Thursday, July 31, 2008

Malaria hits second Penan village

Star: MIRI: Another semi-nomadic Penan settlement in the Bario highlands has been infected with malaria.
Semirian village, located at the mountain range bordering the Sarawak-Kalimantan border some 450km inland from here has been identified by the Sarawak Health and Medical Services Department as the latest danger zone.
At the other village, Arur Dalan, which is located some 30km away from Semirian, 21 people are down with the disease that causes extreme fever, coma and even death.
Ba’Kelalan assemblyman Nelson Balang Rining said the latest information he obtained from the State Health and Medical Services Department yesterday morning indicated that the malaria outbreak in Semirian and Arur Dalan could be connected.
“The health department officers have interviewed victims in Arur Dalan.
“They said it is possible that a resident in Arur Dalan had carried in him the malaria-causing parasite from Semirian following a visit to that village.
“We must make every effort to destroy the Anopheles mosquitoes so they will not spread the disease,” he told The Star.
Several health teams are also carrying out a full-scale anti-malaria campaign in the Bario highlands, which has a population of about 5,000.

Chikungunya cases escalate

Star: PUTRAJAYA: The country has recorded its highest number of chikungunya viral fever cases, so far in a year.
Health Ministry disease control director Datuk Dr Hasan Abdul Rahman said fewer than 100 Malaysians tested positive for the illness last year but up to yesterday morning, 136 people tested positive from the 631 cases detected at 20 localities in Johor, Malacca, Negri Sembilan and Perak.
Only 15 patients were warded for fever and severe joint pain while the majority received outpatient treatment.
“It is unusually high. It is because the aedes mosquito breeding index is high and it is making transmission easier,” he said yesterday.
Both chikungunya and dengue are spread by aedes mosquitoes.
He said monitoring was continuously being carried out especially in areas where dengue fever was reported.
“We also are double checking in dengue hotspots for both sicknesses,” he said.
“We are, however, more concerned about dengue cases being on the rise.”
He said more programmes to get rid of mosquitoes by fogging and destroying breeding areas through gotong-royong by the public would be carried out.
Dr Hasan also urged the public to go to health clinics or hospitals to be checked by doctors for chikungunya fever if they showed symptoms such as fever, joint pains and rashes.
In a statement read out by Dr Hasan during a press conference, ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said the majority of cases were detected through house-to-house checks by ministry officers.
No new cases were reported from 17 of the 20 localities but the remaining three, which were newly detected areas would be monitored for the next two weeks, he said.
The three areas are Kg Bukit Bendar, Johor with eight cases, Sungkai, Perak with 20 cases and Kg Rasau and its surrounding areas in Perak with 90 cases.
Dr Ismail said besides active detection, fogging and “larviciding” had been carried out.
“Active health education has also been carried out through discussions, health advice and brochure distribution.
“The majority of cases are self-limiting and chikungunya does not cause bleeding or death,” he said.
He added that those who had been infected acquired life-long immunity from the disease.
Further information can be obtained from the ministry’s website, or call 03-88810600/0700 during office hours.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Babies breast-fed for six months enjoy better health

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Only two in seven infants here are breast-fed for the first four months of their life. This is two months short of the six months recommended by the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef).
This is despite the fact that Malaysia is one of only three countries in the world, after Sweden and Oman, to have all its government hospitals accredited as baby friendly.
Instead of giving their infants the best start in life, parents are replacing mother's milk with inferior substitutes like formula, cow's milk, condensed milk, evaporated milk and even coffee, tea and sugar water.
Unicef Malaysia representative Youssouf Oomar said: "Not only are these substitutes inferior, they are also dangerous for babies to consume.
"Giving an infant any food or drink other than breast milk increases the risk of diarrhoea, pneumonia, ear infections, a runny nose and other infections. Breast-feeding reduces these risks." he said in conjunction with World Breast-Feeding Week from Aug 1 to 7.
Infants who are correctly and exclusively breast-fed for the first six months get a head start in life, he said.
Breast-fed children are protected from infections, have better eyesight, higher IQs and are less likely to become overweight than those fed with substitutes.
And research has shown that babies who were breast-fed have fewer problems later in life with chronic diseases like asthma, diabetes and even cancer.
"Breast milk is essentially an infant's 'first immunisation'. These essential nutrients given at infancy help make a lasting impression on a child's development and future," he said.
Youssouf also pointed out that a mother's own health can benefit from breast-feeding her child.
Equally important, he said, with rising food prices, breast-feeding helps families save RM85 to RM275 a month on infant food.
In conjunction with World Breast Feeding Week, Unicef is organising a forum on "Working Women and Breast-Feeding" at the Garden Hotel next to Mid Valley Megamall on Aug 1 from 10.30am to 5.30pm.

