Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Watch on errant hospitals

Star: PETALING JAYA: Private hospitals will be monitored to ensure that they do not put patients through unnecessary procedures just because they have medical insurance, said Health Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican.
“The ministry will continuously direct private hospitals, managed care organisations (MCO), insurance companies and other interested parties to ensure that the cost of healthcare is reasonable, detailed and transparent.
“This will help patients make informed decisions on getting treatment as they will be more aware of the charges that will be incurred,” he said in a statement here yesterday.
He said the ministry would also look at ways to address the discrepancies between charges for self-paying patients and those with insurance policies as this problem had also contributed to overall healthcare costs.
He said the problem was also compounded by some private hospitals being pressured by their shareholders to charge more to fulfil their key performance index.
His statement came following a meeting last Friday with the Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia, Malaysian Medical Asso­ciation, Malaysian Medical Council, hospital chief executive officers, private hospital and MCO representatives, insurance companies and several healthcare professional groups and independent professionals.
“The purpose of the meeting was to explore ways of curbing increasing private healthcare costs,” said Dr Ismail, adding that several points were agreed upon, including making insurance policy holders aware of the medical coverage they were entitled to.
Hospitals, he said, must also inform patients about all professional and potential charges before they were admitted or treated.
He said it was also agreed that MCOs must not interfere with the clinical judgment management of patients by medical practitioners, including by general medical practitioners.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

D-G: Private hospitals must report all irregularities

Star: PETALING JAYA: All private healthcare facilities are required, beginning Jan 1, to report incidents that jeopardised patients’ safety to the Health director-general.
These could be cases such as unexplained deaths, brain injuries during a hospital stay, fire causing deaths, assault or battery of patients and haemodialysis patients detected with Hepatitis B or C, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said.
“These incidents and deaths will be evaluated by special committees to ensure that lessons are learnt and disseminated in order to prevent a recurrence,” said Dr Ismail, who is also the Patient Safety Council of Malaysia chairman.
Under the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act, individual offenders can be fined up to RM10,000 or RM30,000 for a corporation and/or jail for not more than three months, he said yesterday.
He added that he had issued a directive to all private healthcare facilities and services following a national briefing conducted by the Medical Practices Division and Medical Care Quality Section on Dec 17. A document that outlines the processes necessary for patients’ safety titled “Achieving Excellence in Clinical Governance” was launched at the council’s meeting on Tuesday.
It would be distributed to healthcare facilities for implementation.
“The council would monitor the implementation progress on a regular basis,” he said, adding that senior management in hospitals should continue talking to front-line staff on patient safety while he and his team would conduct surprise visits to inculcate a safety culture.
The Patient Safety Council will announce the Patient Safety Goals and Targets that need to be achieved by all healthcare facilities in Malaysia in the near future, he said.
“These goals will cover key safety issues such as medication safety, safe surgery, clinical governance, infection control, prevention of falls, blood transfusion safety, clinical incident reporting, clinical care bundles, patient safety research, patient safety projects; all of which are expected to make the patient care experience a safer one,” he said.
Dr Ismail also said that initiatives to ensure medication safety must be targeted at all levels of the healthcare system since drug therapy or pharmacotherapy was the main form of treatment.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Liow: More docs need to treat obesity

Star: BANTING: The Health Ministry wants 50 new nutritionists to be roped in every year to overcome the shortage of food specialists in government clinics, Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said.
He added that there were only 283 nutritionists registered with the ministry although there were 800 clinics available nationwide. The ministry, he said. aimed to achieve a ratio of one nutritionist to every 10,000 people.
“Our country is deprived of nutritionists, and this may cause an increase in obesity cases in the country,” Liow told reporters after handing over 25 food hampers to a government clinic here yesterday.
Asked on the ideal number of nutritionists that should be employed in government clinics, Liow said his ministry wanted at least 5,000 of them to be employed over the next few years.
“Previously, doctors would advise patients on their diet plans. But now, we want a specialised department for nutritionists to combat obesity,” said Liow, who himself is a food science and nutrition graduate.
He said three local universities provided nutrition training courses and expressed hope that they could produce more qualified nutritionists.
He also said the country had the most cases of obesity compared to its Asian neighbours.
However, he said number of children under the age of five with ideal body weight had increased since 1999.
“In 1999, there were only 79.1% of children under the age of five who had the right body weight, but the percentage has increased to 93.2% in 2009,” he added.
Liow also advised new mothers to breastfeed their babies at least during the first four months, adding that mothers should ensure that their infants received proper nutrition.
“Awareness campaigns will be held to highlight the importance of breast-feeding,” he added.
Liow said that in 1990, 16 out of 1,000 infants born had died because they were not breast-fed, but the number had dropped to six in 2008.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Miri folk can get medicine posted to them

Star: MIRI: A home-delivery service for medicine — the first of its kind in the state — has been launched here.
Initiated by the Health Ministry, patients registered with the Miri Hospital will be able to ask for their medicine to be delivered to their home address using Pos 1Malaysia service at RM6 per delivery.
Miri Divisional Health and Medical Services director Dr Faizul Mansor said the service would eventually be extended to other towns in the state.
“Under the system, anyone who goes for medical check-ups in the Miri Hospital and gets registered as a patient and is treated by a doctor, will qualify for the service.
“When he is at the hospital, he is eligible to get one month’s medicine supply from the pharmacy after his treatment. After that, he can ask the hospital for the home-delivery service,” Dr Faizul explained.
He said the medicine can be delivered to patients for two months.
He added that there were several strict conditions including that the medicine be delivered directly to the patient concerned, and not through a third party; the address of the patient must have a government-recognised postcode; and the medicine must be in tablet form.
“Liquid medicine and powdered medicine will not be delivered in this manner,” said Dr Faizul.
He pointed out that the Miri Hospital was the nucleus hospital for the northern region of Sarawak, serving some 400,000 patients in Sarawak’s northern districts of Miri, Niah, part of Bintulu, Marudi, Limbang and Lawas.
Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Seri Peter Chin, who launched the service, said: “This service is a big step forward in improving healthcare in Sarawak.
“Patients living far away from Miri have to spend a lot of money just to come to Miri Hospital to get their medicine. Now that this new service is in place, it will help them save travelling expenditure.”
Chin also said riverine folk living along the Baram River would soon be able to get medical treatment and health checks from mobile clinics.
He said the new and innovative services were part of the community-transformation programme initiated by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak to help improve the quality of life of people living in the far reaches of the state.
Starting next year, the Health Ministry will deploy boats equipped with proper treatment facilities and trained medical staff on the Baram River so that people living in riverine settlements can board them for health checks and medical attention.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Associations lament severe shortage of medical frontliners

Star: PETALING JAYA: Paramedics are the frontliners in the medical services industry but a severe shortage of those qualified in this field is affecting the lives of the people in emergency cases, particularly road accidents.
There have been cases where hospitals could only send out ambulances with just a driver and a junior nurse, thus depriving victims of the crucial medical aid before they reach the hospitals.
Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr David Quek said:
“Trained paramedics should be in the medical team because they are the frontliners. Unfortunately, the lack of paramedics has made the situation less than ideal for patients in cases of emergencies.”
He said there had been cases where lives could have been saved if they had been given pre-admission medical attention before reaching the hospital.
“Paramedics are needed to perform timely and life-saving emergency medical aid to the seriously wounded while they are being sent to the hospital,” he told The Star.
He said the acute shortage of trained and qualified paramedics to provide on-the-spot treatment to stabilise patients could make a difference between life and death.

St John Ambulance Malaysia (SJAM) commander-in-chief Da­­tuk Dr Low Bin Tick concurred, saying paramedics were difficult to come by.
He said based on SJAM estimates, there were only 50 qualified paramedics in the country.
Expressing concern over the startling figure, he called on the Government to train more paramedics to overcome the shortage.
“The problem arose because of the lack of career opportunities for paramedics to pursue the specialisation full-time and the low salary,” said Dr Low.
He added that there was no clear-cut career path for paramedics.

Malaysian Red Crescent Selangor branch training director S. Rama­nuja Muniandy agreed with Dr Low, adding that paramedics needed the support of the authorities in terms of career advancement.
“Paramedics would usually be employed at emergency units of hospitals and are not sent out on the field,” he said.
Ramanuja said there were many first-aiders or lay-rescuers but not qualified paramedics in the country.
“We give a lot of on-the-job, first-aid and emergency training to employees in factories and ambulance drivers in the private sector.
“However, they are not pursuing it full-time.
“A highly-trained paramedic would need to undergo at least three years of certified intensive training in these areas and be able to give efficient on-the-spot emergency treatment,” he said.
Ramanuja said Malaysia was still lagging behind Western countries like Canada and Britain in terms of giving emergency rescue and medical response to victims of a disaster.
“In Canada, paramedics have a degree in pre-hospital care,” he said.
He said ambulance services would normally focus on transporting patients to a hospital instead of giving them the crucial on-the-spot medical attention.
“The authorities should look into this matter very seriously to prevent unnecessary loss of lives,” he said.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Ministries order five-year moratorium on medical courses

