Sunday, October 30, 2011

4.8 Million Malaysians Suffer From NCD

KUALA TERENGGANU, Oct 28 (Bernama) -- Almost 4.8 million Malaysians are suffering from non-communicable diseases (NCD), which include hypertension and heart-related illnesses, according to Health deputy minister Datuk Rosnah Abdul Rashid Shirlin.
Launching the 1Malaysia East Zone University Students Programme 2011 at Universiti Malaysia Terengganu here today, she said studies done at government health clinics in the country found 70 per cent of patients receiving treatment were at risk of NCD.
"The percentage is very worrying for the ministry as NCD is a predisposing factor to mortality, debilities and lifelong agony.
"In this respect the ministry wants to encourage the younger generation especially university students to make healthy living a culture," she said.
Also present at the function was UMT Assistant Vice Chancellor (Research and Innovation) Prof Dr Norhayati Mohd Tahir.
The joint programme between the Health Ministry and UMT is the third after Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) respectively, since it was launched on Sept 23.
Rosnah cited the practice of walking 10,000 steps a day and reducing the intake of fats in the daily diet as among the initiatives to ward off NCD.
In another development, Rosnah said the ministry planned to hold a convention for university students who participated in the 'Kumpulan M10' programme after the completion of its last edition at Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) before the end of this year.
She said the convention would deliberate on the results of the 'Cabaran Siswa Sihat' an intervention project carried out by students at the four universities.

Breast cancer the top threat

Star: PETALING JAYA: Breast cancer continues to be the most common type of ailment among women.
The latest Health Ministry report, which gave statistics up to 2007, said 29 out of every 100,000 Malaysian women had breast cancer.
In comparison, eight out of 100,000 suffered cervical cancer, the third most common cancer affecting women.
The other most frequent cancers among women were colorectal cancer (10%), ovary (6.5%) and lung (5.4%).
Worldwide, breast cancer was also the most frequent among women.
Nineteen to 86 cases per 100,000 women were diagnosed with the ailment in various countries, corresponding to 10.9% of all cancer cases.
Deputy Health Minister Datuk Rosnah Abdul Rashid Shirlin, who revealed this at a press conference after the official launch of the Softlan Breast Cancer Charity Campaign here yesterday, said this type of cancer accounted for six to 19 out of every 100,000 deaths worldwide.
She said the latest statistics showed that breast cancer represented almost a third (32%) of all new cancers affecting women.
“Women tend to put their family first, rather than themselves.
“But, they must put a priority on their health too and examine their breasts monthly as well as go for screenings.
“It would be difficult for women to take care of their family if they are suffering themselves,” she said, urging all women, especially those aged 40 and above, to go for annual clinical breast examinations.
Rosnah said while more women were coming forward with early Stage 1 and Stage 2 breast cancers, there were still patients turning up at the later Stage 3 and Stage 4 phases.
“Most breast cancer cases are detected at age 45 and above,” she said, adding that early detection provided higher chances of survival.
Giving a racial breakdown of cancer sufferers, Rosnah said the incidence among the Chinese was 38.1% per 100,000; while among the Indians it was 33.7% and the Malays at 25.4%.
Among men, the most frequent cancers were lung (16.3%), colorectal (14.6%) nasopharynx (8.3%), prostate (6.2%) and lymphoma (5.5%).
Rosnah said the most frequent cancers for both genders combined were breast (18.1%), colorectal (12.3%), lung (10.2%), nasopharynx (5.2%) and cervix (4.6%).

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Rosnah: We have highest number of obese people in region

Star: HULU TERENGGANU: Malaysians are the fattest in Southeast Asia and the Health Ministry is determined to lose that “honour”.
Deputy Health Minister Datuk Rosnah Abdul Rashid said Malaysia had the highest number of obese citizens in the region.
“This is very worrying as the country is also ranked sixth among Asian countries,” she said after launching the Cakna Kesihatan programme at Kampung Pasir Nering here yesterday.
“One of the main contributors is our inactive lifestyle, whereby 43.7% of those above 18 years of age are not exercising.”
Rosnah said her ministry had set a target to reduce 30% of the weight for those classified as obese nationwide.
“We'll do this through efforts such as introducing a calorie guideline in schools as well as instilling healthy lifestyle habits among university students.
“Studies conducted have revealed obesity is common among urban people, given the high number of fast food outlets located in towns and cities.
“We are also organising various health checkups through the respective health departments nationwide to ensure that the people can gauge their health levels,” she said.
Rosnah said 60% of deaths worldwide were due to non-communicable disease and obesity was a type of NCD.
“Such deaths can be prevented if only people would take charge of their lives,” she said.
“It is not hard to exercise, thus the ministry has introduced the 10,000 steps a day programme.”

Friday, October 28, 2011

Ambulance crash sends more patients to hospital

Star: GEORGE TOWN: It took two ambulances to send an asthma patient to the Penang Hospital as the first one had crashed in an accident, injuring the patient and six others.
A 47-year-old man, who had suffered a heart attack at around 5am yesterday, was picked up by an ambulance from the Penang Hospital. Half an hour later, at a junction in Jalan Sg Pinang, the ambulance collided with an oncoming car.
The man and two female relatives, who had accompanied him, as well as the driver of the car, in his 30s, suffered light injuries.
The ambulance driver and two att­en­dants were also hurt.
All seven were later picked up by two ambulances and admitted to the Penang Hospital.
There have been several accidents involving ambulances in just under four months.
On Sept 10, an ambulance heading to an accident scene collided with a car, injuring four people near Kuantan.
On Sept 5, a woman accompanying her husband died when the ambulance skidded into a ditch in Sabah.
On Aug 31, Norizah Bujang, 62, was accompanying her daughter Moriem Tam Suhana Ahmah, 30, when the ambulance crashed into a ditch in Gemencheh, Negri Sembilan. Norizah was killed in the crash.

