Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Malaysian reaching puberty younger, says Liow

Star: GEORGE TOWN: Malaysian boys and girls are reaching puberty at a much younger age than the generations before them, said Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai.
He said that while girls attained menarche at the age of 12.6 years in 1994, many were now having their first menstruation when they are barely 10 years old.
“Early puberty and delayed marriage increases the opportunity for youths to cohabit outside of marriage,” he said when giving a talk on “Local Challenges of Malaysian Youth” at the National Day celebrations of the Methodist Boys School here yesterday.
He said a 1996 survey found that 1.8% of Malaysian youths admitted having premarital sex.
“In a similar survey conducted 10 years later, the prevalence of premarital sexual behaviour was 8% among boys and 1.9% among girls,” he said.
Replying to a question during a dialogue session with students later, Liow said there were many opportunities for youths to obtain tertiary education now compared to 20 years ago.
“When I was studying in university, there were only five public universities. Now there are 20 public universities, 18 private universities and about 500 colleges,” he said.
He said there was no reason for youths not to pursue tertiary education if their marks were good as they could easily obtain study loans from many institutions.
Former Penang Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon, who is an old boy of the school, said only 2% of those aged 19 or 20 in the country could obtain places in Universiti Malaya in the 1960s and 1970s.
“Now, it has risen to more than 30% among the age group because of ample opportunities for tertiary education in the country,” he said.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

RM1.3m for Seberang Jaya Hospital

Star: BUTTERWORTH: The Health Ministry will allocate RM1.3mil to the Seberang Jaya Hospital to overcome power supply problems and related technical difficulties, said Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai.
He also announced that the Ministry will give the hospital RM280,000 to upgrade the air handling units (AHU) in the hospital’s operation theatres.
“We are aware of the hospital’s space constraints due to rising numbers of patients.
“We will look into plans to build a new block in the hospital and provide 500 additional beds to the existing over 300,” he said during a visit to the hospital Wednesday.

Be courteous to your patients, Liow reminds new nurses

Star: SEREMBAN: Medical assistants and nurses should be more courteous to patients, said Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai.
“We often hear of complaints from patients on the poor service at hospitals both in rural and urban areas.
“This happens because some of us have a negative attitude, poor communication skills and lack of respect for them ... this is not good,” he said at the convocation of 1,290 nurses, medical assistants and community nurses at the Medical Assistants’ Training College (MATC).
His speech was read by state health, science, technology and innovation committee chairman Datuk Ismail Taib.
Liow said it was pointless if medical assistants and nurses were knowledgeable but lacked the human touch.
“Patients have different needs. This can be complex and sophisticated,” Liow added.
Liow said medical assistants and nurses must strive to improve because they formed the backbone of the medical industry.
“The three-year training for your diploma only gives you basic knowledge in this field. It is my hope that all of you would pursue advanced courses in specific fields,” he said, adding that courses like post-basic forensic medicine and sports medicine had already been made available by the ministry.
He said they should also believe in “lifelong learning” to keep abreast of developments in the medical field.
Of the 1,290 graduates, 718 were from the Port Dickson Community Nurses College, 299 from MATC and 273 from Seremban Nursing College.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Chikungunya virus still a threat in Johor, Perak

NST: MUAR: The Chikungunya outbreak in Negri Sembilan and Malacca was finally declared over but in Perak and Johor it was still being monitored, Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai said yesterday.
He said up to last Saturday, 835 people in Johor were down with Chikungunya, and Muar and Ledang had 71 cases.
Liow said to date, there was no casualty caused by the virus and he advised the public not to panic.
"The disease can be eliminated in the country if the people adhere to a simple formula by keeping their houses and compounds clean," he said after visiting the Tangkak hospital in Ledang on Sunday.
Liow said there was no clinical proof of coconut water as an alternative cure for Chikungunya.
He agreed, however, that coconut water had a cooling effect and could help reduce the high temperature in patients suffering from the virus. He said it was generally accepted that coconut water was a nutritious drink and a thirst quencher.
Liow said although there was no known vaccine against the virus which was spread by the Aedes mosquito, the doctors in government hospitals and clinics have prescribed Voltaren, Indocid and Ponstan to reduce the pain suffered by victims of the virus.
He was asked to comment on the advice of Chinese physicians to drink coconut water, water chestnut or herbal medicine for those afflicted with Chikungunya as reported in the New Sunday Times.
"Unless the Chinese physicians can substantiate the claim with scientific proof that coconut water can cure Chikungunya, the Health Ministry will not endorse the claim."
Chikungunya is endemic in many countries such as India, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, and sub-Saharan Africa.
The first Chikungunya outbreak in Malaysia was recorded in 1999.