Star: PETALING JAYA: The Government will impose a five-year moratorium on medical programmes as an immediate measure to prevent the glut in housemen from becoming worse.
The moratorium will prohibit the launch of new medical programmes in the country. Existing medical schools will be encouraged to focus more on quality.
It is hoped that this would put the brakes on the rise in the number of housemen.
The move – a joint effort between the Higher Education and Health Ministries – is similar to a moratorium in July which stopped the establishment of new nursing colleges and prohibited the launch of diploma programmes in nursing.
“It should stop more higher education institutions from offering new medical programmes,” Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin said.
“We will be able to meet the national target to have a doctor to population ratio of 1:600 by 2015 and 1:400 by 2020 with the present capacity,” he told The Star.
Mohamed Khaled was referring to existing medical programmes in Malaysia’s 10 public universities; 12 local private providers; foreign medical schools; as well as students who were studying at about 50 accredited foreign universities.
The 1:400 ratio has been achieved by many Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development member nations and is often regarded as the benchmark for a developed nation.
Mohamed Khaled said the ministries would examine the effects of the impending moratorium from time to time as private medical schools were bringing in foreign students and this could not be disrupted.
Both ministries, he said, had always worked closely to ensure quality at medical schools.
This was done through regular joint meetings to resolve issues related to healthcare, accreditation panels, professional development activities and the sharing of hospitals and support staff, among others.
He added that his ministry was committed to ensuring the quality of medical graduates and local medical schools had to possess the “appropriate resources”, such as healthy operating budgets; good infrastructure; competent and experienced medical lecturers; and a commitment to student welfare.
On Nov 27, The Star highlighted concerns about a glut on the number of housemen and the quality of fresh medical graduates.
Subsequently, Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai told the Dewan Rakyat on Dec 6 about plans for the moratorium.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Delist poor quality med schools

Star: PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Medical Association wants the Government to stop issuing licences to new medical schools and de-recognise existing ones which are of poor quality.
Its president Dr David Quek said stringent quality mechanisms should also be imposed on existing schools to ensure students are not short-changed.
“If medical schools do not have sufficient teachers or cannot offer adequate patient contact time, their student numbers should be reduced,” he said in an e-mail interview.
Recently, The Star reported that a high number of medical students graduating each year had crowded limited resources resulting in many housemen not having enough patients for adequate training with supervisors being overworked.
Sources also voiced concern that many graduates from lesser-known medical schools did not have adequate core knowledge to treat patients.
Dr Quek urged the Health Ministry to act quickly by sending “weak” new graduates for re-training.
In his blog on MMA News December 2010, he said there were 31,000 doctors and housemen and the Ministry wanted to reduce the doctor-population ratio by achieving 85,000 doctors for a projected 35 million population by 2020.
“This goal of trying to achieve so many doctors in so short a time is happening way too fast and too soon,” he said, adding that the issue was not about doctors wanting to protect their ‘turf’, rather their concern over patient safety.
While there were complaints of a glut in some hospitals, in rural hospitals in Sabah, housemen were complaining of being overworked.
A houseman, who declined to be named, said rural hospitals suffered from a severe lack of doctors and housemen had to work round the clock to care for patients.
“We have to be ‘on-call’ continuously for a whole week and go without sleep on some nights,” he said in an e-mail.
A mother of a houseman based at Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia in Cheras also complained that her daughter’s feet had swelled after having to stand for long hours every day.
Acknowledging that there was a severe shortage of doctors in certain hospitals, Dr Quek said the Health Ministry should work out a better distribution mechanism to overcome the problem.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Too many new doctors and too few hospitals to train them

Star: PETALING JAYA: The number of medical housemen undergoing clinical training in most government hospitals has increased and this has given rise to concern that they may not get sufficient experience.
With new medical schools opening up locally and lower fees being offered at new institutions abroad, around 4,000 Malaysian medical students are expected to graduate annually from 350 universities all over the world in the coming years.
Senior Hospital Kuala Lumpur (HKL) consultant physician Datuk Dr S. Jeyaindran said each specialist was supervising four times as many housemen compared to a decade ago.
“Five years ago, one houseman looked after 10 patients in hospital wards at any one time but now it is one to four patients,” said Dr Jeyaindran, who is HKL department of medicine head and national head for medicine at the Health Ministry.
“The concern is that these interns are seeing fewer patients and hence, have fewer opportunities to carry out adequate procedures. In some hospitals, there are more housemen than patients.”
Dr Jeyaindran said they were not only concerned about the increase in numbers but also their attitude.
“Some lack responsibility towards their patients,” he said, adding that there were also those who did not know how to give an accurate diagnosis and relied too much on investigative tools instead of clinical skills and getting the proper patient history.
Malaysian Medical Council ethics committee chairman Datuk Dr Abdul Hamid Abdul Kadir said several specialists had expressed concern about the large numbers and training hospitals were finding it difficult to cope.
“In the past, it was five housemen in each department but now it could be 20 to 30 for each department,” he said, adding that some specialists were overburdened by the workload.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the ministry was aware of the issue and would be increasing the number of training hospitals.
He said the ideal ratio should be one specialist supervising five housemen with one houseman taking care of 14 hospital beds depending on discipline.
There were 38 hospitals providing training to more than 3,058 housemen last year.
However, the number increased to the current 6,253 housemen since the ministry increased the duration of housemanship from one year to two.
“This led to most hospitals, including those in Sabah and Sarawak, having an excess of housemen,” he said.
Hospitals that were chosen must be able to cater to six areas in which housemen need training – medical, surgical, paediatrics, obstetrics and gynaecology, orthopaedic and accident, and emergency, he said.
Liow also said that they would be getting 58 contract specialists from Egypt, India and Pakistan next month to help supervise housemen and reduce the burden of the specialists now.
He also said that the ministry had taken steps to overcome the lack of experience among housemen by making training compulsory for two years instead of one.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

More brain docs soon

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: There will be at least two neurosurgeons in each state to provide core neurosurgical works when the Government expands resident services in the discipline, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.
Currently, he said, eight states that still did not have resident neurosurgical services were Perlis, Kedah, Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, Selangor, Negri Sembilan and Malacca.
“We are now training 26 students to become neurosurgeons and once they graduate, we will be able to have at least two neurosurgeons in all these states,” he told reporters after opening the 8th Asian Congress of Neurological Surgeons and 1st Asian Neurosurgical Nursing Cong­ress here yesterday.
Liow said there were currently 74 neurosurgeons in the country with only 45 of them in the public sector.
“There is an acute shortage, especially in the east coast, northern region of the peninsula and East Malaysia.
“However, this is still a vast improvement as in 2004 there were only 36 neurosurgeons in the country,” he said.
However, he did not reveal the number of neurosurgeons needed based on the country’s population.
Liow said a comprehensive local training programme in collaboration with international faculties, which was established in 2001, had increased the number of trained neurosurgeons in the country since 2005.
He said the ministry also hoped to strengthen its six regional centres at Johor Baru, Kuala Lumpur, Sungai Buloh, Penang, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu with at least four neurosurgeons each to provide more advanced sub-speciality neurosurgical works.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Specialist centre to start operating on Jan 1, but minus some major services

Star: KUCHING: A long-delayed public specialist hospital in Samarahan will open by Jan 1, but without some major services that were planned initially.
A well-placed source said the facility would begin operations with heart care only, despite high-tech cancer care equipment already being installed at the facility, formerly known as the Sarawak International Medical Centre.
“At this point, all we know is that cancer care will have to wait. We hope cancer services will be included eventually,” said the source, who asked not to be named.
In June, Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan confirmed talk that the facility, which had never been used, would be converted and renamed the Sarawak Heart and Cancer Hospital.
According to several sources, no clear explanation had been given by the Health Ministry over its sudden back-tracking of planned services for the hospital.
One speculation, the source said, was that the Health Ministry was unsure about spending large amounts of money to operate and run a cancer centre in Sarawak, where specialists were scarce.
“It seems we may have to prove our capabilities first, before the original plan can be implemented. In fact, the ministry’s indecision is actually in line with the Economic Transformation Plan. They are calling for track record before spending,” said the source.
The hospital, which is about 20 minutes drive from Kuching city, has long been in the limelight, mostly for the wrong reasons.
It began construction in 2003 but the project was never completed.
The facility, owned by the state government under Sarawak Specialist Hospital & Medical Centre Sdn Bhd, was planned as a top-end private hospital, which could also do research.
Initially, US-based Mayo Clinic was hired as a consultant, but not long after the building started, the non-profit organisation pulled out. No reason was given.
For almost half a decade, the project was left idle and vacant, until the announcement of the turnaround plan earlier this year.
For now, the facility remains a construction site. Two weeks ago, the Association for Wives of Ministers, Assistant Ministers and Assemblymen (Sabati) visited the facility.
What they saw were buildings being cleaned and decontaminated, while cracked walls were fixed and mouldy ceiling boards changed.
It was understood that a few people closely related to the project were trying to get the association to fund minor projects for the hospital, like converting an existing site office into a half-way house.
Association members were brought to see for themselves the best and worst aspects of the facility.
They saw the linear accelerator – a room-sized device used to pinpoint cancer cells – that had been installed, but were told cancer services might not be available.
“Although there are signboards listing cancer services everywhere, the final decision on whether cancer care would be offered will only be made in the coming weeks,” said another personnel.
With plans up in the air again, even the name of the hospital cannot be finalised.
Meanwhile, National Heart Association Malaysia president Prof Dr Sim Kui Hian, said he was aware of the situation.
“We will begin with the Cardiac Unit first. We are already in the process of moving,” he said.
Dr Sim, who heads the Cardiac Unit at the Sarawak General Hospital (SGH) in Kuching, said he preferred not to speculate on the cancer facilities.
“Whatever happens, the heart unit will be operational no later than Jan 1,” he said.
The hospital would be the first new public medical facility in Kuching since Sarawak General Hospital opened in 1910, he said.
“For us to have gone this far in a few months since the turnaround plan was announced is itself quite an achievement,” Dr Sim added.
However, he said Sarawakians deserved better healthcare.
“There are still too many patients waiting for beds in SGH. The hospital bed-population ratio in Kuching must be improved,” he said.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Health Ministry to spur research in IMR and government hospitals