Tainted candy worth over RM1m seized

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry seized RM1.18mil worth of Hotton Vitality Candy, which is a type of health confectionary that can lead to heart failure and shortness of breath.
The candy, which contained aminotadalafil (tadalafil analogue), can also cause loss of sight through prolonged use or in high doses.
The ministry said in a statement that the candy was seized in raids on the importer in Damansara Jaya and the distributor in Bandar Puteri Puchong.
Tadalafil is a type of medicine used to treat erectile dysfunction and it has been confirmed safe for use for the ailment but the patient must first undergo medical examination.
In contrast the safety profile of its analogue has never been scientifically tested. Aminotadalafil (tadalafil analogue) is added in Hotton Vitality Candy to avoid detection by the authorities and to mislead the public into believing it is safe.
“Hotton Vitality Candy is marketed in a pack of four candies each with a different flavour namely ginger, coffee, cinnamon and mint. It is believed to be imported from Thailand and sold for RM5 each,” the statement said.
Manufacturers and distributors can be prosecuted in court under the Poisons Act and upon conviction can be fined up to RM5,000 and jailed up to two years or both. – Bernama

KK cardiac centre needs RM60m more to be built

Star: KOTA KINABALU: The Health Ministry is seeking an additional RM60mil for an urgently-required cardiac centre to be built here – the country’s fifth.
Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai said the Government had initially approved some RM80mil for the cardiac centre but the project cost had since jumped to RM140mil as the ministry had increased the scope of the works.
“The cost of the building itself is not that much but the bulk of the expenditure is for the specialised equipment needed there,” he told reporters after visiting the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) here yesterday.
He said the 100-bed cardiac centre would be a unit within QEH and would be the latest in the country after similar facilities built in Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Johor Baru and Kuching.
Liow said the centre was urgently needed as some 100 heart patients from Sabah were being sent to the National Heart Institute (IJN) every year for surgery.
In addition, there were about 174 open heart surgeries carried out in the state by IJN surgeons annually.
Meanwhile, Liow said that after personally seeing the overcrowding in some wards in QEH he had directed his ministry’s officers to speed up the construction of two more blocks of wards at the hospital.
He said the “twin towers” were due to be completed by 2010 and would increase the hospital’s capacity by 660 beds.
“The additional wards are very much needed. Some wards are so overcrowded that there are even beds along the corridors,” Liow said.
He said he had also approved an additional RM8mil for the hospital to acquire various equipment.

Ruling ‘will not solve shortage of doctors’

Star: PETALING JAYA: Discarding the mandatory three-year service in government hospitals for doctors serving abroad who want to return will not address the shortage in the public sector, said the Malaysian Medical Association.
Its president Datuk Dr Khoo Kah Lin said it would only create an imbalance between the public and private medical sectors.
“It will only open the gate for them to practise in the private sector, causing more imbalance,” he said in a statement on Monday.
“While we agree that the country needs more doctors in government service, there is much dissatisfaction in the sector, causing some 300 to 400 doctors resigning every year to practise privately.”
Dr Khoo added it would also be unfair to local graduates who need to complete three years of compulsory service and two years of housemanship.
Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai recently announced that specialists who have practised overseas for more than 10 years would be exempted from serving three years in government hospitals when they return.
The ruling applied to doctors aged 45 years and above, he said.
Dr Khoo said the reasons for the high rate of resignation included heavy workload, poor working conditions and low remuneration.
“The MMA would propose for these aspects to be improved, including creating more promotional posts, hastening the promotion process and revision of on-call allowance, specialist allowance and hardship allowance for doctors in rural areas,” he added.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Doctors against ministry's proposal

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) is unhappy with a proposed exemption from government service for doctors returning from abroad if they are 45 years or older.
MMA president Datuk Dr Khoo Kah Lin said this was not fair to local graduates who had to serve five years with the government, including two years of housemanship.
"There are already incentives for doctors who want to return from overseas and work in Malaysia. They include tax exemption on personal items, exemption of import and excise duties for two cars, and citizenship for spouses and children within six months of their return."
Furthermore, he said, spouses with recognised qualifications and skills could apply for study pass from the Immigration Department.So far, only 100 doctors have returned.
Dr Khoo said the problem of insufficient doctors in government service would not be solved by such incentives to woo Malaysians working overseas.
He said the problem was of too many doctors leaving government service to go into private practice.
He said the high rate of resignations, of up to 400 doctors annually, was caused by dissatisfaction over the heavy workload, poor working conditions and low remuneration.
"MMA would like to propose to the health ministry to improve the remuneration, incentives, career development and working conditions for government doctors to discourage them from resigning."
He said more promotional posts should be created.
"Promotions should be speeded up, while there should be a revision of on-call allowance, specialist allowance and hardship allowance for doctors working in rural areas, Sabah and Sarawak."

Penans hit by malaria outbreak 18 farmers hospitalised

Star: MIRI: An isolated semi-nomadic Penan community living deep in the interior of northern Sarawak near the Kalimantan border has been hit by malaria.
Medical teams rushed to the Bario highlands to treat the Penan farmers and 18 were flown out on emergency flights to Miri Hospital here, sources told The Star yesterday. The mosquito-borne disease can kill if those affected are not treated quickly.
State Assemblyman for Ba’Kelalan, Nelson Balang Rining, yesterday confirmed that the affected Penans are from his constituency.
“The information I have received so far indicated that these 18 Penans have been hospitalised. There are no fatalities. These Penans are from an isolated territory, not from the main Bario village itself.
“I’m told the health authorities have implemented urgent measures to prevent further infection in the Penan settlement,” he said.
Sarawak's director for health and medical services department Dr Mohd Kamal Hassan confirmed that the department had initiated anti-malaria operations.
“We are still compiling the figures on how many have been infected. We have already sent our people to the affected areas to contain the situation and to take preventive measures,” he said.
The 18 hospitalised Penans had shown typical malaria symptoms like fever, shortness of breath, chills, nausea and flu.
While there is no known vaccine for malaria, those infected are usually treated with drugs such as quinine.

