nationwide.
Malaysia imports US$680mil (RM2.3bil) worth of food items from China yearly.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Keeping a lid on superbugs

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Imagine being warded at a hospital for a treatable ailment but contracting a life-threatening infection under the very noses of doctors.
This was the fate of nearly 68,000 in-patients in government hospitals last year who were hit by a range of superbugs, many of which were resistant to antibiotics.
Some died but health authorities are unable to provide the statistics. Among the superbugs is the highly-contagious bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
The number of victims last year was lower than in 2004, when nearly 110,000 were treated for such a problem.
Overall, superbugs affected 5.44 per cent of two million in-patients in 2004 and 3.39 per cent last year.
Common superbugs that cause nosocomial (hospital-acquired) infections include Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Staphlylococci, pseudomonads, enterococci and E.coli.
Director-General of Health Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said hospital-acquired infections continued to be the bane of many patients warded at government hospitals.
He said while hospital authorities had reduced the number of such infections, a concerted effort was necessary to rid hospitals of the problem.
He has directed government hospitals to provide monthly reports to the ministry on cases of superbug infection.
Dr Ismail, who chairs the National Infection and Antibiotic Control Committee, said government hospitals were part of the National Infection Control System, with units headed by the hospital director or an accredited infectious disease physician.
The hospital committee has to ensure that doctors and nurses strictly adhere to infection control procedures to prevent superbugs from wreaking havoc in hospitals.
"It's a big challenge. I have directed hospitals to take it seriously. The staff must adopt a multi-pronged approach in tackling the problem."
The ministry has also called on healthcare providers to abide by mandatory rulings which included washing of hands after examining a patient.
Infection may begin with a surgical wound or by bacteria spreading through the air.
"With weakened defences, infections that would not normally affect healthy individuals can cause serious illness and death among those who are hospitalised.
"Patients should also wash their hands frequently, especially before and after eating and using the toilet," Dr Ismail said, adding that those who were ill should not visit in-patients.
Key areas where cross-contamination usually occur include examination rooms, the accident and emergency department, intensive care units and coronary care units.
Dr Ismail said infections caught in hospitals tended to be more difficult to treat as bacteria became resistant to antibiotics.
"Nosocomial infections can even be the cause of death among those hospitalised."
MRSA is the most common type of hospital-acquired infection. First identified in the 1960s, it is resistant to conventional antibiotics. Experts have uncovered many strains of MRSA, with differing degrees of drug resistance.
Dr Ismail said the ministry spent RM1 million in 2006 and RM2.5 million last year to provide alcohol-based hand scrub to hospitals to prevent the spread of superbugs.
A larger allocation is expected this year.
The ministry is putting up posters and identifying doctors who adhere to hand-washing procedures to make them role models for other medical personnel.
In Britain, nearly 5,000 patients die of MRSA every year.
The number of MRSA infections in the United States doubled from about 127,000 with 11,000 deaths in 1999 to more than 278,000 with 17,000 deaths in 2005.

Basic hygiene still a challenge

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Basic hand hygiene by healthcare providers remains a challenge for the Health Ministry.
“How many wash their hands after seeing a patient?” Health Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican asked.
He said that while the ministry worked hard through the infection control committee to get hospital staff to adhere to policies and procedures, the simple act of keeping their hands clean remained a big challenge.
But past initiatives have seen the national pneumococcal infection rate reduced from 5.44% in March 2004 to 3.39% last September.
The ministry spent RM1mil in 2006 to provide “alcohol-based hand rub” in critical areas including the emergency department, haemodialysis department and intensive care unit.
The allocation was increased to RM2.5mil last year.
“We need to spend more money to get the hand rubs available to everyone,” Dr Ismail said.
About 1.9 million patients are admitted to government hospitals yearly while some 50 million are treated at the outpatient department.
Dr Ismail, a consultant hepatologist by profession, added that he would clean his hands with alcohol after he sees patients.
“This has to be done every time you see a patient,” he said.
The ministry is also a signatory to the World Health Organisation Alliance on Infection Control.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Hop on for a RM2 health screening