Doctors 'giving fitness certs without examining drivers'

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Doctors have been accused of issuing physical fitness certificates to commercial vehicle drivers without examining them.
While refusing to reveal details, Transport Minister Da-tuk Ong Tee Keat confirmed the problem existed as his officers had gone undercover to check on the complaints.
"We cannot wait until the problem is rampant. We must take the bull by its horns," Ong said after officiating the Sweden-Malaysia International Road Safety Seminar at a hotel here yesterday.
All commercial vehicle drivers must undergo a medical examination as a prerequisite to renew the class E licence annually.
Random investigations revealed that most cases involved clinics and runners.
Ong also said that his ministry was revising the eKesihatan scheme. The system, proposed last year, was supposed to allow the annual health checks of commercial vehicle drivers to be electronically submitted to the Road Transport Department.
However, it was criticised by doctors, taxi and bus operators who claimed that the scheme was a money-making operation.
Ong said the ministry was practising "positive engagement" with all stakeholders to obtain their views and opinions. The ministry will also look into the medical tests to determine whether "they serve the purpose".

Tee Keat: Errant clinics a snag to eKesihatan

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Commercial drivers who pay off medical practitioners to pass their check-ups for their permits are the biggest hurdles to the revamp of the eKesihatan system.
“I view this with great concern and I’ve sent my boys to the ground to see how these people do it,” said Transport Minister Datuk Ong Tee Keat.
He added that errant medical practitioners were usually clinics and it also involved runners acting on the drivers’ behalf.
“Yes, it is corruption. When I talked to the (transport) operators, they said they don’t want to be the target of a witch-hunt,” he said, adding that the corporate sector needed to take greater responsibility to follow health, safety and environmental regulations.
He was speaking to the press after launching the second Sweden-Malaysia International Road Safety Seminar here yesterday.
Ong also said the test formats of the system and the fee structure would need to be revised to revive the eKesihatan system.
“There are several formats for the test. Do they serve the purpose or not?” he asked, adding that the Health Ministry and Koperasi Doktor Malaysia were consulted on the project.
Ong also said the fees related to eKesihatan would be revised to make it more affordable for the drivers and the corporate sector.
He said the revamp of the online system would take time as associations related to commercial vehicles and the medical practitioners had to be consulted.
The eKesihatan system would allow appointed clinics to send medical reports of commercial vehicle drivers directly to the Road Transport Department.
The system to be implemented in October last year was suspended pending further discussions.

Chikungunya and dengue situation in Perak, Negri and KL has improved

Star: TANGKAK: The chikungunya and dengue fever outbreaks in Perak, Negri Sembilan and Kuala Lumpur are under control.
Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai urged the people to help clean up villages, housing areas and towns to ensure their premises do not become mosquito-breeding grounds.
He said that apart from the three areas, Johor and Malacca too had been affected by the chikungunya outbreak.
He added that the ministry had declared an all-out war against the culprit mosquitoes to further curb the menace.
Liow, who was earlier briefed on the chikungunya outbreak by Muar Health Department officer Dr Mohd Zulkifli Othman, said that as of Sunday Johor had recorded more than 830 cases of chikungunya.
He said the ministry had set up special units to monitor all affected areas and taken preventive measures, including fogging, to curb the spread of the disease.
On the shortage of doctors in government hospitals, Liow said the ministry would implement measures to increase their numbers, especially in Johor, Sabah and Sarawak.
He said one way was to increase the number of new doctors in big hospitals so that experienced professionals could become visiting doctors at smaller hospitals.
“We will also resolve the shortage by asking the Public Services Department to take in more doctors immediately, and we will also engage foreign doctors,” he added.
“I have directed the ministry's director-general to expedite the plan, and also to recall local doctors now serving abroad.”

