Monday, June 16, 2008

TCM units get good response

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The pilot project of the traditional and complementary medicine (TCM) unit at three government hospitals has received encouraging response, said Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai.
He said Hospital Putrajaya, Hospital Kepala Batas in Kedah and Hospital Sultan Ismail in Johor had started with acupuncture, Malay traditional massage and adjunct Chinese herbal treatment for cancer a few months ago.
“The TCM appointments in Hospital Putrajaya have been made until July this year while Hospital Kepala Batas has more than 2,000 cases,” he told a press conference after opening the Ecoparadise Anti-Oxidant Rejuvenation Therapy Centre at the Fraser Business Park Centre yesterday.
He said each hospital had a contract acupuncturist and two contract traditional Malay masseurs, while Hospital Kepala Batas and Hospital Sultan Ismail had a contract TCM oncologist from Hospital Guang Ah Men and Nanjing University in China respectively.
“We are evaluating the implementation of the Integrative Medicine Programme at the three hospitals.
“We are planning to expand it to other government hospitals in the future,” he said.
He said a Traditional and Complementary Healthcare Practices Bill had been drafted and was now being studied by the legal adviser.
“This Bill is primarily aimed at regulating the practitioners of TCM,” he said.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Liow: 6% of Malaysians have suicidal thoughts due to stress

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: About 6% of Malaysians have thought about suicide at some point in their lives and that is alarming, said Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai.
The bulk of those who have thought of killing themselves were aged between 16 and 24 years old, according to the National Health and Morbidity Survey in 2006, he said.
“The young do not know how to handle stress. If we can help them identify problems, they should be able to solve the root of the problems,” he said after launching the Let's Overcome Stress 2008 at SMK Seri Permaisuri here yesterday.
He said the ministry would work with the Education Ministry to train school counsellors with more skills and techniques so that they are better able to guide students about how to handle stress.
Liow said the survey showed that 20% of children and 11% of adults had stress-related mental problems.
He said the group aged between 70 and 74 was the group with most stress-related problems (19.5%), followed by those aged between 16 and 19 (14.4%).
“About 14% of adults have acute sleeping problems. Those who have stress-related problems can seek help in government hospitals and clinics.
“We have doctors and psychiatrists to assist them to handle their stress. We're concerned about this trend.”
On another issue, Liow said the public could file e-complaints on the ministry website ( if they felt private hospitals' medical bills were exorbitant.
“I have set up the mechanism to handle the complaints. We will investigate once we receive the complaints,” he said, adding that he had had a dialogue with the Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia recently.
Earlier in his speech, Liow said 174 food poisoning cases were reported for the first three months of this year, and 70% of the cases were in schools.
“School canteen operators will now have to attend seminars on safety and hygiene food,” he said.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Number of quack sinsehs alarming

NST: JOHOR BARU: Two out of every three registered Chinese physicians (sinsehs) in the country are not qualified, and chances are they will diagnose ailments and prescribe medicines wrongly.
And the statistics are worrying for the Federation of Chinese Physicians and Medicine Dealers Association of Malaysia (FCPMDAM), considering there are over 7,000 registered Chinese physicians.
According to the federation, the huge number is the result of an abuse of the registration exercise for Chinese physicians as required by the Health Ministry since 1997.
To monitor the practice of Chinese physicians, the ministry had assigned three community-based associations to help in the registration of Chinese physicians so that they would get the annual practising certificates (APCs).
FCPMDAM chairman (Chinese Physician division) Tan Kee Huat said some associations took the opportunity to abuse the registration exercise by recruiting members indiscriminately, especially those who had no proper background in Chinese medicines.
He said the unqualified ones seeking the status of Chinese physicians would pay for membership as well as the APCs from those associations.
"This seems to be a win-win situation as the associations are able to enlarge their membership while, on the other hand, those unqualified ones are able to buy their membership and APCs which allow them to carry out their 'profession' legally.
"As a result, the number of Chinese physicians has risen from about 3,000 to over 7,000. Despite the meteoric rise in numbers, the numbers tell nothing, except that there are more unqualified Chinese physicians than before."
It is learnt that some associations charge about RM600 for the registration fee of the annual practising certificate which normally cost RM100.
Tan said the presence of these unqualified Chinese physicians had greatly tarnished the image of the Chinese medicine fraternity.
He said a normal Chinese physician took five years to earn a degree, and another three years each for a Master's and doctorate degree.
"Those unqualified ones who bought their APCs have no basic training in Chinese medicine. They might be just quack medicinemen, traditional healers or masseurs. If unsuspecting patients are to patronise their outlets, they might end up getting more sick and risk being cheated of their money."
Tan, who is also the principal of the Johor Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine, said the Health Ministry had agreed to continue using Chinese language in the teaching of Chinese medicine in local private colleges.
He said Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai also assured them that the existing medium of instruction would remain.