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Don't forget to hop onto the National Kidney Foundation bus to get a health screening at only RM2.
The customised 40-seater bus, the first in Malaysia, provides for early detention and prevention of kidney disease through health screenings.
A team of eight, including a driver and a doctor, perform the health screenings and patients would be able to get the results immediately.
Patients could undergo urine, blood pressure, random blood glucose, random blood total cholesterol and body mass index tests, as well as counselling.
The NKF LifeCheck Mobile Health Screening Unit was launched yesterday by Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican, National Kidney Foundation board of directors chairman Dr S.S. Gill and Sunway Group founder and chairman Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah.
The mobile unit will operate five days a week in urban and suburban areas initially, with the aim to cover rural areas in the future.
Dr Ismail congratulated the Sunway group for its initiative in providing health screening and said he hoped more corporate leaders would follow the example, especially in other areas of health such as lungs and liver.
He said the focus of the mobile unit was to make Malaysians more accountable for their health.
"It is sad to end up with a disease which you could have prevented."
Dr Ismail said the number of kidney patients undergoing dialysis was now 14,647, five times more than a decade ago when the number was 2,922.
A member of the NKF board of managers, Goh Seng Chuan, said the mobile unit cost RM440,000 while manpower and equipment per year amounted to RM420,000.
He said the actual cost for a screening was RM35 but patients were only charged RM2 at the mobile unit parked at the Sunway Pryamid while here.

Find out charges before getting treatment, public told

Star: PETALING JAYA: Ask what the charges are before going ahead with treatment – that is the advice given by the Health Ministry director-general to the public to ensure that they can afford the treatment.
“If you go to a private hospital, ask them what the charge is for treating the disease or illness,” Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican told reporters yesterday after launching the National Kidney Foundation LifeCheck Mobile Health Screening Unit.
“If you cannot pay, go to a public hospital.”
However, Dr Ismail added that private hospitals must treat emergency cases if they were brought to their establishments.
“It is not a case of ask for money and treat later. They must provide first-line treatment,” he said.
He said the ministry monitored charges by private health facilities according to a fee schedule and investigated complaints.
Action would be taken if the charges were found to be too exorbitant, he said.
Dr Ismail also said the ministry had been stepping up its healthy lifestyle and prevention campaigns to ensure that those in rural areas received information on how to remain healthy.
“The campaign has been quite good but those in the rural areas may still not be aware of it while those in urban areas already have the information,” he said.
Dr Ismail also took to task Malaysians who did not like to exercise and preferred to use the elevator to go from one floor to another.
“Those who do not eat properly and do not exercise are bound to grow larger. And once they are obese, it is inevitable for them to get diseases like diabetes, hypertension, chronic heart disease and stroke,” he said.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Use of seat belts, helmets pays off

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Despite an increase in accidents last year, the number of fatalities and injuries dropped.
And it is mainly because more people are strapping on their seat belts and putting on helmets. Last year, the death toll in road accidents went down by 50 while the number of those injured was reduced by 1,600 compared with the previous year.
Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research director-general Prof Dr Radin Umar Radin Sohadi said yesterday that the authorities had conducted an intensive awareness programme on the wearing of front and rear seat belts in cars. This helped to reduce injuries and deaths in accidents, he added.
Furthermore, he said the helmet initiative programme by the Road Safety Department in rural areas was bearing fruit as more than 80 per cent of motorcyclists now wear helmets. Previously, the figure was only about 30 per cent.

He also said the other reasons for the drop were:
- Year-round enforcement by the Road Transport Department and police which has increased the probability of errant motorists getting caught from 18 per cent previously to 55 per cent. Enforcement had been intensified to nab reckless car drivers, motorcyclists, and commercial vehicle drivers.
- Reducing accident-prone areas by upgrading roads.
- More buying cars instead of motorcycles. Ownership of motorcycles has dropped since 2006 while car ownership has increased by 10 per cent in the same period.
- More people using public transport to commute to work from Rawang and Seremban to Kuala Lumpur. Those living in the Klang Valley use LRT and Monorail to go to the city centre.
- RM300 on-the-spot fines for those found driving dangerously, including speeding, weaving through traffic and using emergency lanes.
- Checks on express buses and drivers before leaving for their destination. Stringent checks are carried out on brakes, tyres and on the drivers to ensure they are free from alcohol or drugs.

He said that the number of road fatalities and injuries dropped despite the increase in vehicles on the road by an additional one million last year.
According to traffic police, 5,670 people died in road accidents last year compared with 5,720 deaths in 2006. The number of accidents, however, went up from 341,000 to 363,000 within the same period.

Priority for sick NS trainees

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Trainees must be attended to even if they are only down with a fever or headache, National Service Training Council chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said.
He said if the trainees did not recover from their sickness within 24 hours, they should be referred to the nearest hospital or clinic as soon as possible.
“This is to ensure that the programme's delivery system is functioning well without creating undue problems to the trainees.
“We want the programme to be executed efficiently and effectively with quality service. As such, we hope every camp personnel should be able to carry out his or her duties well.
“An effective management and adequate medical facilities to cater to the needs of the trainees are among the issues which must be given serious attention.”
He said the National Service Training Department had taken measures to improve medical services at the NS camps, including the recent introduction of self-health tagging system for unhealthy trainees or those suffering from non-chronic illnesses to exempt them from strenuous physical activities.
Lee also said the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the NS security consultant, had introduced a security audit system on physical training at all NS camps.
He said on top of this, all NS personnel and trainees were covered by insurance starting three days before the programme and ending three days after that.