MMC to review and shorten list of recognised foreign medical schools

Star: PETALING JAYA: The current list of recognised foreign medical schools is expected to be reviewed and shortened to ensure that Malaysian medical students who graduate from these schools are of a satisfactory standard.
The Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) is planning on shortening the list of recognised foreign medical schools and carrying out re-accreditation exercises every three to five years.
A source who revealed this said since the proposed amendment to the Medical Act 1971 that compelled all foreign medical graduates to sit for a medical qualifying was rejected by the Government in June, the MMC was now looking at other ways to ensure that medical graduates were of satisfactory standard.
“Colleges that fall short of the standards will be reviewed,” he told The Star.
According to the health deputy director-general (medical) Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, there are currently 366 recognised medical degrees in 14 countries.
“We are trying to reduce that figure,” he said, citing quality concerns.
“The recognition (for foreign degrees) was given years ago and we don’t know if the quality has gone up or down.
“If the quality has gone down, we obviously have to ask if they still comply to our standard of nurses, doctors and allied health professionals,” he said.
After rejecting the qualifying exam for all foreign medical graduates, the Government imposed a five-year moratorium on new medical courses and decided to increase the housemanship period.
Meanwhile, Dr Noor Hisham witnessed a signing of a memorandum of understanding between the ministry and several private colleges and universities here yesterday.
With the memorandum, the ministry will allow the higher learning institutions to train their medical, pharmaceutical, nursing and allied health sciences students in various government hospitals.
The source said MMC had discussed steps be taken to identify the number of foreign universities in the Second Schedule of the Medical Act that were still actively teaching Malaysian students so they could be retained.
Currently, only graduates from unrecognised universities are required to sit for a medical qualifying examination.
Last November, The Star carried a front page and subsequent reports on the lack of training hospitals to meet the influx of housemen and doctors’ concern over housemen from some countries who lacked core medical knowledge.
Since the re-accreditation would be an extensive undertaking, the source said they hoped to negotiate with the medical schools concerned to bear the cost of the accreditation process.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Malaysia promotes healthcare travel with a bang in China

Borneopost: NANNING: Malaysia has gone into promoting healthcare travel with a bang in China, a market with about a 1.4 billion population.
Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC) Deputy chief executive officer Wong Toon Keng said the campaign was launched in Hong Kong by Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai two months ago.
“Hong Kong was selected because it’s a trend-setter,” he said at the ongoing 8th China-Asean Expo (CAEXPO 2011) here.
Last week, he said, MHTC chief executive officer Dr Mary Wong Lai Lin attended a forum in Shanghai, where she spoke on the Malaysian healthcare travel industry.
The MHTC has also received approval to bring media practitioners from five Chinese provinces to visit the various healthcare facilities in Malaysia next month.
The main objective of the publicity drive is create awareness among the Chinese public, as the number of healthcare travelers from China to Malaysia, has not seen a significant increase over the years, Wong said.
“Malaysia is a late starter, unlike Singapore.
“At present, about 70 per cent of healthcare travelers in Malaysia are Indonesians, with their main destinations being Penang and Melaka,” he added.
For the six-day CAEXPO 2011 that ends on Wednesday, the MHTC has a cluster alongside KPJ Healthcare Bhd (KPJ) and Sunway Medical Centre Bhd (Sunway), in the Malaysia Pavilion hosted by the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade).
“We have received a lot of enquiries,” Wong said.
The MHTC was established under the Health Ministry in 2009 as the primary agency to develop and promote the healthcare travel industry.
It also serves to position Malaysia as the healthcare destination of choice in the region.
On October 8 this year, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced in his 2012 Budget speech that the Council would be corporatised.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A strain on the pocket

Star: Healthcare cost is expected to escalate in line with the rising cost of living and the Health Ministry is taking steps to raise public awareness on non-communicable diseases.
OF late, the Health Ministry has been raising public awareness on non-communicable diseases (NCD) chronic respiratory diseases, heart diseases, cancer and diabetes.
According to Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, the recent United Nations' high-level meeting on NCD in New York revealed that there would be a 17% rise in global prevalence of NCDs by 2025 if nothing is done to control it.
Recent statistics already show that 60% of premature deaths (below 60 years) in Malaysia were caused by NCD, he has said.
The focus is warranted not only because of the need to keep the population healthy and productive but also to keep healthcare cost, which is expected to escalate in line with the rising cost of living, manageable.
A World Economic Forum (WEF) study carried out with the Harvard School of Public Health shows that the cumulative costs of treating NCDs are expected to be US$7tril (RM21.9tril) from this year to 2025.
Mental health (which is not included in the list of NCDs but which the study found, along with heart diseases, to be responsible for nearly 70% of lost output) will account for US$16tril (RM50tril).