Your happiness depends on tummy size

NST: The size of your tummy is a "happiness" index.
The bigger it is, the less happy you are.
"People who are obese and overweight are more likely to suffer from psychological disorders than people with a healthy weight range," said Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) senior lecturer and clinical psychologist Dr Alvin Ng Lai Oon at the official media launch of the "Happy Weight With 10" campaign.
He said 30 per cent of Malaysians were overweight and blamed this on the unhealthy Malaysian eating culture.
Dr Ng said findings of a survey by Frost and Sullivan found that an individual's waist circumference and body mass index were linked to levels of their self-esteem and life-satisfaction.
Gleneagles Intan Medical Centre consultant endocrinologist Dr Faridah Ismail, who was present at the launch, said people who were overweight needed to lose only 10 per cent of their weight to see major health improvements.
"There is no shortcut to losing weight.
"Eat healthy, exercise, be committed to dietary changes and consult healthcare professionals about using prescription medicine to supplement these efforts."
Malaysian Association for the Study of Obesity (MASO) president Professor Dr Ismail Noor said results from the survey emphasised the importance of weight management in a holistic manner.
The campaign jointly organised by MASO and Abbott Laboratories is aimed at encouraging the overweight and the obese to have a more proactive weight management programme.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Errant doctors face action

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Private doctors caught abusing their supply of psychotropic substances are to face stricter disciplinary action, including a future ban on handling such items.
These are among the recommendations proposed by the Health Ministry to stop the abuse of psychotropic substances by private doctors.
Director-General of Health Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said strict controls had to be imposed to curb the abuse of psychotropic substances among unethical registered private doctors.
Since 2006, he said, the ministry had implemented an audit diversion programme to deal with the problem. The audit involved 122 private medical clinics in 2006 and 108 in 2007.
In 2006, he said, 19 private doctors or 15 per cent of the premises which were audited were investigated for various offences under the Third Schedule of the Poisons Act 1952 and regulated according to the Poisons Regulations (Psychotropic Substances) 1989.
Last year, 31 doctors or 29 per cent of the premises were investigated.
"Most of the offences relate to the failure to maintain the psychotropic substances' prescription register as stipulated," he said.
Registered medical practitioners are empowered to handle psychotropic substances as provided for under Regulation 3 of the Poisons Regulations (Psychotropic Substances) 1989.
To overcome the problem of abuse, he said the ministry was proposing the following recommendations to the government:
- Impose the Prohibitory Order which prohibits registered medical practitioners involved in the abuse of psychotropic substances from handling these substances, according to Regulation 29, Poisons Regulations;
- Grant special authorisation to private medical practitioners who wish to supply methadone and buprenorphine to curb problems relating to the abuse of psychotropic substances in drug substitution therapy using methadone and buprenorphine; and,
- The Malaysian Medical Council to impose stricter disciplinary action.

No cost-cutting in healthcare

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry will not carry out any drastic cost-cutting measures because it needs to maintain the quality of healthcare, said Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai.
However, he said the ministry would be prudent in its spending and cut down on wastage.
“We will come up with measures to cut expenditure but this ministry is about saving lives and there cannot be too much cost-cutting. We need to ensure good quality healthcare delivery system for the people,” said Liow.
Although the Prime Minister had announced that the Government would cut spending, exceptions would be made for education and health, Liow told newsmen after launching the eighth Asia Pacific Congress of cardiovascular and interventional radiology yesterday.
“The ministry will continue to maintain the minimal RM1 for outpatient treatment and RM5 for specialist treatment,” he said, adding that the ministry will maintain its 98% subsidy on healthcare.
Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin said none of the sports projects, including infrastructure development, would be affected by the government’s decision to slash RM800mil of the Ministry’s allocation under the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP).
“Even though we have RM800mil less to spend, the funding for sports has not been reduced,” Khaled told reporters at the official launch of the 14th Asean University Games 2008 here yesterday.
Last week Khaled said the Government would use the savings from the reduced allocation for his Ministry for more urgent matters such as food subsidies.
Information Minister Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek said the 10% cut in allocation for the ministry would not affect RTM’s operations.

