Thursday, April 30, 2009

Liow: Doc did not do anything wrong

Star: PUTRAJAYA: The doctor at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital emergency department, who allegedly “did his own thing” instead of attending to patients as claimed by Deputy Federal Territories Minister Datuk M. Saravanan, has not done anything wrong.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said investigations into Saravanan’s claim found the complaint to be “inaccurate”.
Investigations conducted by the hospital authorities found that the doctor – a houseman – had just concluded examining a patient around 10.40am on April 26.
“He was waiting for the next patient’s card to be sent into his room. While waiting, he merely glanced through the headlines of a newspaper left behind on a trolley by a previous patient.
“Investigations found that at that time, there were only eight patients waiting at the non-critical zone and not 20, as claimed by Saravanan. Three patients were waiting to receive treatment while five others, all asthma patients, were being treated,” Liow told reporters here yesterday.
He said that the rest of the crowd – some 20 people – were family members or those who had sent the patients to the hospital.
On April 27, newspapers published reports quoting an upset Saravanan, who claimed to have caught doctors at the hospital “doing their own thing” instead of attending to patients.
Liow said that when the “incident” occurred between 10am and 11am, the waiting period to see a doctor at the non-critical zone was less than 15 minutes.
“Treatment given by the hospital authorities was appropriate and in line with the key performance indicators,” he said,
“There was no negligence or lack of professionalism on the concerned doctor’s part,” he said.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Self-checks over safety and health rules mulled

Star: PUTRAJAYA: The Human Resources Ministry is working on a self-regulatory system for companies to hold professionals responsible for failing to comply with safety and health regulations.
Its minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam said a similar system was implemented in various countries including Canada where professionals could lose their licences for failing to comply with the regulations.
The idea, he said, was mooted after seeing the ministry’s inspection teams’ heavy task when conducting about 147,000 checks annually on worker safety and health measures.
“We are now looking at the system used overseas as well as our needs here and we will also need to seek amendments to the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1994,” he told reporters after launching the World Occupational Safety and Health Day 2009 celebrations here yesterday.
Dr Subramaniam, who also launched a booklet on Smart Guide to Occupational Safety and Health, said the booklet would help stop employers from claiming ignorance when they were reprimanded for failing to comply with regulations.
Copies of the booklet, he said, would be given to new business operators when they go to the Registrar of Companies or commercial banks where they got their loans.
On the current level of compliance in the various industries, Subramaniam said it was generally good with only about 4% of employers taken to court for gross failure to follow regulations.
He said the industrial accident rate in Malaysia was almost the same as that in developed countries.
Dr Subramaniam said the ministry was working with the Education Ministry to incorporate occupational safety and health topics in the existing school syllabus to instill safety awareness at an early age.

Malaysia expands screening of visitors to all entry points

Star: PETALING JAYA: The Health Ministry has confirmed that no case of “influenza-like” illness with symptoms of swine flu infection has been found in Malaysia.
However, the Government is not taking chances with the outbreak that is already spreading across Mexico to other countries.
The ministry has already expanded its screening of passengers arriving at international entry points like KL International Airport, which it started on Monday, to the ground.
In Rantau Panjang, which borders Thailand, the health department began randomly screening those coming into Malaysia on foot.
“We are doing it as a precaution,” a doctor on site said. He set up an informal unit with five of his subordinates.
The ministry has taken measures to set up hotlines for the public to call for inquiries in Putrajaya and also started a 24-hour monitoring of the situation. The public can call 03-8881-0200/300 for enquiries.
Police personnel at Malaysia’s borders are on high alert to check any signs of the swine flu outbreak sneaking into the country.
Deputy Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar said policemen would assist all border-control agencies to monitor for any signs of the disease at all entry points including airports.
“We are working closely with the Health Ministry to monitor the situation and assist in the screening process,” he told reporters after a visit to Hospital Kuala Lumpur in conjunction with the 202nd Police Day yesterday.
Health Director-General Tan Sri Dr Ismaiil Merican confirmed yesterday that no case of influenza-like illness with symptoms of swine flu virus had been reported in Malaysia. He said that based on surveillance of influenza-like illness, there had been no reported case.
He added that health officers at KLIA screened 428 passengers and airline crew flying in from areas with cases of swine flu for signs of the infection. Passengers and airline crew, he said, were also been given health alert cards and health declaration forms to fill.
“The screening at all international entry points continued yesterday. A technical committee meeting involving several agencies will also be held today to discuss other preventive measures and an integrated approach for the control of any infection,” he said in a statement yesterday.
Dr Ismail said that in view of the World Health Organisation’s decision to raise the swine flu alert to Phase 4 from Phase 3, which made the current situation just two levels away from a full pandemic, the ministry would continue to advise Malaysians to stay away from affected regions.
“This is particularly when the travel is unnecessary and they are not feeling well. Those who fall sick during their travel should seek medical treatment,” he warned.
In Kuala Lumpur, Bernama reports that the Foreign Ministry had asked all Malaysian missions abroad to continuously monitor and update the ministry on the swine flu outbreak in relation to Malaysians residing or travelling overseas.
“The 60 registered Malaysians residing in Mexico where the swine flu outbreak was first detected and another five in the accredited Central American countries are reported to be safe and free from the virus,” the ministry said in a statement.
The public is advised to report to the Consular Divison of the Foreign Ministry at 03-8887-4000 if they are aware or informed of any cases by their friends, relatives or colleagues currently overseas.

