Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Medical centre to be a milestone

NST: GEORGE TOWN: The world's first cancer prevention hospital outside of Canada will be set up at a site in Bayan Mutiara here early next year.
Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said state investment arm InvestPenang was in the final stage of negotiation with Canadian-based GeneNews Limited to prepare an integrated medical facility for the latter.
Lim said the opening of such a facility would be a medical milestone for Malaysia as GeneNews made a medical breakthrough in July by launching the world's first blood test for colon cancer screening.
"InvestPenang will arrange for a world-class full hospital facility, clinical reference laboratory services and genomics research (study of genes) centre as requested by GeneNews at Bayan Mutiara.
"There will also be a personalised health management centre available to patients at the hospital."
He said the emergence of the hospital would also augur well for the local medical tourism industry, and herald an influx of medical tourists to Penang.
Lim was speaking to reporters after witnessing the signing of a strategic alliance agreement between Mount Miriam Hospital and GeneNews yesterday.
With a cancer detection success rate of up to 75 per cent, Lim said GeneNews research works were able to identify cancer cells fives years prior to mutation.

Bigger hospital planned for Kota Kinabalu

NST: KOTA KINABALU: The state capital needs a bigger hospital, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman said yesterday.
"We need a bigger hospital for the people within Kota Kinabalu and we are willing to give a plot of land big enough to build it."
Musa said he had ordered state Land and Survey Department director Datuk Osman Jamal to find a suitable plot within the city.
"We have good and new hospitals all over Sabah, but here, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) is getting more congested. I will bring this up in the next cabinet meeting," he said during the Sabah MIC Deepavali open house hosted by its state liaison committee chairman, Datuk V. Jothi, at the Kota Kinabalu Sports Complex in Likas.
For about a week now, the Health Ministry has been evacuating patients from the 27-year-old Tower Block at QEH following reports made by a consultant company that the building was unsafe.
The damaged Tower Block has 250 beds and several key facilities, including eight surgery rooms, the forensics department, intensive care unit wards, radiology services and a pharmacy.
The Beaufort, Keningau and Likas hospitals are now being used temporarily to accommodate patients from QEH but the government is also looking into the possibility of renting or buying services of private hospitals nearby.
Among its options are the Sabah Medical Centre and Damai Specialist Centre, both located within the Luyang area.
A new 10-storey building is also nearing completion in the QEH.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Vegies, fruits from China safe: Health Ministry

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry had never placed vegetables from China on Level 5 of the Food Safety Information System of Malaysia until there was a decrease in supply in the country.
Its food safety and quality division director, Noraini Datuk Mohd Othman, said the ministry had placed all vegetables and fruits from China at Level 4, whereby samples of melamine-free products would be released immediately.
In a statement Sunday, she said, through the Level 4 checks, 57 samples of fruits and vegetables from China which were monitored by the ministry were found to be melamine-free.
Noraini said Sunday’s The New Sunday Times report, “Port Delays Threaten To Double Veggie Prices” and Berita Minggu report, “Country Faces Shortage of Vegetables”, had given the impression the ministry caused the vegetable shortage.
“The ministry is conducting investigations on the allegations made by Berita Minggu that since a week ago, tens of containers of vegetables were stranded at entry points in the country, including Selangor, Johor and Penang,” she said.
On KOSMO’s report, “Melamine in Flour From China Found in Kyrgyzstan”, Noraini said the ministry’s analyses on 18 samples of flour revealed that they contained permissible amounts of melamine.
In another development, seven more food products from China and four locally-produced biscuits were found to have passed the melamine level.
She said they were Variety Flavour Biscuits (Golden Fuji), Strawberry Flavour Round Biscuit (Aji), Potato Cracker (Aji), Farley’s Rusk Orange (Heinz), Farley’s Rusk Original (Heinz), Oatmeal Cracker Coffee Flavour (Haitai) and Mini Cornetto Blueberry & Strawberry Flavour (WALL’s).
The Malaysian products are Rainbow Wafer (HANY), Biskut ABC Chocolate Flavour (Biscuits World), Swiss Roll Perisa Susu (London Biscuits) and Double Choco Choco Coated Cake (MIZU).
Retailers are advised to periodically check the list of products that do not pass the melamine level and contact the district health office and state health department for more information.
Consumers are also advised to check the list and avoid buying the tainted products.
For more information, call 03-8883 3655, 03-8883 3503, 03-8882 2652 or 03-8883 3500. The lines are open from 8am to 9pm daily.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The dark side of skin whitening products

NST: The Health Ministry has taken 26 cosmetic products containing banned substances off the shelves in the last two years. Do you know what those products are? Do you also know that some of them are still being sold openly? New Sunday Times reporters went a hunting.
THE plot was set -- to search for the perfect skin whitening product. The only difference was all the products earmarked for the search were banned ones.
But some of them were blatantly sitting on the shelves, waiting for the next unsuspecting victim to come by.
The hunt, which spanned six shops and utilised the reporters' winning portrayals of desperate vain pots -- yielded a bagful of products that could make you fair very fast.
How fast, you ask?
If you are willing to spend the ringgit, all you need is three days. These products are priced from as low as RM10 (works a bit slower) to a few hundred ringgit a set.
But what is wrong with them?
Nothing, if the product does not contain any ingredients such as hydroquinone, retinoic acid/tretinoin or steroids, which are banned in cosmetics.
The Health Ministry has, in the last three years, banned 26 cosmetic products for containing such ingredients.
Despite the ban, two creams are still being advertised on its distributor's website, alongside the agents' phone numbers.
The New Sunday Times team managed to buy the creams at a shopping complex.
The traders had no qualms about revealing that some "immediate effect" products did contain hydroquinone, although the labels did not state so.
"Produk ini memang cepat dan bestseller. Sebab ia ada bahan kimia hydroquinone. Tapi jangan risau, ia selamat. (This best-selling product works very fast because it has the hydroquinone chemical. But don't worry, it's safe)," one said.
What's more worrying is that some of the banned products have now been repackaged and renamed, but according to the traders, were essentially the same.
"Barangnya sama sahaja, cuma ada masalah dulu. Jadi sekarang dah tukar nama. (It's the same product. There were some problems earlier, so they changed the name)."
The National Pharmaceutical Control Bureau said consumers should be aware that hydroquinone and retinoic acid/tretinoin were scheduled poisons that were regulated as pharmaceuticals.
It is only allowed to be used under medical supervision and only supplied by doctors or pharmacies.
"Unsupervised use of hydroquinone could cause skin redness, irritation and discolouration.
"Excessive amounts of hydroquinone, when absorbed into blood circulation, could cause ringing in the ears, tremors, nervousness, vomiting, head-aches, seizures, muscle spasms and difficulty in breathing," the bureau added.
All this in the quest for that Asian obsession, fair skin.
From foreigners hawking whitening soaps, gels and creams by roadsides at every nook and corner of the bustling city, to booths in shopping establishments being crammed with similar products, it seems that fair skin is in vogue.
Adding to this is a multitude of advertisements drumming in the message for the need to be fair-skinned.
It is none too surprising then that a New York Times report in 2006 quoted a survey by market research company Synovate, saying that four out of every 10 Malaysian women use a whitening product.
The report also explained how whitening products work.
Some contain acids that remove old skin to reveal newer, lighter skin underneath.
Others inhibit melanin, like those with mulberry extract, licorice extract, kojic acid, arbutin and hydroquinone, an ingredient in prescription creams for blemishes as well as in photo processing materials.
The report also stated: "Some of the most effective agents are also risky and are often the least expensive, like mercury-based ingredients or hydroquinone, which in Thailand sells for about US$20 (RM70) per kilogramme, compared with highly concentrated licorice extract, which sells for about US$20,000 per kilogramme."
It makes one wonder what's really in the RM10 whitening cream.

