Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Economic crunch hits docs and patients

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The economic slowdown is biting hard even in the medical profession, causing keen competition in government clinics, with private practitioners also scrambling to get a share of overtime payments.
Several government clinics are now operating much longer, up to 9.30pm daily, with doctors manning them paid RM80 an hour in overtime payments.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, who acknowledged the keen competition going on between government and private doctors for overtime payments, said:
“Many doctors, irrespective of whether they are in the government or private sector, are very keen to earn extra income these days.”
Liow said that to cater to the increasing number of patients seeking treatment at government clinics, the number of clinics providing outpatient treatment would be increased from 16 to 31 soon.
Besides these clinics, he said 59 hospitals were also providing similar treatment after office hours.
Patients pay RM1 each for outpatient treatment at government clinics, which record more than 50 million such visits annually.
With private practitioners charging at least RM15 per visit and with the economic slowdown causing people to tighten their belts, more and more patients are heading to government clinics.
“With more people seeking treatment at government clinics, opening up more such clinics between 5pm and 9.30pm will make it more accessible, especially for those who are working,’’ Liow said in an interview.
The minister said he had received feedback from private doctors on poor business in their clinics due to the economic slowdown.
On allegations that government doctors were being favoured over private practitioners to work overtime in the government clinics, he said:
“The faster approval for government doctors could be due to the fact that their credentials are readily available for checking.”
“As for the private doctors, it may take longer to verify them,’’ he said, adding that all doctors applied for the overtime online.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Private docs: Proper regulatory set up needed

Star: PETALING JAYA: A national doctors’ medical association is concerned that Malaysia is rushing to liberalise its healthcare services without a proper regulatory framework, which will affect the overall healthcare system.
The Federation of Private Medical Practioner’s Association of Malaysia (FPMPAM) believes that although the basic aspects of globalisation are inherently good and in some ways inevitable, the Malaysian healthcare services sector is unprepared for this.
FPMPAM’s president Dr. Steven Chow said that ASEAN needs to harmonise healthcare standards (such as in the EU) before opening up market access. However, this should only be done gradually.
“Currently, there is no suitable and regulatory framework to prevent the exploitation of the national healthcare market by foreign businesses,” he said.
“In this vulnerable regulatory environment, we can expect more resources to be poured into the more lucrative aspects of healthcare.
“This will jeopardise the standard of healthcare in areas such as rural and preventative care,” he added.
Dr. Chow said that without proper safeguards, the move would exacerbate Malaysia’s healthcare woes as market forces and business sense was unlikely to encourage foreigners to start their business in small towns, where the problem of shortage and poor access to healthcare services was more apparent.
“But most importantly, we cannot rush this process, especially if it is for the sake of boosting medical tourism. Healthcare is not another business commodity,” he said.
“We need to ensure that this move will benefit the people of Malaysia and not just business,” said Chow.
“There are too many unanswered questions on the macro and micro levels,” he said.
“Right now, patients are still not aware of the proper channels to go should they be shortchanged by a foreign doctor.
Another concern raised was about how to ensure that these doctors maintained the standard as services in delivery and in other crucial areas such as local socio-cultural norms and doctor-patient communication.

Local docs to face foreign challenge

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Local medical professionals have to compete with their foreign counterparts when the services sector under the Asean Free Trade Area (Afta) is opened up by end of the year.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said at least 70% of the equity will be opened to foreign participation by the period.
This would lead to an increase of foreign professionals, particularly from disciplines which were in demand, those not available locally or facing a shortage, he said.
“The locals will have a choice of seeking treatment locally instead of having to go overseas.
“This is also a boost for medical tourism as foreigners will be attracted by good services and affordable rates in Malaysa,” Liow said in an interview.
Liow however said that the foreign professionals must be registered with the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC).
Malaysia has 23,738 doctors, 3,165 dentists and 4,571 pharmacists. They include 9,440 doctors, 1,625 dentists and 3,321 pharmacists in the private practice who may be directly affected by the move.
Admitting that local professionals were initially quite hesitant in accepting the move, Liow said his ministry, via several briefings with them, managed to convince them that the move was inevitable and that they (local professionals) should be ready and able to compete with their foreign counterparts.
“Like many other countries in the world, Malaysia is gearing up to make medical tourism more attractive to foreigners.
“There are also a lot of requests from foreigners, many whom are Japanese and Koreans and residing in Malaysia, for treatment by doctors or specialists from their country,” Liow said.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Report TB cases, docs told

