Saturday, February 28, 2009

Healthcare hub plan

NST: KOTA KINABALU: School-leavers in Sabah could fill the shortage in nursing and critical healthcare services by taking up courses at the newly-opened RM30 million Masterskill College of Nursing and Health in the city.
With six programmes on offer at the Plaza Juta campus, the group is helping to reduce the need for locals to travel to the peninsula to study nursing and health science.
Group executive director and chief executive officer Datuk Edmund Santhara said five more courses, including diplomas in paramedic science, occupational therapy and forensic science, would soon be introduced locally.
"Most ambulance drivers do not have enough training to handle patients. We are working with an Australian institute to offer a three-year diploma in paramedic science, the first of its kind in Asia.
"We have started with the first batch of 30 students in Kuala Lumpur, and in Sabah, we will take another batch of 30 students in September.
"The programmes that we are offering are critical ones due to shortage of skilled people to fill the needs of hospitals and others (healthcare providers)."
The World Health Organisation standard is one nurse for every 200 patients, but recent statistics show that a Malaysian nurse cares for 645 patients. The country will require 130,000 healthcare professionals in 2020, double the current 75,000.
Santhara said that since a third of its students at campuses in the peninsula were from Sabah and Sarawak, the group decided to spend another RM50 million to build a second campus in the city which is expected to be ready at the end of next year.
"We want Sabah to become a healthcare hub for East Malaysia. With a second campus, we can take in 10,000 students, including foreign nationals from China, India and Indonesia."
Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman, who opened the campus yesterday, said the college fits into the Sabah Development Corridor framework which aims to maximise economic growth based on skilled and knowledge workers.
"With more education and employment opportunities in Sabah, we can move towards improving the socio-economic status of the people."

CM looks into lack of hospital beds

NST: KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah government is working closely with the Health Ministry to seek the best solution to the current shortage of hospital beds after the closure of the tower block of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital four months ago.
Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman said the state government was recommending that patients be placed at medical facilities closer to the city.
He also said the state government would also work with the ministry in providing suitable locations for such facilities.
He had earlier opened the Masterskill College of Nursing and Health at Plaza Juta, near here yesterday where he had told reporters that several proposals were being looked at to solve the problem.
To an earlier question on whether there was an offer to purchase the privately-owned Sabah Medical Centre (SMC) as indicated previously, Musa said it was up to the ministry to make a decision.
The tower block, which housed 250 beds, eight surgery rooms, radiology services and several other key facilities, was deemed unsafe by Ikram Group Sdn Bhd, which was appointed by the ministry to assess the building.
While some patients are putting up at hospitals near the city, others have had to be sent to the Beaufort and Keningau hospitals which are more than two hours away by road.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Agency also at fault, say unions

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: It isn't only ignorant doctors who are "robbing" workers of their Social Security Organisation aid and disability pensions.
Unions said Socso itself sometimes denied workers' claims by appealing the findings of its medical panels.
The Malaysian Trades Union Congress said since 2000 it had received 13 complaints of the organisation challenging its panels' decisions that claimants were entitled to disability pensions.
A dozen complaints were filed with MTUC between 2000 and 2004.
These members told MTUC that Socso questioned the panel's medical opinions by forcing them to appear before an appellate medical board.
"There should be an end to this practice, which is aimed at frustrating and delaying the legitimate claims of members," MTUC vice-president A. Balasubramaniam told the New Straits Times.
He also questioned Socso for disputing the findings of competent doctors.
"Who in Socso has the medical expertise to decide that the findings of doctors are wrong?"
Socso chief executive officer K. Selvarajah insisted that Socso and the claimant were within their rights to appeal any initial findings. Socso "very rarely" appealed, he noted.
"We have not appealed any of the 3,000-odd invalidity pension cases that came before us in the last eight months."
Human Resource Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam said the ministry and Socso were trying to improve the skills of doctors on the medical panels to reduce the need for an appeal.
The minister said he had instructed Socso to minimise their appeals.

Refer cases to specialists if unsure

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Doctors who suspect an occupational disease should send the patient to a specialist.
Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr Subramaniam said the specialist would then carry out tests to see if there was a link between the health problem and the workplace.
The most common occupational diseases reported to Socso are noise-induced hearing loss, musculoskeletal, lung and skin diseases.
There are 226 occupational diseases listed under the Social Security Act 1969.
Dr Subramaniam said Socso published the Diagnosis of Occupational Diseases two years ago and doctors could get copies at no charge.
"The guidelines are to assist those on the Socso medical, specialist medical and medical appellate boards as well as doctors to conduct more objective occupational and medical history taking, clinical examination and investigations of occupational diseases.
"We train doctors who sit in the boards in occupational diseases and disability assessment using the standard guidelines on impairment and disability assessment.
"We also work with NIOSH (National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health) in training doctors, employees and employers."
Socso were also involved in training doctors through professional bodies such as the Academy and Society of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and Malaysian Industrial Hygiene Association, he said.
To further help doctors diagnose occupational diseases, Socso has introduced a standard medical report form.
The number of occupational disease cases reported has steadily risen, from 189 in 2003 to 515 last year.
"It's a good sign but I still feel it's very much underreported," he said, adding that doctors should be more alert for occupational diseases.
For example, he said, if a baker complained of asthma then it could be because of the flour.
"If the doctor cannot confirm it, then he should refer the worker to a respiratory specialist."