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Malaysian invention eases effects of knee surgery

NST: KANGAR: Researchers from Universiti Malaysia Perlis (UniMAP) are offering relief to knee surgery patients.
A team from the university's school of mechatronics engineering has developed a computer program for orthopaedic surgeons to use in surgeries involving the knee joints.
The software, known as the Virtual Arthroscopy Knee Reconstruction or VR-AKR, won a special humanitarian award at the annual Invention and New Products Exposition (Inpex) in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania in the United States.
The invention also won a gold and two silver medals in three other categories at the exposition in June.
In a nutshell, the software provides visual assistance to surgeons through the use of three-dimensional images of the knee joints during surgery. It has been developed specifically for arthroscopy knee construction.
Prof Dr Kenneth Sundaraj, who is leading the research team, said the VR-AKR would hopefully lessen the after-effects of knee surgery for patients.
He said medical specialists reported that about 65 per cent of patients with knee-related conditions complained of joint discomfort after surgery.
Sundaraj said the VR-AKR idea came about following the government's call for more innovation in the biomedical sector.
"One of my interests is virtual reality and I want to heed the government's call for more serious involvement in the biomedical sector. I feel engineers from various fields can contribute to biotechnology."
Sundaraj holds a doctorate in robotics from the National Polytechnics Institute in Grenoble, France. He previously graduated in the same field from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
Describing the win at Inpex as unexpected, Sundaraj said it was an honour to contest alongside inventors from more than 20 countries with almost 800 products.
Inpex, one of the biggest invention trade shows in the US, provides a platform for inventors to showcase their creations and establish links with companies interested in licensing, marketing and manufacturing their products.
"UniMAP's dean of the school of engineering and the research unit, the deputy vice-chancellor of research and innovation and the vice-chancellor himself, have always supported my work. This victory is as much theirs as it is mine."
Not one to rest on his laurels, Sundaraj and his research students will continue tweaking their invention to suit the ever-changing world of medical technology.
Following clinical trials in France, plans are under way for more tests at local medical institutions.
"We have shown it to surgeons in France. It received good response there. We are now seeking partners in Malaysia."

Concern over rising kidney patients

NST: PETALING JAYA: There are 18,000 kidney patients undergoing haemodialysis treatment in the country and the number is expected to rise to 20,000 in two years.
National Kidney Foundation of Malaysia medical director Dr K. Sivashanker said the trend was worrying as every year between 2,500 and 3,000 Malaysians were diagnosed with kidney failure.
"There were only 3,698 people undergoing dialysis in 1996 and now it has soared to 18,000," he said at the launch of the haemodialysis subsidy programme by SP Setia Foundation yesterday.
The foundation has pledged RM600,000 annually to subsidise kidney patients from low-income families in need of haemodialysis treatment, a move Dr Sivashanker described as timely.
It costs a patient RM110 per treatment at a non-profit haemodialysis centre.
He said the Health Ministry provided a subsidy of RM50 per treatment for households earning less than RM5,000 a month.He said on average, a kidney patient needed to undergo three treatments a week which amounts to RM780 per month. If additional treatment is required, the bill can come up to RM1,500 a month.
The foundation's chairman, Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, said they had always been sensitive to Malaysians who found it difficult to pay for their medical treatment.
"Every year we set aside RM4 million to help the needy.
"Now we pledge RM600,000 every year to help at least 100 poor kidney patients undergo dialysis free of charge at 28 non-proft haemodialysis centres in the Klang Valley, Penang and Johor."

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Malacca varsity still recognised by India

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Students at the Malacca-Manipal Medical University (MMMC) can breathe easy.
The university is still recognised by Indian medical authorities, who recently recommended the de-recognition of the Kasturba Medical Colleges (KMC) in Manipal and Mangalore which are affiliated to the Manipal University.
Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) president Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said the decision only affected the two KMCs and had no bearing on the MMMC.
"The MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Sur-gery) degree from MMMC has been recognised by the MMC since July 2003 and its graduates allowed to register as medical practitioners in Malaysia."
Dr Ismail said the MMMC was registered and licensed with the Higher Education Ministry to conduct the MBBS programme in collaboration with the Manipal University.
"As the MMMC never sought recognition from the Medical Council of India (MCI), it has never been placed under the latter's purview. Hence, the ruling doesn't affect the MMMC."
He said the MMC had also been informed in writing by Manipal University that the MCI was only a recommendatory body and that the power to recognise or de-recognise lay with the Indian health and family welfare ministry.
"I advise parents and students not to be worried as the MMC is monitoring the situation."

