Saturday, December 27, 2008

Six dengue deaths last week takes toll to 106 this year

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Six people died of dengue last week, raising the death toll to 106 this year, but chikungunya had claimed no life so far, said the Health Ministry’s Disease Control Director Datuk Dr Hasan Abdul Rahman yesterday.
He said dengue cases recorded in the week from Dec 14 rose 105 to 1,260 compared with the previous week and 537 higher than the target.
There were six deaths during the week - three in Selangor, two in Perak and one in Kuala Lumpur. The number of deaths last year was 97.
Dr Hassan urged the public to find and destroy Aedes breeding grounds inside and outside their houses and allow fogging in their homes.
In terms of enforcement, 315 compound fines totalling RM58,950 and 352 notices were issued during the period, he said in a statement.
On chikungunya, Dr Hasan said 119 cases were reported nationwide during the same period compared with 158 previously.
The new cases involved 91 localities in Kedah (35 cases), Kelantan and Johor (21 each), Selangor (20), Perak (10), Pahang (four), Negri Sembilan (three), Kuala Lumpur and Perlis (two each) and Putrajaya (one case), he said.
To date, 3,984 chikungunya cases had been reported and no one had died from it, he said.

Don’t retrench workers at the expense of safety, urges Niosh

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (Niosh) has cautioned employers not to introduce or implement cost-cutting measures at the expense of the safety and health of their employees.
Chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said while Niosh realised that employers would have to take measures to cut costs because of the economic downturn, safety should still be a key issue at the workplace.
“Companies must not cut costs when it comes to maintaining a safe plant and machinery, providing personal protective equipment or even investment in occupational safety and health in general,” he said.
This was because if accidents occurred and lives were lost, productivity would be affected and employers would have to endure greater losses in terms of work stoppage, medical payment, compensation and others, he said in a statement.
Lee also said as workers must be assured of their rights to a safe and healthy work environment, there was a need to provide them with information, education and training so that they would know how best to protect themselves.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Day off after 24-hour duty for trainee doctors

Star: KUALA TERENGGANU: Trainee doctors will now get a day off after carrying out their 24-hour on-call duty.
Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai said the directive will take effect immediately.
He said it applies only to housemen on active call and at the hospital the entire time.
“We will not let these trainee doctors be overworked. We will look into their welfare,” he told reporters yesterday after visiting the Sultanah Nur Zahirah Hospital.
Liow was asked to comment on grouses from trainee doctors that they sometimes had to work almost 24 hours and then report to their superiors the next day.
Some trainee doctors complained that they had to work seven days a week without a single rest day during their two-year stint in government hospitals as housemen.
Liow said trainee doctors should also be allowed to concentrate on getting the right exposure and medical proficiency by giving them off-days.
A trainee doctor at Sultanah Nur Zahirah Hospital, who only wanted to be known as Sally, said she was relieved to hear that the ministry would look into their welfare.
“Frankly, we are very exhausted as we have to focus on our training and also carry out clinical rounds frequently,” she said. “It is stressful.”
Sally said she and her colleagues were unable to pay attention during their stints due to fatigue and time constraints.
On another matter, Liow said about 4,000 Chikungunya cases were reported throughout the country this year.
He said the virus was first detected in Johor and spread to several states, the latest being Kedah.

Dengue alert, Selangor folk asked to cooperate

Star: SHAH ALAM: Selangor residents have been told to join the state government’s efforts to eradicate mosquito breeding grounds following a warning by the state Health Department of a possible rise in dengue cases over the coming weeks.
State Health, Plantation Workers and Caring Government Committee chairman Dr Xavier Jeyakumar said the warning was issued in view of the current wet weather which has created ideal conditions for mosquitoes to breed.
“We are calling on all residents to take a proactive approach in ensuring the safety of their families and to use 10mins of their time per week to clean up the drains and other possible mosquito breeding grounds in and around their houses,” he told a press conference after attending the weekly state executive council meeting here Wednesday.
He said the state government would also direct all local authorities and district health department offices to start fogging exercises in residential areas.
Dr Jeyakumar also called on residents not to lock their homes and walk away when those conducting fogging in their areas visited their houses.
“We have had complaints in the past of residents walking out of their homes when fogging was done and so the insides of their homes could not be fogged to get rid of mosquitoes.
“We assure residents that the oil-based fogging chemical is only used outdoors and the chemical used inside the homes is water based and safe,” he said.
Dr Jeyakumar said the state government decided to issue an early warning as there had already been 39 dengue-related deaths in Selangor this year, with most coming from the more urban neighbourhoods like Petaling Jaya, Subang Jaya and Ampang.

