Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Malaysians not ready to let Internet play doctor

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Politics is not the only hot topic on the Internet: many Malaysians also turn to the World Wide Web for a first opinion on health ailments.
A survey shows that more than a third of Malaysians believe that Internet information will improve their knowledge and ability in caring for their health.
But doctors remain the number one source of advice on health for 52 per cent of the 500 adult Internet users surveyed in Malaysia.
More than half the Malaysians who responded to the global online survey, conducted in April by the Nielsen Company with the Association of the European Self-Medication Industry, hoped more health education was made available to them.
A total of 28,253 Internet users in 51 countries were interviewed to decipher consumer attitudes and consumption habits of non-prescription medicines as well as cultural factors that influence consumer behaviour towards self-medication and treatment of minor ailments.
Nielson Company Malaysia managing director Paul Richmond said: "At a time when governments all over the world are increasingly looking for consumers to take responsibility for their health and self-care, consumers still expect their doctor to play a key role in helping them to take better care of their health and minor ailments.
"When asked what would help them in understanding treatment of minor ailments in the future, one in two people said they would like more support from their doctor."
Consumers in Asia Pacific (57 per cent) led by Hong Kong, Korea and the Philippines topped global rankings in wanting more advice and support from their doctor, while 53 per cent of Latin Americans said they would like more health education.
Emerging markets in Latin America and Central and Eastern Europe topped global rankings for wanting clearer labelling and information on packaging.
The survey also showed that 65 per cent of Malaysians would rather wait to see if a minor ailment gets better on its own before treating it, while 30 per cent instantly self-medicate at the first sign of sickness.
A minority of five per cent would let their body fight the illness and not take medicine at all.
Richmond said the Malaysian results were in line with international insights which saw 65 per cent of respondents preferring to monitor their symptoms first before taking medicines for minor ailments, particularly in Korea, Germany, Austria and Denmark.
"Conversely, three in 10 global consumers take medication for such minor ailments as head-aches, colds and indigestion as soon as they start to feel unwell.
"This is most common in Central and Eastern European countries and also above average in Latin America and North America."
Richmond said a Nielson healthcare survey last year showed that headache, cold, backache and sleeping problems were the most common ailments globally.
"Malaysians were more susceptible to heartburn and flu, with about four in 10 having suffered from either one within a month prior to the survey."
"Our latest consumer survey demonstrated a need and demand for more health education and communication from all sectors of the healthcare industry, from doctors and pharmacists to over-the-counter medicines manufacturers and health media, to help consumers understand treatment of minor ailments and medicines better.
"Malaysians in particular aren't about to dice with danger when it comes to choosing a non-prescription medicine to treat minor ailments, with 59 per cent ranking 'safety' as a priority.
"Another 47 per cent relied on confidence in the product while 37 per cent banked on the effectiveness of the medicines."

Health Ministry to source for more funds

Star: KOTA TINGGI: Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai will appeal to the Ministry of Finance to allow his ministry to adopt the Private Financing Initiative (PFI) for urgent projects, after the ministry’s budget was slashed.
Liow said that through PFI, the ministry could obtain enough funds to carry out vital projects at government hospitals where some of the development plans were recently postponed.
“A total of RM300mil was cut from the ministry’s budget under the Ninth Malaysia Plan, pushing some projects to the Tenth Malaysia Plan.
“But from my visits to the hospitals, I found out that some of the projects need to materialise as soon as possible,” he said.
During his visit to the Hospital Kota Tinggi here yesterday for instance, he noted an urgent need for an emergency room.
Liow said it was not conducive for the hospital’s emergency room, outpatient waiting area and pharmacy to be in the same area but this was the case here.
“If an emergency case arises, it will cause panic among the public who are here to get their medication,” he said.
Liow also reminded the hospital employees to be caring to their patients and carry out their duties professionally.
He told them not to have a territorial mindset.
“Teamwork is very important because in the end, it is the entire performance of the hospital that is judged by the people,” he said.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Penang resort hospital to be ready in 2011