Doctors want employers to conduct courses

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Teach us -- that's the appeal of doctors to both the Human Resources Ministry and employers.
Doctors have been blamed for causing workers to lose life-long pensions from Socso because their health problems are not linked to their jobs or the work environment.
Malaysian Medical Association president Datuk Dr Khoo Kah Lin admitted that doctors treated patients based on symptoms as it was difficult to link an illness to work.
He said employers were more aware of the health risks in their workplace and should conduct courses for their panel doctors on occupational diseases.
"If a doctor is made aware of this, then he can recognise a possible link between work and disease when a worker comes in for treatment."
Several doctors admitted that early diagnosis of an occupational illness may prevent the disease, such as asthma, from worsening.
Malaysian Society Otorhinolaryngology Head Neck Surgery president Dr Kuljit Singh agreed that doctors should find out details on the workplace whenever a patient sought treatment for hearing problem.
He said hearing loss developed slowly as a result of exposure to continuous or intermittent loud noise at the workplace.
Dr Kuljit said employers should abide by the Factories and Machinery (Noise exposure) Regulations 1989 and not expose workers to noise above the permissible levels.
"Employers should provide ear plugs to those who work in noisy environment."
A Kuala Lumpur Hospital senior consultant, who sits in the Socso board, said occupation-related lung diseases were rarely reported because questions about the workplace were not asked when workers sought treatment.
"The respiratory tract is often the site of injury and diseases due to toxic occupational exposures," he said.
Occupational lung diseases include asthma, pneumoconiosis (due to silicosis, asbestosis), tuberculosis, chronic bronchitis, metal lung-induced disease and lung cancer.

3 more medical colleges recognised

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Three more medical colleges owned by Vinayaka Missions University have received recognition from the Public Service Department and Malaysian Medical Council. VMU Pro-Chancellor Datuk Dr. S Sharavanan said the colleges are Aarupadai Veedu Medical College, Vinayaka Missions Medical College in Pondicherry and VMKV Medical College in Salem, Tamil Nadu. "These colleges would enable more students from Malaysia to study medicine cost-effectively."

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Workers losing out on Sosco aid, pension

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Ignorant doctors have "robbed" thousands of workers of Socso aid and pensions.
Human Resource Minister Da-tuk Dr S. Subramaniam said that in other countries, thousands of workers filed for such claims yearly "but here, we receive 300 to 400. Our doctors are unable to link many diseases and health problems to the job".
Workers, Dr Subramaniam said, were missing out on medical and cash benefits offered by the Social Security Organisation.
He said eight in 10 workers were denied Socso medical aid because of ignorant doctors.
He was speaking after launching the second TNB safety seminar for top management in Subang yesterday.
He said it was important to raise awareness of the issue among doctors, especially those working in factories or treating their workers. He cited asthma and skin diseases as health problems which doctors often failed to link to the work environment.
"The doctor should be able to tell if the asthma is triggered or caused by the work environment. It could be triggered by fumes.
"The disease might continue after the worker's retirement. He might not receive his pension because the doctor did not link his condition to his job."
He said the ministry would conduct training to create awareness among doctors treating occupational diseases.
He raised the alarm over increasing work-related fatalities, which shot up from 607 in 2002 to 1,303 two years ago.
He said the increase could be due to more high-rise buildings being constructed.

Doctors don't ask about workplaces

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: The 50-year-old man faces the doctor and keeps repeating "Huh? Huh?" as he is asked questions.
Suddenly, he said almost too loudly: "Oh, ya, my ear is painful."
The doctor prescribes pain-killers and ear drops, and points to the door.
Six years later, the man has retired. He can't hear his wife or music. The TV is just a flicker of images without sound.
He has lost his hearing. But more than that, the worker who has given the best years of his life to the factory has also been "robbed" of a pension from Socso. This is thanks to the doctor who failed to find out more about his hearing problem and what caused it.
Like thousands of others who face noise pollution and other hazards at the workplace, Socso members are losing out on one-off payments of RM3,000, monthly pensions and medical aid all because doctors failed to link their medical problems to their jobs.
The Social Security Organisation has schemes to help such workers if doctors can certify the link between the medical problem and the work environment.
However, a staffer from the Human Resource Ministry said most doctors were only interested in the symptoms.
"Most of them do not ask questions about the workplace."
Last year, only 350 occupational disease cases were filed with Socso, with the highest being for loss of hearing, followed by breathing difficulties and skin disease.
Socso members are also largely unaware that they can get more if their diseases can be linked to their job or the workplace.
Bosses also do not inform the staff as they fear extra expenses.
The ministry official said: "But the onus is on the doctor. He should take the initiative to ask more questions, not just about symptoms."