High risk of dengue after chikungunya

Star: PETALING JAYA: The recent cases of chikungunya viral fever in Kampung Rasau near Slim River could also indicate a high risk of a dengue fever outbreak in the area, Health Ministry disease control director Datuk Dr Hasan Abdul Rahman said.
He said the ministry had dispatched health officials to conduct more fogging in the area to get rid of mosquitoes. Both chikungunya and dengue are spread by aedes mosquitoes.
Dr Hasan said the area had a high mosquito-breeding index of 3.7. The normal level should be at one.
On the chikungunya situation, he said that of the 107 people checked, six tested positive. They were given outpatient treatment.One person who had symptoms was admitted to hospital but it was due to high blood pressure.
Meanwhile, Slim River assemblyman Datuk Mohd Khusairi Abdul Talib said the chikungunya outbreak in Kampung Rasau could spread to other villages.
Khusairi, who visited villagers seeking treatment for the prolonged fever and joint pains at the Slim River health polyclinic yesterday, said he was concerned about the feedback he was getting from the villagers.
“Now I am told that it has spread to nearby villages such as Ulu Slim, Slim village, Bandar Baru Slim River, Kuala Slim, Kampung Bantang and Trolak.”
Khusairi, who was briefed on the disease by a doctor at the polyclinic, said whole families were reporting that they were down with prolonged fever, rashes and joint pains.
Last week, the polyclinic was treating between 25 and 30 patients with the same symptoms, he said. This week, the number has risen.
He advised the people to destroy mosquito-breeding grounds.
Housewife Rasida Ahmad, who was at the Slim River hospital caring for her five-year-old daughter Nur Hasmatul, said she was the first in her family to be down with prolonged fever, rashes and joint pains.
“My husband was the next. After that it was my two sons and two daughters,” she said.
Her mother-in-law Jaliah Md Dini, 67, had the same symptoms, she said, adding that the entire Kampung Rasau was down with the disease but many villagers did not want to be warded.

Making hospitals more friendly

Star: SANDAKAN: The Health Ministry is implementing measures, including a standard operating procedure, to minimise complaints among patients in public hospitals and health centres.
A Patient Safety Council headed by the Director General of Health has also been set up to ensure that incidences of negligence are minimised.
Most of the complaints last year came from those who were not happy with services provided by doctors and nurses, minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai said after visiting the Duchess of Kent Hospital yesterday.

Health D-G: Ministry will stand by KL Hospital's medical record

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Health Ministry Director-General Tan Sri Dr Mohd Ismail Merican said the ministry would stand by the findings of the medical examination conducted on Saiful Bukhairi Azlan at the KL Hospital on June 28.
He said the examination was done according to standard operating procedures with strict adherence to medical ethics, confidentiality and professionalism.
"The details of the findings have not and will not be disclosed to any unauthorised personnel or agency. No one should speculate or draw conclusions or make assumptions as to the result of the medical examination," he said in a statement Tuesday.
Dr Ismail said the ministry was aware of the circulation of a purported medical examination record conducted by a certain doctor from a private clinic on Saiful, adding that the hospital would be contacted to get further details, especially with regards to the authenticity of the medical record and how it had been made public.
"We will enquire whether there are protocols and procedures in place for the release of a medical record in that particular institution.
"In any case, regardless of the authenticity of the record, it should be regarded as confidential as should not be circulated," he said.
Dr Ismail said action could be taken under the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998 on any private hospital that failed to institute measures to ensure and maintain the confidentiality of patients' medical records.
He said the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) was aghast with the circulation of such a record of a patient in the Internet by a registered medical practitioner.
He said the ministry would like to remind every medical practitioner that he or she owed legal, ethical and moral duty of confidentiality towards his or her patient and at no time must any information related to the patient in the course of professional interactions without the consent of the parties concerned.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Malacca site for toxicology lab

NST: MALACCA: The country's first toxicology laboratory will be set up in the historical city.
The RM4.2 million laboratory, which is expected to be set up in Ayer Keroh, is scheduled to be completed in October.
Its set-up is the result of collaboration between the state Biotechnology Corporation and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM).
Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam said besides focusing on toxicology, the laboratory would also be involved in research and development.
Mohd Ali had earlier witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Melaka Biotechnology Corporation (MBC) and UKM.
MBC was represented by its chief executive officer Datuk Dr Ramli Hitam and UKM by its deputy vice-chancellor (Research and Innovation) Professor Datuk Dr Ibrahim Komoo.
"We are looking at returns of about RM2 million a year from this venture from 2010," he said.
"Currently, we are producing pure essential oils under the patronage of Malacca Institute of Biotechnology and commercialised by Melaka Biotech Holdings Sdn Bhd.
"This project is aimed at discovering all aromatic plants in the country and to produce essential-oil-based products."
The essential oil factory is in the 10.1ha Biotechnology Park in Londang, Masjid Tanah. Also in the Biotechnology Park is a tissue culture lab researching on banana and herbal plants. The state is also undertaking DNA research through the Malacca Institute of Biotechnology.

Malaysia gets medical boost

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: For the first time, Malaysia has been invited to send a speaker to the World Medical Tourism and Global Health Congress -- a tremendous boost and recognition for the country's growing medical tourism industry.
National Heart Institute (IJN) chief executive officer Datuk Mohd Radzif Mohd Yunus will attend the four-day congress in San Francisco, in the United States, from Sept 9.
Mohd Razif, who is one of 50 international speakers, said he would sell Malaysia's medical facilities and services to the 1,000 participants from all over the world.
"We meet international standards and we are comparable with any super speciality care in the world. We have specialists and surgeons in a variety of specialities."
The number of foreign patients seeking medical treatment increased to 341,288 last year, contributing a revenue of RM253.84 million. Foreign patient admission is estimated to grow at an average rate of 27 per cent annually.
Most seek cosmetic and reconstructive surgery, general and cosmetic dentistry, gynaecology and urology treatment.
Mohd Radzif said many foreigners were turning to IJN for heart problems and surgeries.
This was not surprising as IJN had carved out a name for itself internationally for its achievements, including being the first in Southeast Asia to perform coronary bypass surgeries and the complex thymectomy procedure on conscious or "awake" patients without general anaesthesia.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Keeping cervical cancer in check