Candidates with medical conditions will not be accepted for National Service

Star: RAWANG: National Service (NS) candidates with medical conditions that would exempt them from physical training will not be selected for the programme beginning next year.
NS Training Department director-general Datuk Abdul Hadi Awang Kechil said these candidates were currently categorised as conditionally accepted after they sent in their medical declaration forms and were exempted from vigorous physical activities during training.
“This is to ensure that there are no untoward incidences,” he told a press conference after launching a first-aid course at the NS camp in Temasya Rimba Templer yesterday.
Abdul Hadi said these trainees often became bored whenever their fellow trainees went for physical activities.
“There is no point in asking a trainee to just stay idle while his peers take part in various exercises,” he said.
Another measure to reduce the number of illnesses and deaths from health problems included allowing trainees to label as “unsure”, in the list of 33 illnesses in their medical declaration form.
“NS officials and medical staff at camps will monitor trainees who tick ‘unsure’ more closely. In addition to this, trainees who have marked ‘yes’ to any illnesses will immediately be scrutinised by medical staff at camps upon reporting for duty,” Abdul Hadi said.
Previously, the form carried only a yes and no column for trainees to tick if they suffered from any of the listed illnesses.
The three-day first-aid course, held in collaboration with the Malaysian Red Crescent Society, is aimed at equipping NS camp management and staff with basic first-aid knowledge.
It was the second instalment of the programme, the first having trained some 200 NS personnel in level one first-aid emergency basics.
Abdul Hadi said the department also hoped to impart first-aid skills to some 500,000 trainees through the programme.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Government hospitals to ‘fuel’ effect, too

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Public hospitals are being prepared to expect a higher volume of patients seeking their services, with the recent hike in the price of fuel.
Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai said the ministry had already taken a few steps, like recruiting more doctors and nurses, as well as upgrading hospital facilities.
“We have already decided to extend our services to after office hours and on Saturdays. If need be, we may even open our clinics on Sundays because there are too many patients.
“We are also trying to attract Malaysian doctors working overseas to return and finding ways to engage private doctors in public hospitals.
“At present, most private doctors with us are only offering outpatient treatment and there are very few specialists. I think our terms are not attractive enough so we’ll have to look into our conditions again,” he told reporters after launching the breast cancer pathology update at Putrajaya Hospital yesterday.
Liow said many private doctors had indicated to him their interest in working at public hospitals due to the more challenging nature of the cases.
Asked if he expected public hospitals to come under strain from the increase in patients, Liow said many district hospitals were already facing difficulties.
“I know of certain hospitals that have only five or seven doctors working,” he said, adding that the government service lost some 300 doctors and 50 specialists each year.
Public hospitals are 98% subsidised by the Government.
Liow also said that the National Healthcare Financing Scheme would not be implemented anytime soon, as a report on its economic viability would not be ready by the yearend.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Pictorial warning from Dec 1

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: From Dec 1, all cigarette packs must carry a pictorial health warning on the front and back.
The pictorial warning must cover 40 per cent of the front of the cigarette box and 60 per cent of the back.
Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai said that the cabinet had decided on the move in January in order to bring Malaysia in line with provisions in Article 11 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
"All manufacturers and distributors have six months from now to implement the changes. By Dec 1, all new stocks must bear the pictorial warning."
The ministry had six pictures with a clearly-written health warning that would be rotated every two years, he said after launching the national World No Tobacco Day celebrations at Bukit Jalil yesterday.
The ministry will enforce an immediate ban on descriptors such as lights, ultra lights, low tar or mild which create a false impression. Existing brand names that use these words will be allowed to continue to do so.
All sales promotions for cigarettes have been banned with immediate effect. Sales of cigarettes with premiums like lighters and the use of words such as "promotion", "promo", "discount" and "limited edition" are no longer allowed.
The ministry would work with Customs and the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry to tighten enforcement of the regulations and monitor distribution and retail.
Liow said National Service camps were now classified as smoke-free zones.
Those caught smoking in smoke-free zones would be fined between RM250 and RM5,000.
On MPs who light up in smoke-free zones in Parliament, he said action would be taken against them.
"Nobody is above the law. I have had complaints, so I advise the MPs to respect the law."