Being Snow White can be dangerous

NST: DREAMING of having Snow White's complexion? Be careful what you wish for, as you may be getting more than what you bargained for.
Irreversible damage to your skin is what you are courting if you use whitening products that contain illegal substances.
Skin specialists warn that long-term use of hydroquinone, one of the banned substances for cosmetic products, strips the skin of melanin -- its natural pigment.
"It can cause permanent damage to cells that produce pigmentation in your skin," said dermatologist Datuk Dr Low Bin Tick.
This puts one at risk of skin cancer because there is no more melanin to filter the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays.
The website www.safecosmetics.org lists hydroquinone as "a possible carcinogen and probable neurotoxin and skin sensitiser".
The website hosts the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, dedicated to protecting consumers by requiring the health and beauty industry to phase out the use of chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects and other health problems.
The campaign is made up of a coalition of women's, public health, labour, environmental health and consumer rights groups in the United States.
Dermatologist Datuk Dr Sushil Kumar Ratti said two things could happen when one uses a bleaching product on the face without a doctor's supervision.
First is irritant dermatitis, or an allergic dermatitis, which is a form of rash that feels like a burning or stinging sensation on the skin or scaly skin.
"If the skin is very scaly and peels excessively, this is cause for alarm and you should consult your dermatologist."
The second effect, according to Dr Sushil was de-pigmentation of the skin.
"This is when pigment is over-removed. When you use the product on a pigmented area, you might get de-pigmentation of the surrounding area."
Another long-term effect, said Dr Sushil, was ochronosis, where the skin becomes really dark instead of white.
Some women, said Dr Low, resorted to hydroquinone to rid their faces of dark spots, but unsupervised usage could cause a contrast in skin tones.
This is "cosmetically even less acceptable than pigmentation".

Biscuits that are safe to eat

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry yesterday declared 13 types of biscuits to be safe to eat as they contained permissible levels of melamine.
Seven of the biscuits are locally-made and six are from China.
A statement issued by the Health Ministry public relations unit said the local biscuit brands that were safe are Khian Guan, Hup Seng, Ping Pong and Ten Ten.
The biscuits produced by Hup Seng are Biskut Marie, Fancy Assorted Biscuits, Biskut Sugar Crackers and Biskut Flying Fish, while Biskut Osborne is by Khian Guan, Biskut Teddy (Ping Pong) and Biskut Beras (Ten Ten).
The six biscuit products from China that have been found to meet the melamine standards are Corn Rice Cracker Milk Powder (Ego), Corn Rice Seaweed Peanut Cracker (Ego), Peanut Sandwich Biscuit (Hapi), Soda Biscuits (C-Hong), Pizza Biscuits (Jiahui) and Vegetable Flavour Biscuits (Golden Fuji).
Two other food items produced in China are also found to be safe: Candiz Funny Lollipop (KISE) and Twisty sweets (Kiki).
The statement also advised traders to check the ministry's website for the list of products which do not meet the melamine standards and to remove those items from their shelves.
The traders can also contact their state Health Department or district health offices for information on the matter.
"The ministry also advises consumers against buying biscuits which are sold at night markets, farmers' markets and other places which do not have labels."
For more information, consumers can contact the Food Safety and Quality Division at 03-88833655 /503/652/500.
The line is open from 8am to 9pm, including on public holidays.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Public apathy causes spike in dengue cases

NST: PUTRAJAYA: In just six days, 961 dengue cases were reported in the country. The Health Ministry's disease control division director Datuk Dr Hassan Abdul Rahman said Selangor topped the list with 353 cases reported between Oct 12 and 18.
He said that several states reported an increase in dengue cases. Among them were Perak with a 214 per cent increase, Terengganu (78.9 per cent), Putrajaya (50 per cent), Selangor (49.6 per cent), Johor (44.8 per cent) and Sabah (20 per cent).
However, only one death was reported last week, bringing the number of dengue-related deaths this year to 81. Since January, 36,991 dengue cases had been reported.
He blamed public apathy for the situation. Ministry officials and district councils found that 78.9 per cent of Aedes breeding grounds were in houses and shops, he said.
The Aedes index was high at road dividers (38.8 per cent), playgrounds (17 per cent), empty lots (11.1 per cent) and construction sites (5.8 per cent).
Dr Hassan said the ministry had distributed 68,665 leaflets on preventing dengue at Aedes-prone locations. A total of 316 compounds worth RM55,665 had also been issued. He urged the public to spend 10 minutes every week to locate and destroy mosquito breeding spots around their house.

Outpatients get treated within 30 minutes

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Some 70% of outpatient departments have been able to keep the waiting time for patients below 30 minutes.
Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai said the average time at such departments in government hospitals and health clinics had reached 70.4% since improvements were made in the past four months.
The waiting time of 30 minutes starts from the time a patient takes a number until he or she is seen by a doctor.
Previously, the success rate for the 30-minute goal was only between 30% and 40%, said Liow.
Among steps taken to shorten the time were adding more staff members and extending service hours, with some establishments operating until 9.30pm.
“They also start early at 7.30am instead of the 8am previously. Patients coming early can avoid the peak hours,” he said in an interview.
However, Liow said there was still room for improvement. This included having an SMS service where patients could check how long the waiting list was.
However, Liow said certain establishments, including Kuala Lumpur Hospital and the Puchong health clinic, were still unable to cut down on the waiting time.
Such departments in high density areas were 50% successful in reducing the waiting time to 30 minutes compared with medical facilities with fewer patients achieving a success rate of about 80%.
Liow said that among the steps being considered to solve the congestion in Puchong was to improve the shuttle service to Serdang Hospital for patients from Kajang, Serdang and Puchong.
“I am really thankful my staff have been working so hard,” he said.
He added that the Cabinet was briefed at its weekly meeting on the progress and the ministers discussed how to further improve the situation.

Parts of KK hospital found unsafe

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The main buildings of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kota Kinabalu, which have been cracking up, have been declared unsafe and some patients and health services there been transferred to nearby government facilities since Thursday.
A statement issued by the Health Minister yesterday said the structure of the hospital’s main tower block, the podium, the forensics block and the boiler room would be vacated and eventually demolished.
This was revealed in the latest engineering evaluation by Kumpulan Ikram Sdn Bhd and Public Works Department (JKR) in Sabah.
The Ikram report also showed that the blocks could not last for long and were too uneconomical to repair.
The statement said that prior to the Ikram and Sabah JKR investigation the hospital had received reports of falling concrete at the patient ward and toilet areas since early 2000.
The state JKR conducted safety inspections in 2006 and last year but was unable to determine the safety status of the buildings.
The ministry also conducted regular inspections and maintenance and repairs were done on the blocks by its concessionaire Syarikat Faber Mediserve and the JKR.
Ikram was later brought in to conduct a thorough inspection.
The main tower block houses beds and the main health facilities such as eight operation theatres, forensics department, radiology, sterilisation supply centre, pharmacy and the ICU / CCU / VIP / surgery wards.
The hospital has taken measures to ensure that services continue to be delivered to patients, include placing patients at nearby government hospitals.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Unreported Chikungunya cases

Star: JOHOR BARU: The 1,675 Chikungunya cases reported state-wide could only be half the actual number of cases.
Johor Health Department director Dr Mohd Khairi Yakub said he believed the number could be more as there was a lack of information sharing by private clinics and hospitals with the health department.
“I am not ruling out the possibility as unlike dengue fever, there is no law to compel private hospitals and clinics to report Chikungunya cases,” he told The Star here yesterday.
Dr Mohd Khairi appealed to clinics and hospitals to keep the department informed of Chikungunya cases for it to take the necessary action, including fogging the affected areas.
“It is their moral duty as this involves public health,” he said, adding that preventive measures would help stop the spread of the fever. Dr Mohd Khairi said the department had also sent out medical teams state-wide to check on the outbreak, reportedly cause by the Aedes mosquito.
He hoped doctors could provide accurate information, especially on the number of patients treated and where they stay and work.
He added that the worst hit district in the state was Johor Baru, followed by Kluang and Muar. Dr Mohd Khairi advised those with high fever, rashes and joint pains not to panic but seek treatment at the nearest clinic.
“The way to curb the spread of this fever is to reduce the breeding ground of mosquitoes. The public must keep their homes and work places clean and not rely on fogging alone,” he said.
He urged anyone with any enquiries or wishes to report on the cases to contact the department hotline at 07-234-2393.