In Malaysia, the Government currently provides highly subsidised healthcare services to the general population while the poor are exempted from paying.
Liow says the current healthcare system offers a safety net from “catastrophic health expenditure” for those seeking treatment at government hospitals.
But Malaysia, like many other countries, is apprehensive that the present system of financing may not be sustainable in the long term due to rising health expenditure and the high out-of-pocket spending by the population, he reveals.
To ensure that people continue to get access and coverage to healthcare, the ministry is planning the 1Care programme, which seeks to address the issues and challenges of the current system.
“In 1Care, it is proposed that the health financing mechanism will keep healthcare inflation under control and reduce out-of-pocket expenditure at the point of seeking care,” Liow explains.
Under 1Care, it is envisaged that the population would have greater choice to seek care either at public or private health facilities. This could happen through mandatory contributions into a consolidated fund managed by the Government, Liow says.
“Healthcare providers will also be better motivated to practise in more rural areas, thus improving access and coverage of the population,” he adds.
“Primary healthcare providers will become family doctors responsible for providing long-term personalised services to their registered patients.”
1Care also envisages the use of a prepayment mechanism, implemented through enrolment in a Social Health Insurance (SHI) scheme, which will reduce high out-of-pocket payments at the point of seeking care when a person is already seriously ill.
SHI premiums, Liow explains, are community-rated and contributions will be based on a percentage of income. The Government will pay the premiums for the poor and vulnerable.
“SHI promotes equity in financing and access, where the amount contributed is based on the level of income and no one is denied access to healthcare due to their inability to pay. The scheme will deploy continuous monitoring and evaluation to ensure the goals of the health system transformation are achieved,” he says.
But there are challenges in implementing the scheme, he admits, citing as examples the recruitment of those in the informal job sector and determination of those eligible for government funding.
“Defining the benefits package and estimating the true cost of health services will also be challenging. Drawbacks include additional administrative costs compared to a public healthcare system funded adequately by general taxes, but the administrative cost is still lower than for privately managed systems,” he says.
Looking at private health insurance (PHI) companies, Liow says premium rates will increase if there are pre-existing conditions such as NCDs and mental illness. Those who buy PHI will have the option to purchase insurance packages specifically tailored to them but they need to be willing to pay higher premiums, he adds.
He assures that when the SHI is introduced, such issues will not arise as people cannot be excluded from joining the scheme because of any pre-existing conditions, age or ability to pay.

Universal coverage
Prof Dr Daniel Reidpath, professor of population health at the Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Monash University Sunway campus, says managing the future burden of NCDs requires both a prevention strategy and a care and disease management strategy.
“Both strategies need to target the whole population and should be seen as part of universal coverage. People sometimes, mistakenly, think about direct healthcare as the only concern of universal coverage,” he adds.
“The financial and health savings from successful prevention strategies, however, are so substantial that the two arms of prevention and care need to be considered simultaneously. The focus is healthcare, not sick' care.”
Universal coverage, he explains, is a concept based on “the need for all individuals to be able to access adequate healthcare with a focus on efficiency, which is the equitable delivery of relevant, high quality care at the lowest cost”.
Malaysia, he says, would need to consider not only types of preventive services to implement but how they are financed.
He adds that besides prevention delivered through clinical practice, there are also “enormous” opportunities to engage in prevention work through community-based programmes that encourage health and wellness, and structural and policy reform around policies on tobacco, transportation, food and agriculture.
Managing NCDs requires regular monitoring and ongoing treatment, which translates into clear guidance on what is considered “essential” healthcare and the types of services provided under universal coverage such as entitlement for regular kidney dialysis, chemotherapy or statins, he says.
Dr Reidpath says there is always a cost associated with universal coverage.
“The danger here is that knee-jerk responses to possible increases in healthcare costs may ignore the much greater economic cost associated with a loss of economic productivity.”

On Malaysia's healthcare system, he says there is a need to restructure the system, which previously focused on primary healthcare, to one which can deal with current health priorities such as NCDs.
“The great advantage for Malaysia is its network of primary healthcare centres. Appropriately restructured, the centres could become an integral part of any universal healthcare scheme delivering prevention and direct care for NCDs,” he says.
He also points out the misconception that Malaysians are over-dependent on the Government. Governments of the 10 nearest gross domestic product (GDP), including Turkey, Argentina, Mauritius and Mexico, spend on average twice as much, he says.
Dr Reidpath says that if universal coverage is to be seriously considered for Malaysia, especially for strategies to manage NCDs, the Government would have a significant role.
The role could also include direct financing, legislative and regulatory management of healthcare financing to ensure appropriate risk-pooling mechanisms that will protect the health of Malaysians.
He adds that the Government is also “well-placed” to support prevention strategies.
“Lack of good prevention and adequate healthcare cover for the whole population will ultimately be a far greater burden on Malaysia than any modest economic burdens that could occur now in order to ensure universal coverage,” he says.
On healthcare cover for employees, the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) executive director Shamsuddin Bardan says most major organisations have a cap on medical entitlement for their employees.
“It is according to the capability of the company to do this,” he says.

Government hospitals and clinics to issue itemised receipts by next year

Star: MUAR: Government hospitals and clinics will issue itemised bills to patients to show the cost of treatment and medicine from next year.
“Although patients only pay RM1, they should know the cost of their treatment and medicine,” Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said.
He said he would submit the proposal for itemised bills to the Cabinet soon.
“After the Cabinet approves it, we will issue itemised bills to patients at hospitals as well as clinics.
“We want the people to know how much the Government is spending to subsidise medical treatment for them,” Liow said at the launch of the National Oral Health Clinical Information System (OHCIS) at Klinik Maharani here yesterday.
Liow said the Government had also provided huge subsidies in offering dental care.
The ministry, he said, wanted to reduce the waiting time for denture replacement from the present three to four months to two weeks.
One way to achieve this was to increase the number of dental technologists at dental clinics, he said, adding that in Muar, for example, there was only one dental technologist.
He said the ministry wanted water treatment plants in the states to carry out water fluoridation to reduce tooth decay among the people.
This, he said, was important to ensure healthy teeth.
On the OHCIS, he said the system was aimed at speeding up efforts in providing dental care services.
He said the target was to reduce the waiting time for patients seeking dental treatment at the clinics from two hours at present to 30 minutes.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Increase in families consenting to donate organs of dead relatives