Star: NIBONG TEBAL: With more than 15,000 Malaysians falling ill from tuberculosis (TB) last year, the Health Ministry is warning doctors that it is mandatory to report such cases.
Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said, of the 17,506 TB cases reported last year, only 14.2% were foreign workers, while the rest were locals.
He said among the reasons was the high number of HIV positive patients who had low resistance to infectious diseases.
He added that under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988, those who fail to notify TB cases faced a RM5,000 fine or two years’ jail, or both.
“Most doctors are laid back when it comes to TB,” he said after opening the state-level TB Day 2009 celebration in Jawi, here, yesterday.
“It is a simple procedure of taking a patient’s sputum sample and looking for TB bacteria,” he said, adding that two weeks of a prolonged cough could be due to TB infection.
Liow said teachers could play a role in teaching their charges proper hygiene.
He said they could get students to know the proper way to cough like cupping their mouths when doing so.
Asked about Noraini Mohd Ghazali, 30, who died at a clinic in Ampang during a follow-up liposuction procedure, Liow said he had ordered a thorough probe into the case.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Most TB sufferers are locals: Health Minister

Star: NIBONG TEBAL: Of the 17,506 cases of tuberculosis reported last year, only 14.2% involved foreign workers.
The bulk of those infected by tuberculosis were locals, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, adding that the once controlled disease was re-emerging in Malaysia.
He said the majority among these were HIV sufferers whose low resistance to infectious diseases made them susceptible to the often deadly tuberculosis.
He also warned doctors against concealing tuberculosis cases, noting that it was mandatory for them to report the cases to the Health Ministry.
Under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988, those who fail to notify such cases to the Health Ministry faced a compound of up to RM5,000 or two years jail or both, he said.
“It is a simple procedure of taking a patient’s sputum sample and looking for tuberculosis bacteria under the microscope.
“General practitioners must not take this matter lightly, because a mere two weeks of prolonged cough could be due to tuberculosis,” he said after opening the state-level Tuberculosis Day 2009 celebration in Jawi here Saturday.

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry has ordered a thorough probe into a recent case of a woman in Kuala Lumpur who died following a liposuction precedure, he said.
Liow said yesterday that the doctor’s licence could be suspended, should there be any element of malpractice involved.
“We will also step up enforcement against operators of unlicensed salons to safeguard consumers from being used as guinea pigs,” he said.
On Thursday, many Malay newspapers carried the story of Noraini Mohd Ghazali, 30, a company director, who died at a clinic in Ampang during a follow-up liposuction procedure.
Apparently, Noraini, who weighed between 50kg and 53kg before she started the treatment, had gone for treatment 14 times since December 2007.
Apart from the victims cause of death, Liow said the probe, among others, would include the surgical procedures carried out, the products used in the treatment, as well as legality of the clinics operations.
He stressed that all beauty centers that conducted aesthetic treatment and surgery must be registered with the Health Ministry.

TB cases on the rise again

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Tuberculosis (TB), at one time considered controlled, is spreading again in Malaysia because private doctors have failed to realise the disease has re-emerged.
Respiratory Medical Institute director Datin Dr Aziah Ahmad Mahayiddin said a standard practice required doctors to send patients suffering from acute cough for two weeks for tests.
“However, this is often not fully adhered to as most private clinics do not have a laboratory,’’ she said, adding that TB was contagious and needed to be treated without delay.
Dr Aziah said that in the 90s, TB had been controlled and had dropped to a minimum, and some private practitioners had forgotten about it.
“Some doctors are not aware that it is re-emerging in the country.’’
TB is a highly infectious, often deadly, disease that mostly attacks the lungs and whose classic symptoms include chronic cough, blood-tinged sputum, fever, night sweats and weight loss.
Statistics showed that reported TB cases in Malaysia had risen from 61.2 cases per 100,000 people in 2005 to 63.1 last year.
It was vital to raise awareness among not only those in the medical field but the public at large, she told reporters at the World Tuberculosis Day celebrations, themed “I Am Stopping TB”, at the institute here yesterday.
She also said that 17,506 new cases and 1,523 deaths were reported last year.
Federal Territory Health Department deputy director Dr Salehuddin Abu Bakar said the department had kept doctors abreast of such contagious diseases as dengue and TB.
Persons with a weak immune system faced a higher risk of infection, he added.
Malaysian Association for the Prevention of Tuberculosis president Datuk Seri Yeop Jr Yeop Adlan said TB patients from rural areas could apply for a monthly allowance from it while receiving treatment.
He said successful candidates would be give a maximum allowance of RM400 for up to six months – the standard period for treatment. Visit www.maptb.org.my for details.
The institute, located in Jalan Pahang, provides free treatment for TB patients.
They, however, need to pay a RM5 registration fee.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Take 10 minutes a day to fight aedes mosquito, urges Mah