Every six in 10 people inactive

Star: Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai, who revealed this, said the Government’s many promotions to get people to lead a healthy lifestyle, did not seem to have worked.
“Nearly half or 43.1% of the adult population are overweight and this is a serious problem,” he said, adding that leading a sedentary lifestyle could pose serious health problems.
Liow added, “one in every three adult Malaysians suffers from hypertension while one in five has high blood cholesterol levels.”
People suffering from heart diseases have also increased by 18% from 37,284 in 2003 to 44,2001 in 2006, while deaths from coronary heart disease increased by 36% from 2,697 to 3,673 for the corresponding period, he said.
He said the ministry was targeting the young through its Dr Muda programme in primary schools and hopes to launch the Prostar (Healthy Living Project for the Young) project in secondary schools soon.
Liow was speaking to reporters after closing the 6th National Skipping and Fitballrobic championship at the Sport Complex here yesterday.
“Although we obtained these statistics from a survey done two years ago, the number of Malaysians suffering such ailments must have increased,” said Liow.
He called on Malaysians to exercise at least 30 minutes a day.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

No need to ban all rising agents from China

NST: PUTRAJAYA: With 31 types of tainted biscuits now removed from sale, 142 other types are considered safe for consumption.
Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai said Malaysian manufacturers did not use the ammonium bicarbonate rising agent from three companies blamed by the Chinese government for causing the contamination.
The three companies were Broadtech Chemical Int Co Ltd, Dalian Chemical Industries and Tianjin Red Triangle International Trading Co Ltd.
"Now that we know the sources, we can easily cut the supply from entering the Malaysian market," Liow said.
He said all ammonium bicarbonate from China had been given a level five examination by the Food and Safety Information System of Malaysia (FoSIM). This meant the food was detained pending results of sample analysis.
However, ammonium bicarbonate from the three companies will be placed on level six, which means an automatic rejection.
Ammonium bicarbonate from China makes up 95 per cent of the market share in Malaysia, with the rest coming from Germany and other countries.
Liow said there were no plans to ban all ammonium bicarbonate from China.
"The industry will suffer. Those that are coming in have been proven to be uncontaminated. What is the purpose of stopping it if there is no contamination?"
He also said the ministry would be working closely with the Chinese embassy on the matter.
Speaking after meeting with more than 50 biscuit manufacturers at his ministry here yesterday, Liow urged the public to be wary when buying biscuits without labels.
Liow said of the 173 biscuits tested by the Health Ministry for excessive mela-mine contamination, including those from China, only 31 tested positive.
He said the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry was helping in ensuring that the tainted products were removed from shelves.
Biscuit producers and distributors have also agreed to a self-risk assessment by sending samples to be tested at ministry-approved laboratories. If samples exceeded the permitted melamine levels, the ministry would seal the batches and get samples formally tested for further action.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Private labs can help in testing

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: The private sector is encouraged to assist the government in carrying out melamine testing.
Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad said yesterday the number of products undergoing testing was a huge one and the ministry did not have enough manpower to carry out the testing at a rapid rate.
"Looking at the amount of testing involved, we would welcome the private sector to conduct tests," he said.
However, Dr Latiff stressed that private laboratories involved in the testing should be approved by the Health Ministry and tests should be conducted according to the ministry's standards and guidelines.
He said the ministry would be setting up 10 more labs to handle the work load.
Dr Latiff said manufacturers and retailers are expected to be responsible in removing products suspected of containing melamine from their shelves.
Asked what would happen to retailers who still continue to sell such products, he said they could be penalised.
He said the ministry did not want to create any unnecessary fear among the public about food items and lamented the fact that few people were buying biscuits these days.

24 types of local biscuits get the all clear

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Lovers of 24 types of local biscuits can once again munch on their favourites without fear.
Health Ministry Food Safety and Quality Division director Noraini Mohd Othman yesterday released a list of 24 types of biscuits made by Khong Guan and Khian Guan which are deemed safe for consumption.
They were tested for excessive amounts of melamine.
The Khong Guan products are 3+2 Orange Chocolate, 3+2 Vanilla Chocolate, Disney (mixed), Cocoa cream, Mega cream, Rusk, Sultana, Deli Cream, Crisps and Cream, Cho- colate Short Cake, Peanut Cream, Kris wheat biscuits, Crispy Finger, Oat cookies, Du- rian Cream, Tiramisu, Butter Coconut and Butter Cookies.
The Khing Guan products are Milk Short Cake, Rose Cream, Oat and Raisin, Coffee Cream, Banana Cream and Wafer Dark Cream.
And, in a statement yesterday, Munchy's Food Industries Sdn Bhd chief executive officer C.K. Tan said that contrary to press reports their factory was not sealed. Health officials only "sealed" certain ingredients used in its biscuits.
"They are testing raw ingredients and a range of biscuits," he said, adding that the factory in Batu Pahat was still producing wafers and wafer sticks.
"Our products are being tested by independent certification agencies abroad. We have received confirmation that the Munchy's products tested so far are safe for consumption."
A Bernama report on Sunday had said the Munchy's factory in Johor was "sealed" for producing two types of biscuits that were said to contain excessive amounts of melamine by a Hong Kong government laboratory. The report gave the impression that the factory was shut down. In the report, Noraini was quoted as saying the two products would be tested for melamine.
She was commenting on a Reuters report that said excessive amounts of melamine had been found in Munchy's Mini Crackers with Peanut Butter and Munchy's Mini Crackers with Cheese Cream.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Factory sealed, melamine test for biscuits

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry has sealed a factory producing two types of local biscuits discovered by a Hong Kong government laboratory as containing excessive amounts of melamine.
Its Food Safety and Quality Division director, Noraini Mohd Othman, said in a statement last night that the products would be tested for melamine.
She was commenting on a Reuters report that an excessive amount of melamine had been found in Munchy's Mini Crackers with Peanut Butter and Munchy's Mini Crackers with Cheese Cream, produced by Munchy Food Industries Sdn Bhd.
Meanwhile, she said the ministry had cleared 11 more food products of melamine.
They are Amoy Flour Vermicilli (Sau Tao), Chocolate Cookies (Golden Fuji), Chocolate Drink (Garden Stone), Cream Flavour Biscuits (Hong Da Food), Creamy Peanut Butter (Kinus), Crips Chocolate Flavour Cracker (Golden Fuji), Fiber Cracker (Aji), Gula Udang Merah (Sanwa), House of Steamed Potato (Silang), Saltine Crackers (Four Seas) and The Original Danish Butter Cookies (Silang).
Noraini also advised consumers not to buy unlabelled biscuits at night and farmers' markets, and check the contents of those with labels before buying them.
Consumers can contact the Food Safety and Quality Division at 03-88833655, 03-88833503, 03-88833652 and 03-88833500 or visit http://fsq.moh.gov.my for details.
Meanwhile, Munchy Food Industries chief executive officer C.K. Tan said none of its products contained any dairy-based ingredients from China.
The company would give full cooperation to the ministry, he said in a statement.
"As a reputable 18-year-old homegrown manufacturer of confectionary with a strong international brand presence, we consistently view consumer food safety as a top priority. We will continue to uphold this without any compromise."
He claimed that independent certification agencies, namely Chemical Laboratory (M) Sdn Bhd and Pacific Lab Services of Zargo (Singapore), had certified its products as safe.