Malaysia approves bird flu vaccine

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is the first country outside Europe to approve a pre-pandemic avian influenza vaccine called Prepandrix.
The Malaysia Drug Control Authority recently approved the new vaccine developed by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).
GSK Pharmaceutical Malaysia managing director Francis Del Val said the company was looking forward to working with the Health Ministry in its efforts to prepare for a possible pandemic.
He said GSK's Prepandrix is a pre-pandemic drug to vaccinate populations prior to a H5N1 avian influenza pandemic.
Prepandrix is designed to provide cross-protection against a range of avian influenza caused by H5N1 strains.
A total of 408 people have been infected by bird flu since 2003, of which 255, mostly in Asia, died.
The H5N1 virus spreads from birds to humans via direct contact but experts fear it could mutate into a form transmissible among humans, with the potential to kill millions in a pandemic.
GSK clinical research and development and medical affairs public health physician and director Dr Teoh Yee Leong said Prepandrix was approved by all 27 European Union member states as well as Switzerland.
"The vaccine has proven in clinical trials that it is immunogenic against a number of H5N1 viral strains, including those circulating in Asia."
Teoh said there were two types of avian influenza vaccines: pandemic and pre-pandemic vaccines.
A pandemic vaccine carries the actual pandemic strain and is produced after it has been isolated.
Teoh said the problem with this vaccine was that it took four to six months to produce, leaving populations highly vulnerable during the initial period of a pandemic.
Pre-pandemic vaccines, she said, were produced before an influenza pandemic and are based on current circulating avian H5N1 influenza viruses.

ER doctors to play a role in boosting organ donations

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Doctors stationed at emergency rooms can play a role by talking to family members about organ donations.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said while the number of organ pledges was high, the actual donation was low.
“There is good response to the organ donation campaign but it is at the ‘last lap’ that we face difficulties.
“We are getting doctors at emergency rooms to remind family members about organ donation. This is applicable to families and relatives of patients who are brain dead or accident victims,” he told reporters at his ministry.
“It can be done whether or not the person has pledged their organs. Pledges can be done on the spot,” he said.
Over 120,800 people pledged to become donors last December.
According to the National Transplant Resource Centre, 4,181 people are on the waiting list for kidney, heart and lung transplants.
Statistics show that one in three patients on the waiting list dies before a donor is found.
A total of 206 people donated 435 organs and tissues between 1976 and last year.
Liow said there was a lot of resistance from families when it came to fulfilling the pledges.
He said the Government had no plans to pass a law to compel Malaysians to donate their organs.
Malaysian Medical Association president Datuk Dr Khoo Kah Lin said the emergency room was a likely catchment area for organ donations.
He said support staff like nurses and hospital assistants could be roped in to talk to family members on pledges that had been made.
He said the staff should be trained on how to approach the bereaved relatives to talk about the pledges.

Having a heart for patients

Star: PUTRAJAYA: It may be a simple logo depicting a hand on a heart, but it means a lot to Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.
It symbolises the care he wants his staff to have for their patients.
Ministry staff began wearing the badge from Monday when the Corporate Culture Campaign was launched.
“The heart on the hand shows that we are caring and can make our patients feel comfortable with us. It is a very simple badge but carries a lot of meaning,” Liow said recently.
He said the campaign was necessary as while the staff knew of the corporate culture value system when they underwent orientation, they did not practise it enough.
“We appreciate their contributions but we want to make it better,’’ he added.
The revamp also includes a motto “We Are Here For You”, an initiative to ensure that healthcare services are delivered to the people as a team in a cheerful, sincere, caring and professional way.
There are also three core values involved - caring, professionalism and teamwork.
“What I want is to translate all these corporate values into action. By having this motto all over the place, it not only reminds the people of it, but ourselves too,” Liow said.
The minister said a mere smile provided important boost to patients, adding that “it has a healing effect and can motivate patients”.
Liow said staff would be evaluated every three months to ensure the campaign worked.
The minister has begun to get things going, visiting several states to check on the key performance index of employees to determine if they were performing up to mark.
Liow added that the public’s feedback in an international survey found that overall patient satisfaction was good at about 90%, with the caring criteria scoring 40%, professionalism (60%) and teamwork (70%).