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: A non-governmental organisation has been formed to reduce the high incidence of cervical cancer in Malaysia.
Called Cervical Cancer Awareness Association (Cares) and located at Primanora Medical Centre, it will provide screening and raise awareness among women.
Cares ambassador and Malaysia's first angkasawan Datuk Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor said: "After doing cancer research through the angkasawan programme, my perspective about cancer has changed. That was one of the reasons I decided to support Cares' efforts."
Cervical cancer is the second leading cancer after breast cancer, with 2,000 to 3,000 cases detected yearly.
Medical adviser for Cares, Datuk Dr Nor Ashikin Mokhtar, said unlike other cancers, cervical cancer could be prevented.
As part of its programme, a public forum will be held on Aug 10 at Boulevard Hotel, Mid Valley Megamall.

Upgrade for maternity wings

NST: THE Health Ministry will embark on a plan to improve facilities at hospital maternity wings, as well as the quality of nurses nationwide, Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad told the senate yesterday.
Dr Abdul Latiff said the move follows complaints over a shortage of beds at the maternity wings.
"We are doing our best to ensure the facilities are put in place for the comfort of the women," he said while replying to points raised by Senators during the Ninth Malaysia mid-term review.
Dr Abdul Latiff said the Health Ministry was currently increasing the number of beds at maternity wings of its hospitals in stages.
"We have also set a benchmark. Each hospital which delivers 750 babies a month will have a dedicated delivery room, while a hospital which delivers more than 5,000 babies a month will have a gynaecologist and anaesthetist on call," he said.
On nurses, Dr Abdul Latiff said they have to refer to the ministry's work guide that requires nurses to be polite and courteous to patients.
"We will give more attention to maternity nurses who have been accused of being fierce and rude to patients at times," he said to Senator Siew Chun Eam, who had complained of nurses being rude at maternity wings of hospitals.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Kuantan to be cardiothoracic centre

The Star Kuantan has been earmarked to be the next cardiothoracic centre by the Government under the Ninth Malaysia Plan.
Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob said he hoped the relevant authorities were doing all they could to ensure that the centre was set up before the start of the Tenth Malaysian Plan.
``You can count on the state government to do all it can to support this effort for the benefit of people in the east coast,'' he said in his speech at the 10th Congress Malaysian Thoracic Society (MTS) dinner here on Friday night.

Why mortality rate still high

Daily Express Sabah's maternal mortality rate is still on the high side compared with other states, according to State Health Director Dr Hj Marzukhi Md Isa.
He attributed this trend to the presence of illegal immigrants who don't come for antenatal check-up and encounter problems during pregnancy but are not identified.
"The majority of maternal deaths are associated with illegal immigrant mothers. They come to us when they develop complications during delivery. By then, it's too late.

"In 2007, the maternal mortality rate (mother's death during delivery) was one per 1,000 deliveries. It's still high. So far, the best figure we had reported was 0.79 per 1,000 deliveries in 2002.
"The same year, the rate of perinatal death (within one week before and after delivery) was 16 per 1,000 deliveries while that for infant mortality (0-1 year old) 9.6 per 1,000 deliveries. The lowest reported rate for infant mortality was 9.47 per 1,000 deliveries in 2006.
"As for neonatal mortality rate (babies 0-1 month old), it was 7.1 per 1,000 deliveries. The best reported figure was 5.47 per 1,000 deliveries in 2006," he told reporters, Friday after launching the lst National Paediatric Nursing Congress at Pacific Sutera Hotel here.
The two-day event is organised by the Malaysian Paediatric Association (MPA) led by Dr Soo Thian Lian who is Organising Chairman cum Head of the Paediatric Department at Likas Hospital. Some 380 nurses from Malaysia, Singapore and Negara Brunei are attending the congress which ends today (Saturday).
Dr Marzukhi said the statistics do not cover children of illegals because when they (children) fall sick, they don't seek immediate treatment, and neither do the babies come for immunisation.
However, free immunisation is provided for all infants even if they are delivered at private hospitals, including those of illegal immigrants when they approach the health clinic or klinik desa.
"We do not want illegal children to transmit diseases like TB, tetanus and polio to local children. So immunisation is a preventive measure."
On why the Health Ministry is monitoring the maternal, perinatal, neonatal, infant and toddler mortality rates, Dr Marzukhi said it will reflect effectiveness or otherwise of health services provided to the community.
"If the neonatal or infant mortality rate is high, that means the health services are not good enough. This can be used as an indicator when comparing at inter-state and inter-country levels. Even globally, we use this as an indicator to measure health delivery in the community or country itself," he pointed out.
Asked why after 50 years of independence, our maternal and infant mortality rates are still high, the State Health Director said overall, Malaysia as a whole is better off compared with the rates in other developing countries.
Dr Marzukhi said an expectant mother from one of the Philippine islands (off Kudat), suffering from hypertension, even sought treatment from the Kudat Hospital recently.
"In this particular case, the nearest hospital in the Philippines was six hours by boat. But it took only two hours to go to Pulau Banggi. From this island, it took another hour to reach Kudat. Because of her condition, she was sent to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, which meant a three-hour road journey."
According to the Fees Act, a migrant mother who delivers at a government hospital is required to pay RM400 per delivery or RM100 at a government health clinic or klinik desa per delivery.
"The fees are standardised throughout Malaysia."