Star: IPOH: Ten minutes a day to clean your compound is all it takes to combat the dreaded aedes mosquito, said Perak executive councillor Dr Mah Hang Soon.
Dr Mah, who is in charge of health, said it was important for residents to commit at least 10 minutes a day to overturn flowerpots and clear out other potential breeding places in their premises.
“Ten minutes a week is not enough. It has to be every day. People spend much more time watching a movie or going to the mamak stall.
“If you don’t clean your compound every day, you tend to forget (to clean it regularly),” he told reporters after a gotong royong campaign at Kampung Kopisan Baru in Gopeng near here yesterday.
Dr Mah said dengue was a serious problem in the state, with the number of cases in Perak only second after Selangor.
Statistics showed that 86.6% of dengue cases originated from people’s homes, he said.
“As of March 21, 1,068 cases have been reported this year compared to 935 cases during the same period last year. The trend is increasing,” he added.
He also reminded that residents who wanted Abate, a chemical to kill larvae-infested water, could get it free from all government clinics.
On the gotong-royong campaign, Dr Mah said it was a collaboration among health authorities, the Fire and Rescue Department, non-governmental organisations, local village security and development committee, and the MCA.
He said the Government needed the people to help in the fight against dengue, as it could only do so much with fogging activities and education campaigns.

Solution soon to bed woes

Star: KOTA KINABALU: The Health Ministry is expected to make a decision soon to address the acute hospital bed shortage situation in the city following the closure of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital main tower block.
The Chief Minister’s Assistant Minister, Datuk Edward Khoo, said ministry officials were looking at various available options in order to resolve the problem quickly.
“The Health Ministry is serious in wanting to address the situation,” he said when contacted yesterday.
Khoo was responding to a report in a local daily here which quoted a senior medical officer as saying the Bukit Padang hospital was “grossly under-utilised” with less than half of its 300 beds being used at any one time.
The officer, who was not identified in the report, also said the Bukit Padang hospital was in a strategic location and easily accessible to highly populated areas nearby such as Inanam and Luyang.
The officer had also dismissed a proposal to convert the disused Wisma Khidmat office block into a hospital as it had been built as a commercial office tower and was not suitable.
On another proposal for the Government to acquire the privately-owned 250-bed Sabah Medical Centre (SMC), the officer said this was insufficient as a general hospital would require a minimum of 500 beds.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Developers told to include disease-prevention measures in building plans

Star: THE local authorities in Selangor have been urged to take into consideration the health aspects when evaluating and approving building plans and designs.
State health, estate workers’ affairs, poverty eradication and caring government committee chairman Dr Xavier Jeyakumar said developers and architects should not only give attention to a building’s aesthetic and sales value, but should also focus on the health factor in their building designs.
“They have to remember that in our country where the rain fall is high, certain designs of rooftops and gutters are not appropriate as they allow water to collect, providing the opportunity for mosquitoes, including the aedes mosquitoes, to breed,” he said.
“The developers should choose more practical designs that do not have such rooftops and nooks,” Dr Xavier said.
He pointed out that even a small amount of water collected over a few days could turn into a breeding ground for the mosquitoes.
Dr Xavier said the local councils should make sure that project plans would not allow for any place that could possibly become breeding places for mosquitoes.
According to Dr Xavier, a proposal with suggested designs has been sent to the local councils, urging them to include the health safety factor when approving building plans.
He said the move was part of the long-term efforts to tackle the dengue problems in the state.
“We have to take concerted measures involving everyone, including the architects and developers, as well as the residents and local authorities,” he said.
Dr Xavier said everyone should learn about and understand the breeding habits and life cycle of the aedes mosquitoes.
He said despite the annual outbreaks and regular government campaigns to raise awareness, many people still did not understand the mosquitoes life cycle and breeding habits.
Dr Xavier said some were not even aware of the risks involved in allowing mosquitoes to breed on their premises.
He said the dengue figure seemed to escalate each year during the past few years and the statistics for the first three months of this year revealed that it was high.
“But this is not unique to Malaysia, as similar patterns are seen throughout the world. This is a global trend and we see an increase in the number of dengue cases throughout the world, not only in Malaysia,” Dr Xavier said.
“Over the past few years, we have seen a constant increase in the number of reported cases. I think we have reached the peak, and the figure is predicted to go down after this,” he said.

