Friday, January 14, 2011

Boost for Miri Hospital

Star: MIRI: The Health Ministry has allocated RM20.2mil for the implementation of four major projects at the Miri General Hospital.
They are the construction of two new operation theatres and sterilisation units at a cost of RM8.5mil, a new ward for infectious disease (RM4.5mil), the upgrading of its pathology unit to a medical laboratory (RM5mil), and the construction of a medical laboratory and store for RM2.2mil.
“All the projects will be carried out this year,” said Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai during a visit to the hospital.
He said Sarawak received a total of RM1.1bil under the Ninth Malaysia Plan for 118 health-related projects and half of them have been implemented. The remainder, he said, would be continued in the 10th Malaysia Plan.
He also announced yesterday that the ministry was providing an allocation of RM360,000 to the Miri General Hospital, out of which RM260,000 would be for patients who needed treatment in hospitals in Kuching or Kuala Lumpur and RM90,000 would be to help cover the transportation cost of the hospital’s rural patients.
Asked whether there was a plan to build a cancer treatment centre or cardiovascular specialist centre at the hospital, Liow said: “We are in the process of strengthening the number of specialists we have here first.
“Currently, the hospital has 17 specialists and we are looking at increasing the number gradually.”
Apart from a visit to the hospital, Liow is also scheduled to visit various government clinics in the city including the 1Malaysia Clinic at Taman Tunku, attend a dialogue with Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP) leaders, a luncheon with Chinese community leaders and a visit to Rumah Panjang Tusi in Marudi.
He will leave Miri this evening.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Revised fees for all hospitals

Star: RAWANG: Private and government hospitals will have to adhere to a revised set of guidelines for doctors’ fees and other medical charges to be announced in March.
A National Medical Arbitration Committee has been established by the ministry to draft the fee schedule and guidelines, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai adding that details of the new fees would be announced later.
Estimating that 30,000 doctors in the country would be governed by the new fee schedule, he explained that the ministry had received many complaints about the high hospital and consultation fees charged by private hospitals.
“The ministry will also monitor all additional hospital fees including those for food and medicine.
“This will ensure patients are not overcharged when they seek medical care,” he said, adding that the previous review of doctors’ consultation fees by the ministry was in 2004.
Liow also said the ministry was looking at cutting costs through outsourcing the sterilisation of medical instruments at government hospitals.
Separately, Health Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said a mechanism would be included to control the cost of medical charges under the new guidelines on consultation fees and hospital charges.
“The cost of medical treatment at private hospitals will be controlled so that there will be no overcharging,” he said when asked to comment whether consumers would have to pay more.
Earlier, Dr Ismail launched the Malaysian Medical Council’s Annual Practicing Certificate (APC) online application and payment system to facilicate application of APCs by practitioners in the private sector.
Dr Ismail, who is also MMC president, said the system, which would be ready for utilisation on Jan 15, would also enable practitioners to check and update their particulars online from time to time.
He added there are 32,250 medical practitioners registered with the council last year and 4,000 new practitioners were expected to apply for registration this year.
When the Medical Act was gazetted in October 1971, there were only 837 practitioners.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Exam for docs won’t cause brain drain

Star: PETALING JAYA: A proposed amendment to the Medical Act to compel all overseas medical graduates to sit for a common licensing examination will not worsen the brain drain situation, Health Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said.
“The Malaysian Medical Council examinations are not meant to make things difficult for them but to assess their core knowledge. They should not worry if they have passed their university examinations,” he said.
Dr Ismail, who is also Malaysian Medical Council president, said in view of the weakness in monitoring foreign institutions, the council had proposed to do away with the Second Schedule of the Medical Act, containing the list of recognised foreign medical schools.
“Students can choose any university they wish to attend abroad but they have to sit for and pass a common licensing examination before being accepted for registration,” he said, adding that this was practised in many developed countries.
The proposed examination, which would be different from the current Medical Qualifying Examination for students from unrecognised universities abroad, would ensure that doctors were “fit to practise” as safe and competent doctors, he said.
Recently, Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the examination was one of the proposals it was looking into when amending the Act.
Although the Malaysian Medical Association and senior doctors had suggested that all medical graduates be made to sit for a common examination, Liow said it would only apply to overseas graduates.
It was not necessary for local graduates to sit for the examination as local institutions were easier to monitor, officials said.
However, senior doctors advocated otherwise, claiming that local schools could lower passing grades to make their universities look good.
Recently, The Star reported on the lack of training hospitals to meet the influx of housemen and a doctor had expressed concerns that some graduates lacked core knowledge and could jeopardise patient safety.
Asked where people could get advice on medical schools that met the country’s requirements if the Second Schedule was removed, Dr Ismail said they could get this from colleges and the council.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Liow: Specialists can help ease shortage in district hospitals

Star: SERI KEMBANGAN: The Health Ministry is hiring qualified foreign specialists on a contract basis to provide improved access to medical services at the district level.
Its minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said putting these experts in district hospitals would help reduce congestion in general hospitals.
He said the ministry would work directly with the governments of Egypt, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to bring good quality specialists in six disciplines – internal medicine, paediatric, surgery, obstetrics and gynaecology, orthopaedic as well as anaesthesia.
However, this would be a short-term measure while the government trained more local doctors, he told reporters after attending a charity dinner organised by Ser­dang Lions Club on Thursday.
Liow said many district hospitals did not have specialists, so patients turned to general hospitals for medical services.
“The public’s expectation has changed and people prefer to see specialists rather than general practitioners. Currently, we need a few hundred specialists at district hospitals.”
Liow said there were some 30,000 doctors in the government and private sectors, out of which only 5,000 were specialists.
The country has enough doctors, but is short of specialists, he added.

Liow also said employers were required to buy a health insurance policy for their foreign plantation workers and domestic helpers from this year, adding that the Government had decided that employers in the two sectors would have to bear the cost of the insurance.
“For foreign workers who are already working in Malaysia, they are required to purchase their insurance policy within three months (from Jan 1),” he said in a press statement yesterday.
From Jan 1, foreign workers must buy a RM120 premium per year Foreign Worker Hospitalisation and Surgical Scheme (SKHPPA) that provides RM10,000 coverage a year, he said.
Liow said for workers who are currently working in the country, the premium cost would be based on the calculation of days left from the work permit.
“Foreign workers who failed to get the insurance would not be allowed to renew their work permit when the permit expired.”
Liow said 17 insurance companies had agreed to provide the insurance scheme, adding that 11 companies were ready to offer the scheme from Jan 1.
They are AXA Affin General Insurance Bhd, Berjaya Sompo Insurance Bhd, Jerneh Insurance Bhd, Kurnia Insurans (M) Bhd, Lonpac Insurance Bhd, Malaysian Assurance Alliance Bhd, MUI Continental Insurance Bhd, Progressive Insurance Bhd, RHB Insurance Bhd, The Pacific Insurance Bhd, Tokio Marine Insurance (M) Bhd.
Four companies will offer their scheme from Feb 1 and they are Allianz General Insurance Company (M) Bhd, QBE Insurance (M) Bhd, Overseas Assurance Corporation (M) Bhd and Syarikat Takaful (M) Bhd.