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

More going to govt hospitals

NST: IPOH: There has been an increase in the number of people seeking treatment at government hospitals and clinics over the last six months.
Deputy Minister of Health Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad attributes this to the global economic slowdown. The concern over money had affected the public's capacity to seek treatment at private hospitals.
"Patients only need pay RM1 to consult a doctor and seek treatment at government hospitals. Although they have to wait to see the doctors, more of them are visiting government hospitals and clinics now," he said after opening the 3rd Perak Health Conference here yesterday.
The conference, themed "Bridging Public Health Practice and Clinical Medicine", was organised by the Perak Health Department and the Malaysian Public Health Specialists Association (Perak).
Also present were Health Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Mohd Ismail Merican and Perak Health Department director Datuk Dr Ahmad Razin Ahmad Mahir.
Asked if the government healthcare sector would be able to cope with the rising number of patients, Dr Abdul Latiff said the situation was manageable with extended hours at several clinics nationwide. These clinics are open until 9.30pm.
He said he had told hospital staff to be "flexible" when collecting payments for hospitalisation and surgeries from the lower income group.
"Patients with financial difficulties can raise the matter with the hospital directors or social medical officers," he said, pointing out that the officers had been vested with powers to reduce or cancel the charges.

When it's healthy to show more care

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: There is a perception that medical staff, including doctors and nurses, are not caring enough. This was revealed in a survey done by the Health Ministry recently.
However, the same survey showed that medical staff did not compromise on professionalism and team work.
The survey also showed that waiting time to see doctors or to have surgeries done had improved, with hospitals and health clinics extending working hours and even working on Saturdays.
The survey was done at all hospitals and government health clinics to evaluate staff performance. A previous survey was conducted in 2004.
Realising the need to change this perception, the Health Ministry has relaunched its corporate culture campaign -- which emphasises a caring attitude, professionalism and teamwork.
Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai said the perception that medical staff were not caring enough needed to be rectified by inculcating in all 145,000 staff the importance of showing genuine care for patients.
"It's not that our staff do not care. It's just that they do not care enough. Care, affection and a smile can have a healing effect on patients."
With its motto "Kami sedia membantu" (We are ready to help), the campaign is part of a move to ensure that health services reach the people in an atmosphere of professionalism, team work and an attitude of genuine caring.
Liow said ministry staff needed to be reminded about incorporating the corporate culture into their daily work and that the attitude of caring for patients must come from the heart.
All staff will wear a badge with a logo of a hand on the heart, with the words "Kami sedia membantu".
Liow said the badge was to remind staff that they were committed to serving their customers responsibly and professionally.

The soft findings in sex survey

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Four in 10 men cannot achieve a full erection while three in 10 women in Malaysia professed to wanting better sex.
This is revealed in a survey conducted by pharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc.
The survey also showed that 62 per cent of men and 73 per cent of women respondents were less than very or completely satisfied with sex.
The survey was conducted in 13 Asia Pacific countries.
A total of 102 men and 100 women in Malaysia responded to the survey online from May to July last year.
Survey consultant Dr Rosie King said some men claimed that their penis was not "completely hard and fully rigid" during sexual activity.
"They scored about grade one to three on the Erection Hardness Score (EHS), which meant that they engaged in less sexual intercourse compared to men with optimal hardness.
"And for men, erection hardness, rather than size, is linked to greater sex satisfaction," she said when announcing the Asia-Pacific Sexual Health and Overall Wellness Survey (Malaysia results) yesterday.
Dr King said the EHS, developed by the European Association of Urology, graded erection hardness from one to four to provide a simple guide. Grade four is best.
"We can say that grade one is only as hard as tofu, followed by peeled banana and unpeeled banana, while grade four is as hard as cucumber," she said to the laughter of those present.
The sex therapist and relationship counselor said that social burdens, including stress, lack of confidence and intimacy, were the reasons for low EHS.
"But clinical studies show that medical therapy and positive perceptions can help a man improve his erection hardness and sex satisfaction," she added.
On Malaysian women, Dr King said 30 per cent of respondents said they were "very highly" or "highly" interested in having better sexual experience.
"Women here consider sex as more important, compared with other countries," Dr King said.
They ranked sex in 14th place out of 17 in a list of life priorities compared with women in other countries, who ranked sex as the last or second last priority.
"A high number of women (58 per cent of respondents) who are 'completely' or 'very satisfied' with sex also describe their health as 'excellent' or 'very good'."
She said Malaysians continued to find sex important even as they grew older.
Malaysia ranked seventh among the 13 countries surveyed in terms of sexual satisfaction.
India scored the highest and Japan has the lowest rate of satisfaction.