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: More than half of families approached by doctors to donate organs of their deceased loved ones consented.
National Transplant Resource Centre chief national donor coordinator and procurement manager Datin Dr Lela Yasmin Mansor told The Star that this was a two-fold increase from 2000, when only about 25% families said yes.
“Last year, we had 151 cases (of potential donors) referred to us, and out of that, there were discussions with the family in 113 cases. 58 families (51.3%) consented to organ donation,” said Dr Lela.
“Almost one-third of these discussions are also initiated by the family,” she added.
Dr Lela noted that this indicated an increase in awareness about organ donation.
“The problem is that we are not approaching (potential donors’ families) enough,” she said.
Dr Lela also explained that doctors and medical staff often found it difficult to bring up the subject.
“That is why we need to give them training,” she said.
If the potential donor is already brain dead, doctors could also maintain his or her organs so that they will be in good condition for donation, Dr Lela added.
Last year, 22,835 people had pledged their organs, bringing the total number of organ dona-tion pledges recorded in the National Transplant Registry to 181,534.
Currently there are 14,013 people waiting for kidneys, 17 waiting for livers, two waiting for hearts, three waiting for lungs, and two waiting for both a heart and lung.
“The reason why there are so many people on the waiting list for kidneys is that there is an alternative treatment, which is dialysis,” Dr Lela said.
People who are waiting for other organs may not survive if they do not receive their organs in time, she added.

Monday, October 17, 2011

No meds for unapproved ops

Star: BANGI: Malaysians who travel abroad for organ transplants provided on commercial basis will not be allowed to get free supply of immunosuppressant drugs from Government hospitals, which costs between RM800 and RM1,000 per patient per month.
These drugs are used to inhibit or prevent activity of the immune system and to prevent the rejection of transplanted organs and tissues.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the move, which takes effect from January, is to stop people from going overseas to get such treatment from unrecognised hospitals without the ministry's approval or knowledge.
He said many patients go for organ transplants at hospitals in foreign countries that are not recognised.
“They end up with complications while the Government still provides them with free medication for life,” he said here yesterday.
He had earlier launched the National Organ Donation Awareness Week at the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia stadium here yesterday.
“We have many experts and hospitals with advanced medical technology that are able to perform successful operations.
“We do not condone organ trafficking. So we have decided to stop supporting these illegal operations by discouraging Malaysians from going abroad to gain organs commercially without the knowledge of the ministry,” said Liow.

According to the Malaysian Trans-plant Registry, between 2001 and last year, transplantations mainly involving the kidney, were largely done in China (834) and India (57).
Fifty-three surgeries were also carried out in countries like Australia, Spain and Russia while 10 were performed in unidentified countries.
Asked about patients who prefer to seek experts from abroad to perform the operation, he said: “They would have to first consult with the ministry, which will allow the operation if it is suitable.”
On an allegation that a local hospital was involved in commercial organ transplants, Liow said the Government does not support any international organ trafficking syndicate.
“The Government views the allegations seriously and would leave it to the police to investigate since police reports have been lodged,” he said, adding that there has been no evidence of this so far.
He said that Malaysia was committed to abiding by the WHO Guiding Principles on Human Cell Tissue and Organ Transplantation.
Public Awareness Action Commit-tee on Organ Donation chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye has proposed for the Road Transport Department to include in its driving licence application forms, a column to indicate whether the applicant was interested to sign up as an organ donor.
He added donors must inform family members to avoid complications.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Malaysia is part of UN health body’s executive wing after 26 years

Star: BENTONG: Malaysia has been elected as a member in the World Health Organisation (WHO) executive board after a lapse of 26 years, Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said.
“All of us from the ministry are elated over this great news.
“Being selected to the WHO executive board will enable Malaysia to enhance its image globally.
“At the same time, Malaysia can play an active role in health diplomacy and ensure efficient health policies are implemented,” he said at the “10,000 Langkah Sehari” event here yesterday.
Malaysia was last elected to the WHO executive board for the 1983-1985 term and had also previously served from 1963 to 1965.
Together with Australia, Malaysia was elected at the 62nd session of the WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific, which was held from Oct 10-14 in Manila, the Philippines.
This was to fill the two vacant seats representing the WHO Western Pacific region at the board for the 2012-2014 term.
Liow said there were only five seats allocated for WHO Western Pacific Region in the board.
The WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific is an annual meeting attended by health ministers from the Western Pacific region, where public health issues and challenges are deliberated.
There are 37 countries and areas in the region.
Liow said the WHO executive board comprised 34 members.
“The main functions of the board are to give effect to the decisions and policies of the World Health Assembly, to advise it and to facilitate its work,” he said.

