Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Private healthcare told to improve services

Star: LOCAL private hospitals must be prepared to face stiff competition from foreign investors following the liberalisation of private-healthcare services next year, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.
He said private healthcare providers must improve their services and facilities in order to be on par with their foreign counterparts, if not better, by the time the country’s doors are opened.
“Clearly, our private hospitals have to improve their quality of service in order to remain competitive, but I am confident it can be done,” he said after performing the ground-breaking ceremony of Anson Bay Medical Centre in Teluk Intan recently.
Liow said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had recently announced the liberalisation of 17 sub-sectors in the service industry under Budget 2012.
The move, to be carried in phases, would include the private healthcare service industry, Liow added.
“The initiative will allow up to 100% foreign equity participation in selected sub-sectors and as a result, the healthcare industry will become borderless and we will need to start competing globally,” he said.
Liow added that the industry was worth an estimated RM26.76bil (US$8.4bil) or 4.75% of the nation’s gross domestic product.
Pointing out that the global health tourism industry was expected to reach RM240bil in 2020 with Southeast Asian countries contributing about RM9.6bil of the total amount, Liow said Malaysia’s health tourism was relatively small in comparison.
“According to figures in 2010, we only received about 400,000 medical tourists, which is equivalent to RM380mil in earnings.
“Competitors such as Singapore and Thailand have shown stronger growth in this area and have established themselves as leaders in high value healthcare experiences,” he said.
Liow added that the Government had initiated various strategies to transform its healthcare tourism industry by marketing itself beyond Indonesia, which made up about 80% of Malaysia’s revenue in healthcare tourism.
“We are targeting China, Australia, the Middle East and the United Kingdom,” he said.

Are Nurses Overworked? Could Shortages Be A Factor?

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 29 (Bernama) -- "Have patience, I only have two hands. Can you hold on for a while!".
It sounds harsh and rude, but that was what a patient experienced in a hospital here.
"I had wanted to ask about my medication. There were only two or three nurses attending to all of the patients in the ward at that time.
"I do understand that they had to attend to more urgent matters concerning other patients. The ward at that time was full of patients and visitors, and there were only a few nurses on duty. The nurse that I had wanted to question probably lost her temper when she became too busy," said the patient, who wished to be named as Fatima Bee of Pulau Pinang.
Why there are not enough nurses?
For those who work in the healthcare industry, the nursing shortage, particularly in public hospitals, is real and incredibly frightening.

According to healthcare authorities, more than 70 per cent of Malaysian hospitals currently do not have adequate nursing staffs.
According to media reports, Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai has said that 109 universities and colleges in Malaysia offer nursing training programmes.
The nursing programmes are offered at 85 private universities and colleges (IPTS) and 10 public universities (IPTA) nationwide, including one operated by the Defence Ministry, and 38 nursing schools administered by the Health Ministry.
He said there are some 80,000 nurses at hospitals and clinics nationwide, but only some 80 per cent of the jobs are filled.
And about 1,100 Malaysian-trained nurses are working abroad, he is reported to have said.
Low said about 9,000 nurses graduate from nursing colleges nationwide and enter the work force each year, but unfortunately this number needs to increase by 30 per cent in order to even begin addressing the nation's healthcare needs.

Many in the healthcare industry consider nursing one of the most stressful occupations there is.
Dr Ahmat Fakrudin, a general practitioner who used to serve in government hospitals, said most nurses, in general, are overworked.
"Staffing shortages only make their jobs harder. Whether due to stress or health problems related to the difficult work, many nurses are forced to leave the profession early," he said.
He said there is also the patient care factor to consider, as overworked and under-staffed nurses means a lower quality of care overall.
"I believe when there are more nurses employed in a hospital, there will be a much higher patient satisfaction with the quality of services rendered in the wards," he added.

Nursing science lecturer Mary Lim said a substantial increase in the number of nurses is needed in hospitals nationwide in order to create a viable ratio of caregivers to patients for the future.
"There are several factors contributing to the shortage of nurses in the healthcare industry," she said.
Among them are that nursing school enrollment is not increasing quickly enough, and nursing colleges are turning away qualified applicants.
"Some applicants are rejected because they are thought to be over-qualified," she said.
Lim said there are not enough high-level nurses to fill academic and faculty positions.
"Out of the many who complete their diploma in nursing programmes, only a small percentage go on for advanced courses such as bachelor's and master's degrees. Therefore, there is only a small pool of nurses with advanced degrees available to be in the academic and clinical nursing fields.
"Addressing the nursing shortage means opening up the pipeline to move trained nurses to be teachers, hence producing more nurses," she said.

As nursing care is a 24-hour service, Lim said, there needs to be an adequate number of nursing staff on duty.
"Nurses believe the heavy workload and inadequate staff have negative impacts on the quality of patient care," she said.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the ratio recommended for nurses to population ratio in a country such as Malaysia is 1:200.
According to the healthcare authorities, the ratio in Malaysia is one nurse for every 329 people and the country needs some 150,000 nurses in order to meet society's healthcare needs.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Khazanah confirms healthcare unit to be listed next year

SunDaily: KUALA LUMPUR (Nov 27, 2011): Khazanah Nasional Bhd will float shares in its hospital operating unit, Integrated Healthcare Holdings Sdn Bhd, next year, says its managing director Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar.
Speaking to reporters after the 16th Malaysian Capital Market Summit last Friday, he however declined to reveal the size of the initial public offering and the listing venue.
Meanwhile, Khazanah spokesman Mohd Asuki Abas said the listing is subject to the board's deliberation.
They were commenting on recent news reports that Integrated Healthcare, which is majority owned by Khazanah, is planning to list in the first half of 2012 in Singapore or Kuala Lumpur and could potentially raise up to US$2 billion (RM6.39 billion).
Khazanah owns 70% of Integrated Healthcare, which in turn owns 100% of Singapore-based Parkway Pantai Ltd, Pantai Holdings Bhd, IMU Health Sdn Bhd and has a 12.2% stake in India's Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Ltd.
Earlier, during the summit, Azman said while government-linked companies (GLCs) are the economic driver, there is a need for regional strategy and collaboration, especially if companies are not able to expand on their own.
He said the government started promoting private-public collaborations two years ago.
"Although partnerships such as between Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia are controversial, they are necessary," he said at a session titled "Conversations with GLC Leaders — GLC Transformation — Drivers of Transformation, Creators of Wealth".
On mergers and acquisitions such as that between government-linked UEM Land Holdings Bhd and private property developer Sunrise Bhd, Azman said such companies are not crowding out the private sector.
He said private-public partnerships are encouraged if the companies can work together and complement each other.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Is M’sia ready to de-criminalise drugs?

FreeMalaysiaToday: PETALING JAYA: Malaysia has been urged to consider the decriminalisation of drugs as a new policy to better deal with the country’s perennial drug problem.
Several experts voiced support for this radical view and said more countries around the world are beginning to accept that drug addiction is a disease which can be treated.
Many countries have found that treating drug addiction as a criminal issue has failed, and are considering addressing problem as a health and social issue.
“Decriminalising” means that a person possessing small amounts of drugs for personal use does not constitute a crime. Drug trafficking is still considered a serious crime.
Internationally, policymakers and experts have taken note of Portugal, which in 2001 decriminalised all drugs including cocaine and heroine.
Those found with 10 days worth of drugs would not be arrested, but sent to a Dissuasion Commission which assesses the person’s needs and tailors an optional programme for them.
The Portugal case has been repeatedly referred to and touted as a resounding success, with impressive results.
It has reduced addiction, HIV infections, drug-related crimes and drug-related deaths; and more addicts are seeking treatment. It has also freed Portugal police to concentrate on big-time dealers.
Malaysian AIDS Council (MAC) president Zaman Khan said he fully supports the decriminalisation of drugs for personal use in this country too.
“Possession of drugs in small amounts should not be treated as a crime. Rather, the addict should be regarded as a patient needing rehabilitation,” said Zaman, a former federal CID director and Prisons Department director-general.
“I’m not supporting the taking drugs for fun, and I’m not saying go ahead and smoke your drugs,” he added.

Change in perception
However, public acceptance was important, and a crucial a paradigm shift in perception must occur for the anything to work, said Zaman.
“I think we are ready. But our people are not making a cry for it yet. You can’t expect politicians to go for this without the support of the community.
“I believe the government is already looking into this possibility, and are just waiting for us to voice up,” said Zaman, who said discussions and debates on this topic were needed.
Zaman said top leaders in the country, including Bukit Aman narcotics director Noor Rashid Ibrahim, are beginning to see that criminalising drug addiction was erroneous.
Years of experience in the police force and prisons taught Zaman that the old ways of arresting addicts and forcing them to kick the habit have not been successful.
“Caning is no solution either. It just drives them deeper underground. And if police are free from catching small-time addicts, you can pay attention to the big-time traffickers,’ he said.
Prisons are no help as there is access to drugs there and Zaman was quick to admit that.
“I would be the last person to deny that drugs never came into prisons. Prison walls are pervious and the drugs somehow came in despite all my efforts to change things.”
For years, medical professionals and addiction therapists have been advocating the use of drug substitution therapy or medical assisted therapy, which Zaman said has proven to effective worldwide.
Zaman said that needle exchange programmes, which was introduced in 2006, was vital in bringing down HIV/AIDS cases in Malaysia.
Zaman found it puzzling that on one hand, the government supports medical assisted therapy and needle exchange; but on the other, still regard drug addiction as an offence.
“That’s a problem. Because addicts who want to get better would not come forward when the an arrest is just waiting outside these clinics and centres,” he said.