Friday, December 05, 2008

300,000 may have HIV by 2015

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia may have 300,000 people affected by HIV by 2015, said Datuk Dr Hassan Abdul Rahman, the Director of the Disease Control Divison of the Health Ministry.
To combat this epidemic, the Government has committed RM500mil to implement the National Strategic Plan on AIDS and the Harm Reduction programme between 2006 and 2010, he said at the launch of a Health Ministry and Unicef Report 2008 entitled Women and Girls Confronting HIV and AIDS in Malaysia yesterday.
The report was released in conjunction with the Special World AIDS Day 2008.
The National Strategic Plan on AIDS involves various government and non-government bodies as well as international agencies such as Unicef.
The daughter of the Sultan of Kedah, Datuk Seri Tunku Puteri Intan Safinaz, who launched the event, said the trend of new HIV infections occurring among women in the country had risen alarmingly from 1.2% of total new cases in 1990 to 16% in December 2007.
She said reducing the impact of HIV required that the needs and issues of women be addressed at various levels.
She said there was a need to reverse the underlying socio-economic factors that contributed to women’s HIV risks, such as gender inequality, poverty, lack of economic and educational opportunity, and the lack of legal and human rights protection.

Health Ministry to launch massive campaign on organ donation

Star: SEREMBAN: With only one in 20 Malaysians willing to donate their organs, a massive campaign will be launched soon by the Health Ministry to increase awareness on organ donation.
Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai said the campaign aimed to get more people to sign up as organ donors.
“It is sad because critically-ill patients have to wait for years to get a donor. We want people to know that we can save lives if they are prepared to donate their organs,” he told reporters yesterday after launching the third National Health and Morbidity Survey Scientific Conference: State Findings here.
He said that despite campaigns by the Government to educate the people on the importance of becoming donors, most were reluctant to do so.
To date, 120,838 people have pledged to become donors.
According to the National Transplant Resource Centre, 4,181 patients are on the waiting list for kidney, heart and lung transplants.
Statistics also show that one in three patients on the waiting list dies before a donor is found.
However, Liow said the Government had no plans to compel people to donate their organs, unlike Singapore which passed a law making its citizens automatic organ donors.
Liow said those who wished to become donors could enlist at any government hospital or clinic and was looking for ways to make it easier for them to do so.
He said the Cabinet had recently approved the need for a masterplan to help the increasing number of cancer patients and educate the people on the disease.
Liow said the National Cancer Management Blueprint would chart the ministry’s plan to deal with cancer patients till 2015 where ministry officers would educate people about cancer as most patients came for treatment when they were already in the advanced stages.
Liow also said that his ministry’s plans to get more females over 20 to go for mammograms and pap smears was also working as the percentage of women who went for mammograms increased from 3.7% in 1996 to 7.9% in 2006.
About 45.7% of women had gone for pap smear tests compared with 26% in 1996.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Malaysia's 62 neurosurgeons do double duty

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's 62 neurosurgeons are "working themselves to death" to save lives.
Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad said this was because they were doing the work of double the number of neurosurgeons needed by the country.
He added the country needed 150 neurosurgeons, or at least one to 200,000 people.
Currently, slightly more than half of the 62 neurosurgeons are in the private sector while the rest are in public service, including at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Universiti Malaya and Universiti Sains Malaysia.
Speaking at the 13th Asean Congress of Neurological surgeons and 8th Asean Neurosurgical nursing congress, Dr Latiff said the number of neurosurgeons was insufficient based on the 26 million population.
"The ministry is willing to offer the best in terms of financial and professional support to enhance human resource development in the neurosurgical field."
Some 500 medical professionals from Asean countries, Spain and the Middle East are participating in the four-day congress themed "Sub-specialisation and Modernisation of Asean Neurosurgery: Achieving Excellence in Patient Care", held in collaboration with the World Federation of Neurosurgical Societies Education Course.
World Federation of Neurosurgical Society president Professor Dr Jacques Brotchi said the number of young neurosurgeons had increased in all Asean countries due to more established local training, improved quality and supply of advanced equipment, which had contributed to the development of neurosurgery.
"The congress is definitely a place for all participants to interact and learn new things in the field of neurosurgery."
Also present at the event was Asean Neurosurgical Societies president Datuk Dr T. Selvapragasam.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