On another matter, Liow said it was important to raise awareness on non-communicable diseases such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and heart problems.
“Not only do we need to observe healthy eating habits, we also need to exercise regularly to prevent ourselves from becoming overweight or obese,” he said.
He added that according to the ministry's survey in 2006, 14.2% of Malaysians were obese while another 29.1% were overweight.
Liow said school programmes such as measuring students' body mass index, teaching students how to count their calories and promoting healthy diets were some of the initiatives taken by the Government to prevent non-communicable diseases.
He said many Malaysians were still not aware of the danger of being diagnosed with these diseases as they were silent killers that did not show many symptoms.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Only 20% of women in menopausal age consult doctors over symptoms

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Only 20% of 2.3 million Malaysian women of menopausal age sought professional healthcare advice on managing the symptoms of menopause last year.
This, according to Malaysian Menopause Society (MMS) president Dr Liew Fah Onn, means that as many as 60% of them might be suffering in silence when their quality of life could be much improved by proper assistance from healthcare professionals.
“The average age of menopause is 50 to 51, and women are expected to live for another 25 years after they reach menopause.
“It means an entire third of their life is spent in the pre-menopausal and post-menopausal years.
“Thus, it is more important than ever to ensure that all women can live their golden years in optimal health and ease,” he told a news conference in conjunction with the annual World Menopause Day celebration here, yesterday.
Dr Liew said the consultation should be focusing on the basics of menopause treatment for high-quality life matching with women's individual needs.
“Only 10% of doctors could explain menopause.
“This is because many women are ashamed to tell the doctor of their condition.
“Surveys have reported that more than half of all women do not know that menopause is associated with increased risk of heart diseases.
“Yet, cardiovascular diseases, mainly heart attacks and strokes, are the leading causes of death in Malaysia and in the world today,” he said. - Bernama

Shift work may affect housemen’s training, says Abdul Hamid

Star: PETALING JAYA: The creation of shift duties to ease the long working hours of housemen in public hospitals may affect their training.
Physicians for Social Responsibility vice-president Datuk Dr Abdul Hamid Abdul Kadir voiced concern that training and supervision would be affected for those on the night shift because senior doctors only come when on call.
“New graduates require special attention and the shift system will not help train new house officers (HOs),” he said in an interview.
In his Budget 2012 speech on Friday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said that the Government had introduced a flexible schedule with an average of 60 working hours per week for housemen to ease the workload of doctors who had to work for up to 120 hours per week.
He said that they would be paid a Special Flexible Working Allowance of RM600 a month effective Sept 1 this year, replacing the on-call allowance.
Dr Abdul Hamid said the over-crowding of housemen in most government hospitals had led to a lack of supervision and the night shift would only make the situation worse.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said they would still be taught during overlapping shifts when housemen from both shifts would be present.
“We will make sure they get the exposure they need,” he said.
Liow said shifts and reduced hours were needed to prevent on-calls that were extended for long without rest.

Liow: We only accept qualified specialists

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The Government will be strict in allowing specialists from overseas to practise here to ensure quality, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.
The Malaysian Medical Council would only allow qualified and trained specialists to serve in local hospitals, he added.
Liow was responding to Malaysian Medical Association (MMA), which questioned the Government's move to liberalise the healthcare sector.
The MMA had warned that the administration was taking a huge gamble with public healthcare as liberalising the sector could also see unqualified doctors treating patients.
The Prime Minister, during his Budget speech on Friday, had announced that 17 services sub-sectors, including private hospital services and medical and dental specialist services, would be liberalised in phases in 2012 to accelerate investment.
The initiative will allow up to 100% foreign equity participation in the selected sub-sectors.
“The move will attract top medical specialists from other countries and enable Malaysians to enjoy better healthcare services,” Liow said during a press conference after the National Anaesthesia Day celebration here yesterday.
The event, organised by Kuala Lumpur Hospital, saw 650 people participating in a five kilometre run to raise awareness about the anaesthetic services provided in the country.

Conducting mass elective surgery an uphill task, says MMA

Star: PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) has welcomed the Government's initiative to reduce the backlog of elective surgery cases but said ensuring its success may prove difficult.
One of the main challenges is to gather so many surgeons from the various disciplines together at one time.
“While it may not be a problem to get anaesthetists, it will be difficult to get the surgeons,” said its president Dr Mary Suma Cardosa.
Although it was a good idea, she said, a lot of preparation was needed before such an exercise could be implemented.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai announced yesterday that the Government would embark on a nationwide “Health Carnival” to reduce the backlog of cases at public hospitals and cut the waiting time from the current average of 32 weeks to 12 weeks.
He said the ministry would pool available surgeons and anaesthetists in the country to conduct mass elective surgery, which would begin next month in Sarawak.
Dr Cardosa said it would be more practical to address only selected elective surgery cases.
“It would also be better to do simpler procedures like cataract surgery which does not need as much postoperative care,” she said yesterday.
Dr Cardosa added that the waiting time for patients requiring elective surgery varied according to the type of procedure. “Cancer surgery is usually given priority over other types,” she said, adding that it also depended on the skills required.
A heart patient from Seremban, Jagadeeswaran Muthu, 51, said he had been put on the waiting list for four months for a heart procedure despite suffering from pains due to complications from a previous surgery in August.
“I can't afford to go to a private hospital so I do not have much choice but to wait,” said Jagadeeswaran, adding that he had lost his job as a driver due to his condition.
He welcomed the Government's initiative to shorten the waiting time for elective surgeries saying that it would benefit many others like himself.