Discussions must start
Meanwhile, addiction therapist and substance abuse counselor Chris Sekar said decriminalisation was the right direction for Malaysia to go.
“Anyone caught with a positive for his urine test should be sent for compulsory treatment rather than put into prison, which often just aggravates the situation as there’s no treatment,” said Chris, who is a recovered heroine addict who has been clean for 30 years.
He said those found with drugs on them should be identified as either user or dealer. “If say I’m found with RM50 worth of heroine, I am a user. I have a disease victim. Why put me in prison for two years?”
For years now, Chris said, the world is heading towards more “harm reduction and demand reduction” approaches and it seemed to be a trend that works.
He said the idea was for doctors, psychiatrists and therapists to work on making the addict functional and normal.
“Generally, in the western world, and even Singapore, elements of such approaches are being implemented,” said Chris.
“That would not be an issue if a proper system to treat them was in place to treat the addiction. It’s a disease and that is what makes them engage in socially unacceptable behaviour.”Chris argued that addicts commit crime when withdrawal symptoms kick in and there need to feed the habit.
He said the government must financially support more treatment efforts and allow other groups, including private centres, to work together with the same goal of treating the addict.

Better alternatives
Meanwhile, Australian Dr Adrian Dunlop, an expert in drug and alcohol addition with the New South Wales Ministry of Health, said studies have shown treatment is more on cost-effective than incarceration.
Dunlop said it was impossible not to take notice of what Portugal has done and achieved with its decriminalisation policy and suggested that countries like Australia and Malaysia should begin to seriously discuss it.
Echoing his view, Dr Alex Wodak, the director of alcohol and drug Service in St Vincent’s Hospital Darlinghurst, Sydney, also hoped Malaysia would also begin to discuss the ‘pros and cons’ and evidence of such measures.
“Globally, the ‘war on drugs’ approach has failed. And we should start discussing alternatives, and I feel that that discussion should begin Malaysia,” said Dr Wodak.
“You can’t dismiss Portugal, Switzerland and Holland and several other countries in South America which are introducing new and effective ways to deal with the drug issue,” he said.
“I think we are much better off with health and social intervention rather than law enforcement.
“Law enforcement is expensive, pretty ineffective and is often counter-productive. It has often serious unintended negative consequences like corruption,” he said.
Citing the example of marijuana, Dr Wodak said he supported having the drug regulated and taxed.
“If you’re asking me is it okay to smoke marijuana, that would be the wrong question. The more important question is, should it be provided by a regulated outlet, or by criminals and the corrupt police? The more dangerous we think canabis is, the more logical it is to regulate that supply,” he said.
Dr Wodak said up until 1906, people in Australia could go to a shop and buy taxed and regulated edible opium; while until 1903, Coca-Cola in the US contained cocaine.
“So when we’re talking about decriminalisation, we’re really talking about re-legalisation. Because we’ve been down this path before. It’s not a brave new world but a world we’ve been in before. It’s not as if we discuss about this then the sky will fall in.”

Malaysia's Khazanah to list healthcare arm next year

AsiaOne Health: KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian state investment arm Khazanah Nasional Bhd will list its unit, Integrated Healthcare Sdn Bhd, next year, Business Times newspaper reported on Saturday.
Khazanah owns 70 per cent of Integrated Healthcare, while the balance 30 per cent is held by Japan's Mitsui & Co Ltd . "God willing, the listing will be next year," Khazanah managing director Azman Mokhtar was quoted as saying by the paper.
Khazanah had said in April that it aimed to list Integrated Healthcare, which also owns Singapore's Parkway Holdings, within one to three years.

Herbal Industry To Grow At 15 Per Cent

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 26 (Bernama) -- There is a great potential for growth in the local herbal industry market, which is estimated to grow at 15 per cent per annum, with the market value rising from RM7 billion in 2010 to some RM29 billion by 2020.
Health Minister, Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, said herbal products currently made up less than 10 per cent of Malaysia's exports of medicine and the number was growing.
"The country's exports of medicine currently stand at over RM400 million and are expected to hit RM600 million by year-end," he said at the media briefing on the 5th Global Bio-herbs Economic Forum here today.
Liow said the local herbal industry has attracted many multinational companies (MNCs) from the West to come to Malaysia to set up joint corporations with the local entities to conduct research and development.
He cited Novartis of Switzerland as an example, which has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Sarawak Biodiversity Centre and Malaysian Biotech Corp to explore bioactive compounds from natural resources.
The MOU also gave Novartis a chance to leverage on Malaysia's biodiversity for the development of novel medical opportunities, he said.
Liow said the herbal industry has big potential.
"As far as I know, there are a few (MNCs) in the country. At the moment, I can see Novartis is working with the Sarawak State Government in this area in Sarawak, looking into herbs and identifying certain herbal products.
"Once you turn these into medicine, you can export it," he said.
He said the global trade of natural products has been reported to amount to RM777 billion in 2006 and was projected to triple to over RM2 trillion by 2020.
Liow said the herbal industry has become a powerful engine of economic growth, due to demographic shifts such as extended longevity as well as greater affluence and changing life style.

Register, traditional medicine wholesalers told

NST: SERI KEMBANGAN: Traditional medicine suppliers and wholesalers are called to register their products with the Health Ministry.
Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the exercise was for the National Pharmaceutical Control Bureau (NPCB) to verify that the products were suitable for public consumption.
“Only products that have been registered and checked by the ministry will be allowed to make claims that it can treat specific diseases or illnesses,” he said.
He said making such claims in the present set of regulations was against the law.
“At present, a supplier of traditional medicinal product, such as a herb, cannot claim that it can treat diabetes or specifically claim that it supplements the health of one’s kidneys,” Liow told a press conference after the 5th Global Bio-Herbs Economic Forum here today.
However, that will change once the Traditional and Complementary Medicine Bill was passed as an Act next year.
“The registration process, which includes laboratory tests will certify if a product can do what it claims to do,” he said.
“Some products will be certified more easily than others because of it’s rich ethnopharmacological background; the average time to test each product will roughly take 60 working days,” Liow added.
Traditional medicine suppliers and wholesalers can register their products online via
Meanwhile, the 5th Bio-Herbs Economic Forum 2011 saw the convergence of academics, scientists, pharmacists and businessmen from several countries here.
The forum served as a platform for traditional medicine industry players to discuss the health benefits of traditional medicines and also its economic value to the country.
Liow said that Malaysia was set to be a global manufacturer and exporter of alternative medicines due to the country’s rich bio-diversity.
“The Malaysian government acknowledges the importance of traditional medicines in terms of it’s health benefits and also it’s economic value,” he said in his opening speech.
“The Health Ministry had enabled several reforms in the health sector to recognise traditional medicines as a viable and healthy way to approach health issues,” he said.
He said the usage of traditional medicines to complement contemporary medicines was a more holistic approach to maintaining good health.

Medicinal value claims allowed

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Traditional and complementary medicine manufacturers and suppliers can make certain claims about the medicinal values of their products from next year.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said those who wanted to make such claims must first register their products with the ministry.
“We have formed a working committee to look into an approved list of claims for traditional medicine.
“Two categories have been identified for traditional claims – for ‘traditional health use’ and ‘traditional treatment’,” he said after launching the Fifth Global Bio-Herbs Eco­nomic Forum here yesterday.
The medicines, he added, could be registered online via the ministry’s website.
“The registration will be completed in 60 days,” said Liow, adding that lab tests would also be conducted to check on some of the claims.
He added that in some cases, traditional medicines would come with historical records sufficient to support the claim while some might need lab study evidence to justify the claim.
He said the ministry, through its working committee, was also looking at expanding the claims allowed for traditional medicine and health supplements.
Manufacturers and suppliers who wanted to register their products and make claims must have clear-cut evidence on what their traditional and complimentary medicines could do.
“But they cannot say it can be used to treat a disease,” said Liow.
He said herbal products must also conform to the highest standards of manufacturing to be able to compete in terms of quality, safety, efficacy, pricing and branding.
Liow urged all traditional and complementary medicine as well as herbal products manufacturers and suppliers to register their products before the Traditional and Com­plementary Medicine Bill is passed.
So far, 11,763 traditional medicines have registered with the ministry.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