Star: GEORGE TOWN: A specialist centre cum resort providing Western and Eastern medical and homeopathy treatment -- touted to be the first in Asia -- will be built in Batu Kawan in Penang.
Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said the Farrali International Specialist Hospital and Wellness Resort (FISH-WR) to be completed by 2011 would attract more medical tourists to Penang.
He said medical tourism would be further developed to increase the state tourism’s contribution to the GDP from 22% to 30% by 2013.
“Medical tourism’s potential has increased since people discovered they can enjoy five-star medical treatment at affordable costs at different locations in the world.
“We do not want to be left out of this industry and FISH-WR will make medical tourism a success in Penang,” he said at the agreement signing ceremony between Penang Develop- ment Corporation and Farrali Mutiara Medical Group (KPFM).
Lim, who is chairman of the corporation, said the state-of-the-art FISH-WR would change the country’s medical tourism landscape and set itself apart from other healthcare centres focusing on medical tourism.
To be built by the 100% Bumiputra-owned KPFM, the 60,703 sq m hospital will be a leading diabetic and cancer care centre in the region and provide complementary healing methods like acupuncture and ayurvedic treatments.
Other facilities include 200 service apartments, 30 floating chalets, 100 hotel rooms and a nursing institute run by an established international nursing college to provide education and training in the field.
KPFM chief executive officer Dr Mohd Ghouse Mohd Noor said the RM300mil project would be completed in 2011 and create 300 jobs in the early stages.

Melamine fears unfounded

Star: PETALING JAYA: The recent melamine-in-milk scare has caused another round of panic among consumers, who worry that using melamine made utensils would poison their food.
While experts have said there should be no cause for undue concern, consumer officials advised the people to stop using plastics to wrap food.
Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) adviser Dr T. Jayabalan, who is a member of the National Poison Centre, said melamine ware such as plates and ladles were safe for use, “and would not result in death.”
“Even if the melamine utensils leach residue due to extremely high temperatures, it is in a very tiny quantity,” added Dr Jayabalan, who likened this amount to a cube of sugar in a lake.
Melamine is used to make plastic kitchen utensils and plates which are similar in appearance to porcelain.
It is a thermosetting plastic which does not modify in form until exposed to a temperature of above 200°C.
However, Dr Jayabalan urged consumers to avoid using plastic bags, polystyrene boxes and cling wrap to package their food.
“When exposed to high heat from food, the plastic could leach and release chemicals which may disrupt the human reproductive system and affect hormone production,” he said.
“We may not be able to see the effects immediately, but our children will be at risk of mutation and even sex changes,” added Dr Jayabalan, who is also a National Poison Centre member.
Muslim Consumer Association of Malaysia secretary-general Datuk Dr Ma’amor Osman advised consumers to stay away from plastic completely, be it dining in restaurants or buying back food.
“Consumers should use their own containers such as stainless steel tins if they want to bring food home and request for clay or glass cutlery in restaurants,” he said.
“It is our right as a consumer to be served in a good and healthy way,” added Dr Ma’amor.
He said labels should be placed on containers to clearly state any warnings, what it is made of and whether it is microwave-safe.
Fomca chief executive officer Mohd Yusof Abdul Rahman hoped the authorities would conduct more research to determine what is safe for consumers to ease their doubts.
“The Government could also ask hawkers and traders to abstain from using plastic for the time being as it may be hazardous to health,” he added.
Char koay teow seller Lim Cheng Joo, 35, said customers were being health conscious by bringing their own metal containers for take-aways instead of accepting plastic bags and polystyrene boxes.

Dept confiscates 866 melamine-tainted items

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: A total of 866 food products suspected of containing melamine have been confiscated. The products were worth more than RM318,000 on the local market.
Health Ministry food quality and safety department director Noraini Mohd Othman said yesterday they included cereals worth RM2,284, solids worth RM6,469, confectionery worth RM236,099, chocolate products worth RM34,397 and milk worth RM39,492.
Until yesterday, the department had found that 994 food products from 35 companies were not affected by melamine.
Noraini said food samples had been taken and analysed by the Chemistry Department to ensure they were up to standard before being sold in the market.
The results of the analyses on 10 more product samples had been obtained, all of which adhered to the standard.
Consumers can contact the food safety and quality division at 03-88833655/ 88833503 / 88833652 and 88833500 between 8am and 9pm, including on public holidays.

Friday, September 26, 2008

132 products on suspect list

Star: PUTRAJAYA: There are now 132 products placed under the Govern­ment’s list of items suspected of having melamine.
This is up from 53 items on Wednesday.
Health Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said the list of suspected dairy products consisted of items that the ministry had sealed during enforcement operations.
“These items will be taken and tested. We expect to have results for a few of the items each day. If it is given the all-clear, it will then be allowed back into the market,” he told a press conference at the ministry here yesterday.
He said the 132 items comprised confectioneries, cereals, breads, chocolates and milk.
He said the value of items sealed by the ministry so far stood at RM18,344.
Ismail also cleared seven items as free of melamine.
The items are: Passion Chocolate Coated Wafer; Kraft Oreo White Chocolate Wafer Stick; Wall’s Mini Cornetto Chocomint & Tiramisu Flavoured; Wall’s Moo Soft Cookie Sandwich; Dutch Lady 123 Honey milk powder; Dutch Lady strawberry flavoured milk; and Frisolac Infant Formula.
To date, a total of 574 items - in addition to the seven - have been declared safe.
Ismail said the ministry was not able to release the results on all the items at one go because there was a lack of capacity. He said it took 48 hours to get results for one item.
Ismail said the ministry was concerned about pre-mixed tea and coffee and that such items would be analysed as well.
“I also urge all those receiving and packing hampers to check the items in them properly. People also have to be more alert if they are receiving gifts containing Chinese-made food products.”
Ismail said consumers could now call four telephone numbers between 8am and 9pm every day for information about the melamine issue.
The numbers are 03-8883­3655, 8883­3652, 88833503 and 88­8­­­­3­3500.
They could also check for the latest information at http://fsq.moh.gov.my