Long wait for 'good organs' goes on

NST: KUCHING: It is a grim statistic -- one in three Malaysians on the waiting list for organ transplants will die before a donor is found.
The waiting list was long and there was a serious shortage of organ donors, Sarawak General Hospital director Dr Zulkifli Jantan said at the hospital's organ and blood donation awareness campaign here yesterday.
Furthermore, organs can only be harvested if the donors "die in the right condition", he added.
"That means that if the donor is killed in an accident in which he is mutilated or he died from an illness, his organs cannot be harvested because they could be damaged and, therefore, unfit."
He said organs were best harvested from brain-dead donors.
To illustrate the difficulty in carrying out a successful organ harvest, Dr Zulkifli said in the last eight years there had only been one successful harvest performed at SGH.
That was in 2000 when the kidneys, heart valves and corneas of a brain-dead 60-year-old woman were harvested.
State Assistant Minister of Public Health Dr Soon Choon Teck said there were an estimated 450 patients in need of a new heart.
"And there are many others in need of a kidney, liver, cornea and tissues like heart valves, skin and bones, leaving thousands without much hope of finding a suitable donor."
The main reason for the reluctance to volunteer organs upon death, was not religious prohibitions, but misconceived notions and prejudice, he added.
Some 94,000 people have pledged to donate their organs in this country, including about 4,000 in Sarawak.
In the state, the most sought after organs are the kidneys and the skin.
While cultural taboos and misconceived ideas had long been barriers to the Chinese in donating blood, Dr Zulkifli said the Chinese in Kuching had broken that barrier.
"More than 50 per cent of the blood donors here are Chinese."
He said this was significant when compared with the figure of 15 per cent Chinese donors in the other major cities, including Kuala Lumpur.
Blood banks in the state, he said, still faced serious shortages because the state had not achieved the national donor target of five per cent of the state's population.
Sarawak, Dr Zulkifli said, had only achieved a two per cent score, lower than the national average of three per cent.
He said it was for this reason that the hospital, together with the Red Crescent Society, was holding the donation drive to "further break down the barriers" and get more people to become donors of organs and blood.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Addressing lack of prison medical staff

Star: MARANG: The Home Ministry will look into employing more doctors and medical assistants for prison work.
Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said currently one doctor and 42 medical assistants treat prisoners in the 25 jails across Malaysia.
Adequate figures should be five doctors and 49 medical assistants.
Syed Hamid said although the shortage was a problem, it could be overcome if "creative" methods were found to attract doctors and medical assistants.
Among the reasons for the reluctance of doctors to work in prisons were the confined environment in which they had to work, the type of patients to be treated and the lack of incentives.
"I blame the prison environment," Syed Hamid said after attending the Malaysian Prison Day celebration, along with Deputy Home Minister Datuk Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh, yesterday.
"You require dedication to work here as you have to treat drug addicts and inmates with HIV and AIDS."
"Doctors can choose to open a clinic," he added. "Sitting in a prison all day may not be too encouraging."
Syed Hamid said the ministry had raised the matter with the Health Ministry, but out of the four doctors sent by the latter, only one remained.
The shortage of doctors, however, had not affected the welfare of prisoners as the ministry had outsourced medical practitioners from private clinics who were more willing to work in prisons for extra income.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Health university on the cards

NST: KUANTAN: A health university could be on the cards as the Health Ministry mulls ways to replace its training institutes, which have been turning out most of the country's public health workers.
Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad mooted the idea of the university after taking into account that all 35 nursing training colleges in the country had the necessary facilities to turn Malaysia into a nursing hub.
"All the colleges provide training programmes under a well-structured management team, which also has the necessary infrastructure.
"These colleges, which offer nursing and other training programmes, can accommodate up to 15,000 students and produce about 3,000 graduates every year," Latiff said after presenting scrolls at a graduation ceremony for nurses here yesterday.
Latiff said it was time that these training institutes, which had successfully produced thousands of nurses, health assistants and lab assistants, were upgraded to a health university.
In yesterday's event, 269 graduates from the Kuantan Nursing College and Jerantut Community Nursing College here received their certificates and diplomas.
On the issue of melamine contamination of products from China, Latiff said consumers should keep track of the food products banned by the ministry.
"We have been conducting checks on biscuit brands and would reveal if more items were to be banned.
"The manufacturers have been cooperative and followed our orders to remove the affected brands from the shelves."
The Khong Guan and Khian Guan biscuit brands were found to contain the banned industrial chemicals.

Don't buy biscuits that carry no label

NST: SEREMBAN: The public has been advised not to buy biscuits that carry no label.
The advice comes from the state Health Department after 18 types of biscuit from two manufacturers, Khong Guan and Khian Guan, were banned when they were found tainted with melamine.
Its director Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar said some shops were repacking and selling the banned biscuits in loose packaging without any label at night markets to avoid losses.
"Based on our recent inspections, we have reasons to believe that some shops, unable to return these biscuits after purchasing large consignments, are selling them without any label at pasar malam.
"Therefore, we advise people to be extra careful and only purchase biscuits that are labelled," Dr Zainal said at his office yesterday.
The source of contamination is from the baking agent, ammonium bicarbonate, which is imported from China.
Following the discovery of melamine in both the household brands, Dr Zainal said officers from the Health Department sealed a warehouse belonging to Khong Guan at Jalan Rahang.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Melamine: Khong Guan, Khian Guan biscuits recalled

Star: PUTRAJAYA: PUTRAJAYA: Excessive melamine was found in 18 of 47 biscuits produced by the Khong Guan and Khian Guan brands and they have been ordered removed from the shelves immediately.
“We have also requested that they voluntarily recall the rest of the products (the remaining 29),” said Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai
Asked if they had agreed to do so, Liow said: “Yes, they are very responsive. They are all responsible companies.”
The 18 biscuit products were found to have melamine in excess of the permissable 2.5mg/kg or 2.5 parts per million (ppm).
Liow said the Ministry had traced the source of the melamine to ammonium bicarbonate imported by both manufacturers from China.
“Results from our tests found that Khong Guan biscuits contained 33.4ppm while Khian Guan contained 508ppm,” he said.
As such, Liow had banned the import of ammonium bicarbonate from China, placing the substance under Level 6 Examination (Auto Rejection), while ammonium bicarbonate from other countries were placed under Level 4 Examination (Surveilance Examination) under the Food Safety Information of Malaysia (FoSIM).
Excessive melamine was first linked to contaminated dairy products, but Liow said the Ministry would now be more alert and test more products other than those with dairy content due to the ammonium bicarbonate findings.
Ammonium bicarbonate is usually used as a raising agent in biscuit production and is allowed under the Food Rules 1985 but strict action had to be taken to protect the health of consumers, he said.
“All factories that use ammonium bicarbonate from China will have their products tested. We will test all biscuits in the country,” he said.
He said that food with dairy content from China had been placed under Level 6 Examination, and with the latest revelation, all imported biscuits had been placed under Level 4 Examination.
Meanwhile, he said the Ministry is looking into Julie’s Crackers and Mali unsweetened condensed milk, which was reported in the media to contain excessive levels of melamine.
Liow said consumers could contact the Food Services and Quality division at 03-8883 3655/3503/3652/3500.
On Oct 6, White Rabbit Creamy Candy was found to contain more than 50 times the permitted level of melamine and was banned by the ministry.