Ministry extends on-line medical service for rural folk

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry hopes to extend its rural on-line medical service Teleprimary Care (TPC) to Sabah, Sarawak and Pahang.
The service, launched in 2005, now covers 87 areas in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Perlis and Sarawak. The system covers specialist services in family medicine, obstetrics and gynaecology, internal medicine, dermatology, epidermatology and paediatrics.Cases in rural areas would be transmitted to urban hospitals for diagnosis and advice by specialists so that the patients need not travel.
Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the extension of the service would benefit millions in rural areas without good transportation.
“We want to save them time and money and to get more specialists to look into rural patients,” he said after launching the HiMSS Asia Pac 2009 Conference and Exhibition yesterday.
Liow said the allocation for the extension would depend on the second economic stimulus package next month. So far, RM35.5mil had been spent on the services.
Meanwhile, he said the public should not be worried about higher healthcare costs with the implementation of more information technology because it would only improve healthcare quality and make delivery systems more efficient.
“Actually, it should lower the costs (of healthcare) since we’re improving productivity,” he said.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A song to show that doctors, nurses care

NST: PUTRAJAYA: Doctors and nurses won't break into song even though one has been composed for them.
The song with a catchy tune is a "mantra" for public medical personnel while executing their duties.
The Health Ministry, tarnished by being among the top 5 ministries with the most complaints, has produced a song with a catchy tune.
This is to remind medical staff to be more compassionate by speaking kindly to their patients.
We are ready to help was composed by Fauzi Marzuki with lyrics written by Habsah Hassan.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the ministry has started a campaign to instill the culture of compassion, professionalism and teamwork in health workers of the public sector.
"The doctors and nurses have to remember that when they are working, they are not just treating illnesses, but are also caring for the patients.
"To get the message across, we have simplified our mission and vision statement, come up with the song 'We are ready to serve' and even made a catchy tune for it," he said.
Last month alone, the ministry had 34 complaints lodged against it through the Public Bureau of Complaints.
Most of the complaints were regarding how doctors and nurses talked to patients or their relatives. Liow admitted that he had received reports of rude doctors and nurses.
"We also heard that the staff in call centres were obnoxious to the callers," he said.
"But this is still a small number (1,896 complaints last year) compared with the 36.4 million outpatient cases we treated last year," he said after launching the ministry's corporate culture campaign here yesterday.
Other ministries which also fared poorly were Home Affairs which raked in the most grouses, followed by Energy, Water and Communications, Finance and the Prime Minister's Department.

More government clinics to extend operating hours

Star: PUTRAJAYA: All state health department directors have been asked to submit applications to extend the operating hours for government clinics to 9.30pm or even later.
This followed the good response to the 16 clinics already providing such late-hours services since last year, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.
If needed, the ministry was even prepared to increase the number of such clinics up to three times the current number.
There are about 800 government clinics nationwide.
On another matter, Liow said the ministry would be providing communication skills training to its medical staff to reduce the 1,896 complaints received from the public last year.
He added the ministry took seriously the complaints, as well as another 34 registered with the Public Complaints Bureau under the Prime Minister’s Department.
Liow said complaints included rude behaviour by medical staff; uncaring attitude and failing to inform patients and family members about the medical conditions.
“There were also complaints over delays in releasing medical reports but the ministry has already tackled the problem by directing all hospitals to issue them within eight weeks,” said Liow after launching the Health Ministry Corporate Culture Campaign here yesterday.
Although there were close to 2,000 complaints, Liow said the ministry also received 3,184 commendations.
“We have to bear in mind that we have the same number of medical staff as privately-run facilities, but we attend to 80% of total patients nationwide.
“They work during the festive seasons when most other people are enjoying their leave; and often even during their meal times too. They should be given credit for this,” he said.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Public unhappy with govt medical services

Star: PUTRAJAYA: The Health Ministry will provide training to improve communication skills among government medical staff in view of the 1,896 comments it received from the public last year highlighting unsatisfactory service.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the ministry took seriously the complaints it received, and the other 34 registered by the Public Complaints Bureau under the Prime Minister’s Department.
He said the grouses were aimed at doctors, nurses, workers manning hotlines and also staff at Accident and Emergency units.
“Complaints included rude behaviour by medical staff, attitude showing lack of care, and failing to inform patients and family members of medical conditions,” he told reporters after launching the Health Ministry Corporate Culture Campaign here Monday.
He said there were also complaints over delays in releasing medical reports but the ministry had already tackled the problem by issuing a directive to all hospitals to release them within eight weeks.
Liow however said the reports on the weaknesses in the government medical service made up less than half of the total comments the ministry received; most of the other 3,148 actually commended the services and performance of the staff.
“We have to bear in mind that we have the same number of medical staff as privately run facilities, but we have to attend to 80% of the total patients nationwide; we are able to do this due to the dedication and commitment of our staff.
“They work during festive seasons when most other people are enjoying their leave and often even during their meal time too when there is a large number of patients -- they should be given credit for this,” he said.
He said the ministry received a RM600mil allocation under the Ninth Malaysia Plan to improve the performance of medical personnel at all levels, and communication skills training would be among the areas looked at.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