Monday, August 11, 2008

Programme in the offing to address shortage of paramedics

Star: GEORGE TOWN: St John Ambulance of Malaysia (SJAM) and Open University are planning to offer a Diploma in Pre-Hospital programme by January in a bid to address the country’s acute shortage of paramedics.
Apart from being the first of its kind in the country, this online programme is the first to be offered by the non-governmental organisation.
Currently, there are about 100 paramedics in the country, said SJAM Commander-in-Chief Datuk Dr Low Bin Tick.
He said the university would conduct the diploma’s theory syllabus, while the students would receive their skills training from the organisation.
SJAM and Open University are designing the syllabus, which will be submitted to the National Accreditation Board and Health Ministry for approval.
“There’s no point awarding a piece of paper if it’s not recognised by the board and ministry.
“We want our graduates to be employable,” he said after the annual marching inspection attended by Yang di-Pertua Negri Tun Abdul Rahman Abbas at Padang Polo yesterday.
Dr Low said they hope the programme would be subsequently developed into a degree.
On another matter, he said SJAM planned to raise RM1mil by December for the Sichuan Earthquake Rebuilding Fund to build an orphanage in Sichuan. Earlier, Star Publications (M) Bhd executive director Datuk Seri Kamal M. Hashim presented a new ambulance to the SJAM Penang branch. The vehicle was bought from the proceeds collected at the Starwalk Carnival Charity Concert 2006.

Mobile units for breast checks

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: The Women, Family and Community Development Ministry is studying the possibility of setting up mobile mammogram clinics.
Minister Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen said the clinics would serve the rural areas, especially those in Sabah and Sarawak, and would help to increase awareness of breast cancer.
She said her ministry had also endorsed 50 clinics in the country run by the National Population and Family Development Board.
"These clinics provide a RM50 subsidy for mammograms. Women over 40 with a nett annual income of below RM5,000 are eligible for the subsidy.
"Yet not many are coming forward to do the test due to their fears."
Dr Ng said that her ministry could not afford to mobilise a clinic to every part of the country.
"Money is one thing. We also need the manpower and approval from the machines and facilities to carry out tests if the mobile clinics are set up."
She also advised women not to resort to complementary medicine without first consulting their doctors.
"Complementary medicine alone is not the answer. It is meant to complement," she said after flagging off the Avon Walk Around the World for Breast Cancer.
The campaign comprises specially designed programmes, which include various activities such as walks, runs, carnivals and concerts.
It has mobilised more than 600,000 people from over 50 countries and raised over US$52 million (RM171.7 million) since its launch in 2005.
Yesterday's walk, organised by Avon Cosmetics Malaysia, was held for the fourth time here with over 5,000 participants joining in a 3km charity walk around the Titiwangsa Lake Gardens.
Several celebrities, including Angkasawan Negara Datuk Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, singers Shafinaz Selamat and Rohana Jalil, and actress Nasha Aziz, also joined in the walk.
The charity walk raised RM50,000 for Avon's "Kiss Goodbye to Breast Cancer" programme.
A mock cheque was presented by Avon human resources director Azlan Ismail to Nasirah Aris, the adviser of Pride Foundation.
The donation will be used for the foundation's Prostheses Bra Fund.
The fund benefits breast cancer patients and survivors who have undergone mastectomy and radical lumpectomy by providing them with breast prostheses and special bras.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Enjoying better health with gene screening

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: "Early warning systems" like molecular screening will allow people to better manage their health.
Molecular screening is an examination of a person's genetic makeup to establish his or her genetic predisposition to certain diseases like cancer, hypertension, chronic renal failure, diabetes mellitus and ischemic heart disease.
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Mohd Ismail Merican, however, said that neither molecular technology nor biotechnology promised immortality.
"Healthy people are the greatest asset of any nation and molecular screening promises better management of health risk," he said in his speech read by Health Ministry Disease Control director Datuk Dr Hassan Abdul Rahman at the launch of the National INFOHaem Molecular Screening Services 2008, organised by the Malaysian Liver Foundation and Infovalley Group of Companies yesterday.
Present were Dr James Mackay, a consultant in clinical genetic oncology from University College London, and iGENE Sdn Bhd chief operating officer Dr Suresh A. Chandran.
Dr Suresh said the public should start perceiving health care as preventive medicine instead of being a sick-care sector.
He said when related molecular indicators were detected early, potentially life-saving medical management could be implemented.
"This will lead to specific interventions aimed at reducing risks, including adjustments for nutrition, lifestyle and environment."
A recent study, he said, had shown that changing one's lifestyle could switch on good genes and reverse damage at the genetic level.