Not enough dialysis centres

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The 132 dialysis centres under the Health Ministry are insufficient for 17,367 kidney patients diagnosed with end-stage failure who need to go for dialysis treatment, said deputy minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad.
Replying to Liang Teck Meng (BN - Simpang Renggam) in Parliament, Dr Abdul Latiff said the 132 dialysis centres comprising 1,836 machines can only provide dialysis treatment to 5,000 patients.
Dr Abdul Latiff said the Government works with non-governmental organisations like the Lions Club, Rotary Club and others, as well as the private sector which has a total of 186 centres with 1,787 machines to provide dialysis treatment to 6,000 patients.
He said the ratio of dialysis machines to renal failure patients is currently one to five.
“Government hospitals also have portable dialysis machines for those who can’t be at the dialysis units,” he said.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Fungus outbreak closes polyclinic

NST: MALACCA: A government polyclinic here will be temporarily closed following an outbreak of fungus there.
A faulty air-conditioning system is believed to have caused the fungus to grow on the ceiling and walls of the Ayer Keroh community polyclinic.
State Women's Affairs, Family Development and Health Committee chairman Norpipah Abdol confirmed the presence of spores but was unable to identify the species or determine if it was dangerous.
"At this point, I can only confirm that there is a fungal outbreak at the polyclinic, and we will make a press statement when we get a report from the state Health Department and the Health Ministry," she said.
The polyclinic is frequented by hundreds of people daily, especially those living in the Bukit Katil, Ayer Keroh, Bukit Beruang and nearby areas
A check by the New Straits Times showed that the spores had covered most of the polyclinic ceiling while some of the affected walls had been cleaned.
Sources said the polyclinic is expected to be closed for at least six months for cleaning and remedial works.
To facilitate this, the operations of the polyclinic would most probably be moved to the one in nearby Kota Cemerlang in November.
In September 2004, the RM557.8 million Sultan Ismail Specialist Hospital in Johor Baru was ordered closed after faulty air-conditioning led to the growth of aspergillus and penicillium fungi which spread throughout the hospital and contaminated the equipment.
Barely a month after that, the same problem was detected at the Alor Star Hospital.
The Alor Star Hospital shut down two of its seven operating theatres for three days after fungal spores were detected in the air. However, the hospital's microbiology laboratory said the spores were not from the dangerous species which had caused the temporary closure of the Sultan Ismail Hospital.
The Ayer Keroh community polyclinic was built at an estimated cost of RM10 million under the Seventh Malaysia Plan and is located in Jalan Ayer Keroh Lama.
The cleaning and repair work is expected to include the replacement of ceilings and the upgrading of the air-conditioning and ventilation system. The interior of the polyclinic will also be repainted.
Various tests, including measuring the density of fungal spores in the air, are expected to be carried out.
Checks will also be conducted to determine if the spores could have spread through the centralised air-conditioning system to other parts of the polyclinic, such as the outpatient centre, dental clinic, X-ray unit, centre for the elderly and the quit-smoking clinic.

HFMD suspected in boy's death

NST: IPOH: A 7-year-old boy who died after developing rashes on his palms, soles and mouth could be the first casualty of the hand, foot and mouth disease in Perak.
Toh Guan Hee, of Taman Assamara in Pokok Assam, Taiping, had shown symptoms of the disease when he was admitted to Taiping Hospital on Monday morning. He died the same night.
An 11-month-old infant from Aulong, Taiping, has also been admitted to the same hospital yesterday morning with similar symptoms.
State Health Committee chairman A. Sivanesan said the state Health Department had sent Toh's blood and tissue samples to the Institute of Medical Research in Kuala Lumpur to ascertain the cause of death.
"The state health authority suspects that the boy died of HFMD," he said at a press conference here yesterday.
While HFMD is not regarded as a dangerous disease, the infection can cause inflammation of the heart and brain membrane, resulting in death.
Sivanesan said although cases of HFMD occurred regularly in Perak, none had been fatal.
Perak recorded 258 HFMD cases from Jan 1 to Oct 4, the highest number, 72, in Kinta district.
The department has distributed pamphlets, conducted public talks and instructed doctors to notify the health authorities of patients with HFMD symptoms.

Kindergarten closed after HFMD detected

Star: MIRI: A kindergarten in Tudan residential area was closed after three cases of hand, foot and mouth disease (HFDM) were detected.
Miri health director Dr Chin Zin Hing said the kindergarten would be closed for the next two weeks.
“We are now helping the kindergarten to contain the outbreak,” said Dr Chin.
“We have also advised other kindergartens to shut down if the need arises. It is better to take early precautions.”
This is the first pre-school in the state to close following the sharp rise in HFMD infections statewide.
Last year, 13 children died from the Enterovirus 71 strain of HFMD while thousands were infected in the state.
Nurseries and kindergartens have also placed their staff and pupils on high alert following the death of a four-year old boy in Sibu from suspected infection of HFMD.
HFMD is a common yearly occurrence in Sarawak. The main fear is caused by the Enterovirus 71 strain that can be fatal.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Sarawak on alert for disease outbreak

NST: KUCHING: Sarawak is on high alert for the hand, foot and mouth disease after one Enterovirus 71 (EV71) case was detected following the death of a 4-year-old boy from Sibu last week.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan said the Health Department was stepping up prevention and control measures.
From the department's statistics released yesterday, 5,686 cases of HFMD had been reported so far this year.
Kuching received the highest number of reported cases with 2,187, followed by Miri (889), Bintulu (781) and Sibu (532). The rest were reported in smaller towns.
"Except for the death of the boy in Sibu last week, none of the cases involved EV71, which potentially causes death," said Dr Chan, who is also chairman of the state disaster and relief management committee.
"In Sarawak, it is like a cycle where every three years, we will have a case of EV71. For this year, the situation is under control."
Dr Chan urged parents with young children and operators of childcare centres to practise good hygiene at all times.
"From our experience, once EV71 starts, it will spread very quickly. Although there is no outbreak yet, the situation will worsen if parents do not take the disease seriously."
At present, there is no specific effective anti-virul drugs and vaccine for the treatment of HFMD. Symptomatic treatment is given to provide relief from fever, aches, or pain from the mouth ulcers.
Dehydration is a concern because the mouth sores may make it painful for children to eat and drink.
"Although HFMD occurs mainly in children under 10 years' old, it may also occur in adults. Everyone is at risk of infection, but not everyone who is infected becomes ill."
Sarawak's last major outbreak of HFMD was in 2006, when more than 14,000 cases and 13 deaths were reported.

Malaysia can be hub for orthopaedic surgeries

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has huge potential of becoming a hub for orthopaedic surgeries where the operations cost a fraction of that in countries such as the the United States and Britain.
Asean Orthopaedic Association president Dr Jamal Azmi Mohamad and Malaysian Orthopaedic Association president Dr Robert Penafort said the skills and facilities available locally were not being fully exploited.
"There are a few (orthopaedic) surgeries done in the name of health tourism but much more can be done," said Dr Jamal.
Dr Jamal and Dr Robert said the government and private sector should do more to promote such surgeries abroad.
Dr Jamal said the Malaysian health tourism sector was not being promoted "fully".
"There is a need to encourage and create more awareness on this sector, especially among the foreigners."
He said patients wanting to do a joint replacement surgery in Malaysia would have to spend at least two weeks in the country.
"This includes the surgery and recovery period," he said, adding that this meant the patients would have time to see parts of the country.
It would cost RM20,000 to do the surgery in Malaysia, compared with RM150,000 in the United States.
Malaysia has more than 500 orthopaedic surgeons, most of whom are in the Klang Valley.