WHO wants more done to stop spread of AIDS

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: The World Health Organisation has called on countries in the region to focus on delivering their five-year promise to stop the spread of AIDS.
With only two years left for the goal set by the World AIDS Campaign to be achieved, the United Nations body feels governments must implement comprehensive prevention, treatment, care and support programmes.
WHO regional director for the Western Pacific Region Dr Shigeru Omi said a progress report published in June indicated that while such programmes had expanded, more remained to be done.
Last year, only 28 per cent of those in low- to middle-income countries in the Western Pacific Region who needed antiretroviral (ARV) treatment received it.
ARV medications are designed to inhibit the reproduction of HIV in the body. If this treatment is effective, the deterioration of the immune system and the onset of AIDS can be delayed for years.
World AIDS Day, observed on Dec 1, had "Leadership" as the theme for last year and this year.
In the Western Pacific Region, about 1.3 million people, including 21,000 children, were estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS last year, with around 150,000 new HIV infections and 63,000 AIDS-related deaths.
In Malaysia, as of June, about 82,704 HIV-infected individuals had been reported. Of this, some 14,100 were AIDS cases.
Malaysian AIDS Council (MAC) president Prof Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman said Malaysia had been proactive since the first reported cases in 1986.
However, a MAC survey revealed that ignorance, stigma and prejudice were still rife.
In the last four years, she said, the number of HIV infection cases had declined due to aggressive awareness campaigns and prevention measures.
But she said efforts to control the epidemic should be enhanced because the data collected may not reflect a true picture of the epidemic.

Tea tree oil may rid hospital of fungus

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: After spending RM14 million on unsuccessfully trying to rid Sultan Ismail Hospital in Johor of fungus, the government may find an answer in tea tree oil, and it will not cost an arm and a leg.
A company marketing the oil has offered samples to the hospital which has been plagued by the problem for years.
The government recently engaged Sistem Hospital Awasan Taraf Sdn Bhd (Sihat) to check the hospital which is infested with aspergillus and penicillium fungi.
Fueltreat Malaysia Sdn Bhd director James Fredericks said the hospital could use the samples on a small area to ascertain its success.
He said it would cost the hospital only "several hundred thousand ringgit" to solve the problem.
He said hospitals in Australia used tea tree oil, spray and cream as they were recognised as an effective anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and antiseptic agent.
They are said to damage the cell walls and membranes of bacteria and fungi.
"Pathogens that have acquired immunity to antibiotics -- especially Golden Staph -- appear unable to survive exposure to tea tree oil," he told New Straits Times.
Tea tree oil is said to have an agent that eliminates moulds, fungi and mustiness, besides killing bacteria in the air.
Fredericks said hospitals used tea tree oil because many pathogenic micro-organisms had developed an immunity to antibiotics and sullphonamide drugs, giving rise to deadly strains of "superbugs".
He said tests in Australia also showed that Safe-T-air, a tea tree product used in air-conditioning systems, inhibited the spread of organisms that spread flu-like symptoms, wound infections, conjunctivitis, lung infections and food poisoning.
A hospital spokesman said he did not mind testing the product as the authorities wanted to solve the problem.
Fueltreat Malaysia Sdn Bhd are scheduled to meet hospital authorities this week to explain how the product works.
The spokesman said the problem was serious with measures taken to protect the health of staff and patients.
Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai was reported to have said that the infection had been caused by the wet ground under the RM557.8 million hospital.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Many medical students suffer from depression

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Many Malaysian medical students overseas who take examinations in a foreign language suffer from depression when they return.
Physicians for Peace and Social Responsibility (PPSR) vice-president Datuk Dr Abdul Hamid Abdul Kadir said that large numbers of young Malaysians were being trained in foreign medical schools in Indonesia, Russia, India, Poland, Britain and the Republic of Ireland.
At a forum on Saturday organised by the PPSR, it was highlighted that at least five such houseman are found to suffer from mental illnesses every month.
“These countries have varied systems of medical training and different types of patient care, based on the emphasis of the country. As a result, many of the students who go there undergo a culture shock,” said Dr Abdul Ha­­mid.
“Coming from different universities, backgrounds and experiences, they have difficulty relating and working, especially the weaker students,” he said, adding that there had been a sudden sprouting of many public and private medical schools.
While the schools have increased, however, the number of teaching hospitals have not.
Dr Abdul Hamid said that although there was an increasing demand for doctors, the standards and quality of patient care should not be compromised.
“These are the major concerns which the country’s healthcare and medical educational planners have to constantly bear in mind so that the value systems governing the training of our doctors are never lost sight of in the short term and the long term.”