New health insurance scheme for foreign students

Malay Mail: KUALA LUMPUR: Islamic insurers Takaful Ikhlas Sdn Bhd, MAA Takaful Bhd and FOSMEC Sdn Bhd signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) yesterday to provide comprehensive health insurance coverage for foreign students under the care of FOSMEC.
They would market these products from January next year.
Takaful Ikhlas president and chief executive officer Datuk Syed Moheeb Syed Kamarulzaman said the product was specifically designed for full-time international students to meet the health checkup and insurance coverage guidelines et by the Higher Education Ministry since July 1, 2008.
“Takaful Ikhlas will prostudentsvide group hospital and surgical coverage while MAA Takaful will provide the group personal accident product,” he said.
The services covered under this package are outpatient treatment, inpatient treatment, personal accident and death and repatriation. Monthly payments for the new coverage includes two separate premium prices.
The premium for MAA Takaful is set at RM50 per annum, providing RM50,000 in coverage with an additional RM10,000 for death reparation, while RM56 per annum gets similar premium coverage but death reparation is raised to RM20,000.
The insurance premium for Takaful Ikhlas product would depend on the health condition of the buyer and the combined premiums for both insurances cannot exceed RM300 set by the government.
For starters, Takaful Ikhlas has set a RM4 million target for premiums under the plan, added Syed Moheed.
FOSMEC chairman Datuk Wira Dr Bahari Abu Mansor said this is the first insurance scheme that provides such coverage for foreign students.
“Previously, insurance coverage for this category of students was either one of the two schemes.” he said.
It was reported that Higher Education Ministry recorded an increase of 7,000 students at private institutions of higher learning every year. The government hopes to reach a total of 200,000 foreign students locally by 2015, turning Malaysia into a higher education hub.
Bahari said: “We see this initiative as a measure to help attain that goal as more students will find Malaysia an attractive education destination.
It will also help to lighten the burden of government hospitals tasked to treat foreign students. “FOSMEC hopes that with this new insurance package, the government will consider making FOSMEC the sole agency for all foreign student health screens,” he said.
FOSMEC is an agency responsible for conducting and supervising foreign students medical examination check up, health screening and to prevent dangerous and infected disease subject to the directives from the Higher Education Ministry.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Liow: KR1M milk powder is safe

Star: OPPOSITION claims that the milk powder sold at Kedai Rakyat 1 Malaysia (KR1M) contained over eight times the legal limit of vitamin A has been proven to be unfounded, said the Health Ministry.
“The analysis of samples taken from the manufacturers showed the content of vitamin A did not exceed the maximum 5,000 international units as stated in the Food Regulations Act 1985,” said Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai during a press conference at the Parliament lobby yesterday.
He chided DAP publicity secretary Tony Pua for allegedly misleading the public by giving false information about the safety of the food sold at KR1M.
“He had bad intention when he tried to exploit the issue and exposed it to the media.
“I would have thanked him if he had asked the ministry to verify the quality of the product.
“Instead, he chose to do it for his own political mileage,” he said.
He noted that Pua was confused with the rulings in the Food Regulations Act.
“The milk powder is categorised as a growing up milk powder which comes under Rule 395, while he compared it with the ruling for follow-up milk.
“Our findings showed the KR1M growing up milk powder had 3,240 IU/100g.
“It did not exceed the maximum allowed level of vitamin A in milk powder,” he said.
However, Liow said, the oyster sauce did not pass the Health Ministry’s test and would be taken off the shelves.
“Samples of the oyster sauce showed it was below the approved standard under the Food Regulations Act.
“We have instructed the Domestic Trade, Consumerism and Cooperative Ministry to act on it,” he said.
He said other products including the creamer, Ceylon tea, blackcurrant cordial and condensed milk were safe for consumption.
“We are looking at all the allegations made by Pua,” said Liow, adding that all public complaints concerning food safety would be investigated immediately.
Pua had recently claimed that the milk powder did not contain at least 15 of the legally required essential fatty acids, vitamins and mineral, while its vitamin A content was 802% above the permissible level.

Sabah and Sarawak to have more doctors

BorneoPost: SIBU: The Ministry of Health will take measures to increase the number of doctors in Sabah and Sarawak.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Health Minister Dato Sri Liow Tiong Lai said there was a huge disparity between the number of doctors in West Malaysia and in Sarawak.
“For big cities in Peninsular Malaysia, the doctor to population ratio is 1:400 but in Sarawak, it is 1:2,000,” he said.
To upgrade the health service in Sarawak, the ministry would send specialists to the state, he said.
For the short term, the ministry would get contract doctors from overseas and for the long term, internees.
Liow said there were doctors resigning from government service to go into private practice every year.
“We have never stopped them because private clinics are also part of the health service in our country,” he said.
It was reported in Tuesday’s paper that Deputy Health Minister Datuk Rosnah Abdul Rashid Shirlin told the Dewan Rakyat that 452 doctors resigned in 2008; 338 in 2009 and 386 in 2010 while 265 have resigned up to August this year.
According to him, the ministry had trained many doctors to increase the quality of health service in the country.
“Back in 2005, we could train only 1,000 doctors a year at the most, but today we can train 3,500 to 4,000 a year,” he said.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Non-Communicable Diseases, Obesity Main Health Scourge Affecting Malaysians - Liow

SIBU, Nov 22 (Bernama) -- The government is concerned that non-communicable diseases and obesity are now the main health scourge affecting the people.
As a matter of fact, Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said, the diseases were preventable if the people had the committment and discipline to lead a healthy lifestyle.
"Non-communicable diseases are diabetes, hypertension, heart problem and high chlorestrol.
"About 60 per cent of patients in our hospitals nationwide died of heart attack or diabetes, beside cancer," he said, adding that more than half of the country's population, aged over 18, suffered from hypertension.
He said this at a media conference after declaring open the Rajang Park 1Malaysia clinic here Tuesday.
According to statistics from the World Health Organisation, about 36 million people worldwide died of these diseases annually, and the figure was expected to increase by 17 per cent in the next decade.
On obesity, Liow said Malaysia had the highest obesity rate among its population in South East Asia and ranked sixth in Asia.
He said the ministry was currently launching a nationwide campaign to alert the people of the dangers of the diseases and how to prevent them.
"We have also called for a meeting with food producers on how to cut down on sugar and fat contents in their products."
On another issue, Liow said it was a cause for concern for the government that between 2008 and August this year, 1,441 doctors had left the government service, mainly to take up private practice.
Nevertheless, he noted, what was important was that the country was currently able to train between 3,500 to 4,000 doctor annually, as compared to only 1,000 in 2005.

Six-month rural stint for doctors

Star: SARIKEI: The Government had approved in a recent Cabinet meeting to shorten the minimum period for doctors posting to rural areas from one year to six months.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said this was to encourage more doctors, especially specialists to serve in rural areas particularly in Sarawak and Sabah.
“We acknowledge there is still a shortage of doctors in Sarawak and Sabah. This decision to shorten the previous require- ment of doctors to serve at least a full year when they are posted to rural areas is one way to overcome the shortage problem,” Liow said at a press conference after launching a health carnival at the Sarikei Hospital.
The 12-day health carnival themed “Closer to You” was the first to be held in the state. During the event, a team of 10 specialist doctors from Peninsular Malaysia will conduct 285 elective surgeries, which are non-emergency surgical procedures to clear backlogged cases.
Other activities included a health aware- ness campaign, health screening for breast cancer, cervical cancer, eye checks, blood and organ donation campaign, health talks, seminars and a mass circumcision for boys.
Liow said the hospital had been elevated to a “Minor Specialist Hospital” status with the posting of two resident specialists – Dr Lim Wooi Kok (Paediatrics) and Dr Tan Tze Ling (Obstetrics and Gynaecology) from Peninsular Malaysia.
“One more surgeon who is now undergoing training in Kuching will be posted to Sarikei next year,” Liow said.
He added that every year the Government sent specialist doctors to Sarawak and in 2011, more than 20 had been posted to serve in various hospitals in the state.
Rural hospitals such as Kapit Hospital and Limbang Hospital would also have specialist doctors, he said.
He said the country now produced between 3,500 and 4,000 doctors yearly and this year alone, 800 doctors were given scholarship to undergo specialist training within the country and also abroad.
He said Sarawak was still lagging far behind in term of doctor-population ratio.
“In major cities in Peninsular Malaysia, the ratio is 1-600 people while in Sarawak it is 1-2,000 people,” Liow disclosed, stressing that the Government was com- mitted to reducing the large disparity gra- dually.
Liow also proposed to the state government to convert the old hospital in Sarikei into a clinic.
“The existing clinic has limited space. I hope the state government would agree to my proposal so that more people would benefit from it,” Liow said.
He reiterated that the BN government was serious in upgrading the living standard, economic and social well-being of the people through the transformation of the government, the economy and politics.
“This is not just empty talk. We are fully committed to make it happen,” Liow stressed.
He urged all hospital and health ministry staff to focus on their work as a team so that they could serve the people more effectively.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thumbs up for new beauty procedure guidelines

