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).