SWINE FLU: Ban on pig imports from affected nations

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: With immediate effect, pork, pork products and live pigs will not be allowed in from countries where swine flu has been reported.
Veterinary Services Department Director-General Datuk Dr Abd Aziz Jamaluddin said pork and pork products that entered the country before the ban would be checked before they were released into the market.
"All precautionary measures have been put in place to ensure that Malaysians eat only safe food," he said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States has assured consumers that the swine influenza virus is not spread by eating the meat.
Dr Abd Aziz said checks would also be carried out on the 797 pig farms in the country.
"We will also liaise with the Health Ministry to obtain 'killed vaccine' to inject the pigs to protect against swine flu," he said.
Killed vaccine uses a dead bacteria or virus to cause an immune response in animals to be protected against specific diseases.
The swine flu virus is transmitted the same way other flu viruses are spread, with the most common method being through coughing or sneezing. It is also possible to become infected by touching an infected animal and then touching one's mouth or nose, which is why experts advise people to wash their hands frequently and to avoid touching their face.
The symptoms of swine flu in people are similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some patients have reported diarrhoea and vomiting.
Like seasonal flu, swine flu may cause a worsening of underlying chronic medical conditions.
Dr Abd Aziz said swine flu was classified as a notifiable disease in Malaysia and thus, those showing symptoms of the disease must seek immediate medical help and doctors must notify the ministries.
More information on the swine flu can be obtained by calling 03-88810200 or 03-88810300, or by visiting website

SWINE FLU: Steps taken to prevent outbreak

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: As the swine flu threatens to become a pandemic with the World Health Organisation warning that no region was safe from the outbreak, Malaysia's National Preparedness Plans for Pandemic Influenza is being primed for activation.
Director-General of Health Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican will chair a NPPPI meeting with officers from all relevant ministries, departments and agencies.
Dr Ismail was responsible for drafting the NPPPI in 2006 after the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and high pathogenic avian influenza.
Malaysia was commended by the WHO for the NPPPI and also effectively putting in place containment measures during the outbreak of SARS and avian influenza.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said Malaysia averted major outbreaks because of close collaboration among the government agencies, especially between the Veterinary Services Department and the Health Ministry.
"Each time an outbreak occurs, we immediately swing into action and implement our Preparedness Plan, including culling and detecting people with symptoms of the diseases," he said.
Liow said Dr Ismail would coordinate the entire operation again as many of those, especially in other ministries and departments were new and need to be briefed and guided on the NPPPI
"To avert an outbreak, we need to have a contingency plan which comprises stringent surveillance at all entry points including airports, ports and borders, a national operations centre, medical service, public health and laboratory responses and media updates," he said.
Liow said it was important that the public was given timely updates as only through public cooperation could the disease be averted or contained.
He said the ministry was closely monitoring the swine flu outbreak around the world and monitoring the WHO website for updates and alerts. So far, no cases have been reported in the country.
The swine flu has spread from Mexico, the US and Canada to Europe, New Zealand and there is even one suspected case in South Korea.
Liow said the Immigration Department was on alert for ill passengers especially from swine flu countries.
"Private doctors must alert the ministry if they come across Malaysians or foreigners who show symptoms of the disease especially if they have come from countries where there have been outbreaks."
On the installation of mass screening thermal scanners at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport and Low Cost Carrier Terminal to screen for ill patients, Liow said a local company could supply them.
The company was in the process of getting international certification for the scanners.
"The approval will take at least two weeks and while waiting, we will continue using the static scanners," said Liow, adding that once the new scanners were installed, the current static scanners would be moved to other airports with a lighter passenger load.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Govt: Avoid going to flu-hit areas

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Mi­­nistry has advised Malaysians against travelling to certain places in the United States, Canada and Mexico where there are reports of swine flu cases.
Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the ministry was also considering the possibility of giving pig farmers and personnel from frontliner agencies such as nurses, doctors and the police the vaccine to protect them against any infection.
Also, thermal scanners would be placed at international airports to speed up the screening process for swine flu, he said, adding that they would be set up within three days.
Seven new scanners, which would enable mass screening of passengers, would be procured, Liow said, adding that the old ones used during the bird flu outbreak and SARS only allowed for single screenings.
He said that as of Sunday the United States had recorded 20 cases of influenza-like illnesses with eight reported in New York, seven in California, two each in Texas and Kansas, and one in Ohio.
Mexico has reported 1,149 cases with 71 deaths, of which 18 cases were confirmed to have been caused by the swine influenza A/H1N1 virus.
“Canada has reported four swine flu cases. So far, no deaths have been reported in Canada and the United States,” said Liow.
“No cases have been reported in Malaysia. Although the World Health Organisation (WHO) has not called for any health sanction in travel or trade with those affected countries.
“I would like to advise all Malay­sians against travelling to these places,” Liow told reporters here yesterday.
He said the ministry had also alerted both public and private medical practitioners to report to the district health office any patient with influenza-like illnesses or severe pneumonia symptoms and who had travelled to these places after April 17.
On the screening of passengers, Liow said medical personnel at the airports yesterday began checking each passenger’s body temperature manually at all entry points.
“With the new scanners, all passengers will only have to walk through it and their body temperature will be recorded,” he told reporters after visiting the screening area at the KL International Airport yesterday.
The airport has designated a place at the arrival hall to screen all passengers travelling from Mexico, Canada and the United States.
Liow said that, for the time being, compulsory screening was only conducted on passengers and crews travelling from Latin America countries. Others only needed to fill a Health Declaration Form about their health status for the past 10 days.
Penang has also opened an operations room at Komtar to coordinate and update information on the swine flu. State Health, Welfare and Caring Society Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said the public could contact the personnel there by calling 04-262 9902.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Don't panic, says Liow as government takes action