SunDaily: PETALING JAYA (Nov 20, 2011): The guidelines to regulate the booming beauty industry announced by the Ministry of Health are a much needed step towards safer aesthetic procedures, says the Society for Anti-Aging, Aesthetic and Regenerative Medicine Malaysia.
Its president Prof Dr Selvaraj Subramaniam told theSun recently that proper medical knowledge was needed as all medical procedures come with risks, and patients have no recourse if they are treated by unqualified people.
"The patient's safety and medical ethics play an important role in the decision to go ahead with the procedure or not, and risks and adverse effects need to be explained to patients.
"Sterility issues and whether the products used are expired or contaminated can lead to infection and deformity when things go wrong, and can even be fatal," he said.
The new guidelines, which are to be ready next month, will allow authorities to clamp down on beauty salons offering medical procedures that only trained practitioners are allowed to perform.
All procedures that require medical and dental practitioners to be present will be listed out and unregistered practitioners will be prohibited from performing any injective or laser procedures.
"With the new guidelines, it will be clearer for local governments and the authorities to know which kind of procedures beauty salons are not allowed to perform," Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said.
Under the new guidelines, action will be taken against beauty salons offering unauthorised procedures and the Health Ministry will also carry out random checks.
Selvaraj said patient education was the key to solving the problem of beauty quacks and ensuring those who seek treatment are provided proper services.
"Educating the patients together with the legislation set in place is the key to eliminating abuses that may arise from unqualified and untrained persons.
"Someone untrained performing an aesthetic procedure can be likened to one who reads about and watches an appendix surgery, and then does it.
"Only by training and experience do doctors become competent, otherwise, it's like playing with fire," he said.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Health Ministry freezing staff leave ahead of floods

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry will be freezing the leave applications for staff in certain states ahead of expected floods.
Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said Saturday that public health personnel from flood prone states in Kelantan, Terengganu, Perlis, Kedah, Pahang and Johor would be barred from taking holidays in December and January.
“We have received reports from the Malaysian Meteorological Department that there may be 40% more rainfall this year-end as compared to the same period last year.
“We have prepared our early mapping on which areas will see more rain and which areas are flood prone.
“We also have to move our clinics early so that there won't be too much damage when the floods hit,” he told reporters after the convocation ceremony at Tunku Abdul Rahman College here.

Scarcity of manpower resulted in long waiting lists for surgery Read more: Scarcity of manpower resulted in long waiting lists for surgery

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: The scarcity of manpower in the healthcare sector, especially where healthcare is publicly funded, has resulted in long waiting lists for surgery, said Raja Muda of Perak Raja Dr Nazrin Shah.
Not only was there a shortage of surgeons, there was also a worrying mal-distribution of resources, he said in his address at the 14th Annual Meeting of The Malaysian Association of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery (MATCVS) here today.
"The reluctance of doctors to operate in the less lucrative public sector or more remote locations, despite increased perks, have left thousands of patients without the means to obtain the treatment they need, needless to say surgeons are extremely overworked," he said.
Raja Nazrin said furthermore, surgeons were reported to experience a decrease in their autonomy because of greater external influences on their decisions, and as society became more discerning and educated, there was a far more equal relationship between patients and surgeons.
"Paternalism is becoming less and less of a norm and surgeons are often pressured by the high expectations of patients and their relatives that may even exceed a surgeon's ability.
"Sometimes, surgeons feel pressed by patients and their relatives to perform highly complex and high-risk procedures with unpredictable outcomes. On the other hand, the fear of being sued can lead surgeons to be on the defensive," he said.
He said he felt very heartened to note that hospitals such as the National Heart Institute (IJN), Universiti Malaya Medical Centre and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Medical Centre had been playing a much needed role in making cardiothoracic surgery more accesible to the general public, while at the same time, enhancing human capital in the field.
Meanwhile, Raja Nazrin said research indicated that chronic illness such as cardio-pulmonary diseases were largely a consequence of lifestyle with behavioural risk factors such as unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, tobacco use and harmful use of alcohol which were responsible for about 80 per cent of coronary heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in the country.
Raja Nazrin said in Malaysia, the forces of urbanisation was turning people increasingly towards sedentary lifestyles and towards conveniently-available, unhealty, processed and high fat foods.
"The Third National Health and Morbidity Survey conducted in 2006 revealed that the national obesity rate has rapidly increased over the decade from 4.4 percent in 1996 to 12.7 percent in 2002 and to 14.2 percent in 2006.
"Despite government efforts to curb smoking, the national prevalence of smokers remained virtually unaffected at 21.5 percent of the population and among the male population, the smoking rate was at a startling 46.4 percent," he said.
He said these trends indicated that there would be no shortage in the demand for healthcare with the number of cardio-thoracic surgeries performed having increased exponentially over the past four decades.
"Bypass surgery and catheterization have become routine procedures. Now surgeons are operating on patients that none would have dared to operate in the past and all these are made possible because of modern scientific discoveries and the continuous ugrading of knowledge, hardware and techniques," he said.
About the meeting, Raja Nazrin said with this year's theme "Back to Basics and Beyond" a proactive mutual commitment by the surgical fraternity, academic and research institutions was vital in renewing a focus on the powerful fundamentals that are unique to surgeons.
"Surgeons are able to test their hypotheses and see rapid, graphic results of their actions on their patients. This I imagine can be extremely rewarding and should not be lost sight of," he added.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Housemen in govt hospitals to get RM100 for weekday OT

Star: AN additional RM100 will be given to housemen working in government hospitals for overtime shifts during weekdays, said the Health Ministry.
Its deputy minister Datuk Ros-nah Abdul Rashid Shirlin told the Dewan Rakyat the ministry had received numerous feedback re-garding the long working hours of housemen in government hospitals.
“As an incentive, we will provide an additional RM100 to those working on normal days, while RM110 will be given to those recalled on weekends or public holidays,” she told Dr Siti Mariah Mahmud (PAS-Kota Raja) during question time.
Dr Siti had asked for the rate of allowances paid to interns or housemen who were “on call” to compensate for working extra shifts in government hospitals.
Rosnah noted that previously, the housemen were asked to work at least 90 hours a week compared with other civil servants.
“The long hours had made the job unattractive and created an unhealthy working lifestyle,” she said.
The ministry then introduced the flexi-hour working scheme, where housemen were only required to work a maximum of 60 hours per week, including spending time with the specialist, she added.
“They only need to work five days a week with two days off,” she said.
The housemen were also given a special incentive allowance worth RM600 per month as tabled by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in his Budget last month.

Leading experts in design and health to meet in Malaysia in 2012

ITCM: Representing the many cultures of Asia in a safe and politically stable environment in the heart of South East Asia, Malaysia provides a compelling setting for the 8th Design & Health World Congress & Exhibition (WCDH) in 2012. The five-day congress to be held at Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre will explore the latest research findings on the relationship between the built environment and human health, wellbeing and quality of life with a focus on the Asian, African and Middle Eastern emerging economies.
Organised by the International Academy for Design and Health (IADH) headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden, the Congress is a first for Malaysia. It is expected to attract 1,000 delegates and generate an estimated RM11.2 million (USD3.5 million, EUR2.6 million, AUD3.6 million) in economic impact.
Led by the Malaysia Convention and Exhibition of Bureau (MyCEB), the competitive bid was supported by Malaysia’s Ministry of Health and Public Works Department (Jabatan Kerja Raya). The Malaysian Institute of Architects (PAM), Public Health Physician Association of Malaysia and the International Islamic University Malaysia have also committed their support as event partners.
Announcing the country’s bid success, Deputy Health Minister of Malaysia, Datuk Rosnah Abdul Rashid Shirlin said, “The selection of Malaysia as the destination for the congress was based on the government’s commitment to improve health of its people and the country’s health facilities. With much emphasis on transforming the people’s mindset to adopt healthy lifestyle habits and not just paying attention to physical health aspects, this is what the country needs to move forward and compete in the world stage in any fields.”
Professor Alan Dilani, Director-general, IADH said, “Asian countries such as Malaysia, which is targeting to become a developed nation by year 2020 has recognised that progressive societies aiming to achieve strong and sustainable economic growth must also be healthy societies. Growing awareness of the importance of health promotion and the need to invest in healthy and sustainable public, social, institutional and domestic infrastructure is placing the country at the forefront of opportunity and the leading edge of change.”
Mr Marc Sansom, Director of Corporate Development & Communications, IADH said, “Malaysia offers a gateway to South East Asia and China as economic and social power balance shifts east more rapidly. The country offers a cultural richness and diversity in a stable political climate, understandable structures of governance and an open market economy that creates a unique environment and experience for delegates and corporate partners.”
Mr Zulkefli Hj Sharif, Chief Executive Officer, MyCEB said, “Malaysia’s growing success in attracting international congresses can be attributed to our excellent value for money proposition, a testament to our accolade – ‘3rd Most Price Competitive Country in the World for Travel 2011’ by World Economic Forum. Malaysia offers incredible value for money when it comes to five-star experiences for a diverse range of quality venues, accommodation and services.
“This means Malaysia often attracts record attendance for international meetings held here. This includes the 18th World Congress of Accountants 2010 (6,000 delegates) and the 70th Institute of Internal Auditors International Conference 2011 with 2,200 delegates – which scored the highest attendance for a conference held outside the USA,” continued Mr Zulkefli.
With Malaysia’s blend of the vibrant cultures of Asia’s three major races: Malay, Chinese and Indian plus 47 ethnic groups, meeting planners and delegates can truly experience Asia in Malaysia. This diversity is reflected in its cuisines, art and heritage, traditions, lifestyle and year-end round festivals.
Ranked as the world’s top 10 friendliest destinations according to a HSBC survey (2011), Malaysia also boasts an English speaking yet multilingual nation. It was rated the fourth safest country in the Asia Pacific behind New Zealand, Japan and Australia by the Global Peace Index 2011.