Sinseh, dukun can register online soon

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Traditional and complementary medicine (TCM) practitioners will soon be able to register online with the Health Ministry through e-Pengamal, a free voluntary registration system.
Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai said the system would be available from next month ahead of the mandatory registration of TCM practitioners under the Traditional and Complementary Healthcare Practices Act.
The Act aims to regulate TCM practitioners such as sinseh and dukun by validating their qualifications, enforcing their compulsory registration with the ministry and managing the issuance of practising certificates.
He said a roadshow would be held soon to demonstrate how TCM practitioners can use e-Pengamal, which was developed by the ministry's TCM division.
Speaking after launching the Golden Horses Health Sanctuary TCM Wellness Centre in Seri Kembangan near here yesterday, Liow said as of May, there were 7,578 TCM practitioners registered under seven umbrella bodies.
They are the Federation of Chinese Physicians and Medicine Dealers Associations of Malaysia, Federation of Chinese Physicians and Acupuncturists Associations of Malaysia, Federation of Malay Traditional Medicine Practitioners, Federation of Indian Traditional Medicine Malaysia, Malaysian Homeopathic Medical Council, Malaysian Society of Complementary Therapies and Chinese Physician's Association of Malaysia.
Liow said three more hospitals, in Terengganu, Sabah and Sarawak, would offer TCM services.
"The three pilot projects which offered traditional complementary medicine have received overwhelming response."
The three hospitals currently offering TCM are the Kepala Batas Hospital, Putrajaya Hospital and Hospital Sultan Ismail in Johor.
"In Hospital Putrajaya, appointments have been made up to three months in advance.
"The TCM unit in hospital Kepala Batas has recorded almost 4,000 cases, collectively, for traditional Malay massage, acupuncture and adjunct herbal treatment for cancer patients on chemotherapy," he said.
Also present at yesterday's ceremony was Country Heights Holdings founder and deputy chairman Tan Sri Lee Kim Yew.

Kampung folk go to surgeons 'as last resort'

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Many people prefer to refer their bone ailments to bomoh and sinseh rather than to orthopaedists.

This practice is especially noted in rural areas where such surgeons are almost non-existent.
Asean Orthopaedic Association president Dr Jamal Azmi Mohamad said they knew of this because orthopaedic surgeons had received numerous referrals from traditional medicine men.
"Instead of coming to us first, people in kampung and sometimes even the cities prefer to see these traditional medicine men," he said at the 28th Asean Orthopaedic Association Congress and the 38th Malaysian Orthopaedic Association (MOA) annual general meeting and scientific meeting at a hotel here recently.
He said it was therefore crucial for the government to post more orthopaedists at rural hospitals.
Most of the 500 orthopaedic surgeons in the country are based in the Klang Valley.
MOA president Dr Robert Penafort suggested that sinseh and bomoh be regulated.
"Because they have no regulations governing them, they are free to do anything with their patients.
"When we get referrals from them, it was already too late for the patient, especially if they have cancer or a tumour," Dr Penafort said.
"We hope the Health Ministry will take steps to regulate bomoh and sinseh because a lot of people prefer to go to them just because they are scared of going through operations, " he said, adding that patients were also put off by the three- to six-month waiting period.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

More hospitals get traditional medicine units

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Three more government hospitals will be offering traditional complementary medicine (TCM) next year.
Terengganu, Sabah and Sarawak will house one TCM unit each, in addition to the current ones in Hospital Putrajaya, Hospital Kepala Batas in Penang and Hospital Sultan Ismail in Johor.
Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai said this was due to the good response received at the first three hospitals.
“In Putrajaya, you need to make an appointment three months in advance for TCM service. In Kepala Batas, more than 4,000 patients had been treated since January,” he said.
Liow said seven professional bodies are currently helping regulate TCM practitioners as the Health Ministry is in the midst of drafting the Traditional and Complementary Healthcare Practices Act.
There are 7,578 local TCM practitioners registered under the seven bodies.
The public can contact these bodies to ensure that their TCM practitioners are not bogus practitioners, Liow said.
The seven bodies are the Chinese Physician’s Association of Malaysia, Federation of Chinese Physicians and Medicine Dealers Associations of Malaysia, Federation of Chinese Physicians and Acupuncturists of Malaysia, Persekutuan Perubatan Tradisional Melayu, Pertubuhan Perubatan Tradisional India Malaysia, Majlis Perubatan Homeopathy Malaysia and Malaysian Society for Complementary Therapies.
The Traditional and Complementary Healthcare Practices Act is aimed at regulating TCM practitioners by validating their qualifications against set standards, compulsory registration and the issuance of practising certificates.
While waiting for the Act to be debated in Parliament, which could be as soon as next year, Liow said the ministry is launching a voluntary registration scheme next month.
“TCM practitioners can voluntarily register themselves online via the e-Pengamal scheme; when the Act is passed, registration will become compulsory,” he said after launching the Golden Horses Health Sanctuary-TCM Wellness.

No outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Sarawak

NST: KUCHING: Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan has assured the public there was no outbreak of the hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) in the state.
He said the death of a 4-year-old in Sibu last week did not constitute an outbreak.
"If the boy did die from the disease, it was probably an isolated case," he said.
The confirmation on the cause of death of the preschooler would only be known on Thursday.
Dr Chan, who is also the chairman of the state Disaster and Relief Management Committee, said the state usually experienced an outbreak of HFMD once every three years. The last was in 2006.
To prevent an outbreak and minimise its impact, the state Health Department had been directed to take precautionary steps now.
This includes advising the public on preventive steps and what to do when they suspect their children were infected.
"We're trying to nip it in the bud before it spreads," said Dr Chan.
He said in view of the toddler's death last week, the authorities would step up the dissemination of information on the disease.
Local non-governmental organisations, such as the Red Crescent, and those dealing with children, and operators of kindergartens and childcare centres would be roped in to help spread awareness about the disease.
Yesterday, two more cases were reported in the state, but Dr Chan said they were "normal".

Docs okay e-Kesihatan revamp

Star: PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Medical Association and Koperasi Doktor Malaysia Bhd are happy with the revamp of the e-Kesihatan scheme.
Association president Datuk Dr Khoo Kah Lin said doctors should play a major role in the medical aspect of the scheme.
He said the association and the Health Ministry regularly hold discussions about the scheme over the past 12 months, and would like to meet up with the Transport Minister as well.
“We hope that while implementing the new scheme, there are sufficient safeguards to ensure orderly and ethical work practices. “The association’s technical committee has prepared a detailed format of clinical and laboratory tests relevant for screening and certification of drivers to drive commercial vehicles,” he said.
Dr Khoo agreed with removing the exclusivity of Supremme Systems, saying that all doctors registered with the Malaysian Medical Council should be allowed to carry out examinations on the drivers.
According to the cooperative’s chairman, Dr J.S. Deo, check-ups can be conducted at the cost of RM65 per driver — lower than the RM80 that Supremme Systems wanted to charge.
“We feel it is not right to make money from this. And without a middleman, we hope the Road Transport Department will have a transparent system and also incorporate a mechanism to catch medical frauds. We are willing to help,” he said.
Dr Deo said urine tests for amphetamines should be dropped from the regular check-ups and should only be requested during spot checks.
“The test is not absolute. If the driver stopped taking the drugs three to four days before a check-up, his result will be negative,” he said.
The revised scheme will allow doctors to conduct medical check-ups for commercial vehicle drivers instead of it being run solely by private company Supremme Systems Sdn Bhd.
Pan Malaysian Lorry Owners Association president Er Sui See said it was a good move to cut off the middlemen. “We don’t want anyone making money from us. And with the scheme, runners cannot cari makan anymore. This will put an end to bogus medical certificates,” he said.