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysians have been advised not to panic as the authorities have joined forces to keep the deadly swine flu away from our shores.
The Health Ministry and Immigration Department have tightened screening processes at all entry points while awaiting further information from the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the government was very concerned about the outbreak of the virus in Mexico and the United States and was taking steps to ensure Malaysians were not infected.
The swine flu virus is said to a combination of avian, human and swine viruses.
There is no vaccine for the flu. Experts say the best precaution to avoid being infected is to keep hands clean by washing them.
"We are concerned about what is happening in Mexico, Texas and California, and we are closely monitoring the situation.
"Anyone who had visited these places after April 17 should inform us so that we can conduct the checks on them. We have also raised the alerts at airports and ports where we will conduct extensive screening similar to what we did during the avian flu outbreak."
Liow added that his ministry was working closely with WHO.
"At this point, WHO has yet to raise the international alert level. And when they do so, we will be ready to implement the necessary measures."
Liow advised Malaysians not to panic as the government would take steps to stop the disease from spreading to Malaysia. "We will also keep the people informed of any developments."
The symptoms of the swine flu are similar to that of ordinary flu.
Meanwhile, Bernama reports that the Health Ministry's disease control division has activated its operations room to monitor the situation.
Director-General of Health Tan Sri Dr Mohd Ismail Merican said in a statement medical practitioners who treated people with influenza who had visited Mexico, California or Texas after April 17, should inform the district health office immediately.
For more information, call 03-88810200/88810300 or visit

Deal on buying medical centre enters final lap

NST: KOTA KINABALU: Signs are positive that a deal to buy the 171-bed Sabah Medical Centre (SMC) will materialise soon, Deputy Health Minister Datuk Rosnah Abdul Rashid Shirlin said yesterday.
The latest indication comes after months of negotiations between the government and SMC owners following the pressing need to meet the shortage of hospital beds when the tower block of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) was declared unsafe last October.
Rosnah said discussions were at the final stage, but declined to give details, stating that the minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai would make an announcement " soon" if the deal came through.
"However, if for any reason the deal does not materialise, then we will look at alternatives. These include building six wards with 144 beds at the QEH car park, and renting several buildings (in the city)," she said after attending a three-hour briefing and dialogue with administrators and doctors at QEH near here.
QEH's tower block, which had 250 beds and operating theatres, is now abandoned following findings by engineers that the structure was built using unwashed sea sand that had eaten away metal bars holding the building.
While QEH has some wards in an older but stable building, patients are now being sent to other government hospitals, and to the SMC.
Rosnah pointed out that although the SMC may not have many beds, it had a number of facilities for important medical procedures, including surgeries.
On the construction of the 661-bed building at QEH which was made public long before the tower block was emptied, Rosnah said it would continue and that piling work had been completed.

Liow: We are prepared to deal with spread of swine flu

Star: PETALING JAYA: The Health Ministry is fully prepared to deal with any spread of the swine flu and has placed its officers at all travel entry points in Malaysia to screen travellers suspected of the illness.
“Our machinery is ready to handle this outbreak,” said its minister, Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.
The officers, he said, would be at airports, sea ports and land entry points.
“Since the virus spreads from human to human, we are placed on high alert.”
Even if there was no direct flight from Mexico, passengers originating from there would also be screened, he said.
The ministry’s operations room in Putrajaya has started a 24-hour monitoring of the situation. The public can call 03-8881 0200/300 for enquiries.
He urged doctors to be on alert and has made it compulsory for them to notify the ministry of all influenza cases.
Liow said pork in the country was safe to be consumed, explaining that Malaysia did not import the meat from Mexico.
On Thursday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported 854 cases of severe atypical pneumonia that resulted in 59 deaths in Mexico.
The situation is now considered a public health emergency of international concern.
In the United States, at least 10 people have tested positive for the virus which causes symptoms such as fever, cough, body aches and breathing difficulties.
Since the SARS outbreak in 2003, the ministry had come up with strategic plans to battle any similar outbreak.
“We also keep in constant contact with WHO to find out the latest update,” Liow said.
According to WHO, there are now currently no directives on health, travel and trade sanctions that countries have to adhere to.
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said those returning from Latin American countries and found to have flu-like symptoms would be quarantined.
“So far, no cases have been reported to the ministry and there is no cause for panic,” he said.
“The public will be informed from time to time on updates about the outbreak,” he said.
Dr Ismail also said that he would discuss with the Veterinary Services Department today on precautionary measures that needed to be taken.
In KOTA KINABALU, Deputy Health Minister Datuk Rosnah Rashid Shirlin said that health authorities would keep a close watch on visitors arriving from Latin American countries.
Both immigration and customs officers at entry points would assist the ministry, she said, adding that her ministry would also advise Malaysians not to travel to the affected countries.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Ministry pulls out all stops to relieve shortage of doctors

Star: SEGAMAT: The Health Ministry has formed a committee to look into the dire shortage of doctors and specialists nationwide.
Chaired by minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai and other high-ranking officials such as the ministry’s secretary-general, the committee would resolve the shortage with measures such as hiring 700 contract doctors, recruiting retired doctors or perhaps even foreign ones.
There were only 15,000 doctors in the country, of which 2,500 were specialists, Liow told reporters after visiting Segamat Hospital yesterday.
Liow said the committee was also planning to use specialists from the private sector to relieve the shortage in government hospitals.
“We hope that specialists from private hospitals or clinics could volunteer their services in order to assist the ministry.
“We are working out a mechanism to make it easier for them to help us,” he said.
He cited the example of Segamat Hospital which was supposed to be a specialist hospital but only had one specialist working under contract.
“The situation is dire and the ministry will act soon to solve the problem,” he said.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Over 4,000 caught puffing in smoke-free zones