Malaysia To Fund RM20 Million Palm Tocotrienols Trials

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 16 (Bernama)-- Malaysia will invest close to RM20 million in six clinical trials seeking medical breakthroughs by using tocotrienols in palm oil.
Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok said the RM20 million investment is in line with Malaysia's aim to expedite growth in the food and health-based downstream segment under the Palm Oil National Key Economic Area.
The medical trials will be conducted by medical experts in the US, Singapore and Malaysia to determine whether tocotrienols are able to prevent the recurrence of stroke, breast cancer tumour progression and colorectal cancer; and prolong the survival of patients with prostate cancer.
"Oil palm fruits contain one of the highest amounts of tocotrienols, up to 800 mg per fruit. This makes palm oil tocotrienols ideal for medical research," he said at a media briefing.
Medical experts from Ohio State University Medical Centre, Universiti Malaya, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Singapore-based Davos Life Science, Penang Medical College and MD Anderson Centre of the University of Texas as well as the Malaysian Palm Oil Board will participate in the clinical research on tocotrienols.
Dompok said the researchers will also conduct clinical trials on diabetes mellitus and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD).
"We want these trials to produce supplements that will be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration as well as the European Medicines Agency and have the widest possible impact on patients globally," he said.

MMA struck off for flouting laws

Star: SEREMBAN: The move by the Registrar of Societies to de-register the Malaysian Medical Association has stunned some 10,000 doctors in the country who are its members.
“The MMA has clearly violated certain laws and that is why they have been de-registered,” said ROS senior assistant director Desmond Das Michael Das.
“But all is not lost as they can file an appeal with the Home Ministry within 30 days,” he said.
Early this month, The Star reported that the ROS had issued a show cause letter to the association as to why it should not be de-registered following alleged irregularities in the running of the organisation as well as in the election of its office bearers in May.

The four charges preferred against it were:
> Its failure to send out the list of candidates vying for positions within the specified period prior to the AGM
> Sending out an incomplete agenda
> Enforcing certain provisions that were not approved by the ROS, and
> Calling for nominations for certain positions well before the AGM.

Desmond said he would be meeting MMA office bearers on Monday as they had indicated their desire to appeal the decision.
The ROS decision came as a shock to members of the influential MMA, which is represented in various government agencies and boards and often consulted whenever amendments or new provisions are added to the country's health-related laws or policies.
The body has an ethics committee that monitors those in the profession and publishes an internationally recognised indexed journal which carries research articles.
When contacted, former MMA president and secretary-general Datuk Dr P. Krishnan expressed his disappointment with the MMA committee for not listening to the advice of its former leaders to declare the May election null and void.
This, he said, could have saved the association from being de-registered.
“It is sad that an influential organisation like the MMA has to go through this episode. They could have clearly prevented this,” he said.
MMA president Dr Mary Suma Cardosa had confirmed early this month the association had been issued a show cause letter and the MMA had given its reply.
She said there was no issue as it concerned only internal matters.
She was not available for comment yesterday.

Liow: Health officers checking on inferior goods claim

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry is looking into allegations of inferior quality products sold at the Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia (KR1M).
Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said health officers have taken 27 samples of products that have been in dispute including the 1Malaysia brand of fresh milk.
He said his officers would also look into the most recent claim by the Opposition that baby formula sold at KR1M contravened limits set by the Food Regulations Act 1985.
"We will definitely move in. Just wait for the report," he told reporters after launching a new school block of SJKC Serdang Baru 1 here.
On Monday, Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua claimed that the 1Malaysia Growing Up Milk' had eight times the permitted amount of Vitamin A and that it lacked key nutrients.
Before this, Pua claimed that the 1Malaysia fresh milk was contaminated with E coli bacteria as shown in a laboratory test.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

M’sians think obesity not a disease – that’s the big problem

Star: PETALING JAYA: What really makes Malaysians fat is the perception that obesity is not a disease, said National Heart Institute chief dietitian Mary Easaw-John.
“I realised that it is not just the food or the sedentary lifestyle Malaysians have. Of course, that may have contributed to obesity issues but the main problem is that we do not look at obesity as a problem,” she said in response to the recent World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics that Malaysia had the highest percentage of obese people in South-East Asia.
She said it might be this perception that led many Malaysians to stick to their ways despite the Government's awareness campaigns and its efforts to encourage healthy lifestyles.
“The Government has built parks around residential areas to encourage people to exercise but they cannot actually force people to exercise,” said Easaw-John.
“Often, when I talk to patients who are obese, they give me excuses like my whole family is fat but nothing has happened to them' or my friend said if I lose too much weight I will not look nice'.”
She said the fact that being obese did not directly cost a person money also contributed to the problem.
“It's not like diabetes, heart disease or cancer, where you have to fork out money to pay for medication. If you are okay with being obese, you don't need to spend money,” she said.
Easaw-John said parents were often the ones to blame when their children became obese as “it is their duty to discipline their children and instil good lifestyle habits”.
“There is a need to change Malaysians' attitude towards obesity. We must make them understand the impact of obesity fully,” she said.
Some Malaysians want organisers of functions to cut down on the kuih, which is often abundantly served to participants.
“We are very hospitable and we want our guests well fed,” a media consultant said.
“But this is very unhealthy. We take a break to eat every half hour or so and it doesn't help that at every function, the delicious kuih or nasi lemak is right in front of you,” he added.

Malaysians have most obesity-related woes in South-East Asia

Star: MALAYSIA is first among South-East Asian countries with problems pertaining to obesity – Malaysians take in too much sugar and sweetener.
Deputy Health Minister Datuk Rosnah Abdul Rashid Shirlin told the Dewan Rakyat that a survey revealed on average each Malaysian consumed seven tablespoons of artificial sweeteners, four teaspoons of sugar and three teaspoons of condensed milk with their drinks daily.
“At 51g, the intake is too high – above recommendations by the World Health Organisation (WHO),” she replied Dr Tan Seng Giaw (DAP–Kepong).
“WHO’s recommendation is that a person consumes only 10% of sugar a day from their daily calories.”
Rosnah, quoting the National Health and Morbidity Survey, said the number of Malaysians diagnosed with diabetes had increased two-fold to three million in the past five years.
“In 2006, the number stood at 1.5 million,” she told Salahuddin Ayub (PAS–Kubang Kerian) during Question Time.
Rosnah noted that Malaysia ranked sixth in the Asia-Pacific region and first in South-East Asia.
“We are concerned that many have yet to go for an early diagnosis test to detect any diabetic-related health problems,” she said.
“We estimate about two million people have not received any treatment for diabetes.”
According to WHO, 346 million people worldwide have diabetes and it is projected that death caused by it would double by 2030.
Rosnah said the ministry had analysed 1,226 food samples in 2009 of which 92 (7.3%) had chemicals harmful to consumers.
She said the Government would take errant food producers who did not adhere to the Food Regulations 1985 to court.

Beauty sector to be regulated

Star: PETALING JAYA: The proposed Health Ministry guidelines to regulate the beauty industry will make it easier for the ministry to clamp down on beauty salons offering procedures that are out of their scope of expertise.
The guidelines will list the procedures that are only allowed to be performed by registered medical doctors trained in aesthetic procedures, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.
“At the moment, it is still unclear what a beautician can or cannot do. But with these new guidelines, it will be clearer and local governments or the police will know that beauty salons are not supposed to perform certain procedures,” said Liow.
He added that if the ministry found out about a beauty salon offering services that were not allowed, it could take immediate action and work with the appropriate licensing body to withdraw their licences and stop their operations.
Liow was responding to The Star's front-page report yesterday on the increase in complaints against beauty salons.
“We have always had this problem with beauty salons. We have told them that they should not perform any invasive treatments, like botox injections or thermal (heat) treatments, (but they still do it),” he told reporters after opening the third Asia Pacific Conference of Public Health here yesterday.
“With stricter rules in the new guidelines, even doctors must go through a specific course to be allowed to carry out beauty treatments in the future,” Liow said.
He said the ministry was working with the Malaysian Society of Aesthetic Medicine on a compulsory syllabus for doctors who wished to perform such procedures.
At the moment, the beauty industry is largely unregulated as there is no specific Act or guideline that spells out the do's and don'ts.
“We can only regulate doctors who perform beauty procedures under the Medical Act 1971.
“But if a beautician performs them, the ministry cannot take action against them under this Act as he or she is not a medical doctor unless there is a complaint,” said Liow.
He also said that with the new guidelines, the ministry could also do random checks on beauty salons, even when there were no complaints.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Liow: NCD rate to increase

Star: BENTONG: Do not have a nonchalant attitude towards non-communicable diseases (NCD) as community participation is vital in ensuring a successful fight against it, Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said.
“According to the World Health Organisation, the NCD rate will go up by 17% worldwide in the next decade without public and government intervention. This is a very high percentage.
“We have to create a level of urgency and ensure the community is equipped with necessary knowledge and skills to be healthy,” he said after attending the Bentong Health Carnival and screening at SJK (C) Manchis here.
Almost 4.8 million Malaysians suffer from NCD which includes hypertension, heart ailments, cancer and diabetes.
The ministry, Liow said, was working with WHO to determine the target reduction rate for NCD and to reduce it effectively.
Early detection and prevention, he added, could sharply reduce the risks.
“For example, most cases of breast cancer which is the most common cancer among women are identified very late.
“It is easier to treat if identified early,” he said, adding that breast cancer made up about 35% of cancers affecting women.
Liow, who also presented 179 students with free prescription glasses courtesy of Yayasan Tun Rahah said health carnivals, mobile clinics and target screening for high-risk groups were being carried out to help prevent NCD. Traditional and complementary medicine, he added, could also help prevent NCD.
High-risk groups include obese people, the elderly and those suffering from diabetes and heart ailments.