Call to carry condoms

Star: PETALING JAYA: In view of the rising number of women contracting HIV, every woman should carry a condom with her for her own protection, said Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad.
“This is not to debase them but to protect them. Women are the first ones to get exploited by their partners. But this is just a suggestion, it’s up to them,” he told the press after delivering his speech at the International AIDS Memorial Day here yesterday.
It was the first time that the International AIDS Memorial Day was celebrated openly in Malaysia. The celebration was attended by about 1,000 people.
According to Health Ministry figures, 745 women contracted HIV last year. It is a slight dip compared to 2006 (875), but the general trend is that the numbers are on the rise.
As for AIDS cases, 193 women were diagnosed with the syndrome, and 131 women died from it, while in 2006, 222 women were diagnosed positive and 80 died from it.
Malaysian AIDS Council president Prof Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman said apart from sex workers, many women who contracted HIV were housewives, infected unknowingly by their husbands who could be drug addicts.
“It’s not that people don’t know that condoms can protect them. But there are some men who do not care to take the precaution even though they know they have HIV.”
The figures also showed that last year alone, three people died of AIDS each day in Malaysia.
By ethnicity breakdown, Malays recorded the highest number of HIV sufferers (58,267 in total), followed by Chinese (11,886), Indians (6,532) and foreigners (2,722).
“One reason why Malays are the highest (recorded) is because of our large population. But it’s also because of the high number of injecting drug users.
“I urge the Malay leaders and the Malay non-governmental organisations to come forward to champion this cause,” Dr Abdul Latiff said.

Malay NGOs urged to help fight AIDS

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: More Malay non-govermental organisations should come forward and be proactive in the war againsts HIV/AIDS in the country.
Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad said more Malay leaders and public figures should take the lead to spread awareness and promote community dialogues on HIV/AIDS.
"The ministry would like to encourage more people to come forward, especially the Malays," Dr Latiff said at a press conference at the 25th International AIDS Memorial Day (IAMD) celebrations yesterday
"We need leaders to lead in this fight.
"They may have so much fear of the disease and its surrounding issues, yet about 75 per cent of those infected with HIV/AIDS in this country are Malays."
Dr Latiff said it was possible Malays do not want to come forward because of the moral issues involved since the groups most at risk were drug users and sex workers.
Many talk about the issue but do not go to the ground to truly understand the situation.
Dr Latiff added that the Malay media should also get involved and report more on HIV/AIDS.
The annual IAMD, also known as the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial, is the largest and oldest grassroots mobilisation campaign to enhance HIV/AIDS awareness in the world, according to the Global Health Council which co-ordinates the event worldwide.
The issue of stigma and discrimination was the main theme for the event.
Malaysian AIDS Council president and Malaysian AIDS Foundation chairman Professor Dr Adeeba Kamrulzaman said despite the fact that HIV/AIDS was now treatable, those diagnosed with it still feel hopeless because of the stigma associated with it.
However, said the situation was improving, she noted.
A network of people living with HIV was officially formed recently in an effort to reduce the stigma and discrimination, said Dr Adeeba.
"These people have come out in the open about their condition and are willing to share their experiences," she said in her speech to a crowd of about 1,000 at the One Utama shopping complex.
The IAMD was also open to the public for the first time in Malaysia this year to help reduce the stigma.
In the past, it was held behind closed doors.
Dr Adeeba said although those with HIV/AIDS were now not living under a death sentence, it was still imperative to do all that was possible to prevent HIV/AIDS.
"It is still a disease you do not want to get."
Dr Adeeba said more women were infected with HIV/AIDS through their husbands who are drug users and indulge in unsafe extra-marital sex.
As of December last year, more than 80,938 HIV cases had been reported in the country.
Of this, more than 13,000 have been diagnosed with AIDS and over 10,000 have died. An average of three people died of AIDS daily in 2007.