Diseased monkeys putting city folk at risk

Star: PETALING JAYA: They may be adorable, even cute. But the thousands of monkeys forced into city streets and housing estates by urban development could be downright dangerous.
Many of them are carrying blood parasites and the herpes virus, or suffering from simian malaria and dengue.
Veterinary Association Malaysia (VAM) vice-president Dr S. Vellayan said humans could be infected with diseases carried by the monkeys, if there was close contact.
“Once these monkeys carry the virus, there is a possibility that those who keep them as pets would contract the disease.
“However the situation also works in reverse, as monkeys easily catch diseases from humans,” he said.
Dr Vellayan, who is also an assistant director of Zoo Negara, said he had conducted post mortems on monkeys killed in road accidents or dead ones brought to the zoo, and found they had suffered from simian malaria, dengue, blood parasite and herpes virus, among other diseases.
He said these were only a handful of monkeys and there were many more not exposed.
The monkeys usually found at the urban areas include the long- tailed and pig-tailed macaques, and the leaf monkey.
The monkey population in Ma-laysia is about 700,000, with 250,000 in urban areas.
Dr Vellayan said this problem occurred in many major cities throughout the country due to the massive destruction of forests that has pushed the wildlife to seek shelter and food in urban areas.
Another veterinarian Dr Roy Sirimanne said that these monkeys could be infected with diseases contracted from humans if the animals licked human spit.
“The mosquitoes that usually feed on the monkeys will also tag along, increasing the risk of vector-borne disease transmission,” he added.
When contacted, Natural Re-sources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Azmi Khalid said the ministry viewed seriously the migration of monkeys to urban areas and the danger of diseases brought from them to humans.
“A thorough study is being done on the issue. We will reveal later the steps that we will take once we have completed our probe,” he added.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Ministry team seizes RM10mil in expired drugs to be sold as new

Star: MALACCA: Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry enforcement officers have seized RM10.4mil worth of expired health products that were to have been repackaged and sold as new.
The products were recovered from an abandoned factory in Pulau Gadong here yesterday.
The ministry’s special unit handling fake products conducted the raid after receiving a tip-off.
During the noon raid led by the unit’s deputy director, Rosley Abdullah, four workers who were repackaging the expired products were detained for investigations.
There were also dozens of boxes of the repackaged product ready for distribution in the market, while hundreds of other boxes of the original products which were past their due date, were ready to be repackaged.
A spokesman for the company producing the original health products, who did not want to be named, said that some 3,600 packs of the original product had been repacked in fake packages to be sold for a total of RM21mil.
“This does not include the products which are already in the market. We fear the effects on consumers as we had withdrawn them more than a year ago,” he said.
Rosley said that the ministry would investigate the importer named on the repackaged products to find out if the importer exists.

Returned specialists set up eye centre

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Seven foreign-trained eye specialists have returned home and set up a high-quality and affordable eye-care centre to serve Malaysians and others in the region.
The International Specialist Eye Centre (Isec) was set up eight months ago and is located at The Boulevard, Mid Valley City here.
The centre's medical director, Dr Wong Jun Shyan, said the centre aimed to be the national and regional centre of excellence for comprehensive and subspecialty ophthalmology.
The state-of-the-art RM10 million eye centre boasts of an eye-bank facility, advanced diagnostics such as Optical Coherent Tomography, Orbscan, abberometry and corneal spectacular microscopy, and new-generation lasers such as Pascal retinal and Technolas iris-tracking technology excimer lasers.
Launching the centre yesterday, Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri Dr Fong Chan Onn said the specialists had returned under the Malaysian experts programme in 2001.
"I am happy that they have returned to serve and share their expertise.
"We want Malaysian specialists to come home and pool their resources and make use of Kuala Lumpur's infrastructure to offer their services to the world," he said.
Although the government hoped to attract thousands of Malaysian professionals home, to date, only about 500 specialists in medicine, ICT and accountancy and finance had responded.
Last year, about 100 returned, mainly from Britain, Singapore, the United States and Australia.
Fong said incentives would be offered to attract those with non-Malaysian spouses and children.
He said the country was also keen to see the return of artistes, such as those with Broadway experience, and fashion designers, to make Malaysia a more vibrant nation.
He was pleased that Isec's facilities were fully compliant with the stringent standards required by the recently-implemented Private Healthcare Facilities Act.
"I am also pleased that Isec had taken the initiative to take part in public-private collaborations, especially in ophthalmic education.
"I am particularly pleased that medical and optometry students from both local and foreign universities are routinely attached to Isec for clinical exposure and teaching."
He lauded Isec's move to seek international accreditation from the world-renowned Joint Commission International, which sets the standard in healthcare facility accreditation.
Isec, as an international referral centre, plays an important role in the national economy as Malaysia is now moving into service or knowledge-based export industry, making health tourism an important revenue earner.
The centre has a technical collaboration agreement with Singapore National Eye Centre and a similar agreement will be signed soon with the Optometry Department, Applied Health Sciences Faculty of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Prevention focuses on young children