Star: PUTRAJAYA: The Health Ministry will work with the Special Innovation Unit (Unik) to patent and commercialise innovative products produced by the Institute of Medical Research (IMR) and government hospitals, said Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.
The Minister said the IMR and government hospitals had come out with various innovative products that could benefit the public.
“The Health Ministry lauds the setting up of Unik under the Prime Minister’s Department and we hope the unit will spur innovation programmes among government agencies,” he said after opening his ministry’s Innovation Day at Putrajaya International Convention Centre here yesterday.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, when tabling Budget 2011, had announced the setting up of Unik to assist research and development in universities and research centres so that innovative products produced by them could be commercialised.
Later, when opening the The 2010 Pharmaceutical Inspection Cooperation Scheme seminar in Kuala Lumpur, Liow said the generic pharmaceutical products industry would contribute US$5bil (RM15.4bil) in revenue for the country by 2020.
In this regard, he urged bioequivalent (BE) research centres to study quality generic products due to the high demand domestically and internationally because of their lower prices and easy availability.
“At present, there are only six BE centres in Malaysia. This number has to be increased because by 2012, the ministry will make it mandatory for all generic pharmaceutical products to be tested by BE centres so as to ensure only quality products are marketed,” he said.
The three-day seminar, organised by the National Pharmaceutical Control Bureau (NPCB), was attended by participants from 40 countries.

Liow said the ministry was now allowing doctors in the private sector to work in government clinics and hospitals on a contract basis.
He said the move was taken following discussions between the ministry and the Malaysian Medical Association in the wake of complaints that the 1Malaysia clinics had affected the income of doctors running private clinics.
On the health situation in Kedah and Perlis which had been hit by massive floods, Liow said only one case of viral infection had been reported in Perlis, adding that the patient had high fever and was being treated at a hospital.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Only 233 psychiatrists to treat 28 million Malaysians

Star: IPOH: Malaysia is running short of psychiatrists. Health Ministry technical adviser on psychiatry Datuk Dr Suaran Singh Jasmit Singh said the country only has 233 psychiatrists to treat the population, which works out to a ratio of 0.8:100,000.
“The ideal ratio is 1:50,000,” he said after the opening of a public forum on handling stress at Ipoh City Hall yesterday.
Dr Suaran, who is Hospital Bahagia Ulu Kinta director, said of the 233 psychiatrists available, 15 were attached with the Health Ministry and three with the Defence Ministry.
He added that there were 22 psychiatrists in Perak.
“Their number is just enough to cope with the workload,” he said, reiterating the need for more psychiatrists.
Dr Suaran, however, said that more people were willing to take up psychiatry, which was quite a new medical discipline in Malaysia.
“The ministry is working to increase the number of psychiatrists in the country,” he added.
He noted that the country also had 55 private psychiatrists, but almost 45% of them were based in the Klang Valley.
On the public forum, Dr Suaran said it was organised in conjunction with Hospital Bahagia Ulu Kinta’s 100th anniversary to educate the public on coping with stress.
Perak executive council member Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon, who opened the forum, said mental illness must be treated.
“People with such illnesses need help and there are a lot of new treatments available,” he said, adding that psychiatric patients also required good care and support from their family members.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Specialist shortage is the heart of the matter

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: About 2,000 to 3,000 children in Malaysia need to undergo cardiothoracic surgery every year but both public and private hospitals can only cater to 1,200 of them due to the lack of specialists in the field, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.
He said there were about 180 cardiologists and 58 cardiothoracic surgeons in Malaysia, of whom only 26 cardiologists and 14 cardiothoracic surgeons were in ministry hospitals.
“Treatment for heart diseases is almost unreachable to some due to the rising cost of heart operations and the scarcity of cardiologists and cardiothoracic surgeons,” he said.
Due to these reasons, the Government had been sending children from poor families to the Naraya Hrudayalaya Hospital in Bangalore, India, for cardiothoracic surgery.
“From July 2008 until Oct 5, 138 children, the majority aged between one and five, have successfully undergone surgery,” he told a press conference after witnessing a joint venture signing ceremony between AriyaDana Equities Sdn Bhd and Narayana Hrudayalaya Pvt Ltd here yesterday.
The deal is a business plan to invest in an existing specialist medical centre in Nilai and collaboration to manage and operate the hospital, which will be known as the Narayana International Medical Centre.
AriyaDana Equities director Nathan Mahalingam said the hospital would initially be refurbished to have 100 beds in six months and upgraded in stages.
“An investment of more than RM250mil will be made within the first five years to achieve this objective,” he said.
Narayana Hrudayalaya chairman Dr Devi Prasad Shetty said a team of cardiologists and cardiothoracic surgeons would be brought in from Bangalore to join the existing 160 medical staff at the medical centre.
He said the medical centre would be able to conduct cardiothoracic surgery that would cost between 20% and 25% cheaper than other hospitals here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Malaysia to carry out landmark GM mosquito trial

AFP: KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia's health minister Sunday said the country would carry out a landmark field trial by releasing genetically modified mosquitoes designed to combat dengue fever by the end of the year.
Liow Tiong Lai said the delayed field trials, which were to have begun this month, were now back on track as laboratory tests had been done and the country's biosafety board had approved the mosquitoes' release into a controlled environment.
"Barring any unforeseen circumstances, the GM anti-dengue mosquito trial will take place by the end of this year," Liow told AFP.
"On my side everything is clear. Now it's under the ministry of natural resources and environment, who will submit the plan to cabinet for final approval," he said.
Malaysia's death rate from dengue fever has spiralled 53 percent this year and the public is being urged to take action to eradicate the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes -- which spread dengue -- from homes and workplaces.
Liow's comments came ahead of a World Health Organization regional meeting starting on Monday in the Malaysian capital.
WHO regional director Shin Young-Soo welcomed the field trials.
"Over the last 10 years the number of dengue cases in the world has doubled and the situation this year is significantly worse than last year, so we welcome how Malaysia is responding to this threat," he said.
In the first experiment of its kind in Asia, 2,000-3,000 male Aedes mosquitoes are to be released in two Malaysian states.
The insects in the study have been engineered so that their offspring quickly die, curbing the growth of the population in a technique researchers hope could eventually eradicate the dengue mosquito altogether.
Females of the Aedes species are responsible for spreading dengue fever.
However, environmentalists are concerned the GM mosquito could fail to prevent dengue and could also have unintended consequences.
Critics have said the larvae will only die if their environment is free of tetracycline, an antibiotic commonly used for medical and veterinary purposes.
Dengue infection leads to a sudden onset of fever with severe headaches, muscle and joint pains, and rashes, which can lead to death if left untreated.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Understand menopause better, women urged

Star: PETALING JAYA: Many Malaysian women are suffering unnecessarily from menopausal symptoms due to a lack of understanding and a negative perception on treatment methods, said Malaysian Menopause Society president Dr Ho Choon Moy.
She said a survey by Universiti Malaya’s Health Research Development Unit revealed that more than 60% of middle-aged women appeared to be lacking in knowledge about health risks associated with menopause.
On top of that, only 6% of women seek hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in Malaysia, she said, adding that more could be done to increase awareness about menopause. Symptoms associated with menopause such as incontinence, hot flashes, excessive sweating, depression, memory loss, weight gain and osteoporosis can be treated, Dr Ho said at a press conference in conjunction with a World Menopause Day 2010 forum here yesterday.
She said a Women Health Initiative study in 2002 had wrongly created some negative reaction towards HRT treatment.
While there was no increased risk of breast cancer among women who took HRT in less than five years, the study claimed there was an increase of just eight cases (in every 10,000 women) among those who took HRT for more than five years.
“It is actually very low,” said Dr Ho, adding “what people failed to see were the many benefits – prevention of osteoporosis, good skin and teeth, good well-being, 30% increase of lifespan and a better quality of life.”
On herbal remedies, studies in Asia showed that 30% of women take natural or herbal remedies, she said.
On whether menopause could lead to suicide, Dr Ho said severe depression symptom was uncommon.
They were usually nothing more than mood swings, irritability and mild depression, she said.
“Women suffering from depression should get themselves checked to determine whether it was due to menopause or a psychiatric problem,” she said.