According to a Health Ministry report, Selangor remains on the top of the chart with the highest number of reported dengue cases throughout the country.
From Jan 1 to March 7 this year, Selangor registered 5,703 dengue cases, with 22 of them fatal.
Kajang has the highest number in the state, with 955 cases and three deaths this year. Shah Alam is second with 949 cases and two deaths.
Although only 459 cases were reported in the Gombak district, seven people died from dengue this year.
Dr Xavier said about 40% of the reported cases were confirmed with dengue.
He said public apathy had been identified as one of the main reasons that contributed to the high dengue statistics.
“Most of the people do not clean and maintain their water tank, corridors and gutters at their houses, which become breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Some don’t even dispose of their garbage properly which aggravates the situation,” Dr Xavier said.
“When our health inspectors visit their homes, they do not allow them in or shut their windows when they come to fog the area,” he said.
According to Dr Xavier, fogging alone is not the only solution in combating dengue. Fogging would only kill the adult mosquitoes and was effective for only 48 hours.
“These mosquitoes can go up to a few kilometres in radius.
“So, people not only have to make sure that their own places are clean but also have to ensure that everyone in the neighbourhood does so too,” he said.
Dr Xavier said in addition to constant inspections at premises, the State Health Department, local councils and state assemblymen had also distributed fliers and brochures to raise awareness on the issue and remind the people to play their part in combating the ailment.
He said some even took the initiative of printing the brochures in Indonesian and Tagalog so that the Indonesian and Filipino workers could understand the issue.
Dr Xavier said action was also being taken against the owners of abandoned and vacant premises if the aedes mosquitoes were found to be breeding in them.
“The existing local authority bylaws allow us to go into the vacant premises and carry out fogging exercise and bill the owner for the service. There is a standard operations procedure that we follow when conducting this exercise, accompanied by policemen,” he said.
“If we have to break a door, we will repair it before leaving the premises,” he said.
Dr Xavier said he had also proposed the use of a new type of chemical instead of the current water and diesel-based type being used in the fogging exercise.
According to Dr Xavier, the chemical does not have harmful contents and is more environment-friendly. It also comes in pleasant scents and could even be sprayed on the body. The chemical is now being used in Singapore.
Dr Xavier said another new idea was the use of genetically altered mosquitoes.
“It involves releasing these genetically-altered mosquitoes to a controlled environment.
“But I do not think that it is a very good idea,” he said.

Dengue deaths up by nearly 50pc

Star: BUKIT GANTANG: There have been 12,179 dengue cases this year leading to 33 deaths, a significant 48.7% increase compared with the number of deaths in the same period last year.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said there were only 8,212 cases with 14 deaths from Jan 1 to March 16 last year.
He also said dengue cases in Perak have also shown a rise with 1,068 cases reported compared with last year’s 946 cases from Jan 1 to March 16.
The state had the second highest number of reported cases, after Selangor, he said.
Liow said the rainy season and dirty housing areas were the main reasons for the rise in dengue cases.
“It’s also partly the apathetic attitude of the people in not taking care of the cleanliness of their homes,” he told reporters after a working visit to the Changkat Jering Health Clinic near here Thursday.
“Continuous efforts to educate the people and campaigns to eradicate dengue fever are on-going nationwide,” he said, adding that the Ministry has spent about RM10mil in campaigns to combat dengue and other diseases.
He stressed that the public should be more aware of the disease and seek immediate treatment at hospitals should any symptoms start to show.

SOS for another 'Elizabeth'

NST: KOTA KINABALU: Sabah's dire need for a new hospital is well acknowledged by the government at both the state and federal levels.
Proposals have surfaced but nothing concrete has come out of them and the people of Sabah continue to be deprived of adequate medical services.
Medical services in the state have long been below par and it took a further blow last October.
The Tower Block at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Complex, the "heartbeat" of the state's medical and healthcare service, was declared unsafe and has since been vacated.
The block had 250 beds, eight surgery rooms, an intensive care ward, a radiology services unit, a pharmacy and a forensics unit, among others.
Other units in the hospital remain operational but the tower's closure has created a major void in services, to the extent that patients have had to be transferred to hospitals in nearby districts.
There has been a proposal for the construction of a new hospital, with the state government offering the Federal Government land for the purpose.
This, however, would only fit into a long-term plan and the state's medical and healthcare problem would not be able to wait that long, said a doctor at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital who declined to be named.
There has also been talk that the Health Ministry plans to purchase a private hospital, the Sabah Medical Centre (SMC), as well as acquire a vacant building, Wisma Khidmat, he added.
The proposal to acquire the SMC may cost RM460 million. As for Wisma Khidmat, it is likely to be cheaper.
At present, the SMC provides top-of- the-line facilities, including 460 beds and a cardiotherapy centre, a facility which the state never had although there were plans to build one at a cost of RM300 million.
"We could save on building a new cardiotherapy centre by acquiring the SMC," said the doctor.
Heart patients are currently referred to the National Heart Institute in Kuala Lumpur.
"The cost of transporting a patient on a stretcher is the equivalent of 12 return airline tickets.
"Imagine how much can be saved if we had our own cardiotherapy centre."
The state government holds a 20 per cent stake in the SMC.