NST: ALLERGY is an abnormal over-reaction by the body's natural immune mechanism to substances that are normally not harmful to the human body.
Practically any substance can become an allergen, or allergy-causing irritant.
House dust, dust mites, pollens, moulds, foods or even a pet -- things most people consider harmless -- can make the allergic person too ill to function normally.
Allergic reactions can provoke symptoms ranging from itchy, watery eyes due to hay fever, the breathing difficulties of asthma, itchy inflamed skin with hives and eczema, or the dangerous fall in blood pressure and breathing problems following a severe reaction after food allergies and insect stings.
The substances may have been ingested, injected, inhaled or merely have come into contact with the skin or mucous membranes, for example through the eyes.
Physical suffering, mental torment, emotional struggles, financial strain and limitations in many aspects of life, ranging from food to sports, vacations to vocation, are the norms of an allergy patient.
Even though allergy symptoms are not serious or life- threatening, Dr Ranbir Kaulsay says, "in a nutshell, allergy rarely kills but often steals your zest for life".
"About 60 per cent of all allergies appear during the first year of life. It is only logical for allergy prevention to be focused on infants and young children."
There are five main things you can do in infancy to prevent allergies later in life.
- Breast-feeding a child for at least six months. Breast milk proteins are not considered foreign proteins to the child's immune system, and it has a long-term preventive effect against non-food allergies.
- Delay the introduction of solid foods until the child is at least six months' old when his digestive tract and immune system are better developed.
- Stay away from highly allergenic foods like shellfish, eggs and nuts during the first year -- introduce only one new food at a time to allow any adverse reactions to be traced easily.
- Stop smoking during pregnancy as it may have adverse effects on infant lung development. Children should also not be exposed to cigarette smoke, especially in confined spaces.
- Recent studies on probiotics (good bacteria) and a diet rich in Omega 3 (fish oils) during pregnancy have proven to reduce the risk of allergy in a newborn.

Alarming rise in people with allergies

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Symptoms range from mild irritation to life-threatening attacks. Triggers can be something as common as dust or nuts. One-third of the population has one form or another of allergy.
And according to a World Health Organisation (WHO) report, children are the most common sufferers and the most vulnerable.
The Malaysian Society of Allergology and Immunology (MSAI) president Assoc Prof Dr Ranbir Kaulsay said that Malaysia was moving in lock step with the rest of the world in an alarming increase in the number of people with allergies.
"By 2020, it's expected that half the population will be allergic to something if current trends continue," he told the New Straits Times upon his return from the recent World Allergy Congress in Bangkok.
This year's conference will be held here in March.
He said that according to WHO statistics released at the conference, up to 50 per cent of the world's teenagers were already suffering from airway allergies like allergic rhinitis and asthma.
Globally, it's estimated that asthma affects more than 300 million people with another 100 million patients expected by 2025.
"Even though asthma is the one of the most common causes of death in childhood, the warning sirens seem to be silent," said Dr Ranbir.
And even though all signs point to a potential health catastrophe, very little is being done by health organisations worldwide to highlight the problem.
"Sadly, allergy is still not accorded the attention and priority that it needs," said Dr Ranbir, adding that perhaps it was because allergy seldom kills or maims, but it does affect a patient's quality of life.
With allergic diseases becoming a global epidemic, to assimilate rapid advances in this field has become imperative, said Dr Ranbir.
To that end WHO formed the Global Alliance Against Allergic Disease, which MSAI is a part of, five years ago to raise awareness of the threat allergy poses.
"We hope the joint effort will translate into action resulting in increasing awareness towards the prevention of allergy."
At the congress, attended by 4,500 doctors from all over the world, Dr Ranbir presented a lecture entitled The Asian Allergy Crisis in his capacity as associate professor in the Universiti Putra Malaysia medical faculty.
Assoc Prof Jessie De Bruyen from University Malaya Medical Centre also spoke on the Emerging Societies of Allergy in Asia and how asthma effects developing societies.
Dr Ho Tze Ming from the Institute for Medical Research (IMR) Acarology (the study of mites and ticks) Department, ran a workshop on one of the most important allergens in Malaysia -- the house dust mite.
MSAI was formed, based on a WHO charter, nine years ago to combat allergy, and to provide better patient care and quality of life to sufferers and their families in Malaysia.