Government docs want on-call allowance raised to overtime rate

Star: PETALING JAYA: Government doctors certainly have a lot to complain about, and they’re mostly to do with the much better perks offered by the private sector.
But this time, they are griping about their counterparts who do overtime at government health clinics. And it’s all about a vast discrepancy in the on-call allowance and overtime rate.
Doctors at government hospitals get a RM10 hourly on-call allowance, while those at government health clinics get RM80 for every hour’s overtime.
The hospital doctors say they have to attend to life threatening and emergency cases at casualty units, while the clinic doctors mostly only attend to patients complaining about coughs and colds.
Doctors at government hospitals have to perform on-call duty several times a month, and have called on the Health Ministry to standardise the payment rates.
“The RM10 hourly allowance for on-call doctors is grossly unfair,” said a senior doctor at a government hospital in the Klang Valley.
The doctor revealed that eight to 16 doctors were rostered for on-call duty in most large government hospitals.
”On the other hand, our counterparts at the health clinics are being paid RM80 hourly for treating patients with coughs and flu,” he said.
Other doctors, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they preferred to serve at government health clinics which have extended operating hours to 9.30pm on weekdays, and from 8am to noon on Saturdays.
“We don’t have to work long hours and the workload is also not that heavy at health clinics,” said one doctor.
A 29-year-old doctor from Malacca said that with the current inflationary pressure, young doctors could hardly survive, especially if they were married with children.
The ministry reviewed the on-call allowance after two decades in 2005.
For weekdays, the on-call allowance was increased from RM75 to RM150 per day (calculated at the compulsory 15 hours of on-call duty which has to be performed daily), while such allowance on weekends was increased from RM113 to RM170.
The ministry started the overtime scheme at 16 government health clinics earlier this year for doctors who volunteered to work from 5pm to 9pm.
This means that a health clinic doctor who volunteers to work the four-hour period will earn RM320, compared with RM150 for a hospital doctor's 15 hours' work.
A specialist doctor cautioned that young doctors may be discouraged from serving in government hospitals if this issue was not resolved.
Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai explained that “overtime” and “on-call” were different, likening them to an apple and orange situation.
“Being on call is something that all government doctors have to do while working overtime is voluntary. You cannot compare working overtime with being on call,” he clarified.
He said the ministry was not considering raising the on-call rate but pledged to work on improving benefits for doctors to retain more of them in the public sector.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Pall over Manipal degrees

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The Medical Council of India (MCI), which regulates medical institutions in the country will no longer recognise degrees offered by India’s Manipal University.
MCI announced last week that it would no longer recognise Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBs) courses offered by Kasturba Medical Colleges in Manipal and Mangalore.
“There were several inadequacies in the college which would not allow students to benefit completely from the course,” Bernama quoted a senior MCI official as saying.
Manipal University Pro-Chancellor Dr H.S Ballal said although the MCI had derecognised the institution, the ultimate decision would depend on the Indian Health Ministry.
“We have written to the Health Ministry and they have sent a team to observe the university.
“We have also submitted a report and the matter is still pending, and hope to get a reply within two to three weeks,” he said.
Manipal is popular among Malaysian students. Students at the Melaka Manipal Medical College (MMMC) do three years of clinical training in Malaysia and two years of pre-clinical in India.
An official from the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) said the decision by the MCI would result in the public thinking that the quality of Manipal’s medical degree had gone down.
The MMC governs the recognition of medical courses for Malaysia.
“Students in Malaysia might be affected as they are studying in a university that has been derecognised by its own council,” the spokesman said.
“The decision means that to a certain extent, the quality must have gone down,” the spokesman said, adding that recognition of doctors as well as medical programmes and institutions come under the purview of the MMC.
The spokesman added that the MMC would write to the MCI as well as the Manipal Academy of Higher Education to ask for a further explanation on the ruling.
MMMC dean Dr John Arokiasamy said MCI's decision would not affect its twinning programme.