On a reporter's remark that pregnant women from the Philippines are deliberately taking advantage of Sabah's better health facilities, Dr Marzukhi said doctors would not see it in that light.
"We look at everybody as human beings."
In response to another reporter's suggestion that mothers from the Philippines, who are in an advanced stage of pregnancy, should be stopped from crossing over to Sabah, he said:
"That is beyond ourÉthat is a policy matter. We cannot control, it's very difficult to stop even healthy people from coming in. What more sick and pregnant women!
"But if they come for regular treatment, we charge them accordingly. In cases, where foreigners brought in are in a very bad condition and can't pay for the health service, we don't force them but will treat where necessary."
When told that Sabah leaders have voiced concern, saying illegal immigrants are draining the State of its health resources, Dr Marzukhi said: "I won't comment on that. As far as we (health professionals) are concerned, our key responsibility is to treat sick people when they come for help."
When told of expectant mothers lying on mattresses on the floor due to congestion in the maternity ward of a government hospital, he said there was no choice as migrants also have to be treated on humanitarian grounds.
"As health professionals, we have to treat all human beings who are sick, regardless of whether they are Malaysian citizens or illegal immigrants.
This is part of our code of ethics. Our task is to save lives whether you are a local or illegal immigrant. We (doctors) have no authority to talk about boundaries.
"We do ask them for passports or identification papers but based on human rights, we still treat them even if they don't possess these documents."
On reports that foreigners owe hospitals a huge sum of money (as reveaeld by a former Health Minister), he said this was true.
"One way to counter this problem is to make non-citizens pay a deposit first before admission. However, if their illness is not bad enough for them to get admitted, we just treat them as outpatients for which they also have to pay. There is no free treatment even at the klinik kesihatan or rural health centre. They have to pay RM15 each."
ALTHOUGH the incidence of malaria in Sabah has been reduced, Dr Marzukhi said it is still high. "The Health Ministry's target is to eliminate the disease here by 2020," he said.
He said Sabah alone in 1995 contributed 44,000 malaria cases out of 65,000 for the whole of Malaysia that year. "With extra funding and manpower, we managed to bring the figure down to 3,191 last year."
On the earlier announcement that Sabah will have more mobile clinics in rural areas, he said it is a policy "and we are expanding the number".

Dr Marzukhi, who visited Banggi Island last week, conceded that more mobile teams have to be deployed to the island because it is not covered regularly.
"So far, the team has been there only twice a month or even once a month.
Now we want to have more manpower to provide health services not only for children but also adults. There are still a lot of malaria cases here."

THE problem of getting doctors to come to Sabah is yet to be resolved, said Dr Marzukhi.
"COLA (Cost Of Living Allowance) is still not good enough to attract them. We are going to propose a few things to the Health Ministry to ensure that doctors are willing to serve in remote areas. We have already discussed the issue at state levelÉit's a policy matter. I cannot tell you (reporters)," he said when asked what was being done to address the doctor shortage in Sabah.
Under the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP), the State Health Director said the Government's priority is to provide more services to the rural population, particularly in Sabah and Sarawak.
"Despite our limited manpower, we are doing our best. We even have doctors visiting the klinik desa to see mothers and children."
Noting that Sabah is a very big state, Dr Marzukhi said one pressing issue is the problem of accessibility.
"The facilities are actually thereÉeven with the availability of health centres in remote areas, getting to these places for healthcare still poses a problem. When people are sick, they don't get treatment immediately for want of accessibility. That is the issue now in Sabah."

Shortage of 1,800 specialists in government hospitals

NST: MUAR: There is a shortage of l,800 specialists in government hospitals in the country.
Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai said currently government hospitals have to operate with only 50 per cent of the specialists strength.
He said the Ministry needed 3,600 specialists to serve in government hospitals but at present only l,800 specialists are employed.
"The Health Ministry is concerned over the shortage. It is finding ways to encourage more Malaysian specialists working overseas to return to work in the hospitals," Liow told reporters after opening the MCA Taman Bintang Emas branch at Bukit Pasir here last night.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Specialists need not serve three years

NST: NIBONG TEBAL: Specialists who have practised overseas for more than 10 years are exempted from serving three years in government hospitals when they return to Malaysia.
Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai said yesterday that the specialists would instead be required to serve at community clinics on weekends.
Liow said the new ruling was for specialists above 45 years old.
Liow said more than 100 specialists currently practising overseas, especially in Britain and Singapore, had agreed to return to Malaysia to serve.
There are 1,800 specialists serving 26 million people in the country.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

IJN wants use of 'empty' hospital

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: The National Heart Institute wants its surgical teams to have access to the operating theatres in Serdang Hospital.
The call was made by IJN chief executive officer Datuk Mohd Radzif Mohd Yunus to the Health Ministry to reduce the number of patients awaiting cardiac surgery.
IJN had recently proposed a "practical, cost-efficient solution" which will capitalise on its expert surgical teams and the under-utilised cardiac facility at Serdang Hospital.
It has a waiting list of some 111 paediatric surgeries, both simple and complex.
Radzif said all urgent cases were immediately operated on.
Those on the waiting list were mainly patients who were still not ready for the operation, needing further tests, suffering complications and other problems.
"We have the expertise but not the capacity to accommodate all the cases.
"The problem of capacity will be resolved when our new wing is ready next year."
"The long waiting time and waiting list faced by IJN are due to capacity constraints and not lack of expertise. We have the expertise to do even the most complex paediatric case," said Radzif.
Currently, the IJN paediatric team comrprises five consultant paediatric cardiologists assisted by three paediatric specialists.
Also lending a helping hand are seven consultant surgeons.
IJN currently handles more than 10,000 outpatient paediatric cases yearly of which more than 2,000 are newly referred cases.
Last year, it performed more than 1,000 surgeries and procedures to treat paediatric heart patients.
Radzif said the ministry should consider the proposal as the New Straits Times had reported on July 6 that operating theatres at the RM300 million Serdang Hospital, designed to be the reference centre for cardiology, cardiothoracic, urology and nephrology surgery in the country, have remained empty since they were opened in 2005.
He said IJN's resources could be used far more efficiently if they were given the opportunity to jointly operate at the newly established heart unit at the Serdang Hospital.

