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.