Star: PETALING JAYA: Smoking in non-smoking zones has burnt a hole in the pockets of more than 4,000 people who paid close to a million ringgit in fines.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said 85% of the 4,329 people caught smoking last year paid fines totalling RM919,535.
“We take smoking in non-smoking zones seriously and will continue to protect the public from (inhaling) second-hand smoke,” he said at KDU College’s No Smoking Awareness Campaign yesterday.
He said the ministry would step up its efforts to get more people to quit smoking.
Offenders faced compound fines up to RM5,000, starting with RM300 for first-timers. Those convicted in court can be fined up to RM10,000 or jailed up to two years or both.
The 20 categories of non-smoking zones include government offices, universities and colleges. The no smoking rule is also enforced in air-conditioned restaurants unless the operators have to applied to the ministry for a smoking corner.
Liow said there appeared to be a decrease of 3.3% in the national smoking prevalence in the Third National Health and Morbidity Survey 2006 compared to 10 years ago.
The 2006 figure showed that there were almost three million smokers in Malaysia, with 2.8 million adults and 200,000 minors aged below 18, he said.
“The reduction was attributed to the numerous efforts made by the Government, especially the Health Ministry.
“However, I am still not satisfied with the achievement,” he said, adding that the Ministry would work hard to achieve a 5% reduction.
From June 1, the Ministry’s enforcement officers would start confiscating cigarette packs or packages that do not carry the pictorial warning.
“We have given them a three-month grace period to withdraw the products without such warnings,” said Liow.

Laws to regulate infertility treatment

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: A law is being formulated to guard against the mixing of genes during infertility treatments, in the light of the increasing number of couples turning to such treatments to have babies.
“This will ensure proper scrutiny, licensing and audit of ART centres as well as ensuring that only appropriately qualified and competent personnel are allowed to handle patients,” said H ealth Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican.
The law, to be known as the Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) Act, would also ensure that infertility procedures were not abused but carried out competently by those who were properly qualified, he said.
“Any ART method practised must guard against any mixing of the genes in order to preserve the inheritance of genes and heredity. Every newborn child must relate unequivocally to a biological and legal father and mother.
“An accurate and ‘foolproof’ system of documentation must be in place to guard against the mixing of lineages and commercialism,” he said when launching the first National Reproductive Medicine Congress organised by the Hospital Kuala Lumpur’s (HKL) reproductive medicine unit.
He also announced the first frozen embryo pregnancy by HKL where a woman, infertile for five years, was now 36 weeks pregnant.
Dr Ismail said there had been a surge in the number of ART centres in the private sector and universities to help couples seeking infertility treatments, with seven new private centres set up since 2007.
“ART is playing an increasingly significant role in enriching the lives of those who will otherwise have to endure the loneliness of life without their own offspring,” he said, adding that the service was already available in 20 private hospitals and several government-affiliated centres and hospitals.
The Act, he said was in the best interest of patients and practitioners and was almost equivalent to the ‘Human Embryology and Fertility Act’ in the United Kingdom.
He said the National Advisory Committee on ART would establish guidelines and standard operating procedures to be used by government and private hospitals and ensure a holistic approach towards ART.
Dr Ismail said the success of HKL’s ART centre, set up in 2006, had prompted the setting up of regional ART centres in Terengganu, Kedah and Sabah, to be fully operational by early next year, with more centres in Sarawak and Johor in the next phase.
Dr Ismail said they were concerned that the total fertility rate among women had dropped from 6.7 children per woman in 1957 to 2.9 children per woman last year.
“This is due to urbanisation and other social changes associated with greater stress due to lifestyle changes, long working hours, smoking and increasing STD (sexually transmitted diseases) infections.”
Reproductive medicine, he added, was not just about fertility but other reproductive health issues such as menopause, contraception and adolescent gynaecology.
Meanwhile, HKL’s reproductive medicine unit head Dr K.K. Iswaran said the number of women seeking treatment at their ART centre had increased from 50 in 2007 to 91 last year with the cost being partially subsidised by the government.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Shocking photos on cig packs is working, says minister

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry will continue advertising shocking photographs in local dailies as part of its anti-smoking campaign despite some negative feedback.
The ministry has even successfully enlisted the cooperation of tobacco companies to print these pictures on cigarette packs, said minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.
“Many have complained to me saying the pictures should not be published because they are too graphic and shocking,” he said.
He added that the complainants had, however, eventually accepted the need for such shocking pictures when told that it had helped to deter the young from picking up the smoking habit.
The ministry created an awareness campaign in the print media using a series of graphic photos, such as a cancer-ravaged mouth and lungs and a dead foetus, to warn people of the dangers of smoking.
Liow said feedback showed that the pictures, although unpleasant, had been useful in deterring youngsters from picking up their first stick.
“Prevention is better than pouring money into curative measures, which can be very expensive on the public health cost,” he said in an interview here.
By June 1, Liow said all cigarette packs must carry the graphic pictures and the ministry was committed to lobbying for higher cigarette prices.
He said the ministry was also working towards getting the 14-stick cigarette packs phased out by next year to make it harder for youngsters to buy them.
Import and export manager Tiffany Samuels, 25, who lives in Bandar Utama, said a regular smoker like herself would not be deterred by the graphic pictures.
“The pictures make no difference to me. For us smokers, the urge to stop must come from inner will.
“However, the ministry’s intention is good; it does force a young person to think whether succumbing to peer pressure is worth the pain of getting cancer,” she said, adding that this shock factor had more impact than the earlier “tak nak (say no to smoking)” campaign.