He also said IJN was keen to jointly operate at other government hospitals with fully-equipped heart units, such as those in Penang, Johor Baru, Kuching and Alor Star, which were either under-utilised or not operational due to a lack of manpower.
He added IJN was also offering to provide on-the-job training for medical personnel at government and university hospitals to help alleviate the lack of manpower.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sex education for trainees soon

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Sex education will soon be part of the curriculum of the National Service Training Programme.
Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen said emphasis would be given to reproductive healthcare and youth sexuality.
She said the move was also to ensure better health for women, mothers and babies.
She added that life-long quality reproductive health services, especially during pregnancies, could reduce fatalities during deliveries.
"Maternity, obstetrics and family planning services are integral to reproductive healthcare. In this context, the role men play in family healthcare is equally important.
"Socio-economic development, especially in health and industrialisation, has led to a reduced mortality rate," she said in a statement in conjunction with World Population Day, yesterday.
Dr Ng added although there were adequate reproductive healthcare facilities at government and private clinics and hospitals, there remained some hardcore poor who were deprived of the service.
In conjunction with World Population Day 2008, the ministry is hosting a conference themed Youth and the Changing Demographics on Aug 18 and 19 here.

Law to regulate beauty salons

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: The government is coming out with a law to regulate spas and beauty salons.
Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai expects the Cosmetology Bill to be tabled in Parliament by the end of the year.
He said better governance was needed in view of the growth of the beauty industry, which had become an attraction for foreign tourists.
Liow was speaking after opening beauty centre Trois International's seventh outlet at Ampang Waterfront yesterday.
He said the Medical Act was being used to bring to book those establishments that flouted the law.
The proposed legislation would limit the type of centres that were allowed to do invasive procedures, such as those involving Botox, and these procedures would have to be done only by doctors.
"It is difficult to regulate beauty centres using the Medical Act that governs doctors. For now, we merely inspect their products and services.
"If we find that a product causes an allergy or the centre is carrying out procedures that it is not supposed to, then we take action but not through a direct method.
"The bill provides for a faster and easier process to bring them to book."
He said with strict regulations in place, foreigners would feel assured of a high standard of service and fly-by-night centres would not be able to survive.
On the incidence of adverse reactions by people using cosmetic products, Liow said this was under control.
In the last eight years, the authorities received only 53 reports of this nature.
Also, as a result of the ministry's post-market surveillance programme, 24 cosmetic products had been taken off the shelves.
This was because they contained banned ingredients such as hydroquinone and isotretinoin.
Products containing these ingredients can only be prescribed by doctors as they may cause serious side effects.
For example, the overuse of hydroquinone can cause irreversible skin reactions while isotretinoin can pose a danger to pregnant women.
Last year, the pharmaceutical division's enforcement unit seized 401 unauthorised products valued at RM264,000 from 55 beauty salons, spas and aromatherapy centres.
A total of 122 products valued at RM55,000 were seized between January and June this year.

Doctors queried about surgery

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Doctors who performed cosmetic surgery on Datin Fatimah Wan Chik who is now in a coma, have been summoned for questioning and stern action will be taken against them if they are found to have violated the Medical Act.
Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai said ministry officers had called the doctors to explain the complicated surgery of the still-hospitalised Fatimah, wife of former Labuan MP Datuk Suhaili Abdul Rahman.
Fatimah has been on life-support since Jan 18, after she had a tummy tuck, liposuction and surgery for her eye bags at a clinic in Klang on Jan 9.
“We expect to have the outcome of the investigation soon,” he told reporters after opening the Trois International Beauty Care Outlet here yesterday.
He said his ministry would table the Cosmetology Bill in Parliament by the end of this year so that beauty centres could be strictly regulated.
“Beauty care centres should exercise self-regulation and ensure that they use or sell only approved products. They must place the safety of consumers above all else,” he said, adding that his ministry had inspected 19 premises and seized 122 unauthorised products worth around RM56,000 for the first six months.
On another issue, Liow said he would personally look into a complaint by medical graduates that a local university did not hold a competency test as scheduled.
He said three local universities - Universiti Malaya, Universiti Sains Malaysia and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia - hold the test for graduates from unrecognised institutions.
The graduates are required to pass the competency test before they can register with the Malaysian Medical Council. The graduates can only take the test three times.
Recently, a Chinese newspaper reported that a group of graduates who had been assigned to sit for the test at Universiti Sains Malaysia, found that the university had cancelled the test and they were now forced to wait for another year.