Govt to hold ‘Health Carnival’ to cut waiting time for elective surgeries

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The Government will pool its resources of available surgeons and anaesthetists to conduct mass elective surgeries in a nationwide operation to cut waiting time for such treatment from 32 weeks to about 12 weeks.
Billed as a “Health Carnival”, it is targeted at reducing the backlog of cases at public hospitals.
Elective surgeries are for non-emergency surgical procedures such as for cancer, cataract, vasectomy and hip and knee replacements.
The carnival, which will be held in every state, will kick off in Sarawak next month.
Sarawak and Sabah have the highest number of pending surgeries.
“We are currently calculating the number of cases as well as the manpower required for the exercise,” said Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.
He said that surgeons and anaesthetists would be brought in from all other states to conduct the surgeries.
This was the first time that the Government was embarking on such a programme, he told a press conference after opening the national Level World Anaesthesia Day yesterday.
Liow said he would personally visit the hospitals in Sarawak to monitor the implementation of the programme.
He also explained that a shortage of anaesthetists in the country had contributed to the backlog of elective cases.
“After we clear the backlog, we will only have to maintain the average waiting time of 12 weeks for all elective surgeries,” he said.
To date, he said, 32 hospitals in the country had been allowed to conduct elective surgeries on Saturdays to reduce their backlog of cases.
“Extended operating hours during the weekdays are also being approved for hospitals with heavy workload,” he said.
Liow said the intake of anaesthesiology trainees for the Masters programme in local universities had also been increased.
Universiti Putra Malaysia will be starting its own Masters programme in anaesthesiology in 2013, adding to the courses which are currently only available at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Universiti Malaya and Universiti Sains Malaysia.
Liow said there was an estimated 620 anaesthetists in public and private hospitals in Malaysia, a ratio of one anaesthetist to 45,000 people.
“This shows that we are still far from the developed country norm of 1:10,000,” said Liow, adding that the Government aimed to double the number of anaesthetists in the country within the next 10 years.
Health Ministry director-general Datuk Dr Hassan Abdul Rahman said the ministry did not have data on the number of patients currently on the waiting list for elective surgeries as the lists were updated by the individual hospitals.
Patients on the waiting list of each hospital will be informed when the carnival is held at their state.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Medicine via post widely welcomed

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Simply commendable. This is the public's response to the 1Malaysia Medicine By Post (UMP) on Jan 24.
Executed in line with the Government Transformation Programme (GTP), it was welcomed by a majority of the public who see it as proof of the government's concern for the welfare of the low-income group and the poor.
"This is the kind of service I want. I no longer need to rush to the hospital and take a number to queue for medicines.
"I totally support this move, not because I am lazy, but if a service is offered to make our life easier, then we should make full use of it," police retiree Sidek Salleh, 52, told Bernama.
He said the service not only helped patients save petrol and time, but chronic patients also no longer needed to worry about their supply shortage as it could be ordered through 1Malaysia UMP and sent to their doorstep.
For Salmina Sulaiman, 39, although the service was useful, she stressed that individuals with high blood pressure and diabetes must be checked by their doctors.
"Despite this facility, some patients still need to visit their doctor in order to control medicine intake," she said, adding that the 1Malaysia UMP service was beneficial to those living in rural areas or far from a hospital or clinic.
Meanwhile, the health ministry, in a bid to promote healthcare among the community, has upgraded and improved the efficiency of several services offered to patients at hospitals and health clinics.
As a pioneer for the 1Malaysia UMP service, the Putrajaya Hospital registered 296 patients taking advantage of the facility, as of July.
This number is expected to rise as the service has been extended to 26 pharmacy units at main hospitals in each state, including the Selayang Hospital, Putrajaya Health Clinic and the Luyang Health Clinic in Sabah.

Deputy Health Minister Datuk Rosnah Abdul Rashid Shirlin told Bernama here, since it began in July, a total of 1,901 prescriptions were sent to patients.
"Patients with prescriptions for over a month have the option of receiving their medicines at home or the office," she said.
For repeat deliveries, she said various methods were available to make it easier for patients to order, should they run out of stock.
"Should the patient inform us that they want supply to be sent until the prescription ends, then the hospital or clinic will send the medicines continuously.
"Patients can call, SMS, or use the PosOnline system to contact the hospital or clinic offering these services," she added. Rosnah said pharmaceutical officers at the hospital or clinic would also remind patients to see their doctor when the prescription ended.
Through the 1Malaysia UMP, patients can also choose a suitable date to pick up their follow-up medication through the Integrated Medicine Dispensary System (SPUB), 'SMS and Take', 'Phone and Take', and the Drive-Thru Pharmacy service.
The SPUB service was implemented at pharmacy units in 136 hospitals and 532 health clinics nationwide, 'SMS and Take' at 66 hospitals and 44 health clinics while the 'Phone and Take' service was implemented at three hospitals and 14 health clinics.
On the cost of posting medicine using Pos Laju borne by the patient, Rosnah said RM3.50 was charged within Putrajaya, RM5 for Peninsular Malaysia and RM8 for Sabah and Sarawak. - Bernama

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Budget 2012: Free HPV Vaccination For Women In 2012, Says Najib

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 7 (Bernama) -- The government will provide free HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) vaccinations to enable more women to be immunised against cervical cancer, said Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
The prime minister said the three-dose vaccine immunisation, which costs RM150, will be implemented by the National Family Planning Board.
"RM50 million has been allocated for this purpose in 2012," he said while tabling the 2012 Budget in the Dewan Rakyat Friday.
To promote mother-child health, Najib also announced the construction of a hospital for women and children in Kuala Lumpur through a government and private joint venture, costing RM700 million.
Apart from that, the government has allocated RM10 million to implement training programmes to fulfill its policy of having at least 30 per cent women at managerial level in the corporate sector. The government will organise, among others, advanced management programmes for women with potential to become members of the board of directors, intensify advocacy activities for greater participation of women in the corporate sector and develop a database of potential women directors.
"Suitable training programmes to encourage female professionals to return to work will also be conducted," he added.
The prime minister said the allocation to the Entrepreneurial Group Economic Fund (Tekun) has been doubled to RM300 million as an incentive to small entrepreneurs.
He said Amanah Ikhtiar Malaysia (AIM), the country's largest micro-credit organisation, will also allocate RM2.1 billion for micro-financing to entrepreneurs, particularly women.
"From this total, RM100 million each is provided for Indian and Chinese entrepreneurs through a special unit under AIM," he said.
Najib said the government also proposed to waive the stamp duty on the micro -financing agreements to reduce the entrepreneurs' operating costs.