Report errant beauty salons to ministry, consumers urged

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Victims of botched beauty treatment jobs or cheating by unscrupulous beauty houses should not hide behind their shame but instead join the Health Ministry in weeding out the errant ones from the multi-billion ringgit industry.
The ministry, acknowledging loopholes in regulations, wants to tighten the laws governing the industry, and is working closely with other stakeholders to make beauty procedures safer for the consumers, said Deputy Health Minister Datuk Rosnah Abdul Rashid Shirlin.
“Consumers have a role to play in identifying errant establishments as checks on beauty salons by the Health Ministry are based on complaints,” she said.
Malaysian Beauty Therapy Association president Datin Dr Clara Chee said beauty salons had mushroomed in the last few years.
The association estimates that the wellness industry is worth RM8bil annually, and at least one in three adults in Malaysia uses beauty services.
“Unfortunately, many of the new salons are small players desperate to make a quick buck.
“As a result, they resort to quick-fix solutions which can end up damaging the client's skin irreversibly in the long run,” she said.
While customers can terminate the services of a beauty centre and seek refunds under the Consumer Protection Act 1999, Chee said there was currently no law to specifically govern the industry.
Housewife M. Choo, 45, is a victim who fell for the ploy often employed by beauty houses to “milk” their customers.
Not only did she end up paying for unplanned treatments, Choo also ended up with a scarred face.
When she went to a skin care centre in Johor earlier this year, she had only planned to have a normal facial.
But she was persuaded to sign up for a laser package treatment that cost RM4,500 to remove dead skin and black spots from her face.
“After five sessions, my skin became badly burnt. I complained. The centre offered me two free sessions, but it only made my face worse,” she said.
When she sought the help of MCA Public Services and Complaints Bureau head Datuk Michael Chong recently, she realised that she was not alone.
Last year, Chong received eight similar complaints in which the victims had paid a total of RM25,100 for various beauty treatments.
This year, he has received four complaints so far but the amount involved was higher as the victims had paid a total of RM25,300.
Consumer Claims Tribunal statistics show that claims from consumers against beauty centres have increased by almost 60% from 253 claims last year to 401 so far this year.

New guidelines to regulate beauty industry to be ready next month

Star: PETALING JAYA: The new guidelines to regulate the beauty industry involving invasive procedures will be ready next month.
The rules will cover all invasive beauty procedures and treatment that require the attendance of registered medical and dental practitioners.
The guidelines will spell out the do's and don'ts, particularly in prohibiting non-registered medical or dental practitioners from carrying out procedures involving injection and laser procedures.
Once the guidelines are implemented, the public, medical practitioners and those in the industry can report beauty salons or those offering such treatment without authorisation.
The guidelines are sorely needed to govern the burgeoning billion-ringgit beauty industry in Malaysia, said Deputy Health Minister Datuk Rosnah Abdul Rashid Shirlin.
She said although there was an ethical guideline by the Malaysian Medical Council on aesthetic medical practice, there were no specific guidelines by the Health Ministry.
She said the ministry would cooperate with authorities like the Companies Commission of Malaysia, Domestic Trade Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry and the police to regulate the beauty industry and keep tabs on errant beauty salons.
“Currently we do not have direct control on the operating licences of these beauty centres since they are registered and licensed as business premises with the local authorities,” said Rosnah.
However, she said monitoring and enforcement by the ministry could be carried out under the Private Health-care Facilities and Services Act 1998 as well as the Medical Act 1971.
She said following complaints, several beauty salons which did not have a medical practitioner in at-tendance had been sealed for providing prescription drugs to their customers.
Rosnah said beauty salons that provided services that misled the public, used medical equipment and operated as though they were a healthcare facility could face action under the Private Healthcare Faci-lities and Services Act.
Malaysian Beauty Therapy Asso-ciation president Datin Dr Clara Chee gave the thumbs up to the proposed guidelines, saying it would help weed out the bad hats.

Serious mortality risk at home

AsiaOne: The Health Ministry does not support or encourage women to give birth at home, on their own, because the risk of complications is high. It may cause serious morbidity or even mortality to a mother, her newborn, or both.
Deputy Health Minister Datuk Rosnah Abdul Rashid Shirlin said the ministry acknowledged that women had the right to choose how and where to deliver, "but they don't have the right to put their baby at risk".
"Every pregnancy is a risk and the complications peak during labour and the immediate period after delivery," said Rosnah.
"Uncomplicated births can still potentially become a medical emergency without warning.
But the ministry is aware that there are women, who would prefer more natural, gentle, birthing methods, as opposed to what has benn perceived as an over-medicalised one in a hospital setting.
"We are aware and respect such preferences. We are continuously trying to accommodate such patients and their families' request," said Rosnah.
But such pregnant women are required to have had regular antenatal care and to have been fit throughout their pregnancy. A trained birth attendant would need to be present to assist.
The place of delivery would need to be safe and clean, with a reliable supply of clean water, electricity, good lighting and ventilation.
"The mother must inform her health-care provider (of her decision), who will then assess the safety of the home environment and advise the mother and her spouse or family, on things to prepare for the delivery," said Rosnah.
During the early stages of labour, the spouse or family must call the trained birth attendant to be present, who will then assist in the delivery.
"The trained birth attendant will be able to identify early warning signs of complications. The mother, spouse and family must understand and accept that if complications were to arise -- she will be transferred to a hospital."
In Malaysia, there is a law -- (Part V of the Midwives Act 1966 (revised - 1990) -- to ensure the safety of a mother during childbirth: a trained birth attendant must be in attendance during the delivery.
In Malaysia, this means registered midwives as they are the ones allowed to attend to births here.
Rosnah also pointed out that Malaysia's statistics showed that the risk of dying was much higher for a pregnant woman and her newborn if she were to deliver at home, rather than at a hospital.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Breakthrough in melioidosis cure?

NST: Researchers at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia may have found a possible cure for melioidosis by uncovering the workings of the bacteria that causes the deadly infectious disease.
Revealing this in the university's news portal, UKM Research and Innovation Affairs Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Rahmah Mohamed said the discovery, described as a major breakthrough, could lead to prevention and treatment of the disease.
"We have discovered a potent toxin, Burkholderia Lethal factor 1-BLF1, which prevents cells from breaking down protein in an infected body," she said.
"The outcome is that cells begin to die, leading to eventual organ failure and finally death."
She said the finding was a major breakthrough in discovering how the bacteria works and causes death in its infected hosts.
"Given the number of people wanting to understand the disease, this discovery is going to have a huge impact on our handling of future outbreaks."
Rahmah said there was currently no available vaccine for the life-threatening disease that has become a major health challenge in Malaysia and other Southeast Asian countries.
UKM Vice-Chancellor Professor Tan Sri Sharifah Hapsah Syed Hasan said the breakthrough was significant not only because of its scientific value but also because of the international collaboration.
"It serves to show the importance of international collaboration and UKM is very proud of the team," she added.
The UKM researchers had worked closely with the Malaysian Genome Institute, laboratories from the United Kingdom and also researchers from Singapore.
The disease gained notoriety as the cause of death of several men who were involved in a search-and-rescue operation of a drowning victim at the Lubuk Yu recreational area in Maran, Pahang, in July last year.
In Sarawak, 343 cases of melioidosis were reported last year, 17 of which were fatal.
Melioidosis is caused by a Gram-negative bacterium, Burkholderia pseudomallei, found in soil and water.
Symptoms may include pain in the chest, bones or joints; cough; skin infections, lung nodules and pneumonia.