Going early to avoid long wait

NST: KOTA KINABALU: Madam Yapp goes for her medical review twice a month at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Complex. Each visit starts at 6.15am.
"I would go for a blood test before I am given a number for my consultation with a specialist doctor," said the woman, who declined to give her full name.
"Normally, everything would be over by about 11am," said Yapp.
But if she was late by about an hour, she would have to stay until late afternoon. By then, the hospital would be packed with patients.
A nurse accompanying Yapp explained that priority was given to those who needed regular check-ups. It is for this reason that the registration counter is open as early as 6am.
"By the time the unit opens at 8am, this place would be crowded with people without appointments," said the nurse, referring to the outpatient waiting area which could swell with up to 100 people, exceeding its capacity.
"There used to be more outpatients but the number has been reduced by more than half since the Luyang Hospital opened more than five years ago," said the nurse.
Adjacent to the outpatient unit is the emergency ward, which has more than 10 beds but only three are properly equipped to perform thorough checks on patients.
Its called the "red zone", said a doctor on duty recently.
"On average, we get about 80 people in the emergency section. It's always busy here," said the doctor, who also declined to be named.
A businessman, Michael Liew, who was once taken to the hospital's emergency ward after collapsing in a coffeeshop, said it took about an hour before a doctor could take a look at him after an initial check by a nurse.
"I don't blame them at all because I could see four beds with people covered in blood and one man, I think, had just had a heart attack," he said, adding that he was put in a wheelchair.
"Imagine if there was a major bus accident. How would they cope?"

When patients have to sleep on the fl

NST: KOTA KINABALU: There was a time when patients slept on mattresses on the floor at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Complex maternity ward.
When the Luyang Hospital and the Likas Women and Children's Hospital opened more than five years ago, it helped ease the congestion.
But, now, it's back to what it was as patients outnumber beds at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital following the closure of the Tower Block due to safety reasons. There is a 250-bed deficit.
"It is not every day we are forced to ask patients to sleep on the floor but it happened recently," said a doctor at the hospital.
As a result of the closure of the Tower Block, one of the hospital's most important machines, the Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) unit, cannot be used.
Also inaccessible are 250 beds, eight surgical wards, the intensive care unit, the forensics department and a pharmacy there.
The most recent setback was the temporary halting of the service elevator at the three-storey medical ward.
"That was about a week ago. We now have to put at least four workers on standby between the ground floor and third floor to carry patients on stretchers to their wards," the doctor said.
There are some 2,000 staff members at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, including 400 doctors.
Patients from all the district hospitals in the state, as well as in Labuan, Lawas and Limbang in Sarawak, are referred to specialist doctors at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital
"Some of these patients are referred to specialists in the peninsula."
Sabah Health director Dr Marzukhi Md Isa recently revealed that urgent cases were normally referred to hospitals in Kuala Lumpur or Penang.

Gatekeepers to help keep suicide rates down

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Gatekeeper training is the key to cutting down on suicides.
National Suicide Registry Malaysia (NSRM) principal investigator Dr Nor Hayati Ali said "gatekeepers" were people who may come into contact with suicidal individuals in their daily work, such as police officers, religious officers, cus-todial (prison officers) personnel, teachers and school staff, social workers and doctors.
She said very often, these individuals get little or no specific training in the identification of suicide risks and how to help suicidal individuals.
Besides risk assessment and intervention, these gatekeepers would also know where to direct the suicidal people for help such as treatment for depression, alcoholism and drug abuse.
Dr Nor Hayati also said the Health Ministry had taken measures towards suicide prevention, one of which was to encourage responsible reporting by the media.
The media, she said, should avoid sensational or too-detailed reports on suicide or attempted suicides.
On ways to curb suicides, Dr Nor Hayati said religion and spiritual faith appeared to have a protective effect.
"Religion promotes righteous conduct and the belief that God will not forsake us, which acts as an antidote against hopelessness.
"However if a patient is inflicted by mental disorders or an overwhelming life event, this might affect the person's ability to make a choice."
Dr Nor Hayati said it was vital for family members and friends to step in at such times to ensure that the person did not feel isolated and received assistance.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