Proposal for doctors to serve short stints in rural clinics

NST: KUCHING: Doctors at Sarawak's 20 general hospitals may have to serve short stints in rural clinics if a Health Ministry proposal is pushed through.
Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai said yesterday they would have to serve three-month stints in rotation.
Most of the 100 or so rural clinics are headed by hospital assistants or community nurses.
They handle routine ailments, but cases that require a doctor's or specialist's attention are usually flown to the nearest hospital by the flying doctor service.
After touring Sarawak General Hospital (SGH), Liow said no doctors could be posted to these clinics because of the severe shortage of doctors in the state.
Nearly half of the positions are not filled. Of the 326 positions for doctors, only 162 have been filled, while only 23 of the 65 specialist positions are filled.
A short-term measure to overcome the shortage was to post more housemen to Sarawak, Liow said.
"I expect them to be here in a month or two," he said, but most would serve in SGH.
The completion of the hospital's west wing at the end of the year means the addition of several hundred beds and the expansion of the specialist clinics.
Liow added his ministry was looking at a proposal to build a second public hospital in Kuching. "Kuching is a fast growing city and there is a need for this."

MMA: Allow peninsula docs to work freely in Sarawak

Star: KUCHING: The shortage of doctors in Sarawak can be overcome if the state government allows doctors from the peninsula to work freely in the state.
Malaysian Medical Association president Datuk Dr Khoo Kah Lin suggested Sarawak grant permanent resident (PR) status to peninsula doctors after they had served the state for a fixed period.
Speaking at the association’s annual dinner on Friday night, Dr Khoo urged the Health Ministry to lobby the state government on this matter.
Later, in response, Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai said he had conveyed the association’s request at a meeting with Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam on Friday.
Liow hoped the matter could be sorted out given the close cooperation between the state and Federal governments.
Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud had asked the Health Ministry on Thursday to quickly resolve the acute shortage of medical officers and specialists in the state.
Taib said that out of the 1,334 medical officer posts, only 510 or 38.2% had been filled while out of the 175 specialist posts in Sarawak General Hospital here, Sibu, Miri and Bintulu Hospitals, 135 or 77.5% had been filled.
He added that specialist posts should be created for other larger provincial hospitals like in Sri Aman, Sarikei and Kapit.
Dr Khoo said better incentives should be given to doctors who work in remote areas in Sarawak and Sabah so as to retain them there.
“The government has provided hardship allowances to teachers serving in the rural areas. The same incentives should be extended to doctors,” he added.
Dr Khoo said the government should hasten the process of posting new doctors, and follow what the Singapore government had done.
“Singapore has taken in our doctors to work as the process time for job application for new doctors is short and that their application and processing are done on-line,” he added.

Govt to review allowances to keep medical specialists in service

Star: KUCHING: A proposal has been made by the Health Ministry to review allowances for specialists to keep them in government service.
Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai said it would also include those from other disciplines, including dental and public health.
“As an incentive, the Health Ministry has proposed that the specialist allowance be reviewed,” he said in his speech at the Malaysian Medical Association’s (MMA) annual dinner on Friday.
“It is worth mentioning here that the last review was conducted about 20 years ago.”
He added that the ministry was working with the Public Service Department to create a scheme for junior doctors to attract more of them to join the service.
“Annually, an average of 300 medical officers and 50 specialists (majority in UD41, UD44 and UD48 grades) resign from the Health Ministry,” he said.
“The welfare of the current UD41 medical officers appointed before this year will benefit through appropriate adjustments in their grades.”
He assured that the two-year extension on the housemanship, which started this year would not delay their entry into the masters programme.
Liow said the MMA had extended the duration of the house officers’ training due to poor performance.
“The ministry is concerned that a large number of our house officers are not ready and do not have the capability to provide adequate service when posted to district hospitals on completion of their housemanship training,” Liow said.
He also said that a mandatory national incident reporting and learning system would be finalised by year-end.
The ministry was also working with the Association of Private Hospitals of Malaysia to draw up a national set of patient safety indicators later this year, Liow added.