Blood and DNA tests for cancers

Star: PUTRAJAYA: A two-year clinical trial will be conducted to develop diagnostic tests which can detect certain cancers using the patients’ blood and DNA profiles.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the “sentinel principle” technology – developed by private firm GeneNews Malaysia – would detect gene expression in the blood and match it to diseases such as nasopharyngeal or upper throat and liver cancers.
“This technology is based on the finding that up to 80% of the genes expressed in other tissues overlapped with those in our blood, suggesting that blood cells may provide information as to the health or the presence of disease in any particular tissue.
“These biomarkers are then identified by comparing them with the gene expression pattern in blood samples from both diseased and healthy individuals,” he told reporters here yesterday.
Liow said the trial could help predict the risk of disease, provide early diagnosis and cut the cost of cancer treatment, particularly for liver cancer, which was mainly caused by Hepatitis B and common among Malaysians.
“Seventy-five per cent of chronic Hepatitis B carriers live in Asia and in Malaysia, while 80% of liver cancer patients only come forward to seek treatment at very late stages,” he said, adding that the ministry would allocate RM5mil in research grant for the initial stage of the trial.
Liow said the project would also evaluate other blood-based test products which could detect biomarkers for colon cancer and pre-cancerous polyps.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Hospital needs a solution, fast

NST: KLANG: Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital is bursting at its seams and is resorting to borrowing beds from district hospitals to cope with the patient load.
It is even busier than the much larger Kuala Lumpur Hospital.
The hospital had been struggling to cope with the population increase over the years, but the situation had worsened of late because of the dengue epidemic and the economic slowdown.
Hospital director Dr Ghazali Hasni Md Hassan said the hospital's patient load had been steadily increasing since 2005.
"We never turn patients away. Patients are placed even on temporary beds.
"It's another 10 per cent increase this year and this is worrying as we are truly running out of space for admissions, especially in the medical wards."
He said although other hospitals such as in Banting, Tanjung Karang and Sungai Buloh were willing to "lend" their beds to patients from the hospital, many patients refused to be transferred.
The 14-year-old Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital has 893 beds, while Tanjung Karang Hospital has 114 beds, Sabak Bernam Hospital 93 beds and Banting Hospital 151 beds.
The number of admissions shot up from 69,105 in 2000 to 83,251 last year.
Dr Ghazali said he was concerned that doctors and nurses could not provide the best care.
He said the average length of admission for medical wards was now 3.94 days, compared with 4.94 days in 2000.
"With some 230 admissions daily, we have to discharge an equal number to accommodate new ones."
The high incidence of dengue has worsened the situation as the hospital's two dengue wards cannot cope with the average of 565 suspected dengue admissions per month.
"Every day, we have at least 20 (suspected) dengue admissions. Where are we to place them?" said Dr Ghazali.
Kuala Lumpur Hospital, which has 475 beds in its medical wards, had 23,680 admissions in 2007 and 27,681 last year.
In comparison, Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital's 231 beds accommodated 23,066 patients in 2007 and 25,750 last year.
Dr Ghazali said the only solution was to build a new hospital to cater to the two million people that the current hospital serves.
The Klang hospital also has the second highest delivery of babies in the country, with some 13,000 to 14,000 a year.
Dr Ghazali hoped the Health Ministry would start work on the 120-bed obstetrics block soon.
The present maternity wards could be converted to medical wards once the new ward comes into service.
"The 300-bed Shah Alam Hospital, which is expected to be operational in two years, may not be a big help as by then the population in that district would also have increased."

Training for Chinese physicians

Star: IPOH: Local Chinese medicine practitioners can now undergo training under their counterparts from China through a Health Ministry programme.
Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the training programme was under its traditional and complementary medicine (TCM) division.
He said local practitioners would be attached with their China counterparts for three months.
He said three oncologists from China have been recruited and each would have three local TCM practitioners under their wing.
“The programme, which started recently, includes hands-on lectures and observation on theories and practices using herbs as an adjunct treatment for cancer patients,” Liow said at the opening of the Tongren private medical centre here yesterday.
Practitioners who are interested can apply to the ministry to join the programme.
Liow said the programme was meant to help build the foundation for all local TCM practitioners in the future.
To a question, Liow said it was not viable to allow patients to walk in and seek traditional treatment at public hospitals as there were too few practitioners.
“If we open the floodgates, we cannot cope with the influx of patients,” he said.
Patients would still be referred to the TCM practitioners by the hospitals’ doctors, said Liow, adding that they were looking to recruit more traditional medicine practitioners.
Due to overwhelming response, three more TCM centres would be set up at the Sultanah Nur Zahirah Hospital in Terengganu, Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Sabah and Sarawak General Hospital by the end of the year.
Three pilot government hospitals – Kepala Batas Hospital in Penang, Sultan Ismail Hospital in Johor and Putrajaya Hospital – have been providing TCM treatment since 2007.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Healthy lifestyle campaigns fail to solve weighty problem

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The millions of ringgit spent on healthy lifestyle campaigns since the 1990s have gone to waste.
Malaysians have not heeded the advice about reducing weight to stay healthy.
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said 30% of Malaysians remained overweight and another 30% listed as obese based on the Asia Pacific Body Mass Index guidelines.
“With 60% of the population either overweight or obese, that’s not healthy,” he said after opening the 13th Scientific Meeting of the National Heart Association of Malaysia yesterday.
He said the Health Ministry would soon introduce drastic measures to address the problems of overweight and obesity among Malaysians.
“For a start, all Health Ministry staff members have been told to shape up,” he said.
Asked if the private sector should organise exercise programmes for their staff, Dr Ismail said the ministry would encourage people to initiate such programmes.
He said deaths from heart problems were rare in the old days but after the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, heart attacks were a major cause of premature death.
“Cardiovascular diseases and their treatment continue to consume a large portion of the healthcare budget,” he said.
The Malaysian Acute Coronary Syndrome (ACS) Registry 2006 showed that there were 31,186 admissions to the 73 coronary care units in Malaysia.
Dr Ismail said a rough estimate of the incidence of heart disease in Malaysia was 141 per 100,000 population.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Makna to build research hospital