A shield for our young

Star: Pneumonia is, in fact, the number one killer of young children in many countries.
IN 2008, an estimated 8.8 million children died before their fifth birthday. One in five of the deaths was due to pneumonia. Pneumonia kills an estimated 1.4 million children under the age of five years annually – more than deaths from AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.
In effect, one child dies from pneumonia every 20 seconds. Most of these pneumonia deaths occur in developing countries.
In Malaysia, the prevalence of pneumonia in children under five is between 28% and 39%. It is the fifth highest cause of death in Malaysian children, contributing 4% of deaths under the age of five years.
This global tragedy becomes even more depressing if you look at the universal finding that only one in five caregivers could recognise the danger signs of pneumonia, and only one in five children with pneumonia actually received lifesaving antibiotics!
Pneumonia often mimics the common cold, starting with a fever and cough, and parents may not realise that the condition may be much more serious.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF in their 2008 document outlined the Global Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Pneumonia (GAPP). In summary, this child survival strategy embraced the following three key elements:
·Protection by handwashing, exclusive breastfeeding, improved nutrition, avoidance of indoor pollution (smoking, stove fires) and reducing risk factors (eg HIV).
·Treatment by improving access to healthcare and appropriate management at health facilities.
·Prevention of pneumonia by immunising against germs that are responsible, eg measles, pertussis, Haemophilus influenza B (Hib) and pneumococcus.

The implementation of the GAPP interventions to protect (breastfeeding), prevent (vaccinations) and treat (case management) in the 68 high child mortality countries would potentially avert up to 1.2 million post-neonatal pneumonia deaths annually by 2015.
The prevention strategy with “pneumonia vaccines” have been shown to substantially reduce pneumonia morbidity and mortality in children.
Malaysia introduced the pertussis, measles and Hib vaccines in 1960, 1982 and 2002 respectively. However, the pneumococcal vaccine is still not in the Health Ministry’s (MOH) National Immunisation Programme (NIP).
And unfortunately, the pneumococcus is the number one cause of pneumonia deaths. More than 50% of pneumonia deaths are due to the pneumococcus.
Apart from pneumonia, the pneumococcus can cause other serious diseases, namely meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the spine and brain), bacteraemia (germs in the blood), and other less invasive but nonetheless very burdensome medical conditions in terms of volume of morbidity and complications – otitis media (inflammation of the middle ear) and sinusitis (infection of the sinuses).
For every case of pneumococcal meningitis each year, there are probably 1,000 cases of pneumococcal otitis media. The two cases below illustrate the spectrum of diseases caused by the penumococcus.

Case 1: A three-year-old girl presented with a three week history of coughing and six days of high grade fever. She did not respond to oral antibiotics and was referred to hospital.
On admission she was febrile, breathing rapidly and was grunting. Her chest x-ray showed pneumonia of the entire right lung, with fluid collection. The lung fluid was drained and it grew the pneumococcus.
She required respiratory support in the intensive care unit (ICU) for five days, and oxygen support for another five days. Her repeat chest x-ray showed residual lung damage and she was in hospital for a total of four weeks.
Case 2: The second case a five-month-old girl was less fortunate. She had fever 36 hours prior to admission, was feeding poorly and vomited twice. She was noted to be more sleepy. Both her blood and cerebrospinal fluid grew pneumococcus.
Despite ventilation in the ICU, intravenous antibiotics, and close monitoring, she died within 10 hours.

Thus, vaccination against invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) is a pivotal life saving strategy and reduces morbidity because:
·It may prevent children from ever being infected.
·It reduces the transmission of the bacteria in the community, thus reducing IPD in other age groups (herd immunity),
·It reduces the need for antibiotics, resulting in lower rates of resistant bacteria.

The pneumococcal vaccine first introduced in the US in 2000 has since been shown to be highly efficacious in a wide variety of populations studied in the US, Gambia and South Africa.
The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) is the first vaccine in 20 years to show a significant reduction in all-cause child mortality in a major randomised, controlled clinical trial in Gambia, where seven deaths were prevented for every 1,000 children vaccinated.
The WHO, in a position statement in 2007, declared: “Recognising the heavy burden of pneumococcal disease in children and the safety and efficacy of PCV7 in this age group, WHO considers the inclusion of this vaccine in national immunisation programmes as a priority.”
Looking at the annual world birth cohort in 2008, only 7% have been immunised with the PCV, and most of these were in developed countries. More than 50 countries have incorporated the PCV in their NIP. In Asia, only Singapore, Macau and Hong Kong have included PCV in their NIP.
Since the arrival of the PCV in Malaysia, only a meagre 10% of our birth cohort have been vaccinated against the pneumococcus, and virtually all of these were in the private health sector. The vaccine is not available to the 70-80% of Malaysian children who attend government health centres for their scheduled immunisations since the PCV is not in the nation’s NIP.
The Asian Strategic Alliance for Pneumococcal disease prevention (ASAP) has been at the forefront in the advocacy for the inclusion of PCV in the NIP of countries in the Asia Pacific. With her Malaysian partner, the Malaysian Paediatric Association, they were part of the Global Coalition against Child Pneumonia established in 2009, to advocate for global action to protect against, effectively treat and help prevent pneumonia.

Number Of Mental Patients Increases In Parallel With WHO's Projection

KOTA KINABALU, Nov 12 (Bernama) -- The number of mental patients in Malaysia has been seen to be increased in parallel with the World Health Organisation's (WHO) projection that the global burden of mental disorders would increase by 16 per cent by 2020.
Deputy Health Minister Datuk Rosnah Abdul Rashid Shirlin said 400,227 mental patients had sought treatment at government hospitals last year and the number was an increase of 15.6 per cent from the previous year.
"We have identified depression as the most worrying type of mental disorder and it is expected to be the second largest disease suffered by Malaysians after heart disease," she told reporters after opening the Physical and Mental Health and Fitness Campaign at Queen Elizabeth Hospital here today.
Rosnah also said the ministry was giving extra focus on promoting mental health care, including by organising a six-month stress management activities for students in several schools nationwide.
The schools involved are SMK St Michael in Penampang Sabah, SMK Datuk Haji Ahmad Badawi (Seberang Perai, Penang), SMK Simpang Bekoh (Jasin, Melaka), SM Sains Teluk Intan (Perak), MRSM Gemencheh (Negeri Sembilan) and SMJK Catholic (Petaling Jaya, Selangor).
Rosnah said the activities, which aimed at improving the students' skills and abilities to manage stress, also saw participations of parents and school management.
Hence, she said such activities would be expanded to all schools soon.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Ministry wants an increase in health services for orang asli

Star: PETALING JAYA: The Health Ministry wants to see more orang asli providing health services to their community.
“We would like to encourage orang asli with relevant qualifications to apply to become nurses, medical assistants, radiographers as well as doctors and pharmacists.
“Those who qualify will certainly be given priority for employment to serve their community,” said Deputy Health Minister Datuk Rosnah Shirlin via an email interview.
The ministry will take over health and medical services run by the Orang Asli Development Department (JHEOA) effective Jan 1, next year.
At present, JHEOA operates a hospital in Gombak, Selangor, three family clinics in Pahang, Kelantan and Perak, 16 transit centres for families of hospitalised patients, and 108 halls to provide health services using the department's mobile clinic programme, mobile dental clinics and an airborne doctor service.
“The orang asli will be able to obtain health services at any ministry facility and not just those operated by JHEOA.
“We will also ensure that the traditional practices such as family admission is honoured,” she said.
She added that a dedicated unit under the Public Health programme will be established to monitor the implementation of services and to plan for future development.
A doctor at the orang asli hospital in Gombak had highlighted alleged mistreatment of patients, medical negligence and abuse of power at the facility.
The hospital reportedly underwent some cosmetic changes in June last year to stave off further criticism.
An orang asli hospital staff member, who declined to be named, said that she looked forward to the changes.
“For many years I have longed to see more orang asli employed to serve our people,” she said.

S'pore billionaire to buy 10ha from Johor royal family

Star: PETALING JAYA: Singapore billionaire Peter Lim, dubbed the “Remisier King”, has signed a deal with the Johor royal family to acquire 10ha in Johor for the development of a medical hub and a marina city.
The joint venture company behind the development is Best Blend Sdn Bhd, which Lim owns 70%, and the royal family owns 30%. Lim is ranked by Forbes business magazine as Singapore's eighth wealthiest individual with a fortune of S$1.8bil.
“The cost of the medical hub is estimated at S$200mil and the total development cost could range from S$1bil to S$2bil. The medical hub will be funded through a mixture of debt and equity,” said Koh Kim Huat, a director of Best Blend.
The hospital, when completed, will be managed by Thomson International Health Services, the consultancy and management division of Thomson Medical Pte Ltd.
Singapore-listed Thomson Medical was taken private by Lim last year. It is described as a leading healthcare service provider in Singapore for obstetrics, gynaecology and paediatric service.
The site of this hub is located at Bandar Johor Baru, and is within close proximity to Johor's new royal customs, immigration and quarantine complex as well as Singapore's Woodlands checkpoint.
The first phase of the project will see the construction of a medical hub which will include a private hospital and healthcare-related facilities and also supporting facilities including serviced apartments, a mega shopping mall and a mega fully secured car park. A special feature of the complex is a state-of-the-art security deterrence and detection systems.
The 200-bed general hospital will house centres of excellence for diabetes, orthopaedics, ophthalmology, women's health, and a state-of-the-art day surgery centre.
“The medical hub will provide quality private healthcare at affordable prices to Singaporeans and Malaysians,” said Koh.
When asked whether TMC Life Sciences would be involved in the medical hub, Koh said there were no plans at this point.
Lim made headlines in Malaysia last year when he bought a substantial stake in TMC Life Sciences Bhd, a private healthcare group which is popular for its fertility treatments. Lim is now the largest shareholder of TMC with 32.59% stake.
Koh said fertility would be one of the key focus segments of the hospital. Among others, the focus for the hub will be the treatment of chronic and lifestyle diseases associated with growing affluence and which afflicts increasing numbers of Malaysians. The hub aims to provide a one-stop centre for chronic disease management of diabetic patients. A training school will be set up for nurses and medical technicians.