New ruling on service for pharmacists in govt hospitals

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The mandatory service for pharmacists in government hospitals has been reduced to only a year from three previously.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the Cabinet approved the move last month and it would take effect immediately.
He said pharmacist positions in government hospitals were 89% filled compared with just 40% when the three-year compulsory service was introduced in 2004.
“It is high time we allowed them to work in the private sector,” he said after launching the Second Kuala Lumpur Valve Summit yesterday.
Liow said the one-year training period for graduates before starting compulsory service would remain.
Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society president Datuk Nancy Ho said the private sector was facing a shortage of pharmacists and the new policy would help ease the problem.
She said that prior to the implementation of the three-year compulsory service, 60% of pharmacists were in the private sector, but after that, coupled with better working conditions in the public sector, it went down to 50%.
There are currently 8,600 pharmacists in the country.

On another matter, Liow said Malaysians should take note of the need to reduce non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer.
He added that NCDs made up two-thirds of all deaths globally, including Malaysia.
“A lot of people take it for granted and the urgency is not there.
“This is a serious matter. NCDs are pande- mic now and we must fight it like how we fight communicable diseases,” he said, add- ing that people must take charge of their health.
On whether the ministry would introduce tax on unhealthy fatty food as Denmark did recently, Liow said: “Malaysia will adopt preventive measures for now.”
Liow expressed hope that Budget 2012 would include funds to upgrade 2,000 community clinics to health clinics as they were needed not only to treat diseases, but also promote preventive measures against NCDs.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Health Ministry Hopes Budget Has More Allocation For Rural Clinics

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 6 (Bernama) - The Health Ministry hopes that 2012 Budget to be tabled tomorrow will see an increase in allocation for upgrading of about 2,000 rural clinics nationwide.
Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai said it also hopes that a Medical Assistant (MA) be stationed at each rural clinic to give treatment and prescription drugs to residents in nearby areas.
Currently, the rural clinics are managed by village nurses who help provide treatment to the kampung folks and children.
"Rural clinics not only provide treatment to the local population but also expose them to serious diseases and early detection," he told reporters after opening 2011 Heart Valve Conference 2011 today.
With additional allocation, early exposure and monotoring for symptoms of heart diseases, the number one killer in Malaysia, can be given to rural people.
The budget last year allocated about RM15.5bil to the health sector covering training, welfare, housing and community development.
The conference from today until Saturday attended by about 400 participants from Asean countries, Germany, Sudan, Qatar, India, China and Taiwan discusses the latest technologies in heart surgery.

Breathing new life into anti-smoking campaign

Malay Mail: KUALA LUMPUR: To deter cigarette smoking, the Health Ministry conducted a Nafas Baru (New Breath) campaign during the recent Ramadan.
In a statement, the Health Ministry said Nafas Baru was in line with their longstanding Tak Nak Merokok campaign and involved the distribution and dissemination of anti-smoking material to the public.
The ministry also said that Malaysia, as a signatory since 2005 to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) — a legal tool developed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) — is bound to its 38 provisions covering the provisions for tobacco supply and control measures.
"In a committed effort to abide by the provisions of the FCTC since its ratification six years ago, almost all the provisions have been or are in the process of being carried out by the government," said the ministry.
"A study conducted over the last five years showed that Malaysia is believed to have spent over RM3 billion per year treating just three tobacco-related illnesses, namely, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease."
Among the actions taken were the implementation of Malaysia Control of Tobacco Product Regulations 2004 which makes advertisements, sponsorships or promotions by tobacco companies illegal.
Under the regulations, designated no-smoking areas are increased from time to time, and minors are prohibited from selling, possessing or smoking tobacco products.
Other provisions enforced are ensuring that health and public policies are free from the influence of the tobacco industry, raising the price of tobacco and tobacco-related products in order to decrease demand for such items, and making it compulsory for tobacco manufacturers to carry warning labels featuring gruesome results of smoking.
The ministry also continually carries out educational campaigns through the mass media.
Infolines and services in local health clinics and hospitals aimed at helping those addicted to smoking were also provided.
Also, interventions throughout all levels of the community and programmes specifically targeting school children have been regularly held.
According to WHO statistics, more than five million people in the world will die from tobacco smoking-related illnesses this year. This does not include 600,000 non-smokers, 150,000 of them children, who will die from exposure to tobacco smoke.
In the 20th century, smoking claimed 100 million lives nationwide. In the 21st century, the number of such casualties is estimated to reach one billion.
A National Health and Morbidity Survey conducted in 2006 showed that 21.5 per cent, or roughly three million adults, in Malaysia are smokers.