MMC acts against 13 doctors for various offences

Star: PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Medical Council has acted against 13 doctors — including striking the names of two of them off the medical register — for various offences last year.
The others were either suspended for six months or reprimanded for allowing unqualified and unregistered persons to treat their patients, MMC president Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said yesterday.
The doctor who had his name struck off claimed to be a medical graduate of University Kebangsaan Malaysia when his degree was from the University of North Sumatera, Indonesia, Dr Ismail said in a statement.
A woman doctor who had her name struck off the list had allowed an unqualified person to treat and prescribe medicine to a patient without her supervision. Dr Ismail said the council had not been able to contact her during most of the inquiry.
“Attempts were made to communicate with her through the post, advertisements in the local newspapers and personal delivery of documents. Despite these efforts, she did not turn up for the inquiry. She did not appeal and the punishment was meted out,” he said.
Dr Ismail, who is also the Health Ministry director-general, said three other doctors were reprimanded for neglecting their professional duties by failing to inform their patients that they were starting a medical examination and not explaining the details of the procedures performed on them.
Three more doctors were suspended for a period of between three and six months for offences including breaches under the Poisons Act, producing untrue or misleading reports, and for using a medical report as an exhibit in a court case without the patient’s consent.
The council received 87 complaints against doctors last year. The accumulated figure received by the council is 223 cases so far.
The council resolved 97 complaints last year. There are 17 complaints pending inquiry.
“Doctors should learn from the mistakes of their peers and avoid similar mistakes,” he said.
Based on 20,280 active doctors last year, the complaints received per 1,000 doctors were 4.3.
“Although the number is small, this is not acceptable. Being professionals, doctors are expected to abide to ethical practices at all times,” he said.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Call for more nurses at baby ICUs

Star: KOTA KINABALU: More nurses are needed at neonatal intensive care units (NICU) at government hospitals to reduce morbidity and infection rates.
Perinatal Society of Malaysia president Dr Irene Cheah said the average ratio of nurses to patients at most NICUs was 1:4; while the ideal figure should be 1:1.
“About 10,000 babies a year require neonatal care,” she said at the opening of the society’s 16th annual congress here on Friday.
Noting that the nurse to patient ratio at many adult ICUs was already at the 1:1 standard, Dr Cheah hoped that the Health Mi­­nistry as well as principal matrons would look into implementing the 1:1 nursing ratio Nicus.
“Good neonatal nursing care is such an important factor in reducing morbidity and infection rates in NICUs,” she said, adding that the nurses needed to improve their skills as well.
Dr Cheah said more neonatal nursing training centres were needed as well, as some potential trainees were discouraged when such centres were too far away from home.
She said that while the neonatal mortality rate was 3.7 per 1,000 live births in 2006; there was however great variance among the various states with Selangor recording a low of 2.2, while among the highest were Sabah with 5.2 and Terengganu with 5.7.
Dr Cheah said that to improve the situation the Government should look at re-adopting successful maternal and child health service programmes carried out in the 1970s.
“These strategies can be selectively applied to the urban poor and deprived rural areas to bring down stillbirth rates in these areas,” she added.

More govt perks to retain doctors

Star: PETALING JAYA: The Health Ministry is providing “hard and soft rewards” to retain doctors in government service, deputy director-general of Health (Medical) Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said.
Speaking at a symposium on “Future challenges for Healthcare in Malaysia” here, he said the ministry had implemented several incentives and rewards to encourage government doctors to remain in service.
The incentives include more opportunities for promotion and fast-track promotions based on performance, the opportunity for those on the Employees Provident Fund scheme to opt for the pension scheme, on-call and location based allowances, and compensation for doctors who lecture in universities.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Don’t spread dengue on ‘balik kampung’ trips

Star: BENTONG: Take extra care not to spread the dengue fever during the balik kampung school holidays.
Holidaymakers can add to the increase in cases in several ways, said Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai.
He said those living in high prone areas in Klang Valley could unknowingly allow the aedes mosquitoes to hide in their cars.
“Some could be having the disease in them and when they are in the kampung, they could be bitten by mosquitoes which could then spread the virus to others,” Liow said after closing a seminar on the control of dengue fever yesterday.
Earlier, Liow gave away pamphlets on the dangers of dengue fever to the road users at the Bentong toll plazas.
Liow said Selangor and Kuala Lumpur recorded the most number of dengue cases, which was 63% of the total number of 49,335 cases in the country last year.
“The situation in other states is not alarming but we have to be prepared all the time.
“Everybody can be infected and that is why the ministry has been active in curbing the spread of dengue,” he said.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Free jabs for poor kidney patients from April 1