HFMD fears in Sarawak

Star: MIRI: Hospitals and clinics in Sarawak have been told to watch out for a possible outbreak of the hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) in the coming months.
There was a minor scare last week in Miri City when a kindergarten shut down for a few days after several children showed HFMD symptoms.
The state Disaster Relief Committee and the health and medical authorities are not taking things for granted.
Chairman Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam sounded an early alert yesterday, saying precautions must be taken for a possible outbreak of HFMD.
He is particularly worried about the possible re-emergence of the usually lethal Enterovirus 71 (EV71) strain of HFMD that killed several people a few years ago in this state.
“The cases in Miri were isolated cases and they were not the EV71 type. They were of the ordinary HFMD strains. So far, only two EV71 cases were detected in Kuching this year.
“However, we are not taking anything for granted. There is a possibility that we will see another peak season for an HFMD outbreak next year.
“All relevant authorities have been told to take early precautionary measures to make sure we are fully prepared for any eventuality. Hospitals and clinics have been told to be on the lookout and help the state authorities monitor any unusual increase in infections,” Dr Chan, who is also the state Industrial Development Minister and State Agriculture Modernisation Minister, told a press conference yesterday.
He stressed that the Miri cases did not indicate an imminent outbreak.
Dr Chan said the experience from the 2006 HFMD outbreak (that resulted in more than 20,000 cases and 11 deaths) had enabled the health department and his committee to establish important data on how to deal with future outbreaks.
HFMD outbreaks usually follow a three-year cycle but the effect can be mitigated through cleanliness, proper hygiene and early detection, he added.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Many women yet to do breast tests

Star: MALACCA: Only 57% of the country’s female population above 20 years of age conducted breast self-examination while 52% underwent clinical examination, according to the National Health and Morbidity Survey 2006.
“The figure shows only half the female population has the awareness of performing self-check, which is very low considering the 3,800 new cases of breast cancer reported each year,” said Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai.
“Breast cancer can be detected early through self-check and clinical examination. If detected and treated early, the five-year survival rate of breast cancer patients is more than 90%,” he said.
He added that cervical cancer was the second most common cancer among women with 1,600 new cases reported each year.
“Our survey found that only 43.7% of women above 20 underwent pap-smear screening although the ministry introduced the screening in health clinics in 1981,” he told reporters after officiating the ‘Early detection – the path to cure’ health awareness seminar by Malacca Wanita MCA here yesterday.
Liow also urged Malaysians to maintain healthy eating habits to avoid weight-related diseases such as obesity and diabetes.
On another matter, Liow said the Government would not cut down on the RM400mil allocation to his ministry for its human capital development, despite the increase in cost.
“We never cut down on human capital development because we need more doctors, specialists and nurses in our hospitals.”

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Indian option gives hope to heart patients here

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: If there is one thing that tugs at the heartstrings of Dr Patrick Lawrence, it is reports of parents appealing for donations to enable their children to undergo corrective heart surgery in private hospitals.
Due to insufficient facilities and paediatric cardiac surgeons at Institut Jantung Negara and government hospitals, the waiting list for surgery is long. Time is often not on the side of young patients.
As a result, many desperate parents have been forced to source public donations to fund their child's treatment at private hospitals.
"No child should have to beg for funds to live," said Dr Lawrence, the medical director of MediAssist4U, an NGO providing medical care to haves and have-nots.
"Our aim is to make healthcare affordable to everyone because the language of pain and suffering does not discriminate. Our services are available to everyone, regardless of their financial status."
Since 2006, MediAssist4U has helped about 60 Malaysian children undergo corrective heart surgery with the help of the Narayana Hrudayalaya (NH) Institute of Cardiac Sciences in Bangalore, India.
The Bangalore operations cost less than those in Malaysia.
Heart surgery for children costs around RM10,000 at the Narayana Hrudayalaya, while for adults, charges are between RM8,000 and RM10,000.
This has been made possible through telecardiology, pioneered by the Narayana Hrudayalaya chairman and chief cardiologist, Dr Devi Prasad Shetty.
According to Dr Lawrence, the initial diagnosis was done at the MediAssist4U clinic, which is online to the Narayana Hospital.
"For example, we do the ECG and other tests at our clinic here and the information is transmitted to the cardiologists at Narayana Hrudayalaya, who diagnose the patient's condition and recommend treatment."
"We have done more than 2,700 ECGs for free over the last five years. And it doesn't cost us anything because everything is online and we have specialists from private and government hospitals who volunteer their services."
Once a diagnosis has been made, the patient can choose to have the treatment or corrective surgery done locally or at Narayana Hrudayalaya.
"Because of the long waiting period and high cost of surgery here, many opt to do it at Narayana Hrudayalaya."
In most cases, the cost of surgery, plus travel and accommodation for the accompanying relative, does not exceed RM15,000.
The low cost and world-class treatment at the hospital have come as a blessing to hundreds of Malaysians, especially children, who suffer from a range of heart ailments, including complicated cases such as ectopic heart (where the heart is not properly located in the body).
Since 2006, 10 Malaysian toddlers and about 40 adults have undergone treatment at Narayana Hrudayalaya. Some of the patients were from low-income backgrounds and their surgeries were done for free.
During a teleconference with the Malaysian media recently, Dr Shetty said the telecardiology service between the Narayana Hrudayalaya and cardiac care centres in Malaysia, Mauritius and Bangladesh, had made cardiac care more affordable.
This facility also enabled easier follow-up treatment of the patient from his home country.
The 285-bed Narayana Hrudayalaya conducts 30 open heart surgeries every day, half of which are done free.
As one of the world's largest paediatric heart hospitals, Narayana Hrudayalaya conducts 40 per cent of its surgeries on children, some as young as a day old.
It is the first hospital in Asia to carry out an artificial heart transplant on a 54-year-old Indian man in March.