Malaysia To Celebrate World Organ Donation Week

Bernama: KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 7 (Bernama) -- For the first time, Malaysia will celebrate World Organ Donation Week with various programmes, aimed at increasing awareness in the registration of pledges to donate organs or tissues after death.
The 2010 Organ Donation Week will be held at the Astaka, Taman Titiwangsa, beginning Oct 17.
Its highlight is the 'Heart Talk' programme jointly organised by the National Heart Institute and IJN Foundation, as tribute to the sacrifices of organ donors and their families.
It also enables organ recipients to express gratitude for a chance at life.
According to Datin Dr Lela Yasmin Mansor, chief national transplant procurement manager of the National Transplant Resource Centre, Kuala Lumpur Hospital, organ donation was always remembered in most developed nations.
For the first time, Malaysia was also celebrating the event, she said Thursday.
The programme will begin with the Life Saver Walk Hunt in the morning, followed by an aerobic exercise before ending with the launch of the Organ Donation Week 2010.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai will officiate the donation week.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Liow To Doctors: Come Back And Serve The Country

Bernama: DUBLIN, Sept 27 (Bernama) -- Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai urged Malaysian medical specialists who are currently working abroad to return and serve their home country.
Saying that although they could show patriotism anywhere in the world, it would be more meaningful if they could return to Malaysia and help strengthen its medical sector which was still facing shortage of specialists.
"We need them. They can either work in government or private hospitals," he said after meeting 22 Malaysian doctors and specialists here.
Liow said that at the meeting, several doctors expressed willingness to return while others said they needed more time to consider the matter and to gain more experience.
The government, Liow said, would provide facilities for the returning specialists in terms of promotions and salaries, saying the government would not stop them from joining the private sector.
Those working with the government would also be provided with assistance to further their studies and that they would be considered for promotions in various grades such as the UD43, UD47, UD51 and UD53 depending on their experience and qualifications.
At the meeting, Liow told them of the various improvements implemented by the government in the medical service especially in the specialist sector.
He said that time-based promotions had been implemented which allowed UD41 house officers to achieve the UD54 grade in 12 years, for non-specialists, and in nine years for specialists.
Doctors in government service also had ample training opportunities through programmes such as the "Open Master's Programme" which was given to 600 doctors since 2008 and would be increased to 800 next year, he said.
Also present at the meeting were Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk S.K. Devamany and Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Richard Riot.
Meanwhile, Dr Tidi Maharani Hassan, one of the specialists at the meeting, expressed regret over the perception that doctors who served abroad were wasting the government's money.
Dr Tidi Maharani, who at 27 is the youngest specialist in Dublin, said many Malaysian doctors decided to serve abroad to gain experience which would be useful when they later return to serve their home country.
The pulmonologist said she was grateful for all the assistance given by the government but said that she took up employment abroad because of the laboratory facilities available apart from the training given.
Another doctor, Dr Kama Muhammad, 38, a consultant surgeon, urged the government to carry out improvements in all aspects of the medical service, not just in terms of the salary scales.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Six health institutes to come under one roof

Star: KUCHING: Six research institutes under the Health Ministry will be brought together under one roof to better serve the people.
The institutes for Medical Research, and of Public Health, Health Management, Health System Management, Health Behaviour Research and Clinical Research Centre will be housed in the proposed 1National Institutes of Health (1NIH) integrated complex in Setia Alam, Shah Alam. They are currently spread all over town.
Health Deputy Director-General Datuk Dr Maimunah Abdul Hamid disclosed that the Cabinet had approved the project which would be developed in a few years. The building cost has not yet been ascertained.
“We want all the six research institutes under the ministry under one roof,” she told reporters after opening the state Health Research Day in conjunction with Sarawak General Hospital’s 100th anniversary yesterday. “They were spread out because they were created one after the other.”
She said it was important for these centres to come together since health issues were interconnected.
“A lot of problems are not answered by one research question.
“Take dengue, for example. It involves research on the virus itself, people’s behaviour and how to deal with it.
“It’s all integrated,” she said.
Dr Maimunah also said the ministry would work with the tourism sector to promote healthcare to foreigners, especially those in the region and the Middle East.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Johns Hopkins University to set up medical school and hospital in Malaysia

Star: NEW YORK: The world-renowned teaching and research medical institution Johns Hopkins University will be setting up a medical school and hospital in Malaysia.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said a site at Serdang in Selangor had been picked to set up the facilities, which would become a medical research hub for the region.
The medical school, he said, would offer a four-year programme, adding that it would be a private initiative between Malaysian and American investors.
It will be Malaysia’s first private teaching hospital with research facilities.
Speaking to Malaysian newsmen here on Friday evening, he said an agreement would be signed early next month.
The Prime Minister did not give details of the project but it is understood that a Malaysian public listed company would be involved in the medical city plan, estimated to cost RM1.8bil.
There are Johns Hopkins University campuses in China, Singapore, Italy and the United States. The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, is a private, non-profit institution.
Earlier, Najib met Dr Mohan Chellappa, the president of Global Ventures, Johns Hopkins Medicine International, where the Prime Minister was believed to be given an update on the 600-bed private hospital.
The prime minister said Johns Hopkins Medical International was a world-renowned medical school and had adopted a different curriculum compared to other schools.
“They are using the ‘Genes to Society’ curriculum, which is a more personalised medical approach,” he said, adding that the school provided a four-year programme and planned to take 100 students each year.
“Johns Hopkins has got a very good name. The idea is to create Malaysia as a hub,” he added.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai in welcoming the move said the presence of such a prestigious research facility in the country would boost Malaysia’s health tourism industry.
This, he said, was another feather in the cap for the country’s healthcare industry and would also prompt more Malaysian-born specialists and other health care professionals to come back and serve in the country.
Liow is currently in London in an effort to persuade Malaysian professionals involved in healthcare to return home and serve the country.
“I am here to convince them to return home and serve. I believe many will find it more gratifying to work in Malaysia now,” he said when contacted.
He is also speaking to Malaysian medical students and fresh graduates to convince them to return home once they complete their studies.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Firm working on vaccine to treat HFMD

Star: GEORGE TOWN: A Malaysia-based biotech company is set to develop a vaccine in eight years for the EV71 virus, which causes the infectious and potentially fatal hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD).
The company embarking on this ambitious task is Sentinext Therapeutics Sdn Bhd with its laboratory in Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Penang.
Its chief scientific officer Prof Dr Jane Cardosa said there was currently no vaccine or anti-viral agent to prevent or treat EV71 infection.
She added that the lab had found a vaccine candidate and was going through pre-clinical tests.
“Hopefully after 18 months, we can move to Phase 1 where we will test its safety on humans followed by efficacy trials (Phase 2). If the vaccine is taken up when it is (fully) developed, children can be protected from EV71, HFMD and some other diseases,” she said at a media briefing in USM yesterday.
“However, we won’t see the end of HFMD as it can still be caused by other viruses.”
The 59-year-old professor retired as Universiti Sarawak Malaysia Institute of Health and Community Medicine director in late August and is now a visiting professor at USM.
The vaccine being developed by Sentinext Therapeutics is a significant breakthrough because the EV71 virus has been consistently causing outbreaks of HFMD in many countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
Prof Cardosa said the Singapore government had funded a company to research and develop a vaccine for the virus but it ceased operations after running out of funds.
The China government has also invested in a similar project but has a different approach from what Prof Cardosa’s lab is doing.
“Our vaccine is formulated from empty capsids to mimic the virus particle but there is no genome. So, it is not infectious,” she said.
Sentinext Therapeutics received a RM40mil fund from the Malaysian Life Sciences Capital Fund and Malaysian Technology Development Corp.
Besides developing and researching a vaccine for EV71, the company is also looking at vaccines for other tropical infectious diseases like malaria and dengue.

Rules on healthcare ads relaxed, says Liow

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Private healthcare providers will now be able to advertise their services in all mediums following the government’s decision to liberalise provisions under the Medicines (Advertisement and Sales) Act 1965, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.
Liow said this would allow private healthcare providers to make their services available to both locals and foreigners.
He said the move was in line with the Government’s decision to promote health tourism in Malaysia and raise the number of foreigners coming here by 20% annually from 336,000 visitors last year.
The liberalisation would also ensure that Malaysia maintained its competitiveness in attracting health tourists.
“The liberalisation of the provisions, which comes into effect immediately, will allow private hospitals, clinics and even dental clinics to advertise their facilities and services in newspapers, the electronic media and on the Internet as well as put up banners to announce new facilities.
“They can also advertise abroad but they will have to abide by the laws in those countries as well as the laws here.
“They can mention the latest equipment or treatment they have but they are not to use superlatives like ‘best’ or make comparisons,” he told a press conference after attending his ministry’s Hari Raya celebration.
Before this, private healthcare providers were only allowed to advertise through healthcare magazines and related publications and were not allowed to place advertisements outside Malaysia.
Liow said to further help the industry’s growth, the ministry’s Medicines Advertising Board had also shortened the time to approve applications for advertisements from six weeks to between three and five days now.
He however warned that the ministry would keep close tabs on advertisements related to the industry and those flouting the law would face a fine of up to RM3,000 and a year’s jail or both for the first offence and up to RM5,000 fine or two years’ jail or both for subsequent offences.
He said healthcare providers could go to, or contact the ministry’s secretariat on medical advertisements at 03-7841 3200.
He said the ministry would also launch a large-scale campaign against dengue in Kelantan after the number of cases in the state rose by 160%

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Malaysia's dengue death rate spirals 53 percent this year