New rule good for healthcare services

Star: PETALING JAYA: The Health Ministry requirement for all private healthcare providers to report deaths resulting from anaesthetic, medical and surgical procedures will turn Malaysia into a premier medical tourism hub in the region.
Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia (APHM) president Datuk Dr Jacob Thomas said the requirement would make Malaysia’s public and private healthcare services on par with those of developed countries.
“This requirement is good for the country. APHM is fully supportive of this because we are championing medical tourism and ensuring patient safety,” he said in response to Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai’s announcement on Thursday that all private healthcare providers must send an incident report to the ministry’s director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican within 72 hours of such deaths.
Dr Thomas noted that the low maternal and infant mortality rate in Malaysia was in keeping with the World Health Organisation’s own standards for determining the health status of a country.
“We are seeing a lot of foreigners coming to Malaysia for treatment and they are amazed by the quality of our healthcare services.”
He said the reporting of assessable deaths from anaesthetic, medical and surgical procedures had been implemented since the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act was passed in 1998 and its accompanying regulations in 2006. However, a standard format had yet to be formulated by the ministry.
In making the announcement, Liow had also said that Dr Ismail would meet with all private healthcare companies to brief them on the government’s requirements in incident reports and their implementation.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Hypertension Among Malaysian Adults Increased

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 19 (Bernama) -- The prevalence of hypertension among Malaysian adults has increased compared to 10 years ago, said Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai.
He said the latest National Health and Morbidity Survey in 2006 reported that 43 percent of Malaysian adults age 30 years and above had hypertension, an increase from 33 percent recorded 10 years earlier.
"The survey also revealed that among hypertension patients who were on drug treatment, only 26 percent of them had achieved the target blood pressure," he said when launching the 7th Asian-Pacific Congress on Hypertension 2009 here Thursday.
The congress will be held for four days beginning today.
Liow said what was alarming was that almost two thirds of individuals with hypertension in Malaysia were unaware of it, and although there was an increase in the treatment rate for patients who had been diagnosed, the control rate was still poor.
He said it was estimated that there were about 4.8 million individuals with hypertension in Malaysia, while the estimated figure worldwide was around 1 billion.
In order to improve the situation, Liow urged Malaysians to go for regular medical check ups and to check their blood pressure to prevent getting hypertension.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Positive response from doctors

NST: ALOR STAR: The Health Ministry has received encouraging response to its drive to get Malaysian doctors working abroad to return home. Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said, among others, the government had relaxed the requirement that made it mandatory for them to serve in government hospitals and allowing their spouse to work in the same area. Liow said this after visiting the Pokok Sena Health Clinic, about 30km from here, yesterday.

RM13m to upgrade hospitals

NST: ALOR STAR: Nine hospitals and 51 health clinics in the state will be upgraded at a cost of RM13.4 million this year.
Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai said the allocation was part of the RM7 billion stimulus package announced by the government last year.
"We need to improve facilities and services, as 85 per cent of the country's population require treatment at government hospitals and clinics," he said after inspecting the facilities at Pokok Sena district health clinic near here yesterday.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Plan for more eye doctors

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry plans to increase the number of eye doctors in the country from 350 to 525 by 2020, said minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai.
“Our target is to have 1.5 ophthalmologists per 100,000 population by that time. Currently, the ratio is 1.3 to 100,000,” he told a press conference after officially opening the Lions Eye Clinic at Mahsa College here yesterday.
The clinic was set up by the Lions Clubs in District 308 B1 Malaysia in collaboration with the college to restore sight to the poor and elderly who had cataracts.
Liow said the ministry took in 25 trainees every year to supplement the lack of specialists dealing with eye-related diseases and surgery.
He said there was also a need for more medical staff in the government sector as about 47% of the positions were yet to be filled.
“The ministry is continuously carrying out measures to increase the number of doctors, such as by raising their allowances and placing graduates directly in positions suited to their qualifications,” Liow said.
He stressed on the importance of eye care and urged parents to pay greater attention to their children’s vision by complying with their optometrists’ advice and taking them for regular eye assessments.
An average of 200,000 kindergarten and 4.5 million school students undergo the ministry’s free eye examination and visual screening every year.
Asked to comment on the political developments in Perak, Liow said he personally did not agree to party-hopping but emphasised that whoever led the state must be fair and look after the interest of all races.
“I also hope the people in Perak will not be overly emotional about the recent changes,” he added.