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Hospital’s endoscopic procedures go online

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: A group of Malaysian doctors will perform advanced endoscopic procedures at Selayang Hospital and have it transmitted live worldwide today.
The event is in conjunction with the annual Harvard Medical Univer-sity endoscopy workshop in Boston.
The procedures, performed by doctors Ryan Ponnudurai, Sharmila Sachithanandan and Krishnan Raman, would be the first time the university is preparing a worldwide web telecast of live endoscopy cases.
Ponnudurai would be leading a team of experts from Malaysia, Thailand, Japan and Singapore to carry out the procedures.
The event would be opened by Health director-general Tan Sri Mohd Ismail Merican, who would also address the world audience via live telecast organised by the Malaysian Research and Education Network.
The purpose of the workshop is to teach participants from around the world the finer techniques in endoscopy, he said in a statement issued by the Health Ministry yesterday.
Endoscopy is a medical procedure by surgeons to look inside the body using an endoscope.

53 China-made food items sent for testing

NST: PUTRAJAYA: The Health Ministry has sealed 53 milk-related products produced in China for testing.
Samples of the items, including chocolate, candy, yogurt and biscuits, have been sent to the Chemistry Department for tests on suspicion that they may contain milk tainted by the banned substance, melamine.
Household names, including distributors of M&M's chocolates, Snickers chocolate bars and the White Rabbit creamy candy, will know their fate when the tests results are released today.
The ministry will also start seizing products off shelves if the test results show that they contain dangerous amounts of the substance.
"But, this is no cause for alarm at the moment. We are doing our best to check everything and we hope to get cooperation from the manufacturers, importers and retailers," Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai said yesterday.
He also said other food products imported from China and suspected of containing melamine had been placed on Level 5 of the six-level Food Safety Information System of Malaysia, which requires that products be detained pending results of sample analysis.
Milk-related products from China have been placed at the Level 6 alert since Sept 13, which means an automatic rejection.
Liow confirmed that there were no dairy products (milk or milk powder) from China sold in Malaysia since last year.
"To sell milk here, you would need a special licence from the Veterinary Services Department. The department has said that none had been given to Chinese companies since last year."
Liow said it was normal for food items to contain a small amount of melamine as a result of using plastic wrappers. A directive from the European Commission said up to 30 parts per million (ppm) of the substance was still safe.
Powdered milk produced by China's largest dairy producer, Sanlu Group, was found to have a melamine content of up to 2,563ppm.
Liow urged doctors who come across kidney disorders suspected to be caused by tainted milk products to report the cases to the ministry.

Government imposes new ruling on China food

Star: PUTRAJAYA: With immediate effect, food products from China that could be contaminated with melamine will also be held at entry points in the country for tests to ensure they are safe for consumption.
Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai said the procedure would be in place until the melamine-tainted milk issue was resolved.
“We are very careful. This is a new precaution,” he told reporters at his ministry yesterday. “The Chinese government must solve the issue as quickly as possible.
“We are checking all the time. It is not only on melamine. We oversee the whole aspect of food safety in the country.”
He said constant monitoring was already a routine prior to the latest health scare, resulting in 55 products being banned last year.
Since the ministry started inspection of dairy products from China on Tuesday, 53 items including chocolate, candies and ice cream have been barred from entry pending Chemistry De-partment tests.
Liow said automatic rejection of baby milk from China was started after the first infant death was reported there on Sept 13. The ban was widened two days later to include dairy products.
“We were quicker than Singa-pore in banning products from China and expanding our scope.”
Asked whether it was necessary to consider having separate guidelines for food from China, Liow said the ministry’s Food Safety Information System was sufficient.
He asked doctors at clinics and hospitals to inform the ministry if they had treated patients for suspected melamine poisoning.
At the Cabinet meeting yesterday, all relevant ministries and agencies were ordered to work together, he said.
He also said his Chinese counterpart, Chen Zhu, had given an assurance that China would give its full co-operation to the World Health Organisation and follow its recommendations.