AFP: KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia said Monday its dengue fever death rate spiralled 53 percent this year, but backed away from a controversial trial of releasing genetically modified mosquitoes to wipe out the disease.
"There was a major rise in deaths due to dengue fever, with 107 deaths so far this year compared to 70 deaths for the same period last year," said deputy premier Muhyiddin Yassin.
Muhyiddin said the majority of the deaths could have been avoided, and urged the public to take action to eradicate the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes -- which spread dengue -- from their homes and workplaces.
"We have identified 19 hotspots throughout the country where the disease is prevalent, and action is being taken to tackle the situation in these areas," he said.
However, Muhyiddin was cool on a plan to release genetically modified mosquitoes designed to combat dengue fever, in a proposed landmark field trial that has come in for criticism from environmentalists.
In the first experiment of its kind in Asia, 2,000-3,000 male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes were to be released in two Malaysian states in October or November if the plan had won government support.
The insects in the study have been engineered so that their offspring quickly die, curbing the growth of the population in a technique researchers hope could eventually eradicate the dengue mosquito altogether.
Females of the Aedes species are responsible for spreading dengue fever.
Muhyiddin said the project would not be implemented "at the moment".
"Seemingly it is quite an interesting (solution) to deal with such a problem but I think... not until and unless every aspect of research being carried out is clinically tested and... environmental issues have been addressed," he said.
"And of course most importantly at the end of the day, it is endorsed by international organisations -- that it is something we can apply for the purposes of dealing with the epidemic."
The development is a boon for environmentalists who were were concerned the GM mosquito could fail to prevent dengue and could also have unintended consequences.
Critics have said the larvae will only die if their environment is free of tetracycline, an antibiotic commonly used for medical and veterinary purposes.
The field trial for the GM anti-dengue mosquitoes was developed by a British-based insect bio-tech company, Oxitec, and was to be undertaken by the Malaysia's Institute for Medical Research, an agency under the health ministry.
Dengue infection leads to a sudden onset of fever with severe headaches, muscle and joint pains, and rashes.
The virus has historically been found in tropical regions, particularly in urban and semi-urban areas, but has spread in recent years to colder and higher places and is now endemic in more than 100 countries.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Liow: Lack of child nutrition a concern

Star: BENTONG: New mothers should breastfeed their babies for at least six months.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said there was a drop in the number of mothers who continuously breastfed their babies for at least four months, from 29% to 19% between 1996 and 2006.
“This shows we need to raise awareness to encourage more mothers to breastfeed.
“The first six months are crucial for the child’s growth, so good nutrition, especially mother’s milk is crucial before introducing the child to semi-solids or solids,” he told reporters yesterday after handing out food hampers to 52 malnourished children in Bentong Hospital.
On the large number of malnourished children up to six years old in the country, Liow urged local and district health authorities to strengthen monitoring and raising awareness among parents, especially in rural areas, to provide adequate nutrition for their children.
“In Malaysia, the practice of ensuring proper nutrition for infants is less than satisfactory,” he said.
Liow added there were 11,796 undernourished children nationwide, half of whom were in the rural areas.
He said undernourished children were usually from poverty-stricken families or those whose diets were not nutritionally balanced.
He said the National Health and Morbidity Survey in 2006 also showed that only 41.4% of Malaysian infants were given proper nutrition.
“The time from birth to two years old is the most critical. If a child is malnourished at this stage and suffers stunted growth, it will not be easy to remedy when the child grows older,” he cautioned.
On another matter, Liow said the Cabinet had given the go-ahead for a national council for local government aimed at stopping the spread of dengue. It would be chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.
The first inter-agency coordination meeting led by the Housing and Local Government and Health Ministries would be held after Hari Raya, he said.
“This meeting will include executive councillors from all states. We need to find ways and means to fight dengue in a more concerted effort,” he said.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Liow: Doctors have to inform of cases of rat urine disease to department

Star: ALOR GAJAH: Leptospirosis, a rat urine-borne disease that has caused the deaths of nine people in the country so far, has been made a notifiable disease, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.
He said medical practitioners that come across or treat patients with bacterial infections related to leptospirosis or melioidosis would have to notify the district or state health department.
Speaking to reporters after launching the new pre-school and special education building at SJK (C) Machap Umboo with Deputy Education Minister Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong here yesterday, he said the directive would enable health authorities to identify the source of the disease and implement preventive measures.
“When we are able to identify the source of the bacteria, measures can be taken to control it, including clean-up works, gotong-royong and closure of the affected area if necessary,” he said.
Liow urged the public, especially campers and jungle-trekkers to take care of their personal hygiene and keep their surrounding clean so that it would not attract rats.
He said a series of campaigns would be carried out nationwide to increase the awareness on leptospirosis.
Meanwhile, Liow said the rise in dengue cases and deaths because of the disease in the country was alarming.
The death toll from dengue hit 101 compared with 67 last year, he said, adding that cases in Kedah and Malacca had also increased 25% and 23% respectively.
“This is a shocking figure,” he said.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Dengue begins at home

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Homes can literally turn into death traps when it comes to dengue.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said authorities found Aedes larvae in the homes of more than 50% of people who died from dengue this year.
“As at Saturday, 30,350 dengue cases have been recorded, with 95 deaths. This is an increase from the 28,659 cases with 67 deaths recorded in the same period last year,” he said.
“We must take a serious proactive approach in fighting dengue. It is important to be aware that our homes can be breeding grounds for the Aedes mosquitoes,” he said after launching a blood donation campaign by Naturally Plus Malaysia Sdn Bhd and the National Blood Centre here yesterday.
Liow said for the week ending on Saturday alone, there were 847 dengue cases in the country, with one death recorded in the Federal Territory, adding that authorities were meeting dengue experts to find ways to combat the disease.
He said the Institute of Medical Research was also conducting a study on the drug-resistant NDM-1 (New Delhi metallo-lactamase-1) superbug identified in India and Pakistan.
“We are waiting for the results before making an announcement. We do not want to cause unnecessary alarm.
“We are concerned about this bug as any bacteria, especially one described as a superbacteria can cause harm to the body. There are no details from the World Health Organisation yet,” he added.
The superbug had reportedly caused the death of a Belgian man and infected several people from Britain, Australia and the United States, who had travelled to India and Pakistan for surgery. The Belgian was reportedly infected by the bacteria after being hospitalised in Pakistan for a leg injury following a car accident.
According to the United States’ Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, NDM-1 is an “enzyme that destroys many commonly used antibiotics, rendering them ineffective.”
On the leptospirosis and melioidosis infections that had claimed nine lives so far, Liow said these could be treated if detected early.
Leptospirosis is present in rat urine while melioidosis is a water-and-earth-borne bacteria.
“Those who feel sick or have fever, especially after outdoor activities, should seek treatment immediately,” he added.
Earlier, Liow encouraged people to donate blood during the current festive season when supply was low.
He added that 565,604 blood units were donated to the National Blood Centre last year.

Monday, August 09, 2010

'No' to teaching hospital adjacent Parliament

Sun2Surf: KUALA LUMPUR (Aug 8, 2010) : A plot of land adjacent to Parliament was the focus of businessmen for the setting up of an international teaching hospital.
It is understood that representatives of Johns Hopkins University had earlier this year made overtures to set up the Malaysian arm of the internationally-renowned institution on Jalan Ledang next to Parliament.
Another option was to develop the neighbouring Malaysian Medical Academy but this proposal may have included encroaching into a nearby forest reserve.
However, all proposals were turned down by the government.
Sources were quick to tell theSun that in spite of the interest in the land, this was not the motivation for a proposal to move Parliament House to Putrajaya.
“This had nothing to do with it. The proposal to shift Parliament was because the RM600 million PICC (Putrajaya International Convention Centre) was underutilised,” the source said.
He said the government was not keen on having the hospital so close to the Parliament complex and suggested that the representatives scout for other locations.
It is understood that Tanglin Hospital was proposed as an alternative, the only problem being it was too small. “There is just not enough space for a hospital of that magnitude. Even the open area surrounding Tanglin Hospital has limited space,” the source said.
He said any development plans of that magnitude would have to include the tearing down of the Statistics Department behind Tanglin Hospital.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said a proposal was made to the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) and any decision will come from the EPU.
"But my ministry is very supportive. We will welcome them as they are a great teaching hospital and we can benefit from them. However, there is nothing concrete," said Liow, returning calls from theSun.
He said finding a suitable location is one of the factors delaying progress of the RM2 billion project.
Kuala Lumpur City Hall officials said so far there had been nothing in black and white. “There have been no official applications for any such development,” said an official.
It has been reported that Johns Hopkins’ local partner is Sitt Tatt Bhd, which bought a stake in US-based Amcare Labs International – an affiliate of Johns Hopkins Medicine International and Johns Hopkins Medical Laboratories.
The reports said Amcare intends to make Malaysia a regional testing hub.
The Selangor State Development Corporation (PKNS) is understood to be in talks with Johns Hopkins as part of PKNS’ plans to develop a healthcare city. However, discussions are still at a preliminary stage.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Diabetes among children on the rise

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: More young people, some as young as seven, are suffering from Type 2 diabetes (T2D), a disease that generally hits those in their 50s.
Doctors say more primary school students have been diagnosed with T2D in the last decade, a fact that is alarming since the disease is usually linked to those much older.
The doctors found that the young diabetics were usually obese, and their condition could be traced to eating too much unhealthy food and having a sedentary lifestyle.
They said the disease was not just about having excessive sugar in the blood system but could also affect the patient’s vital organs like the heart, kidneys, nerves and eyes.
“The children’s bad dietary habits of eating burgers, nuggets, fried chicken, fries and carbonated drinks are also contributing factors,” Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Medical Centre senior consultant paediatrician and paediatric endocrinologist Prof Dr Wu Loo Ling said, adding that long hours of homework, watching television and playing computer games added to the problem.
“Cases of children and teenagers with diabetes are increasing at a faster rate,” said Dr Wu. “Between 30% and 40% of children in Western countries are overweight and the problem of overweight Malaysian children is also on the rise.”
Endocrinologist Dr Lim Soo San said T2D was more apparent in people aged between 18 and 29.
“We even came across children who are below 10 years old and have T2D ,” Dr Lim said.
The Registry on Diabetes in Children and Adolescents (2006-2007) showed that 56% of the 42 T2D cases involved obese individuals.
Dr Lim said parents continued to feed their children with “junk food” due to their lack of awareness of the disease.
Dietician Mary Easaw-John said apart from bad eating habits, irregular eating hours had also contributed to the rising trend of T2D among younger people.
“People tend to eat out instead of packing food from home nowadays. And fried food is common in eateries,” said Easaw, who is Dietetics Food Services of the National Heart Institute senior manager.
The Third National Health and Morbidity Survey, conducted in 2006, showed that there was a high prevalence of overweight primary school children, and over 20% of them were obese.
Statistics pointed that Malaysia had the fourth highest number of diabetes cases in Asia, with 800,000 in 2007. The number is expected to jump to 1.3 million cases this year.
The recent survey also revealed that more than 43% of Malaysian adults were overweight or obese, twice the figure a decade ago.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

National health plan still in first gear

The Sun A WOMAN with a 7cm tumour was referred by the Sungai Buloh Hospital to the Kuala Lumpur Hospital (KLH). A biopsy needed to be done to ascertain if the growth was malignant. She was given a date to see the oncologist at KLH – Feb 2011!