Lack of surgeons is at heart of issue

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Although thousands of children remain on the waiting list for corrective heart surgery, eight operating theatres (OTs) for cardiac surgery at Serdang Hospital remain unused for want of cardiothoracic surgeons and staff.
The OTs at the RM300 million Serdang Hospital, designed to be the reference centre for cardiology, cardiothoracic, urology and nephrology surgery in the country, have remained empty since they were opened in 2005.
Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai said recently: "We don't have the experts. We don't have the manpower."
He said it was for this reason that the government had offered to send urgent paediatric heart cases to the Nara-yana Hrudayalaya Institute of Cardiac Sciences in Bangalore, India, for corrective surgery.
It had identified 200 children with complicated heart problems to be sent there soon for corrective surgery.
The first batch of about 10 children, who are stable enough to travel by air and for whom the prognosis is good, is likely to be sent in the next couple of weeks.
Liow said there was a need to send these children there for surgery as there are more than 300 infants on the Institut Jantung Negara's (IJN) waiting list.
This excludes the 3,000 children who need surgery for congenital heart diseases every year.
"We are handling about 1,200 paediatric cases a year, 75 per cent of which are carried out at IJN," said Liow.
"(We're not moving fast) enough, because it's a full house at IJN. Some of the children cannot wait long because they are urgent cases. So, there is pressure on us to perform surgery quickly."
Among the measures being taken by the ministry to ease the backlog is to offer Hospital Serdang's unused facilities to the private sector.
So far, only IJN has taken up the offer.
"IJN does not have enough OTs. It has a long waiting list for surgeries. It is negotiating with Hospital Serdang for use of its cardiac care facilities."
Another measure is to send these children to India, where costs are a fraction of what they are here.
Liow said the Narayana Hospital, for instance, was only charging RM10,000 for the surgery, compared with the RM17,000 charged by IJN.
Additional costs for airfare, visas, accommodation and other logistical matters for the child and an accompanying parent would only come to RM4,900, bringing the total to RM14,900 a case.
The government has allocated RM2 million for this programme. The hospital was chosen because of its quality care and the close working relationship it has with the ministry.
As for the shortage of specialists, Liow said the ministry's long-term plan was to increase the number of cardiothoracic surgeons and paediatric cardiac surgeons by training more specialists here.
He said he hoped other private hospitals would emulate the Penang Adventist Hospital, which had offered to perform 50 paediatric cardiac surgeries free to reduce the waiting period.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Implants to overcome drug habit

Star: PETALING JAYA: Apart from methadone, heroin addicts now have an alternative treatment that is more user-friendly, minus the addiction.
According to University of Western Australia’s Professor Gary Hulse, who specialises in Addiction Medicine, over 4,000 heroin addicts have been successfully treated with the Sustained Release Naltrexone Implant (Naltrexone) worldwide.
He explained that once an addict has a Naltrexone implant, which lasts for about six months, there would be no craving for heroin during that period.
“This is because the drug works by blocking the opiate receptors in the brain. So an addict won’t get a high, even if he chooses to still take heroin,” he told the press here yesterday.
A chief executive officer of a hospital Datuk Dr S. Guna said that the Health Ministry’s Medical Research and Ethics Committee had given the green light for the hospital to run Naltrexone Implant clinical trials here.
“It should commence in October/November this year or even earlier.
“However, there are financial constraints as it will cost up to RM3mil to run clinical trials for 200 people,” he said.
Should it reach the commercial market, Dr Guna said it could cost about RM12,000 per implant, but added it was “not much more than the methadone treatment for a period of six months”.
Prof Hulse explained that the implant consists of 10 small tablets, which would break up once inside the patient’s body.
In a 20-minute process, the implant is inserted into the patient’s abdominal region through a 2cm incision using a syringe.
The United Kingdom’s Naltrexone Treatment Centre’s website ( said the the incision can be closed with four sutures.
“Naltrexone is not a new drug, but it’s effective and safe. It’s not a drug you can get addicted to,” he said, adding that clinical trials in Australia had delivered very encouraging results.

Ministry to instil healthy eating habits in office workers

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry will launch a campaign where office cafeterias prepare food with recommended calorie content to ensure Malaysians do not exceed their daily dietary needs.
Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai said that the Health Cafeteria campaign would begin at such outlets in Kuala Lumpur.
“It will not be a choose-what-you-like method.
“We will give you the menu where food is prepared with specific calorie count and balanced diet content,” he told reporters after launching the “Greens for Life” campaign by Wellness Concept Sdn Bhd.
“We would like to encourage eateries to serve healthy food. A lot of people go for tasty food.
“All this goreng (fried) food has high content of fats that is unhealthy for the body,” he said.
He said that the necessary information would be provided to cafeteria operators to calculate the calorie content when preparing food.
He urged parents to “guide” their children to eat more vegetables because it was an important food category.
“Parents do not know how to guide their children to eat greens. You have to start them from young,” he said.
The ministry’s Adult Nutrition Survey five years ago indicated that only about 40% of Malaysian adults ate green leafy vegetables on a daily basis.
Liow said that there had been had a slight increase in the number of adult Malaysians who exercised 20 minutes three times weekly, from 11.6% in 1996 to 14.4% in 2003.
In his speech, Liow said that the ministry had multi-pronged strategies that focused not only on individual “nutritional case management” at its facilities but also on health and nutrition promotion activities.
This included publishing and disseminating the Malaysian Dietary Guidelines, conducting public awareness campaigns on healthy eating, and promoting the availability of healthy food choices through specialised training for food caterers and handlers.