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: The National Cancer Council (Makna) plans to build a low-cost hospital.
Besides having research facilities, the hospital will also offer treatment to cancer patients, said Makna president Datuk Mohd Farid Ariffin yesterday at a ceremony during which Makna handed out grants to five researchers.
He stressed the importance of recognising, encouraging and collaborating with researchers in discovering a cure for cancer.
"We hope the seeds sown by the young researchers will come to fruition."
Academy of Sciences Malaysia president Tan Sri Dr Yusof Basiron hoped the fight against cancer through research could be done extensively and aggressively.
The researchers received RM150,000 to fund their researches on the disease.
The grants are disbursed under Makna's cancer research award programme with the cooperation of the Academy of Sciences of Malaysia.
One of the recipients, Inderjeet Singh, who received RM26,000, is doing research on delivery devices for anti-cancer drugs.
"I want to contribute something vital to society, so I applied for this grant," said the 23-year-old who is pursuing his postgraduate studies in pharmacy at the University of Nottingham's Malaysia campus.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Liow: Recruitment of medical practitioners to be made easy

Star: PUTRAJAYA: The Health Ministry has formed a special task force to expedite the recruitment of doctors in the country.
Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the task force, led by ministry secretary-general Datuk Seri Mohd Nasir Mohd Ashraf, aimed to cut the recruitment process from two or three months to a month or less.
“We have been talking about the shortage of medical practitioners in the country for a long time,” he told reporters after the ministry’s monthly gathering here yesterday.
“We want to fix this problem as soon as possible.”
Currently, he said the delay was caused by the long wait for candidates to be called in for interview and placement.
Liow also launched the Health Ministry Online Recruitment Drive System, which allows job seekers to apply for jobs in the ministry.
“Those who are interested can submit their application (via the Internet) without having to wait for recruitment advertisements in the newspapers,” he said.
On the Putrajaya Hospital, which caught fire after a lightning strike on Saturday, Liow said the three wards — 3A, 3B, and 2C — were now accessible and could be used after clean-up work was carried out on Monday.
The fire started at the orthopaedic ward of the five-storey hospital.
“I am still waiting for the full report on why the lightning arrester in the hospital was not working.
“I am very unhappy,” Liow said.
On the Putrajaya health clinic, where a chunk of ceiling fell on a walkway, Liow said he was still waiting for a report on the incident.
“We expect the repairs to be done as soon as possible so that the services at the clinic can resume in less than a day’s time,” he said.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Ceiling of govt clinic caves in

NST: PUTRAJAYA: Barely days after a fire broke out at the Putrajaya Hospital here, the ceiling of a government clinic nearby collapsed after a thunderstorm yesterday.
Operations at the clinic in Presint 9 here had to be stopped temporarily after the 5.30pm incident when 20 ceiling boards fell on a walkway.
It is believed that there was a leakage and the boards could not hold the weight of the rain water that collected there.
When it happened, there were a few patients who were milling around waiting for treatment while some were already in the treatment room.
A clinic spokesman, who declined to be named, said no injuries were reported but admitted the incident had caused quite a stir.
"The staff and patients in the building panicked and ran out. Thankfully, no one was injured.
"Patients seeking treatment were later moved to the lobby," she said.
Immediately after the incident, the clinic fell into darkness as the power supply was cut to avoid unwarranted incidents.
A team of seven men from the Fire and Rescue Department arrived at the scene 10 minutes later to carry out checks.
When reporters arrived at the clinic, about 10 staff members were clearing the ceiling debris. Members of the public were barred from entering the premises.
The spokesman said clinic operations would only resume after approval from the Public Works Department. "We are still not sure if we can open or not," she said.
The clinic has been operating since 1999 and sees to more than 1,000 patients daily.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Two new copters for flying doctors

Star: MIRI: The flying doctor service in Sarawak and Sabah has literally reached new heights.
New aircraft have been obtained for this vital healthcare and medical provision, a service that the Health Ministry provides free of charge for more than one million rural folk in both states.
Layang-Layang Aerospace, the aviation company contracted by the ministry to handle this service, has bought two new helicopters.
The company yesterday unveiled the twin-engine BO-105 Bolkow helicopters designed and manufactured in Germany.
Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Alfred Jabu “blessed” the new helicopters, witnessed by senior officials of the aviation company during a ceremony.
Jabu was told during a briefing that the company had spent RM5mil on each helicopter, including RM2mil to fit each of them with medical equipment to treat patients inside remote jungles and mountain settlements and to fly patients to urban centres in emergency cases.
Jabu, who is also State Rural Development Minister and State Infrastructure Development and Communications Minister, said the state government was pleased to note that the aviation company had taken steps to upgrade its fleet of aircraft.
He said the flying doctor service was an indispensable part of the healthcare and medical service in rural Sabah and Sarawak because many places were inaccessible by road or river transport.

Shape up, Liow tells staff

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Overweight staff of the Health Ministry have been told to shape up. Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said he was concerned with the rise in obesity, a disease described as the “entry point to all sickness”.
“I have given instructions for staff with weight problems to lose weight. They must measure their BMI (body mass index) and come up with their own plan (to reduce weight).
“This is serious. Obesity among ministry staff is high, more or less the same as the rakyat (an estimated 60% of the population is obese).
“They have to shape up,” he told reporters after visiting the section of Putrajaya Hospital which was damaged in a fire on Saturday.
Liow said an obese person was susceptible to various illnesses, including diabetes and high blood pressure.
“I have directed that the nutritional and food safety departments be strengthened to ensure that measures we take will be supported and implemented by the staff,” he said.
On the key performance indicators (KPIs), Liow said MCA president Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat had directed all MCA ministers and deputy ministers to have their KPI recorded, so that it could be monitored closely.
“The Prime Minister will monitor us and the party (MCA) will also monitor us,” he add ed. At the Genting Highlands later, Liow said insurance companies and private hospitals should find a way out of higher hospital charges which have led to premiums being raised.
He said the insurance industry had indicated that some private specialists took advantage of insurance coverage to charge the maximum allowable in the fee schedule for a particular condition.
“At the same time, the hospital component of the bill has also been increasing,” Liow said in his speech at the 13th National Chinese Life Insurance Congress.
This has led to higher premiums set by insurance firms, he added.