Monday, February 02, 2009

AIDS Council to target men with extra sexual liaisons

Star: PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian AIDS Council (MAC) will now target male groups that engaged in sex outside their marriage or relationship.
MAC programme director Parimelazhagan Ellan said there is an increasing number of women being infected by their partners who engaged in sex outside their relationship and contracted the HIV.
“In the past, women were mainly infected by drug injecting partners, and we had carried out harm reduction programmes among drug users,” he said.
This year, the council will target men engaged in sex outside their main relationship since work had begun for drug injecting people and vulnerable women groups, said Parimelazhagan when asked if men too need to be made responsible in containing the spread of the HIV.
“We will work with the Health Ministry to see how we can tackle this growing trend.”
Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai recently said the ministry had set up a task force to check the increasing rate of women being infected with HIV and had until April to come out with an action plan based on the World Health Organisation’s recommendations.
The ministry’s statistics from 1986 to June 2008 showed that 7,162 women were infected with HIV and 1,516 developed AIDS, and of the 2,565 housewives infected, 525 developed AIDS.
Sungai Buloh Hospital Infectious Diseases unit head Dr Christopher Lee said it was easier to target harm reduction work among injecting drug users than non-drug users. Dr Lee said housewives from the lower income group formed the vulnerable women’s group, and blue collared male workers the main group of men infected.

Selangor medical officers told to take measures to control dengue outbreak

Star: SHAH ALAM: Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai has taken the Selangor Health Department to task for failing to take effective measures which led to the outbreak of 68 dengue fever cases at eight apartment blocks here over the last 100 days.
Among the 68 victims living off Jalan Plumbum in Section 7, 70% were students age 17 to 35 from the Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM).
Liow told department director Dr Rosnah Hadis and Petaling medical officer Dr Ismail Samad that effective and proactive measures should have been taken to contain the disease within the two weeks.
“With immediate effect, all measures must be taken if there are more than two cases and within two weeks, the health department and local councils must overcome the problem,” he said. Liow added that there were 48 hot spots in Selangor which are concentrated in the urban areas.
“Even friends of mine are coming down with dengue fever. Our Selangor MCA state liaison committee deputy chairman Datuk Liew Yuen Keong was struck with the disease two weeks ago,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dr Rosnah blamed the dengue outbreak at the Section 7 apartments to the higher rainfall and public apathy that encouraged the breeding of the Aedes mosquitoes.
She added that officers from the department were not able to contain the situation as most of the breeding grounds were actually inside the apartments, especially bath tubs filled with water for weeks while the tenants returned to their home towns for holidays.
Selangor Health Committee chairman Dr A. Xavier Jayakumar called on the residents to cooperate with health officers during fogging operations.
“Residents must allow our men to fog their homes. We are using water-based chemicals for fogging, so it will not leave an oily residue.”

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Dengue hotspots

NST: PUTRAJAYA: Fifty-four areas in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Pahang and Perak have been identified as dengue hotspots.
Health Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said these areas were not free of dengue although it had been a month since the first case was reported.
An area should be free of new dengue cases for two weeks, following prevention and control measures, as well as cooperation from residents, he said on Friday.
Dr Ismail said 1,255 dengue cases were reported in the areas, with epidemic periods of between 30 and 125 days.

He said the 54 hotspots were as follows:
- SELANGOR: Petaling (Flat A and Flat C Section 7, Terrace A Section 7, Terrace A and Terrace B Section 18, Section U3 Subang Perdana and Section U10 Puncak Perdana); Kajang: (Taman Kajang Perdana, Taman Semenyih Indah, Taman Koperasi Cuepacs Batu 12, Taman Cheras Jaya, Taman Industri Mega, Taman Sri Jelok, Taman Zamrud, Taman Kajang Baru, Taman Kajang Jaya, Section 2 Bandar Sri Putra, Section 2 Bandar Rinching, Zone 1 Taman Sepakat Indah, Zone 1 Section 8 Bandar Baru Bangi, Zon 3 Section 16 Bandar Baru Bangi, Zone 5 Section 16 Bandar Baru Bangi and Zone 4 Taman Bukit Mewah); Shah Alam: (Perdana Apartments Section 13, Flat 18/3 (Eps 2), PKNS Flats Section 20, Section 6 flats, Padang Jawa B, Padang Jawa C, Pangsapuri Anggerik Section 16, Section 10, Section 11, Taman Alam Indah Section 33, Terrace A Section 25, Terrace C Section 27, Terrace A Section 25 and Terrace A Section 8); Gombak: (Bandar Baru Selayang F2, Kampung Laksamana, Taman Pinggiran Batu Caves Z2, Taman Samudera Timur and Taman Sri Gombak Zone 3); Subang Jaya: (Taman Puchong Perdana and Taman Serdang Perdana); Hulu Selangor: (Bandar Baru Batang Kali); Hulu Langat: (Kampung Sg Kantan Kajang and Kajang Prison quarters); and Sepang: (Taman Seroja Zone A).
- KUALA LUMPUR: Mentari, Lestari, and Cendana Apartments, Bandar Sri Permaisuri, Sentul Utama Flats, Menara Orkid Bandar Baru Sentul and Taman Setiawangsa.
- PAHANG: Taman Mahkota Bukit Sekilau, Kuantan.
- PERAK: Taman Mewah Kamunting in Taiping.