Star: SERDANG: All poor kidney patients needing dialysis treatment will be given free epoeitin injections starting April 1.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the government aid was in addition to the RM50 subsidy enjoyed by kidney patients presently.
The free injections, to be given three times weekly would save the patients RM30-RM60 per injection.
"The injections are needed to prevent anaemia as epoeitin helps to increase the haemoglobin level. Without them, patients will suffer and endure low quality of life," he said after launching World Kidney Day 2009 at Serdang Hospital here on Thursday.
Liow said the free injections would cost the government RM12.64mil annually.
Some 2,700 poor kidney patients are registered and undergoing dialysis treatment at 454 dialysis centres nationwide.
He said eight more dialysis centres would be set up at district hospitals in Pahang, Terengganu, Melaka, Negeri Sembilan and Sabah to cope with the rising number of patients annually.
The new dialysis centres are at Cameron Highlands (Pahang), Setiu (Terengganu), Jasin (Melaka), Jempol (Negeri Sembilan), Tuaran, Kunak, Kuala Penyu and Pitas (Sabah).
Liow said kidney patients needing dialysis treatment stood at 16,719 as of Dec 31, 2007 compared to only 4,540 in 1998.

Call to set up glaucoma group

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: It is time to set up a glaucoma support group to counsel and encourage patients to fight the disease, an eye specialist said yesterday.
"Patients and their families need to be educated on the disease so that they will know how to control the progress of glaucoma," said Dr Linda Teoh, a consultant ophthalmologist at Tun Hussein Onn National Eye Hospital.
In conjunction with World Glaucoma Day today, the hospital is organising a forum titled "Understanding Glaucoma", followed by free eye screening for 200 people on Saturday.
The screening is open to people who have not been diagnosed with glaucoma, aged 40 and above.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Vacant houses can be broken into to fog against dengue

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Vacant houses suspected of being mosquito breeding grounds will be broken into by local authorities for fogging purposes.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said local authorities had such right under the Vector Control Act if house owners failed to react to notices served to them within 14 days.
“We are also considering shortening the notification from 14 days to three to five days as part of the effort by the Government to tackle this problem,” he told a press conference here on Wednesday.
He said it was the ministry’s aim to reduce dengue cases throughout the country by 10,000 cases this year and the number of deaths caused by such cases from 0.22% to 0.2%.
Until March 7 this year, he said, the number of dengue cases was 10,916 cases with 31 deaths, which was 35% higher than the same period last year.
“A total of 52% cases and 71% deaths reported happened in Selangor while cases in Penang, Perak and Kedah have also increased,” he said.
Last year, there were 7,134 cases with 12 deaths. Liow said 53% of the death could be saved if patients were treated early.
“All these cases could be avoided if patients received treatment as soon as they showed symptoms of such disease,” he said.
He said the ministry would also conduct fogging work in a wider area of 400 metre radius, compared to the previous 200 metre radius in epidemic area.
“Local authorities must also ensure that 85% of the epidemic area is under control within two weeks.
“We will also cut the response time for fogging to 24 to 48 hours once a dengue case is reported to control the spreading of such cases,” he said.
He said 1,000 additional staff would be employed to tackle the problem and operation centres would also be set up in all states throughout the country to monitor such epidemic.
Liow said the ministry had issued 18,469 compounds last year and 59,518 compounds this year to owners who failed to ensure that their premises were clean and mosquito free.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sabah seeks to use empty building as interim hospital

Star: KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah government is proposing the takeover of the abandoned Wisma Khidmat as an interim measure to resolve severe shortage of beds at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
The state cabinet led by Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman held a special meeting with Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai and top officials of the ministry to discuss the proposal to resolve the problems at the hospital.
“This is an urgent issue and we will study the proposal made by the state government,” Liow told reporters after the meeting with Musa at the Chief Minister’s official residence Sri Gaya.
The state has proposed to use the now abandoned nine-storey Wisma Khidmat and a four-storey office block about 400m from the QEH. The buildings will be refurbished and fitted with 250 beds as an immediate alternative following the QEH’s tower block being declared unsafe.
Liow said his officers would study the viability of the state’s proposal and make a decision quickly because there was an urgent need to resolve problems faced by patients.
He said the state’s proposal was a stop-gap measure as plans to build two tower blocks at the QEH were still on under the current Ninth Malaysia Plan.
“It is just a matter of negotiating the price for the tower project,” he said.
Musa told reporters that the state government’s plan was for a 250-bed surgical hospital to be built within five months.
He also said a 200 to 240-bed ward should be built to handle patients who could not use the QEH’s tower block.