Liow: Why didn't arresters work?

NST: PUTRAJAYA: Saturday's fire at Putrajaya Hospital has left Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai red-faced.
After an hour-long visit to the hospital yesterday, Liow demanded a quick report from the hospital's engineering division and the Fire and Rescue Department on the condition of the hospital's lightning arresters.
At the start of the press conference, held immediately after his visit, Liow said the fire was caused by lightning.
"I want the report quickly because I want to know what sort of lightning arresting radius the system is equipped with. I don't know (whether it is faulty or not). We will have to find out," he said when asked if the authorities were certain the fire was due to faulty lightning arresters.
"I am eager to know because the arresters should have been able to handle lightning strikes. We have arresters all over this building but what happened to the system?
"What is the purpose of an arrester if it cannot handle lightning? Why did the lightning strike the third floor, not the fifth floor (the top-most floor)? These are my questions and they have to explain."
Liow said no other hospital in the country had caught fire after being struck by lightning.
"This is an isolated case and we will look into all angles and possibilities."
Liow said repairs would be done immediately as "we want to put patients back into the affected wards and bring services back to normal".
Lightning struck Ward 3C, which housed orthopaedic patients, at 4.10pm on Saturday.
Hospital staff evacuated all 14 patients in the ward before the ceiling collapsed.
"If not for their quick action, and that of the firemen, it would have been very serious," Liow said.
Patients at Ward 3A, 3B and 2C (paediatrics) were also evacuated, even though damage to the wards was minor.
Liow said about 50 patients were transferred to Serdang Hospital, two to Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, one to Hospital Kajang and two to private hospitals.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Parkinson’s sufferers on the rise, says Liow

Star: PETALING JAYA: Malaysia needs more neurologists to overcome limitations in treating diseases such as Parkinson’s.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said there should be one neurologist for every 250,000 people, meaning the country needed 112 neurologists. There are now only 50 such specialists.
“There are 15 in the ministry and 35 working in the private sector,” he told a press conference yesterday after launching World Parkinson’s Day.
Liow said having more specialists would mean giving those suffering from such diseases a better quality of life.
On the prevalence of Parkinson’s disease in the country, Liow said at least 15,000 to 20,000 Malaysians suffer from the disease.
The figure is expected to rise to between 25,000 and 30,000 by 2020 with at least 1,500 new cases occurring annually.
Parkinson’s disease gradually destroys nerve cells in the part of the brain that controls muscle movement. Most cases have no known cause.
Liow said those affected could be treated with medication until the disease reached an advanced stage when Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) surgery becomes an option.
“DBS surgery is expensive, however, with the procedure costing RM80,000 and subsequent follow-ups costing RM60,000 every five years,” he added.
Liow also proposed that the Negri Sembilan Parkinson’s Society (the country’s only support group for Parkinson’s) set up a National Parkinson’s Society so the ministry could support it.
Liow later presented a cheque for RM40,800 on behalf of the Lloyd Tan Trust Fund to Parkinson’s sufferer Pandirajan Subramaniam to help him pay for the costs of DBS surgery.
Meanwhile, Liow said his ministry already had key-performance indices in place with targets set for areas including child mortality rates, mother mortality rates, number of dengue cases and number of HIV/AIDS cases.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Malaysia To Test Ability To Contain Influenza Pandemic

PUTRAJAYA, April 6 (Bernama) -- The health ministry, with support from World Health Organisation (WHO)'s Western Pacific Regional Office in Manila, is conducting a joint rapid containment exercise in Kuala Lumpur for two days, beginning Monday.
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Mohd Ismail Merican said the exercise, 'Panstop III 2009', would focus on Malaysia's ability to respond swiftly to the early signs of an influenza pandemic.
He said the scope of the exercise was to implement measures related to rapid containment, including decision-making, coordination, communication, social and economic disruptions, risk assessment for rapid containment, mobilisation of national, among others.
Dr Mohd Ismail said the on the first day of Panstop III 2009, a modified functional exercise would be conducted, and participants from WHO and the ministry would engage in exercises aimed at testing the decision-making processes at the highest possible level.
On the second day, he said, participants from the ministry, relevant ministries and agencies, as well as WHO representatives would be involved in a Table-Top Exercise with the objective of testing the operational feasibility and the operational capacity of Malaysia to conduct a rapid containment operation based on their pre-determined roles and functions.
Observers from Brunei, Singapore, Thailand, Japanese Embassy, New Zealand High Commission, United States Embassy and Asean Secreatariat based in Jakarta, have been invited to attend the exercise, among others.
Dr Mohd Ismail said rapid containment was designed to initiate extraordinary measures to stop the spread of pandemic influenza when it was initially detected and before the virus was able to spread more widely.
He said, although rapid containment might not be successful in containing the virus to its immediate outbreak area, it could delay its international spread and thereby, allow other countries more time to prepare.
Meanwhile, WHO Regional Adviser Dr Takeshi Kasai said the overall report on the exercise would be completed in a month or two and would be given to the ministry for further action.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