White Rabbit candy test positive for melamine

Star: PETALING JAYA: Samples of White Rabbit Creamy Candy have been found to contain more than 50 times the permitted level of melamine.
Tests on Ego White Rabbit Creamy Candy samples showed that the content of melamine was 135 parts per million (ppm) compared with 2.5ppm, the level permitted by the Health Ministry.
Heath Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai has ordered outlets to remove the candy from their shelves and destroy all stocks.
Those found disobeying the directive can be prosecuted under the Food Act.
“The ministry has identified the product and company involved and has issued a directive to the state health departments to destroy the product,” he told reporters yesterday at the National Public Health Laboratory.
“They shouldn’t be selling it or giving it away for free. Consumers should also read food labels properly and call us if they have doubts.”
The public should also be on the alert when giving away food hampers or products from China, he said, adding that there were 64 products which have been tested and cleared by the ministry to date.
The latest 14 products to be cleared include Menthos Yogurt, Sam’s Real Scotch Milk Candy, Miow Miow Lobster Peanut Crisp, Crisp Lobster Peanut Crisp, Sanwa Strawberry, Double Lantern Peanut Cake, Daysun Rice Crisp Cheese and Tongxi Foods Chocolate Egg Rolls.
The others are Tongxi Foods Milk Chocolate Egg Roll, Hong Da Food Crisp Blue Berry Layer Biscuit, Lotte Koala Chocolate Snack, ZQ Chocolate Digest Biscuits, Frontier Chocolate Cream Centerfilled and Passion Frugurt Yogurt Style Snack.
He added that 775 product samples had been taken while 2,719 items were taken off the shelves.
On reports which appeared on the Health News and Earthtimes.org websites on Sept 26 that Pizza Hut Taiwan had found melamine at 70ppm in cheese packet made out of creamer and cheese powder, he said tests had found it to be free from the chemical.
The creamer for the cheese packet is supplied by a Malaysian company and it is also used to make products such as three-in-one instant coffee and cereal while the cheese powder is imported from New Zealand.
He said the ministry was also investigating the biscuit factories which were mentioned in media reports that Vietnam had found melamine in their products.
To expedite sample testing, the Chemistry Department, the National Public Health Laboratory, Universiti Malaya and the Doping Control Centre in Universiti Sains Malaysia have been roped in to help out.
Liow said that he hoped to have laboratories in Ipoh, Johor Baru and Kota Kinabalu to conduct testing.
He also said that the ministry would continue with its Level Four alert on fruits and vegetables from China.
Under Level Four, the products are allowed into the market but will be tested and rejected if they are found to contain melamine.

Monday, October 06, 2008

PTA: Radiation causing pupils' nose bleeds

NST: GEORGE TOWN: Many parents are complaining that their children are suffering from nose bleeds and headaches and this has Ong Bee Lai concerned.
Ong, the SRJK (C) Shun Wu Parent-Teacher Association chairman, yesterday voiced her fears about the telecommunications antennas mounted on a giant billboard at the Scouts Headquarters in Jalan Scotland.
The school, which is situated in Jalan Air Itam, is a stone's throw from the billboard.
"I receive an average of three complaints a week from parents who say that their children have nose bleeds and headaches.
"The radiation emitted by the nearby antennas is a major factor affecting the pupils' health," she said at the site, where she was joined by some 100 residents of the nearby Desa Timur Apartments.
Ong said the billboard was five years old and the antennas had been attached to it two months ago.
"We want to ask the authorities to look into the matter to ensure telecommunication antennas are not put up in the vicinity of schools and public places."
Kebun Bunga assemblyman Jason Ong Khan Le, who was also present, said he would take up the matter with Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.

No wireless project if proven bad for health

NST: GEORGE TOWN: Penang is ready to stop the free Wireless@Penang broadband project if there is scientific proof to show that the health of the people will be adversely affected.
Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said the state government was prepared to widen its consultations to include holding public forums with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and members of the public who were uneasy about the health risks posed by the use of wireless connections to the Internet.
"Public consultation is a continuing process even after a project is announced.
"We believe in accountability. We are open to cancelling the wireless project, which is aimed at providing free WiFi connection to the entire state within 24 months, if NGOs or any party can show incontrovertible evidence that there are harmful health risks," he said in a statement yesterday.
Last month, the state government announced the staggered implementation of wireless broadband services statewide. They are the free-of-charge WiFi and the affordably-priced wireless WiMAX.
The project is being undertaken by REDTone-Hotgate consortium and Packet One (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd.
They are service providers licensed by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) and have the approval of Sirim and the Malaysian Nuclear Agency.
The Consumers Association of Penang has proposed that the project be stopped until the state government proves that it is safe.
Lim said previous informal consultations with various sectors had not indicated any controversy or opposition.
On the contrary, there had been strong support for the project because of the opportunities it would create in education and business.
Lim said prior to the launching of Wireless@Penang, his officers had consulted the MCMC and the local industry regulator, who pointed to their adherence to safety Code 6 of Health Canada, which covers RF exposure compliance of Radiocommunication Apparatus for all frequency bands.
This refers to the conclusions of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in a report that considered 10 years of research.
The report from the United Nations body stated that the amount of non-ionising radiation absorbed by a person's body from a WiFi station was less than one-fifth what they received from FM radios and TVs that surrounded them day and night.
"We are assured that the WiFi and WiMAX apparatus and equipment being used in Malaysia are within the safety guidelines."
Lim said that having a state-wide wireless network for Internet access and bringing the service to all segments of society would help the government attain its vision of transforming Penang into an international city, one that was a location of choice for investors, destination of choice for tourists and habitat of choice for residents desiring sustainable living.
"Nevertheless, for the purpose of public education, the state government will make available the various research papers pertaining to public concern over RF radiation that have been wrongly linked to WiFi and WiMAX."
The chief minister added that should there be proof to show that the WHO report and studies made by others were wrong, the state government would immediately cancel and abandon the project.

Penang’s WiFi forum

Star: GEORGE TOWN: The Penang government will hold a forum to discuss the concerns raised over its plan for free wireless Internet access throughout the state.
Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said the forum, to be held soon, was part of the state’s efforts to educate the public on wireless Internet usage and implementation, especially with regards to health issues.
He said the forum would address objections raised by non-governmental organisations on the wireless broadband project aimed at providing free round-the-clock WiFi connection in the state.
He said he had instructed “tech-savvy” MP Jeff Ooi to organise the forum. “We will make available various research papers on radio frequency (RF) radiation that has been wrongly linked to WiFi and WiMAX,” he said.
“We are receptive to public requests for continued consultative and educational sessions with the government pertaining to the implementation of the free Wireless@PENANG project. Public consultation is a continuing process even after a project is announced.”
Lim said the state government would cancel the project “if there is scientific proof that the people’s health will be adversely affected by the wireless network”.
He expressed regret that efforts to make Penang the first WiFi state in Malaysia had been equated with the proposed RM25bil Penang Global City Centre (PGCC) project by the previous government.
“PGCC merely enriched one company and did not benefit the people. But the two companies undertaking this wireless effort will not be paid any money by the state or its people,” he noted.
Meanwhile, Kebun Bunga assemblyman Jason Ong said concerns over the RF antenna erected at the Penang Scouts Association headquarters would be looked into.
According to SJKC Shang Wu Parent-Teacher Association chairman Ong Bee Lay, there had been an increase in the number of students complaining of headaches and nose bleeds recently.
“The RF antenna was put up a few months ago. While there is no concrete evidence to show a link between the antenna and the children’s health, we cannot take any risk. There are several schools in the area, and their health must be a priority,” she said.
About 20 residents turned up at the headquarters to highlight their concern.
Desa Timur Apartment Residents Association treasurer S. Thanneer-malai said the residents were concerned the RF antenna could be harmful to their health.