One does not need to refer to Paul the octopus to know that by then it may be too late for her. But the story of this woman, tragic as it sounds, is not unique.

Take a stroll along the corridors of the consultation rooms of KLH or University Hospital and you will meet patients who were given six months to a year for follow-ups, including those pertaining to serious and terminal diseases.

With the limited resources of drugs, equipment and professionals, it is a given that our hospitals just cannot cope.

As Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai explains: "The government has limited resources, 50% are with the government and another 50% are private healthcare. But the 50% in government healthcare handles 80% of the population."

But the question is not so much do we have sufficient resources, but whether we are managing them well and whether we have our priorities right? The government spends only 7% of its national budget on healthcare. In Budget 2010, there was even an almost 5% slash from RM13.8 billion to RM13.1 billion. The Malaysian Medical Association had said we spend only US$400 (RM1,280) per patient in healthcare. Our neighbours spend in excess of US$1,000 (RM3,200) per patient.

The use of a PET Scan machine to detect tumours costs around RM8,000 at a private hospital, but only RM500 at the Putrajaya Hospital. However, by the time your turn comes, you could be dead. If you survive the one-to-six-month waiting period, it could be too late.

Such machines cost RM8 million – only RM112 million to supply one to each general hospital in the 14 states – far, far less than the RM800 million it would cost to construct a new parliament building!

And while 97% of our pharmaceutical cost is subsidised, one wonders if the annual cost of RM800 million could be lowered if a Sdn Bhd was not given the monopoly to import and distribute drugs to public healthcare institutions.

While we are very much ahead in access to public healthcare, in contrast with many developing nations, the fact remains that our most vulnerable are still not getting the healthcare they deserve.

The minister’s announcement yesterday that the proposed National Health Financing Scheme (NFHS) will not involve the insurance industry is welcome, as at least we know it is not another profit-oriented scheme.

But here again, we have another example of how public healthcare is a continuously tried and tested animal, without any conceivable means of making it fair, comprehensive and yet not lead us into bankruptcy. Sihat Malaysia, e-Kesihatan and now NFHS just go to show that when it comes to a solid national health plan, we are still unable to move forward.

When you talk about getting the EPF to subsidise one’s medical costs, the criticism is that if one needs to dig into one’s life savings for medical treatment, then there is something seriously wrong with our health policy.

Britain’s National Health Scheme, which even the US is trying to emulate, is not in want of flaws but seems like a good option – the only thing is that it would mean getting Malaysians to pay more in taxes. And knowing Malaysians, we hate spending a sen more on even the most crucial things.

But like it has proven in the scheduled reduction of subsidies, the government is capable of making non-populist decisions. However, if such decisions are accompanied by or culminate in improved service and care, it would definitely have done right by the people. Now if only the government could give us an AAA guarantee that our money will be used for our welfare …

Health Ministry Replacing Old Hospitals And Clinics

PANTAI REMIS, July 19 (Bernama) - The Health Ministry will intensify efforts to upgrade health services including the construction of new hospitals and clinics to replace old buildings and those incapable of catering for increased patients.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said such measures were necessary to ensure that the health services provided were complete and comprehensive.

"The Health Ministry is always committed towards providing high quality service that can satisfy the people and is easily available especially in the rural areas. Under the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP), the ministry had approved a significant allocation to enable health infrastructure to be increased and expanded," he said at the official opening of the Pantai Remis Health Clinic, here Monday.

The RM10.24 million building was opened by the Regent of Perak, Raja Dr Nazrin Shah.

"The new building can serve 120 patients every day compared with 80 patients at the old building.

"Besides assigning two medical officers and assisted by 42 trained staff, the clinic also has various sophisticated equipment for the patients' comfort," he added.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Squads to collect pledged organs

Star: BENTONG: The Government will soon form teams of specialist doctors in each state to speed up the harvest of donated organs.
Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the squads would comprise specialists of different organs and that health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican was studying how best to implement the system.
“Not just any doctor can harvest all the organs. The heart specialist may only be able to harvest the heart. He may not be able to harvest the kidney or other organs,” he said after launching the Bentong Health Carnival yesterday.
He explained that there were delays currently in harvesting pledged organs after a donor passed away, especially if they were outside of Selangor.
Currently, there is only one team based in Kuala Lumpur Hospital that specialised in organ harvesting, he said.
“If someone in Pahang donated his organ, the team has to fly there by helicopter to harvest the organ. We need to set up teams at state level and look into the networking on how to harvest the organs in the shortest possible time,” he said.
In Malacca later, Liow said Malaysia and China would work towards medical cooperation in research and development on communicable diseases through the setting up of a research laboratory at the Institute of Medical Research in Kuala Lumpur.
He described the cooperation as a step forward following the close ties forged during the Influenza A(H1N1) outbreak last year when both countries shared information about the disease.
Speaking to reporters after hosting a luncheon for his Chinese counterpart, Dr Chen Zhu, during a one-day visit to Malacca, Liow said the research would cover a wide range of communicable diseases, including that of dengue and malaria.
Apart from this, he said a centre of excellence in traditional Chinese medicine would also be set up in Malaysia through collaboration with China.
He also said that all hospitals would be directed to only allow senior doctors to carry out examination of suspected dengue cases.
This was to avoid such cases being turned away by hospitals, he said.
He was asked to comment on a report that a patient was turned away by Malacca Hospital on Friday after tests carried out by doctors failed to detect that she had contracted dengue.
The woman later admitted herself in a private hospital where she was confirmed to have the virus.
Liow said earlier that state health directors had been told to form at least 1,000 communication behavioural impact (Combi) teams to combat the surge in the illness.
“We hope all Rukun Tetangga can form Combi volunteer teams in residences and urban areas. This is the best method to wipe out dengue.”
He said that 25,942 cases of dengue have been recorded as of July 14 with 82 deaths.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Suspected dengue patients shouldn’t be sent home: Liow

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Doctors are urged not to send suspected dengue patients home pending blood test results, but keep them under observation in hospitals.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, expressing concern over the management of dengue cases in hospitals, said he had received complaints that some suspected dengue patients were sent home while waiting for the test results, instead of being placed under observation.
"I see a number of cases where the dengue patient died in the hospital just after one, two or three days of being warded. I want them (doctors) to look into the cases of death, how to minimise death.
"Once you place them in the ward, it would be easy to monitor. Apart from that, the monitoring should be carried out more closely and efficiently, every four hours. Don't send the suspected dengue patient back," he told Bernama in an interview.
Liow said efforts would also be intensified to fight dengue as the ministry targeted to implement up to 1,000 Communication for Behavioural Impact (Combi) programmes nationwide to reduce dengue cases.
Combi is a programme designed and recommended by the World Health Organisation to reduce dengue cases, with participation of the community. "We will get the NGO (non-governmental organisations) help, send officers to monitor all the Combi (programmes) so that they can be efficient," he said.
Apart from Combi, the ministry has also implemented its five-year 'Nasional Strategic Plan' to control dengue since last April, for the 2009-2013 period.
The target of the strategic plan is to lower the number of cases by 10% annually, with a 50% reduction target, from 49,335 last year to 21,430 this year.
"The dengue problem is very serious because the number of cases is still considered high as the ministry has been encouraging more community participation in the dengue control programme," he said.
Liow reiterated that the fight against dengue was everyone's responsibility as fogging with insecticides alone, would not be able to control it.
For as long as there was Aedes breeding, new mosquitoes would emerge after fogging and spread the disease, he cautioned.