Malaysia may turn into a competitor to India in clinical research soon

Pharmabiz: Malaysia may soon become a favored destination for clinical trials in the Asian region and can emerge as a possible competitor to India in clinical research in future, according to Prof Dixon Thomas, HoD of Department of Pharmacy Practice, Raghavendra Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (RIPER), Anantapur in Andhra Pradesh.
Prof Dixon Thomas is doing a research on the project Clinical Research Malaysia (CRM) launched by Malaysian government as part of the country’s Economic Transformation Programme (ETP). The ETP includes 12 national key economic areas (NKEA) which included clinical research. In view of the potential foreign investment to the country, contract clinical research has been identified as one of the entry point projects for the NKEA.
In a chat with Pharmabiz, Prof Dixon Thomas said Asia has 80 per cent of the world population and Malaysia being a country within the ASEAN region, is well-placed to achieve the status of a preferred destination for clinical trials in the region. Coordination of public and private hospitals, clinical research organizations, diverse patient pool, low cost and qualified professionals are the supporting factors that help the country to achieve that goal. The population in the ASEAN region provides huge potential both for the scientific pursuit of clinical trials as well as the subsequent pharmaceutical commercialization of research & development efforts.
According to him Clinical Research Malaysia is a project established to promote and develop the growth of industry sponsored clinical trials. Its main task is to encourage and support the pharmaceutical industry and clinical research organizations to select Malaysia as the preferred destination for contract clinical research and thus gain foreign direct investment from the global drug development industry. Its core function is to coordinate and foster greater collaboration among the ministry of health’s network of 24 Clinical Research Centres (CRCs) and other independent CR centres formed in private hospitals and academic centres, he said.
Regarding the progress of the project, he said Malaysia has made efforts in increasing the number of high-quality clinical trials being conducted by initially forming a One-Stop-Centre within the CRC, which acts as the main contact point for network of CRCs to facilitate access to 137 general and district Ministry of Health (MOH) hospitals. These hospitals act as the referral center for more than 4000 health clinics serving as potential sites for clinical trials. This One-Stop-Centre serves as the main contact point for industry and sponsors to access the sites and investigators. The Health Minister of the country, Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, during the opening ceremony of National Conference for Clinical Research 2011, launched Clinical Research Malaysia (CRM) and announced that CRM would provide a unique strategy to attract clinical trials to Malaysia, Prof Thomas added.
When asked about the advantages of Malaysia’s Industry Sponsored Trials, he said the CRM will ensure better communications between potential pharmaceutical industry sponsors and CRO’s with the MOH sites and investigators. There is supportive research infrastructure such as National Medical Research Register, which is an online register in which every clinical trial conducted within the country is recorded. The researcher acknowledged that CRC has been instrumental in establishing patient registries in more than thirty disease areas. Since 1999, Malaysia has mandated that all clinical trial investigators must receive training in relevant research topics such as Good Clinical Practice (GCP) and Good Research Practice (GRP) in order to equip them with the necessary technical expertise and administrative capabilities when conducting the trials.
Another advantage is that the multi-racial and multi-ethnic local patient population providing an excellent opportunity for clinical trial investigators to conduct clinical research on a widely diverse patient population, especially pertaining to their genetic make-up. There is very good transport logistics, and costs are very manageable when conducting clinical trials in the country. Besides, the administrative and other costs incurred during the conduct of these trials in Malaysia will also be kept minimal, Prof Dixon Thomas said.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

DAP MP protests unchecked powers in new medical Act

Malaysian Insider: KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 3 — The Dewan Rakyat today passed the Medical Device Authority Act, which grants absolute power to authorised enforcement officers to conduct raids and seizures over unregistered medical devices without producing a warrant.
The Act also stipulates the authorities will not be bound to pay damages or relief costs or be liable to court action for such seizures, unless a raid was conducted “without reasonable cause”.
During debate in Parliament today, Lim Lip Eng (DAP-Segambut) urged Putrajaya to withdraw and review provisions in the bill, arguing that it grants too much enforcement power to the Health Ministry and its agents.
“Section 57 gives blanket immunity to officials to raid or seize any medical devices. And no one can initiate any legal proceedings before any court,” he told the House.
The bill was tabled by Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai for the second and third readings today, before being passed by majority vote.
Under the Act, “medical device” refers to “any instrument, apparatus, implement, machine, appliance, implant, in-vitro reagent or calibrator, software, material or other similar or related material intended by the manufacturer to be used on human beings” for various purposes such as “diagnosis, prevention, monitoring, treatment or alleviation of disease” and other reasons.
The law compels all manufacturers, importers or distributors to register their medical devices with the newly formed Medical Advice Authority (MAA), following safety standards set by the Conformity Assessment Body, an independent regulatory agency formed under the Act.
Unregistered devices are also banned from being advertised and any person who violates this provision will be liable to a fine not exceeding RM3,000 or a maximum three-year jail term, or both.
Speaking to The Malaysian Insider later, Lim said he was not opposed to the requirement for all medical devices to be registered in order to meet safety standards.
“But the wide scope of powers granted to health officials could be open to abuse and the manufacturers or retailers are offered no protection,” he said.
He pointed out that any negligence by health officials would be overlooked as no court action could be initiated to question their decisions.
According to Section 48 of the Act, the health minister may, in writing, authorise any public servant to exercise enforcement powers.
Section 50 states that the authorised officer “shall have all or any of the powers of a police officer of whatever rank in relation to police investigations in seizable cases as provided for under the Criminal Procedure Code”.
While Section 51 stipulates the officer should obtain a search warrant from a Magistrate, Section 52 states the said officer could also conduct the raid without a warrant if he has reason to believe that any delay in obtaining the warrant could adversely affect the evidence.
The Act also allows any “aggrieved” persons to appeal to the minister, who has the power to confirm, reverse or vary the decision of the MAA.