e-Kesihatan plan taken away from private firm and could be cheaper

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The Government will scrap the controversial plan to allow a private company to run its medical check-up scheme for commercial vehicle drivers.
The scheme, called e-Kesihatan, will instead be handled by the Road Transport Department (JPJ).
Under the revamp, the fees for medical check-ups would be lower than the RM80 proposed earlier, the tests would only cover relevant ones, and more doctors and not just a selected panel would be allowed to conduct the medical check-ups.
Transport Minister Datuk Ong Tee Keat said he held discussions with various parties including the Economic Planning Unit (EPU), Health Ministry, industry players and the medical fraternity before revamping the scheme.
He said weaknesses in the original e-Kesihatan scheme were identified and improved upon.
The original e-Kesihatan programme, which was to have started on Oct 1 last year, would have seen medical check-up results of commercial vehicle drivers being electronically transmitted from panel clinics and laboratories to JPJ.
The JPJ would then issue or renew a licence once the medical check-up result is seen.
The concession for the scheme was given to Supremme Systems Sdn Bhd, which was also allowed to maintain a database of the drivers.
The move to appoint Supremme Systems as well as the limited number of panel clinics and the high fees for check-ups drew criticism from the Malaysian Medical Association and associations representing the commercial vehicle drivers.
The opposition resulted in the ministry shelving the scheme.
The e-Kesihatan scheme was originally proposed to curb fraud in commercial vehicle driver medical check-ups where medical approvals were said to be “sold”.
Ong said with the revocation of the private company’s role in the scheme, certain legal aspects had to be sorted out.
Ong said the programme would now be expanded to accommodate any doctor registered with the Health Ministry. “We want to do it in a way where it is not monopolised by groups or cartels,” he said.
Ong also wanted the fees to be revised downwards from the earlier RM80.
He said the format and content of the medical tests would also be revised to ensure that only relevant tests were carried out.
Ong said he expected JPJ to finalise the programme by the end of the year, after which it would be tabled to the Cabinet and rolled out early next year.
“JPJ must reconstitute their entire format and modus operandi before submitting the proposal to me for consideration,” he said.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Liow: Melamine is at permissible level

NST: KOTA KINABALU: Food containing 2.5 parts per million (ppm) or less of melamine is acceptable, Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai said yesterday.
For baby food, the permissible level is 1ppm.
Melamine is used in the manufacture of plastics.
"So far, all the products we have tested have melamine within the permissible level," Liow said after attending the state MCA annual congress here.
Liow assured the public that small amounts of melamine in food products was safe for consumption.
There was bound to be some transfer of melamine to food products wrapped in plastic, he said.
The European Union countries allowed 30ppm of melamine in all food products.
Melamine-tainted milk products in China have the chemical compound at 2,653ppm.
Meanwhile, the Health Ministry is now on high alert over melamine-tainted vegetables imported from China.
"We have learnt from Korea that it has detected a high level of melamine in vegetables from China.
"We have started a level four check on all food products from China where we will take samples to ensure they are safe for consumption before releasing them into the market.
"Products from China are still being examined. Today (yesterday), the Korean government announced that fruits and vegetables from China contain melamine, so we will be asking them for details."

Death of boy sparks HFMD fear

NST: KUCHING: The death of a 4-year-old boy in Sibu on Thursday from suspected hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) has sparked fears of a new outbreak of the disease.
HFMD, a common acute viral illness that primarily affects infants and young children, killed 39 children in Sarawak during an outbreak in 1997.
The state's deputy director of the Health Department, Raja Lope Ahmad Raja Ariffin, confirmed that the pre-schooler had "clinical symptoms of HFMD".
"There were rashes on the boy's hands and feet, ulcers in his mouth, loss of appetite and high fever.
"However, it could not be ascertained if he had died of HFMD until tests of samples taken from him are completed," he said yesterday.
The tests were done at the Unimas medical laboratory and Raja Lope said the results should be known in a week's time.
A local newspaper reported the boy fell ill on Sept 29 but was only brought to Sibu general hospital on Oct 1 in an "extremely weak" condition with high fever. He died at 4.50pm in the intensive care unit the next day.
Bukit Assek assemblyman Wong Ho Leng, in a news conference on Friday, called on the Health Department to be transparent about the death.
The DAP representative claimed that there was an attempt to cover up the cause of the death by the department.
Minister of Environment and Public Health Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh dismissed the claim and said they were waiting for result of the tests.
The department had reportedly sanitised the boy's home as his 6-year-old sister was also suffering from the same symptoms.
HFMD is an endemic disease. A total of 6,571 cases have been reported at clinics and hospitals throughout the state this year.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Women and Child Hospital project delayed

NST: The completion of the Women and Child Hospital project in the Kuala Lumpur Hospital (HKL) complex has been delayed due to the current economic situation.
Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad said the Economic Planning Unit of the Prime Minister’s Department would have to decide whether or not to continue the programme or postpone it to the 10th Malaysia Plan.
Speaking after handing out Hari Raya gift packets at the maternity ward on Wednesday, he said phase one had been completed with the acquisition of land.
Under phase two, the existing 250 beds in the maternity hospital would be increased to 600.
Asked about staff support, he said there were ongoing programmes to train the nursing staff and specialists.
Currently, some 40 to 50 babies are delivered daily, accounting for some 16,000 babies annually.
By Wednesday afternoon, the stork delivered 11 babies — five girls and six boys.
Dr Latiff said that the 2,350-bed HKL, the largest in Southeast Asia, aims to be a centre of excellence and provide from primary to tertiary healthcare to patients.
Meanwhile, HKL chief dietician Tan Yoke Hwa advised all new mothers to practice exclusive breast-feeding as mother’s milk was the best and most complete food for babies.
“The biggest resistance to the breast-feeding programme is the lack of motivation among mothers and their giving up easily when insufficient milk is produced.
“Breast-fed babies have the least health problems as human milk has a lot of antibodies that formula milk cannot provide,” she said.

Ministry to look at alternate funding for new hospital

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry will seek alternative funding via Private Financing Initiatives for the development of the Women and Children’s Hospital near the Kuala Lumpur Hospital (HKL).
Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latif Ahmad said the ministry would try to obtain financial support through this “unconventional” means due to the current tight economic situation.
“If we pushed this project to be financed under the 10th Malaysia Plan (10MP), then it would seem that we were running away from our problems,” Dr Abdul Latif told reporters after meeting patients in the HKL maternity ward for Hari Raya on Wednesday.
The hospital, originally budgeted for under the 9MP, would cost about RM700mil and consist of 600 beds.
Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai had said on Tuesday that RM300mil was cut from the ministry’s budget under the 9MP, causing certain projects to be pushed to the 10MP.
HKL delivers 16,000 babies a year and currently has 250 beds in its maternity section.

More labs to be set up for testing melamine

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry will set up its own laboratories as current melamine tests are proceeding “too slowly.”
Its minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai said that of 866 product samples which have been taken, only 26 have been tested and found to be melamine-free.
“That’s too slow. So we are going to set up labs in every state because there are a lot of samples and the (Chemistry Department) lab cannot cope.
“We don’t want the people to have to wait,” he told reporters at the Prime Minister’s Hari Raya open house at Putra World Trade Centre here on Wednesday.
The ministry will set up more than 13 labs, and will also get the aid of Universiti Sains Malaysia, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and Universiti Malaya.
“These are qualified labs. They have the equipment and they have the capability,” Liow said.
He also asked the public not to panic if they found small portions of melamine in their food, as long as they were within the permissible level.
“European Union countries allow 30 parts per million (ppm) of melamine in all food products.
“When a food product is wrapped in plastic, there may be some transfer of melamine to the food. But if it’s in small amounts then it’s still safe as our bodies should be able to excrete it,” he said.
He said the melamine-tainted milk products in China were at dangerous levels of about 2,653ppm.