1Malaysia mobile clinics to serve remote areas

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: After the success of the 1Malaysia clinic, the Government now plans to launch 1Malaysia mobile clinics as part of its continuous efforts to provide quality and affordable healthcare services to the people.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the mobile clinics, which would use buses fitted with facilities for medical treatment and equipped for minor surgeries, would serve remote areas with limited access to clinics.
“I believe with the launch of the mobile clinics, more people living in the rural areas, traditional kampung, estates and new villages can have access to better and quality healthcare,” he said at the Malaysian Medical Association’s 50th anniversary dinner here last night.
Besides this, the Government also planned to open more 1Malaysia clinics under the 10th Malaysia Plan, following the increasing popularity of these clinics among the people.
Najib also said the Government would provide better healthcare services for the urban poor, especially since 70% of the country’s population lived in towns and cities.
“Those living in the metropolitan areas, especially the urban poor should not be denied access to quality healthcare services,” he said.
He also said that although the Government was putting greater emphasis on health tourism, the healthcare and medical needs of Malaysians would not be neglected.
The Government, he said had set the target of achieving a ratio of one doctor to 600 people by 2015 from the current ratio of one doctor to 900 people.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Flat rate for all under new healthcare system mulled

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The rich, like everybody else except the very poor, need only contribute a “flat rate” to enjoy quality healthcare under the planned National Health Financing Scheme.
“It’s not like the higher your salary, the higher you pay. It’s a flat rate. It’s a minimal amount,” said Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.
The scheme is not likely to be split into various sub-schemes to make people of different income levels pay differently, he told a press conference after opening a healthcare seminar here yesterday.
However, he said, those with higher incomes could opt to buy extra insurance to protect themselves if they want better medical services.
“If the rich want to have better service on top of what they already have, they can buy extra insurance,” he added, reiterating that the very poor would be exempted from contributing to the scheme.
“We always take care of the poor, they will not need to contribute. The Government will take care of their healthcare,” said Liow when commenting on a recent report that quoted him as saying that it would take another year before the scheme, designed to make healthcare affordable, can be implemented.
He had reportedly said that this was because it involves reviewing the Medical Act 1972.
Liow had announced in December last year that the Health Ministry was working on a plan to allow the public to seek medical treatment at private clinics without having to pay high medical fees.
He said the Government was considering paying a portion of the bill under the proposed plan.
Liow invited the public to give their views through the ministry’s website at or his blog at

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Wet season brings danger

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysians have more to fear from dengue than from the Influenza A(H1N1) virus, especially during the current raining season, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.
He said 10 deaths had been recorded from dengue in the past two weeks while the last A(H1N1) victim – the 89th death since the outbreak last year – died on June 23.
He said although the ministry would continue to monitor the virus, dengue was serious with the increase in the number of fatalities.
“As at July 4, there were 24,240 cases with 81 deaths, as compared to 25,234 cases with 62 deaths in the same period last year. Selangor has the highest number – 10,699 cases with 34 deaths.
“Although the number of cases has dropped slightly, fatalities have increased. We are concerned about it,” he said, adding that there were 88 deaths from 41,486 dengue cases last year.
Liow told reporters after launching Faber Medi-Serve Sdn Bhd’s coffee table book that he had instructed all hospitals and doctors to be on high alert following the rise in fatalities during the raining season.
“Dengue cases always peak during the raining season. The months of June, July and end of the year always record the highest number of dengue cases. This is the trend.
“Doctors should take more initiative and act faster when treating patients with dengue fever. Patients should not take the disease lightly and seek treatment at once,” he said, adding that 26% of those who died last year only sought treatment three days after coming down with high fever.
“Dengue patients have a chance of recovering if proper treatment is given on time. Do not drag on until it is too late,” he said.
Liow said the ministry would launch its Let’s Destroy Aedes Campaign in Kajang this Satur­day to get the public involved in combating dengue; such as carrying out gotong-royong activities to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds in villages, housing estates and towns.
He had also instructed enforcement officers to conduct checks at all construction sites to prevent Aedes mosquitoes from breeding.
He added that the ministry worked closely with local councils in combating the dengue problem.
Besides the health alert and the enforcement on construction sites, he said the ministry’s operations room would now be open on weekends as well.
Liow said the ministry also wanted the public to be aware that besides dengue, the rainy season could likely bring about cases of chikugunya and malaria, both of which were also mosquito-borne diseases.

His warning came on the back of an announcement by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) yesterday that La Nina had developed in tropical Pacific and was likely to strengthen in the coming months.
The weather phenomenon – the opposite of El Nino, which brings about drier conditions – can bring about strong rainfall in Indonesia, Malaysia and Australia as well as drought in South America.
The last time La Nina hit in 2008, icy conditions across Europe claimed dozens of lives.
“Following the rapid dissipation of El Nino in May this year, cool neutral to weak La Nina conditions have developed in the Pacific. These conditions are more likely than not to strengthen into a basin-wide La Nina over the coming months,” the WMO said on its website.
However, the United Nations weather agency said the “timing and magnitude of such an event this year are yet uncertain”.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Liow: Act fast on dengue

Star: GEORGE TOWN: Doctors should show more initiative and act faster when treating patients with dengue fever, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.
He said no one should take the disease lightly.
“As of Tuesday, we have recorded 23,626 cases with 80 deaths compared to 24,817 cases with 62 deaths for the same period last year.
“Although we managed to bring down the number of cases slightly, the number of dengue fatalities has increased,” he told a press conference after visiting the newly-completed quarters for Penang Hospital at Jalan Utama here yesterday.
Liow said Selangor had the highest number of recorded dengue cases.
As for Penang, he said the state managed to bring down the number of cases to 579 this year compared to 1,562 for the same period last year.
He said there were four types of dengue and that the complications kept changing.
Liow urged Village Development and Security Committees (JKKKs) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to set up Communica­tion Behavourial Impact (Combi) volunteer groups to help curb the rise in dengue cases.
Earlier, Liow said the healthcare industry in Malaysia was expected to generate RM11bil for the national economy in 2020, 10% more than the initially projected RM10bil.
Liow revealed the new target yesterday after a working visit to Info Kinetics lab at Eureka Complex in Universiti Sains Malaysia.
He said the ministry had so far identified five sectors — clinical research centre, pharmaceutical, health tourism, production of medical appliances and training of specialists – to concentrate on in order to reach the target.
On another matter, he said Malaysia had identified a piece of land in Cyberjaya for China to set up a centre of excellence for traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).

Monday, June 14, 2010

Malaysia to set up traditional Chinese medicine hub

Star: SHANGHAI: Malaysia plans to set up a centre of excellence for traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in the country in a joint venture with China.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the cooperation would be between Malaysian and Chinese institutions as part of Malaysia’s bid to raise its standard in TCM.
“That will move us ahead faster as we can provide training, treatment and research and development at the same place,” he said after visiting the Shanghai Shuguang TCM Hospital on Saturday.
He added that both countries planned to allow the resources at the centre to be shared by other Asean, Japanese and South Korean counterparts.
Liow said that during the World Health Assembly meeting in Geneva last month, Chinese Health Minister Chen Zhu had preliminarily agreed to pursue the matter and that they would discuss it further when Chen visits Malaysia on July 15.
Currently, Malaysian students pursue TCM at five institutions in Malaysia that are affiliated with their Chinese counterparts.
Many Malaysians also opt to study at eight Malaysian Medical Council-certified Chinese universities for bachelor of medicine and surgery programmes in China.
Liow said there were about 10,000 TCM practitioners in Malaysia but the country needed to train more.
“We have sent full-fledged doctors to China to learn short and long-term TCM courses. We will send more in future. Those who return from the stint will help us set up proper TCM centres,” he added.
When the new Traditional Medi-cine Act is in place later this year, he said it would give the ministry more bite to monitor the quality of TCM practitioners and provide them with grants.
To address the safety issue of drug and health and cosmetic products imported from China, Liow said the ministry was also in talks with both the Chinese State Food and Drug Administration and State Admini­stration of Traditional Chinese Medicine to extend cooperation in regulatory control of the trade of drug products.
“We buy a lot of Chinese medicine from China. We will have a memorandum of understanding to ensure what we certify as safe in Malaysia can be exported to China, and what they certify as safe can be imported to Malaysia,” he said.

KK to get fourth govt hospital

Star: KOTA KINABALU: Construction of a government hospital, which will be the fourth for the state capital, will begin next year, said Deputy Health Minister Datuk Rosnah Abdul Rashid Shirlin.
She said the hospital, which would have between 600 and 800 beds, would be constructed on a 20.2ha site at Bukit Padang, about 5km from the city.
“This will not be an upgrading or an extension of the Bukit Padang psychiatric hospital,” Rosnah said after attending the bersanding ceremony of Sabah Puteri Umno chief Musliati Moslimin and Mohd Nizam Nazib yesterday.
She said the new medical facility was among the eight general hospitals planned under the 10th Malaysia Plan that was unveiled last week by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
The new hospital and the upgrading of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) would ensure sufficient medical facilities to meet the needs of the people here, she said.
Apart from the QEH, the other government hospitals are the Likas Women and Children’s Hospital and the Sabah Medical Centre in Luyang.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Health DG: Private hospital fees exorbitant; to be revised

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The government will revise the fees charged by private sector hospitals and clinics, Health Director-general Tan Sri Dr Mohd Ismail Merican said.
“The exorbitant fees now charged by private hospitals has been brought to my attention many times and the current schedule drawn by the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) was not as comprehensive as it should be.
“As such I have made it a point to call for a meeting soon with MMA to develop a comprehensive fee schedule that was acceptable to all,” he said in a special interview published in the latest issue of the MMA newsletter.
He reminded doctors that the main reason for them to choose the profession was not merely to make money and profits, although there was nothing wrong with it, but to help the sick.
“Therefore doctors have to give a level of care that would reduce the morbidity and mortality and provide comfort to the patients,” he added.
He said doctors were respected by society because they had earned it, however, it was not their right to demand respect as it was a privilege.