Dr Ismail said 273 localities were affected by the epidemic, following at least two cases reported in each locality in the last two weeks.
Selangor reported 195 cases, Kuala Lumpur 32, Johor (11), Pahang (nine), Perak (eight), Penang (six), Sabah (three), two each in Kedah, Negri Sembilan and Malacca, and one case each in Terengganu, Kelantan and Sarawak.
Commenting on the dengue situation, Dr Ismail said 1,310 cases and five deaths were reported nationwide from Jan 18 to 25, compared with 1,578 cases and four deaths the previous week.
Dr Ismail said 136 Chikugunya cases were reported in the same period, with the majority of cases in Perak (48), Selangor (24), Johor (17) and Kelantan (16).
The overall number of dengue cases recorded from Jan 1 to 25 had increased, with 4,521 cases and 13 deaths.
Information on dengue and chikugunya can be obtained from the Health Ministry's website

Housemen lack basic know-how

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Some medical universities, both local and overseas, are churning out doctors who cannot carry out common medical procedures, have no proper clinical exposure, cannot communicate effectively and cannot even take down the history of patients properly for diagnosis and treatment.
Senior medical consultants in government hospitals are now saddled with the task of having to retrain these people to ensure they meet the country's standard of medical practice.
Some of these fresh doctors are retained in their houseman training postings for years, some even up to six years, because they cannot meet the standards. The compulsory housemanship is two years.
In view of this problem, the Malaysian Medical Council has issued letters to all heads of department in government hospitals where housemen are posted to open a file on each of them, containing information on the university they graduated from, their performance and shortcomings.
It is learnt that by the end of the year, the MMC and Health Ministry will nail down the sub-standard medical universities and tell them to buck up.
Kuala Lumpur Hospital's Medical Department head, Datuk Dr Jeyaindran Sinnadurai, said housemen come from 300 medical colleges all over the world. These colleges churn out 1,200 doctors a year and this number is expected to increase to almost 2,000 next year.
"When they come back to work in Malaysia we have been forced to extend the period of housemanship from one year to two years in order to ensure the standard of medical practice is maintained in this country for the safety of our patients," he told the New Straits Times.
Dr Jeyaindran handles about 140 housemen a year and he noticed that some 15 per cent of them do not have enough experience to take down the medical history of patients.
"When they are taught to take the history properly and put the findings and various symptoms in a sequential order they can come to a proper diagnosis very rapidly," he said.
However, he added, this was seriously lacking in many new doctors because they have not been trained during their years in clinical exposure. Thus, during their housemanship training programme they needed to be retrained to do this properly.
"Because they have to be retrained, some of their postings are extended," he said.
Dr Jeyaindran has come up with a syllabus where a house officer must have core knowledge and experience before he leaves for his next posting.
"A houseman who comes in for training should be able to manage hypertension, asthma, diabetes and common medical emergencies appropriately based on current clinical practice guidelines, besides acquiring adequate generic skills," he added.
He said some were never taught this properly during their years in medical school and hence they were taught and assessed in a fair and objective manner during their training.
"We want doctors to examine patients properly and not take notes from the nurses' chart.
"We also do not want doctors to be over-dependent on investigative procedures which is time-consuming and expensive.
"One loses the ability to use clinical acumen to make judgment when he becomes too dependent on procedures for a result and diagnosis," said Dr Jeyaindran.
He also expressed great concern that some house officers were not able to perform even the most common procedures such as setting up an intravenous line, central line, and inserting a chest tube.
There have been complaints from patients that there were housemen who cannot even draw blood for a blood test and had to seek the help of nurses.
"Miscommunication with patients can also lead to a lot of problem and this we have encountered with housemen," he said.
"To be a good doctor it is not how much knowledge you have... it is clinical acumen and the skills developed in treating a patient.
"Medicine is not black and white but lots of grey in between and in order to identify the grey areas the only way is the more you see, the more you do, the more you understand," he added.
Dr Jeyaindran said housemen have become something like a production line.
"They come, they take some history of patients and go away.
"They never come back to check whether their diagnosis of the patient was correct or wrong," he added.