Tasty food may not be healthy, says Minister

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysians need to practice restraint and not choose food based on their cravings.
“Tasty food does not mean healthy food,” Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai said yesterday in launching the ministry’s Healthy Cafeteria campaign.
“Some people eat non-stop and excessively. And, there are those who get up during the night to eat again. This is unhealthy.”
Liow said the people needed instead to choose healthy and nutritious food.
“Nutritionists always remind us that the key to healthy eating is a balanced diet, diversifying food choices and practising moderation,” he said.
Liow said the ministry tried its best to help maintain the health of Malaysians, but the people also had to help themselves by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
He said the Healthy Cafeteria concept was to create prepared food that was nutritious, safe, clean, and of a quality, acceptable to customers.
Interested food outlets can obtain from the ministry's My Healthy Eating software, which has information on nutrient intake as well as verify a person's body mass index.
Liow later opened the MyNutri Biz Bistro and healthy eating mini carnival. He told reporters the ministry encouraged food outlet operators to obtain the software and to seek advice from ministry officers on how to implement the concept.
The ministry also encouraged other government agencies, including the National Service department, to practise the concept.
The rise of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, coronary problems and hypertension had led to the ministry requesting increased allocations under the annual Budget, he said.
While the budget this year was RM12.9bil, it was expected to increase by 10% under Budget 2009 because of increased medicine prices, he added.
He said the ministry was working with the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry on a “less sugar” campaign where food manufacturers and handlers would be asked to use less of the ingredient in their products.
On the Chikungunya outbreak, he said the public needed to cooperate with the ministry to curb the disease from spreading.

Monday, August 04, 2008

More youngsters having mental issues

Star: KOTA BARU: The latest National Health and Morbidity Study shows an increase in the number of mental ailment sufferers in Malaysia, especially among children and teenagers.
The study, conducted in 2006 and released this year, shows mental ailments among adults at 11.2% and 20.3% in children and teenagers, said Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad.
In 1996, the figures were 10.7% and 13% respectively, he added.
Dr Abdul Latiff added that the desire to commit suicide among those aged between 16 and 24 was 11% and that 47.7% of adults suffered from insomnia.
He said that suicidal tendencies and insomnia were related to stress.
Dr Abdul Latiff, who revealed the study’s findings when opening the state-level Health Carnival, said it was important to overcome stress at all levels including in schools, work places, public institutions and government offices.
He said the ministry had organised an anti-stress campaign since 2000 linking a healthy lifestyle with good mental health.
In conjunction with the carnival, the ministry is also promoting a health and food safety campaign since food poisoning cases have increased from 149 episodes in 2006 to 412 last year.
For the first quarter of this year alone there were 174 episodes reported and 70% of the cases happened at school canteens.
In Kelantan, there were 29 episodes of food poisoning in 2006 and 35 last year.
Dr Abdul Latiff said that as poor hygiene and cross food contamination were the main reasons for food poisoning, the ministry wanted canteen food operators and handlers to attend food safety seminars held in their districts.

Medical tourists coming to Malaysia in thousands

NST: Health tourism is on the uptrend and Malaysia is well-placed to reap the benefits. ANNIE FREEDA CRUEZ takes a look at the numbers.

TWO Bangladeshi teachers have proved that you don't have to be rich and famous to be able to afford quality medical care while having a good time in Malaysia.
Khaleda Mariam Sajjad, 55, and Faridah Moni Shahidullah, 65, were the first Bangladeshis to visit the country as health tourists after Malaysia Healthcare (MHC) set up its office in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on June 5.
They took advantage of the "Lifestyle Healthcare Package in Malaysia" offered in conjunction with the launch of the Malaysian Health Care office and its website, www.malaysiahealthcare.com, by MHC, Tourism Malaysia and Newport Holidays.
Khaleda, a mother of two, said: "I knew I was suffering from arthritis for the past two years but after a thorough checkup, I was told I also suffer from osteoporosis.
"The orthopaedic surgeon told me that bone degeneration was eating into my hip bone.
"He prescribed medication to slow down the degeneration. I will be keeping in touch with the doctor through email about my condition."
Faridah, who has four sons and three grandchildren, said:
"I am impressed with the high quality and affordable state-of-the-art medical facilities and services. I am happy with the service and hope to come back in three months for a follow-up check-up."
Malaysian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Datuk Abdul Malek Abdul Aziz who launched MHC's website in Dhaka, said:
"MHC can serve as a one-stop destination for all medical and tourism related needs for Bangladeshis, bringing together all related service providers in Malaysia on a single platform ."
MHC, which was launched in 2006 by former Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, is a global facilitator for health tourism in Malaysia.
MHC acts as a bridge between the health tourist and service providers -- hospitals, travel agents, insurance providers, airlines and hotels.