Touching on the medical curriculum, he said there was an urgent need to revamp the medical curriculum in local universities to make it more relevant to the country’s current health and medical sector.
He said at present, what was being offered has been deemed insufficient for young doctors to function effectively, and added that the view was derived from a number of interviews he had conducted with primary healthcare specialists and was not satisfied with the outcome.
A related area of concern, he added, was the aspect of technology substituting the human touch.
“Doctors do not examine patients the way they used to do and they substitute it with technology,” he said.
He reminded doctors that patients came to see them because they wanted to talk to them about their problems, but doctors were too busy doing other things, and were not listening.
Dr Ismail was also concerned with the mushrooming of medical schools which was beyond the jurisdiction of the Health Ministry.
“My advice to doctors and specialists in the face of this challenge is to train these young doctors,” he said.
Dr Ismail said the onus in terms of quality of young doctors was in the ability of a specialist, to train them.
“There have been many instances where housemen experienced mental anguish, depression, anxiety, stress and suicidal tendencies while undergoing training and this is no laughing matter.”
As such, he advocated a two-way assessment system where not only the specialist and doctors provide feedback, but the houseman would also be given an opportunity to provide feedback on their trainers.
On the criteria for promotion of public service doctors, Ismail said it was based on five main aspects, namely service, training, research, one’s standing in the eyes of peers and the 360 degree perception.
He explained that the 360 degree perception, meant a positive reaction and recognition from patients, students and peers which reflected upon the dedication, commitment and quality care of the doctor.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Miros: Make child restraint systems in vehicles a must

Star: PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (Miros) wants child restraint systems in vehicles to be made compulsory.
Miros director-general Prof Dr Ahmad Farhan Mohd Sadullah said there were no legal provisions currently to make it mandatory for adults ferrying children to use child restraint systems.
“One of the primary areas being looked into is the need for children to be kept safe in vehicles,” he said in a statement yesterday.
Research has shown that the safest place in a car for a child is the rear seat.
“Parents and adults in a vehicle must always ensure that children of all ages are properly secured when travelling, either in a dedicated child seat, infant seat or buckling up their seat belts,” Dr Farhan said.
He said road accident statistics revealed a high number of road fatalities involving children.
Children between one and 15 years old accounted for 410 fatalities in 2008, with 2,797 having suffered slight to serious injuries.
“Of the figure, 43% involved children travelling on motorcycles,” Dr Farhan added.
He said residential areas were also becoming increasingly dangerous in terms of road accidents involving children.
“In the same year, 75 children were killed, 192 seriously injured and 424 sustained slight injuries from road accidents that occurred within housing areas.”
Unrestrained children could be flung out of vehicles, thrown against the front windscreen or dashboard and result in serious injury or death, he said.
“A child in the front seat, on the lap of a parent, can be crushed between the parent and the dashboard in the event of a collision,” he added.

Medicinal researchers urged to come up with real studies instead

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysians researchers must move away from doing “humdrum” research work on medicine and instead explore new frontiers, the Health Ministry said.
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said Malaysia needed more researchers but quality work should matter more than quantity.
“Stop doing duplicative, humdrum research but move forward and do earth-shattering ones,” he said.
To do this, researchers should ask important research questions, be kept informed of the latest findings and collaborate with other researchers in the world, he added.
Dr Ismail said the ministry received RM90mil for research alone, under the Ninth Malaysia Plan, but it was still inadequate.
“We have proposed an ambitious and robust research agenda but financially, the Government is going through some challenges.
“So we’ll have to wait,” he said after the 13th NIH Scientific Meeting yesterday.
The ministry had applied for RM100mil to finance research work for the 10th Malaysia Plan, and it would focus on diseases such as dengue, tuberculosis, malaria and H1N1, he added.
Dr Ismail said two organisations — the TDR, which is a Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases ba­­sed at the World Health Organisation, and Drugs for Neg­lected Diseases Initiative — had expressed their intention to work with the ministry to carry out research on the diseases.

On another matter, Dr Ismail said the Cabinet had its reasons for the delay on the ban of 14-stick cigarette packs to Jan 1 next year.
On reports of some clinics running out of H1N1 vaccine, Dr Ismail said the clinics could ask the ministry for replenishment.
He also said the ministry would complete distributing the H1N1 vaccines first and would use the three-in-one vaccine if there was a need.
Deputy Health director-general Datuk Dr Hasan Abdul Rahman said seven new influenza A (H1N1) cases occurred in six clusters cases in four states on Tuesday, making it a total of 14,850 cases nationwide.
Currently, 575 patients were warded for influenza-like illness and out of that, 56 were found to be positive with A (H1N1).
The number of deaths still remains the same at 87, he added.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

1Care scheme for better healthcare

Star: MALACCA: The Health Minis-try is in talks with the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) to implement a 1Care scheme that will see government and private clinics working together to provide better healthcare for the people.
Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the scheme, once approved, would have an immediate impact on improving the country’s healthcare system while also addressing the scarce distribution of government clinics in Sabah and Sarawak.
At present, there are 800 government health clinics nationwide with 6,500 general practitioners.
“If we work together with the private clinics, we will be able to increase this number to more than 7,000 doctors nationwide,” Liow said at the MMA’s 50th annual general meeting on Friday night.
Liow said the ministry was in discussion with MMA to iron out details of the tie-up.
“I have briefed the Prime Minister on the proposal and he is very excited about it as it would help improve the healthcare service for the people,” he added.
Liow also said the Govern-ment was mulling over the possibility of imposing a moratorium on private medical colleges following MMA’s concerns about a possible glut in poorly train-ed doctors within the next decade.
“We have agreed to put a stop to it. A moratorium has to be set up to allow us to produce quality doctors,” he said.
He said there were currently 31,273 registered doctors nationwide with the Government focusing on achieving a ratio of 1:600 by 2015.
He was responding to the issue raised by MMA president Dr David Quek that the number of doctors in the country would swell to between 45,000 and 50,000 by 2015 and 75,000 and 80,000 by 2020.
In view of the glut, Quek said that MMA was concerned about the quality and standard of such doctors.
As of this month, there are 28 approved private institutions offering 37 medical courses that produce between 2,000 and 3,000 doctors annually exclu-ding the estimated 2,000 graduates returning from abroad.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Doc: It is preventing early treatment of cancer patients

Star: PETALING JAYA: Seventy per cent of the 50,000 newly-detected cancer patients in Malaysia each year need care from oncologists. However, there are only 60 such cancer specialists in the country qualified to treat them.
Universiti Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) senior lecturer and clinical oncologist Dr Daniel Wong Wai Yan said the waiting list in government hospitals was between a month and six weeks.
There are currently only 15 oncologists with Health Ministry hospitals where a majority of patients seek treatment.
Apart from the long queue, he said patients also had to travel far for treatment as many hospitals did not have oncology services.
“Some of the patients may be dead or too sick to see a doctor when they finally get their turn to see an oncologist,” said Dr Wong, who is also a member of the Clinical Oncology Speciality Committee for Universiti Malaya.
He added that the remaining 30% of patients diagnosed were either at the early stage of the disease and could be treated by specialists from related disciplines or those who were at the end-stage where the treatment was to reduce their suffering before they died.
Dr Wong, however, added that oncologists were now able to detect the exact location, stage of the cancer and assess its development.
“With the availability of more options of drugs and high-tech radiotherapy facilities nowadays, we need to spend more time to plan treatment with our patients,” Dr Wong said, adding that an oncologist treats about 300 patients a year.
Deputy Health Minister Datuk Rosnah Abd Rashid Shirlin said patients could also seek treatment at teaching hospitals like UMMC and Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, and private hospitals.
“Government hospitals without resident oncologists have visiting oncologists from nearby hospitals to help out,” she said, adding that some cancer patients were also treated by specialists from related disciplines.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

New influenza drug is effective, assures doctor

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The new trivalent influenza drug in the market is effective against Influenza A (H1N1), the Malaysian Society of Infectious Disease and Chemotherapy (MSIDC) said.
Available since March, the drug can fight against H1N1, H3N1 and Influenza B strains. The fight against H1N1 is now included in the seasonal influenza vaccination.
“Those especially in the high-risk group are encouraged to get their vaccination,” MSIDC member Dr Christopher Lee said, adding that high risk individuals included those with underlying medical conditions as well as pregnant women, those above 65 years old and children above six months old.
At government hospitals and clinics, the vaccination for monovalent H1N1 virus strain was currently offered, he told a media conference on Annual Influenza Vaccination with New Southern Hemisphere Formulation yesterday.
Dr Lee said that based on past trends, the most common symptoms for Malaysians hit by influenza were cough, fever and sore throat and not many suffered from diarrhoea.
Asked to comment about the possibility that people might have a fever after getting the jab, Dr Lee said the vaccination was generally safe with mild side effects.
Prof Datin Dr Che Ilina Che Isahak of the Asia Pacific Advisory Committee on Influenza said the vaccine did not contain live virus. “Even if one gets a fever from the jab, it is usually mild.”
In PUTRAJAYA, health authorities were alerted of six Influenza-like Illness (ILI) cluster cases – four of them in schools – in Pahang, Malacca and Johor over the past 24 hours.
Of the cases, two were tested positive for H1N1 and were administered with anti-viral medication.
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said the cases were reported at SK Kemendor in Jasin, Malacca, involving six people, SM Sains Sultan Ahmad Shah in Kuantan, Pahang (nine students), SMK Tekek in Rompin, Pahang (five) and SK Cheng in Malacca (nine).
Four members of a family in Bandar Baru Uda, Johor Baru, and three members of another family in Kampung Maju Jaya, also in Johor Baru, showed symptoms of ILI.
Dr Ismail said as of Monday, 31 new cases of H1N1 were reported nationwide, adding that there were now 606 ILI patients being treated in hospitals.