University to offer Islamic Medical Course

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The Ministry of Health will soon introduce a two-and-a-half year diploma course in Islamic Medical Practice at a local university here.
The director of the ministry's Traditional and Complementary Medicine (T&CM) Division, Dr Ramli Abd Ghani, told Bernama the course content was developed with the assistance of prominent local practitioners like Dr Harun Din, Datuk Amran Kasimin, Dr Hatta Sharom and other T&CM practitioners.
The aim was to train Malay healers in the true teachings of Islam and to avoid "syrik and khurafat" (polytheism) practices in some Malay-Muslim communities, he said.
Dr Ramli said the graduates, who would be certified registered practitioners, would be self-employed to treat "santau" (a kind of deadly poison coupled with magical incantations) and other spiritual problems.
They might also be employed in selected government institutions in the future, he added.
Dr Ramli said the division was also working on introducing degree courses in traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture, naturopathy, homeopathy, Malay medicine, Ayurvedic medicine and Chiropractic care.
It would also introduce diploma courses in acupuncture, naturopathy, aromatherapy, reflexology and Malay massage, he added.
Dr Ramli said these courses could be offered at the International Medical University, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Inti College, Cyberjaya University College and Community College.
Most of these courses would be conducted by local lecturers and some, like Chinese traditional medicine, acupuncture and Ayurveda, might need the assistance of foreign academicians, he said.
Dr Ramli said the division was also working with the Association of Malaysian Spas (AMSPA) operators to establish local training institutions so as to develop the local spa industry for health tourism.
He gave the assurance that all these courses, which were part of the T&CM, would be properly evaluated with the cooperation of the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) and it would be ensured that the practitioners provided safe and effective services.
He said the T&CM was gaining worldwide recognition, and that Malaysia would also develop this sector as it was popular among Malaysians because almost 14,000 patients had opted for the T&CM since its introduction in three government hospitals, in Putrajaya, Kepala Batas and Johore Baru, about 18 months ago.
Dr Ramli said the division was set to expand the service to three other government hospitals one each in Terengganu, Sabah and Sarawak by August this year.
He said that by 2010, the T&CM service would be available in 10 government hospitals and two clinics in the country.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Subsidised healthcare to continue

NST: SEREMBAN: The government will continue to provide subsidised health services for all despite escalating costs, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said.
The prime minister said public sector healthcare financing had been spiralling over the past decade since it breached the billion ringgit mark in 1983.
"Government healthcare allocations have continued to increase, reaching RM11 billion last year. However, we will continue to provide subsidised health services and have allocated RM13.7 billion this year to enhance healthcare facilities."
He said the allocation would be used to purchase new equipment, increase the supply of medicine and improve human resources.
Additionally, he said investments would also be made to intensify research and enforcement activities, as well as build more hospitals, clinics and quarters.
Abdullah said this at the ground-breaking for the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) Medical City in Bandar Enstek near here.
Built at a cost of RM4.7 billion, the IIUM Medical City is set to become the region's prime education centre in medicine and the leading regional referral centre in Malaysia. It will also provide a platform for research and development for local and international clinical specialists.
Developed by Medicalcity Corporation (M) Sdn Bhd, the project is a joint venture between TH Properties Sdn Bhd and ISR Capital Berhad.
Abdullah said that while the government placed great emphasis on bringing quality healthcare to all Malaysians, it felt that more could be done to develop the industry.
"We have taken big strides in healthcare over the past decade and we need to focus on ways we can leverage on this progress.
"We are already positioned on the regional healthcare map given the high quality world-class facilities and the highly trained and qualified healthcare workforce we have.
"With the right investments and effective policy thrusts, we can aspire to take our place as a leading centre of medical excellence," he said, adding that private medical service providers also had an important role in complementing and supplementing the national healthcare system.
He said declining levels of health caused the country to incur various direct and indirect costs and the missed opportunities and untapped potential were a hindrance to economic growth.
"Lost productive working hours are a serious cost to industries, from agriculture to manufacturing to services.
"Ill children and students perform less well, drop out of school and risk being excluded from economic opportunities later in life.
"Above all, permanent ill health, like poverty and other similar extreme conditions, effectively erodes fundamental human rights and breaks down human dignity."
He said among the key factors behind sustained economic growth in the most successful developing countries was the rising standard of healthcare.
Improvements in healthcare, he said, often resulted in increases in GDP per capita and higher rates of growth.
"The effects of better health will directly enable us to help those least able to help themselves as it will have the greatest impact for the poorest and most vulnerable."
Meanwhile, Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan thanked the prime minister for his contributions and the development he had brought to Negri Sembilan.
"Since Abdullah became prime minister, we have benefited in various aspects, especially in development."

Traditional massage at govt hospital

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: For the first time in Malaysia, the traditional Malay massage or "urut bersalin" will be available for post-natal mothers in a government hospital.
From June, the Putrajaya government hospital will offer this service, initially for free, by locally-trained personnel while the mother is still in the hospital.
The Health Ministry's traditional and complementary medicine (T&CM) director, Dr Ramli Abdul Ghani, said such a service was discussed with obstetrics and gynaecology specialists and was found to be beneficial.
"If the service is well-received, it will be extended to other hospitals in the country," he added.
Ramli said the service was part of an 18-month-old T&MC programme, currently carried out in three hospitals. These are in Kepala Batas, Putrajaya and Johor Baru.
Three types of traditional & complementary medicinal services were available under this programme.

Free medical treatment for elderly in the works

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The Government plans to provide free medical treatment to elderly Malaysians in third class wards. This will cover ward and treatment charges.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the move would extend the ministry’s care to those aged 60 and above.
Some two million patients are admitted to the ministry’s hospitals annually and up to 70% are third class (cheapest) admissions.
Liow said the move, expected to cost the Government millions of ringgit, could be implemented upon approval by the Cabinet.
Feedback has shown that many of the elderly have difficulty settling their medical fees and the ministry had considered this when reviewing its medical fees under the Medical Act, he said.
He said the review included extending free medical treatment to Malaysians studying at local private colleges or universities.
He said free medical treatment was now available to those studying at local public tertiary education institutions.
Students must show their student pass to be entitled to free medical treatment at the second class wards.