A survey conducted by the Association of Private Hospitals of Malaysia found that the number of foreign patients seeking treatment in Malaysia had increased greatly over the years.
In 2005, 232,161 foreign patients were treated in Malaysian private hospitals, generating over RM150.9 million in revenue.
In the following year, 296,687 medical tourists visited Malaysia. This earned the country RM203.6 million. Last year, there were 341,288 foreign patients. This resulted in revenue totalling RM253.84 million.
The country's popularity as a healthcare destination is due to the fact that it offers health care at competitive rates, compared with many developed countries.
Malaysian hospitals have also invested in world-class equipment and secured the services of medical personnel and specialists who received their training in countries such as Britain, Australia and the United States.
There are now more than 210 private hospitals with more than 10,000 beds, compared with only 50 private hospitals with 2,000 beds in 1980. At the end of last year, private hospitals employed 18,246 doctors and 68,349 nurses.
Tourism Malaysia predicts that revenue from health tourism will reach RM2.2 billion in 2010.
A 28 per cent hike is expected from Southeast Asian countries, Bangladesh, Australia, New Zealand, Middle East, Japan, Britain and Europe, with increasing interest from the US and Canada.

MHC chief executive officer Suresh Ponnudurai said their health tourism portal served all the major private hospitals, including the National Heart Institute, and helped to market Malaysia as a world-class healthcare destination.
He said government hospitals which had private wings were in the midst of getting themselves organised before joining in to promote their facilities and services.
"We need to promote ourselves aggressively in order to compete with other Asean countries. Most of the patients visiting Malaysia come from Indonesia and Singapore.
"We have people from some 34 countries visiting our website. Many of them come to Malaysia because of long waiting lists at hospitals in their own countries and because it is more affordable."
MHC also coordinates travel, accommodation, medical screening and holiday package arrangements.
"We act as a one-stop centre. People find it convenient as they don't have to go through all the hassle.The cake is huge. If we market our services properly, we will be able to attract more foreign patients."

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Recess hour for nursing mums

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry has proposed an hour break for working mothers to express breast milk at their workplace.
This is on top of the one-hour lunch break that all workers are entitled to.
Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai said he will discuss the proposal with the Human Resources Ministry on how this policy can be implemented at the workplace.
"We recommend that employers give a one-hour break for nursing mothers. It is up to the mothers to decide on the frequency," he said after launching the Code of Ethics for the Marketing of Infant Foods and Related Products at Selayang Hospital yesterday.
He made the proposal following worries over the low number of mothers who practised breast-feeding.
The National Breast-Feeding Policy recommended that babies be exclusively breastfed until six months old. However, according to the 3rd National Morbidity and Health Study in 2006, only 14.5 per cent of mothers breast-fed their child for six months, as opposed to the international norm of 30 per cent.
"This is among the lowest in the region and I am very worried about this," said Liow.
He said the problem was due to limited knowledge and skills to continue breast-feeding after mothers resume their work.It was compounded by the lack of support at workplaces such as inflexible working hours, limited creches and areas for nursing mothers.
"The marketing of baby food and other related products is one of the main competitor in practising breastfeeding. Social and environmental pressures will encourage mothers to replace breast milk with formula," he said.
On the code of ethics, Liow said it would not be made part of the law.
Liow, who is also MCA Youth chief, said he was standing by his secretary-general Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong, who is a victim of a smear campaign.