90 days maternity leave for Selangor civil servants

Star: SHAH ALAM: Female civil servants with the Selangor Government are now entitled to 90 days maternity leave starting this year.
Announcing this yesterday, Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim said the extra days of leave was part of the state’s economic welfare programme.
“Husbands whose wives gave birth will also enjoy a 14-day paternity leave, up from a week previously. Female staff whose husbands pass away, will also get 30 days’ leave, compared to three days emergency leave in the past,” he told reporters after presenting appointment letters to more than 6,000 village committee members here yesterday.
The Pakatan Rakyat state government had proposed the extra days after it came into power last year.
On another matter, Khalid said Selangor was meeting with various groups, including insurance companies, to work out a plan to help the 300,000 to 400,000 senior citizens in the state to cope with their medical expenses.
Under the programme, senior citizens might only need to pay a maximum of RM5 each time they received treatment from a clinic, he said, adding that the elderly must, however, be registered with the state government to receive the benefit.
Khalid said Selangor would use its over RM50mil revenue from sand mining to fund various “people-centred’ activities and welfare programmes, adding that the state planned to introduce a coupon system which allowed for rebates.
Khalid said it was also looking into paying village committee members a work allowance for their activities, work and services, and would appoint more Indian leaders to head committees of villages with many Indian residents.
He said the state had identified about 40 villages to be headed by Indians and their appointment would be made next month.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Illegal sex pills seized in raids

NST: SEREMBAN: The state Health Department on Wednesday seized 270 types of illegal medicines worth RM58,000, promoted as sexual aids.
The enforcement unit, with officers from Malacca, along with the narcotics unit, carried out an operation about 3.30pm, focusing on six medicine peddlers in Jalan Utham Singh.
Department director Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar said among the brands seized were Cialis, Viagra, Powerman, American Viagra, France T253, One Night 8 Times, Fly D5, Yuan Ye, Street Evil Overload and Playboy Cream, all from China.
"We are clamping down on the sale of illegal medicines because they are a health hazard.
"The medicines seized are not registered with the Health Ministry.
"We believe they contain sidenafil and tadalafil, which can be dangerous to those with allergies and asthma, hypertension and heart disease."
Dr Zainal said people should not buy medicines from street vendors or unlicensed medicine shops.
"They should be careful and make sure what they buy is registered with the Health Ministry.
"Medicines registered by the ministry should carry the MAL registration code as well as a Meditag security hologram label.
"Registered medicines are guaranteed to be safe, of quality and effective."

Seven died of dengue last week

Star: PETALING JAYA: A total of 1,017 new dengue cases were reported with seven deaths last week.
The figure was a slight drop from the 1,020 cases and five deaths recorded the week before, said Health Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican.
The cases were all from Selangor in areas like Petaling, Gombak, Kuala Langat, Klang and Kajang. Dr Ismail said this in a press statement on the current situation of dengue fever and chikungunya cases from Feb 22 to 28.
Selangor still tops the states with the highest number of reported cases. Other states that reported a spike in the number of cases are Sabah, Terengganu, Pahang, Johor, and the Federal Territories of Labuan, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.
Twelve localities have been declared dengue-free throughout last week. However, seven new hot spots were identified.
Checks also found 948 premises to be Aedes-breeding grounds and their occupants were compounded RM38,150 while 378 notices were issued.
Dr Ismail said 81 chikungunya cases were reported – a decrease of 13 cases compared to the previous week.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Pain can mask depression, say experts

Star: PETALING JAYA: Medical experts believe that one reason why most cases of depression are untreated is because the illness may be masked as pain in the body.
Malaysian Psychiatric Association president Dr Yen Teck Hoe said many patients and medical practitioners fail to recognise physical pain as a common symptom of depression.
“Doctors often dispense painkillers to relieve the pain as it is presumed that the root of the problem is from the area that hurts.
“However, people forget that it is the brain and mind which controls the body,” he said at the first Malaysian Pain and Depression Day Media Workshop at the PJ Hilton here yesterday.
Universiti Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) psychological medicine department senior lecturer Dr Jesjeet Singh Gill said depression may be manifested as pain because the illness would disrupt serotonin activity in the body. Serotonin is the bodily chemical which regulates pain.
“When this happens, depressed people are unable to control the painful sensation compared to someone who is not depressed,” he said.
The department’s consultant psychiatrist Prof Dr Nor Zuraida Zainal said depression also weakens the body’s immunity and increases a person’s chances of getting an infection.
She revealed that 59% of lower back pain patients were diagnosed with depression while previous case studies showed that pain also occurred in other areas such as the chest and jaw.
Asean Federation for Psychiatry and Mental Health president Prof Dr Mohamad Hussain Habil said the current economic crisis, including risk of unemployment were factors leading to depression today.
“It is projected that depression will be the second most disabling disease by 2020,” he said.
Another department senior lecturer Dr Ting Joe Hang said doctors should interact more with their patients to pick up hints on depression during diagnosis.
“Depressed patients should not stop medication prematurely because there is a 60% to 70% chance of a relapse,” he added.