Lactation centres at all major hospitals

Star: GOMBAK: The Health Ministry will soon set up lactation centres at all major hospitals in the country to promote the benefits of breastfeeding.
Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai said the low rate of breastfeeding in Malaysia was worrying where exclusive breastfeeding (without added water or other milk) fell to 14.5% after the first two months.
“This is not encouraging. The rate is low compared to the progress of Malaysia,” he said in his speech when launching a book on the code of ethics for the marketing of infant foods and related products yesterday.
Liow said the low rates of breastfeeding among Malaysian women was due to the false and widespread perception that breast milk must be mixed with water.
“A lack of awareness and expertise is contributing to the low rates,” he said.
He said World Health Organisation and United Nations Children's Fund recommended infants be given breast milk exclusively until they were at least six months old.
He also said he would discuss with the Human Resources Ministry about creating workplace practices and policies that facilitates breastfeeding mothers such as breaks for them to breastfeed.
He added the ministry had been training officers to counsel and train mothers about breastfeeding since 1992.
“This phenomenon must not be taken lightly as it affects the health of the next generation,” he said.
He said the private sector has also heeded the call to stop promoting infant milk formulae that competes with breast milk in all private and government hospitals.
On the chikungunya viral fever, Liow said the ministry was on high alert to cut down the spread of the virus.
He said the ministry recorded the highest number of chikungunya cases this year with 141 confirmed cases out of 518 suspect cases in four states.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Hand, foot and mouth disease: Taman Melawati school under watch

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Pupils of SK Taman Melawati II are not in any immediate risk of contracting hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) despite four confirmed cases.
Selangor health director Dr Rosnah Hadis assured parents and the public that the situation was under control, adding officials were monitoring the school.
The first three cases of HFMD in the school were detected last week and two more were reported yesterday.
However, only one of the two cases reported yesterday was confirmed as HFMD.
"We're aware of the situation. We have collected samples from the pupils and sent them to the laboratory for analyses," Rosnah said yesterday.
She said health officials had taken precautionary steps to control and prevent the spread of the infectious disease.
The infected pupils, between 7 and 9 years old, are undergoing treatment and their parents have been told to keep them away from school until they have recovered fully.
Rosnah said there was no reason for the public to panic as the HFMD occurrence was "sporadic".
Worried parents had contacted this newspaper, expressing their concern over the school's allegedly lackadaisical approach to containing the disease.
"It seems that the school is not taking action. We were told that it is not a big issue and that we were blowing it out of proportion," a parent, Sheila Devi, said.
Many parents have stopped sending their children to school, at least for a few days, as a precautionary move.
An official with the Gombak District Education Office said the school was working hard to prevent an outbreak.
"We do not have the authority to close the school. Only the Health Ministry has the authority," the official said.

All-out fight against malaria

Star: MIRI: Sarawak health authorities and the disaster relief committee have started an all-out campaign against malaria as the disease spreads beyond the Bario highlands of northern Sarawak.
Sarawak deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam, who is the committee chairman, said that the latest information indicated that the number of malaria cases had skyrocketed and spread to a settlement called Long Jikitan, located outside the highlands.
He said more intensive and extensive anti-malarial fogging would be carried out in the affected zones, adding that health teams had been sent to Bario to carry out early detection as a preventive measure.“House-to-house insecticide spraying is being carried out as well. The most effective means to check the spread is through the destruction of the mosquito-carriers,” he said.
Initially, two Penan settlements in the Bario highlands, Arur Dalan and Semirian, were infected.
He said the whole state had recorded 894 positive cases from January until July 19 while the Bario region had 139 so far.
“The multiplication of the malaria virus-carriers seems to be very fast this year,” Dr Chan said yesterday.
The outbreak became pronounced over the past week following a sudden rise in the number of Penans hospitalised with malaria-related symptoms.
Dr Chan said Sarawak had the necessary expertise and experience to deal with the disease even if it worsened.
Ten infected natives from Long Jikitan were referred to Miri Hospital after they were found to have been infected but their condition was not serious.
A pregnant mother was among those admitted for malaria in Marudi Hospital, while families were treated en masse at the Bario health clinic.
The state health and medical services department has deployed a team of medical specialists from Kuching to Bario to study the malaria infections there.

141 chikungunya cases confirmed

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry has confirmed 141 cases out of the 518 suspected chikungunya cases in Johor, Negri Sembilan and Malacca.
The country has recorded its highest number of chikungunya viral fever cases in a year.
On Wednesday, Health Ministry disease control director Datuk Dr Hasan Abdul Rahman said fewer than 100 Malaysians tested positive for the illness last year.