Powertek aids kidney foundation

NST: Every year, more than 4,000 Malaysians are diagnosed with kidney failure. Some 22,000 are on dialysis and the number continues to rise.
Concerned about these alarming statistics, Powertek Bhd (Powertek) recently joined the National Kidney Foundation of Malaysia (NKF) to help save lives through education and early detection of kidney disease.
Powertek presented RM100,000 to NKF in support of its public education outreach programme.
The sponsorship will enable the NKF to conduct free health screenings at Felda settlements, smaller towns and rural areas in Malaysia, especially in the east coast and East Malaysia.
The funding commitment is for one year, till June next year, covering 34 screening sessions.
Powertek executive director and chief executive officer Dr Ong Peng Su said: "As part of our corporate social responsibility initiative, we are pleased to work with NKF to provide free screenings to ensure that needy communities receive the support and assistance required for good health."
NKF chief executive officer Chua Hong Wee said: "There is no cure for kidney disease. The only way to reduce the number of dialysis patients is through regular check-ups and educating the public on how they can prevent kidney disease."
NKF has conducted 10 sessions in rural areas such as Hulu Selangor, Kampung Kundur Tengah in Negri Sembilan, Felda settlements in Terengganu and Kuching, Sarawak.
The NKF LifeCheck Mobile Health screening programme was launched in 2008. It has screened more than 100,000 participants.
NKF has over 1,400 dialysis patients receiving subsidised treatments in 24 dialysis centres nationwide.

Malaysian healthcare shines at Jakarta Hospital Expo

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian healthcare companies participating at the Hospital Expo 2011 in Jakarta, last month, received strong interest from Indonesian hospitals and laboratories for medical devices, equipment and services.
The 14 participating companies, led by the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE), also received numerous trade enquiries for spinal implants, urine bags, hospital beds, health screening services, cancer treatment, fertility treatment and orthopaedic surgery.
MATRADE Deputy Director of Corporate Communications Unit, Khairul Annuar Abdul Halim said the Hospital Expo 2011, is one of the largest health care related trade events in Indonesia.
He said with a population of over 220 million people, 80 per cent of the medical devices utilised in Indonesia, is imported.
Thus, the hospital show was a strategic platform to promote and foster business and networking opportunities between Malaysian healthcare device manufacturers, their potential distributors, agents and end-users throughout Indonesia, he added.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Specialists to learn TCM in China

Star: BEIJING: Specialists from hospitals and medical centres in Malaysia will soon be able to work with Chinese traditional medicine practitioners to develop methods of treating illnesses under a new cooperation agreement between both countries.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the cooperation would benefit Malaysia as some of the traditional practices adopted by the Chinese physicians could be good reference for Malaysian doctors.
“This is a very important development in our medical field. There are some cancer conditions in Malaysia that are hard for our specialists to treat,” he said.
“China invited our specialists to visit the country and learn from their practitioners specialising in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM),” he said after signing a memorandum of understanding on policy regulation and promotion of traditional medicine with Chinese deputy health minister Wang Guoqiang here yesterday.
He said both countries had agreed to start developing more software programmes such as training, research and development and clinical management for their doctors while waiting for the construction of a centre of excellence for TCM in Malaysia.
It is learnt that the Malaysian Government had offered a 20.2ha land in Salak Tinggi, Selangor, for the project which is estimated to cost RM200mil to RM300mil. The Chinese side will provide the technical expertise to build the centre.
Federation of Chinese Physicians and Medicine Dealers Associations president Ting Ka Hua said Malaysia was one of the few countries in South-East Asia which had kept the rich TCM tradition from generation to generation.

Scrapping MQE plan will "open floodgates" to foreign doctors

SunDaily: PETALING JAYA (Nov 6, 2011): The government's decision to scrap the plan to make the Medical Qualifying Exam (MQE) compulsory for all foreign medical graduates may have negative consequences come 2014, when Malaysia opens its doors to foreign medical practitioners under the World Trade Organisation agreement.
A source close to the situation said the decision of the Cabinet recently had obviously not taken into account the consequences of the WTO when the floodgates will be open to medical practitioners from the world over.
He said Malaysia had signed the WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) in 2005 and the agreement on allowing foreign medical practitioners into Malaysia to practice will come into effect in the next one to two years.
"In two years' time, Malaysia may be flooded with foreign doctors who may not be fit to practise here," said the source, who is a Health Ministry consultant, adding it will exacerbate public fears over the quality of doctors in the country.
He said many of the healthcare professionals who were consulted for the process of amending the Medical Act 1971 had been all for making it compulsory for everyone to pass the MQE before practising medicine here.
Earlier this year, Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai had announced that the current list of 365 recognised overseas foreign universities may be abolished in favour of making it compulsory to pass the MQE before practising medicine here.
However, the idea was recently quashed by the Cabinet which decided instead that the universities are only to be reviewed more frequently and the list shortened.
The source was however skeptical, saying the move will not resolve fears of poor quality medical graduates and low standards -- both of which are very much the realities of the medical profession now.
"Some of these universities have not been reviewed in 10 years, while some, the ministry is not even sure still exists," he said.
"Some even "put on" a show for the review, because they know the evaluation team is coming," he said, adding that it is a huge burden to review universities regularly, as each visit would take at least a week.
"How is it possible to review 365 universities in a year? Even if you review one university a week it is not possible," he said.
He cautioned that the ministry has yet to have a proper mechanism in place to ensure that local doctors will not lose out, and that foreign doctors would be tested for fitness before allowing to practise here.
"In Indonesia, all medical graduates regardless from which university or country must pass the certificate of fitness of practise before becoming doctors. Indeed, any medical practitioner wishing to be a doctor in indonesia must also sit for this certificate," he said, adding that Malaysia has yet to put in place a system like that.
"All this was brought up to the minister, but it was rejected. Many of those consulted, myself included, was in favour of making the MQE compulsory," he said.
He lamented that as more opportunities to study medicine both locally and overseas emerge, standards to studying medicine is lowered.
"The bar gets lower and lower each time, and so candidates get used to having it easy. By the time they come out to practice as housemen, they find it all too much because they are not used to hard work," he said.
Meanwhile, Malaysian Medical Association president Dr Mary Suma Cardosa described the cabinet decision as "an example of political interference in professional matters."
"The task of monitoring the quality of these universities is a massive task, which is why the Malaysian Medical Council wanted the exam to be compulsory initially," she said.
She nevertheless welcomed with caution the proposal by the Health Ministry to reduce the number of recognised overseas medical universities, though she said existing programmes may become more slipshod due to high demand.
"The emphasis should be on teaching modules, quality and caliber of the lecturers," she added .

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Malaysia to host talks on female health

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Every year, about 350,000 girls and women die from pregnancy-related causes and almost all of these deaths occur in developing countries.
But there is some good news; the numbers are decreasing across Asia, and Malaysia is helping to lead the way, making huge strides in reducing maternal deaths.
Between 2000 and 2011, Malaysia reduced maternal mortality rates from 63.6 per 100,000 live births to 48.2 per 100,000. That is one of the lowest maternal mortality ratios in Asia.
But that is not saying much, for Asia-Pacific still bears the brunt of birth-related deaths; 44% of maternal deaths and 56% of newborn deaths worldwide occur in the region.
This information was shared by Women Deliver, an international organisation that brings together voices from around the world to call for improved health and well-being for girls and women.
Launched in 2007, it works globally to generate political commitment and financial investment for fulfilling Millennium Development Goal 5 — to reduce maternal mortality and achieve universal access to reproductive health.
The organisation’s founder, Jill Sheffield, said Malaysia managed to reduce maternal deaths through simple interventions, such as improvement in access to maternal health services and investment in obstetric care in district hospitals.
This is one of the reasons that Women Deliver has chosen Malaysia as host for its third conference, scheduled for May 2013. The first conference was held in London in 2007 and the second in Washington (2010).
“This global conference will draw advocates, activists, civil society leaders from around the world to Asia to discuss the most pressing issues facing women and girls,” Sheffield said.
“A joint report will be released by Women Deliver and the World Bank that shows data on why investing in women is a smart thing to do.
“In 2010, more than 3,400 people came together at the Women Deliver conference to stand behind one message: invest in women – it pays.
“Women Deliver 2013 will build on these commitments, and it will launch a new era of engagement among all partners working together to improve maternal health and deliver for girls and women everywhere.”
The 2013 conference will focus on accelerating progress towards Millennium Development Goal 5 (MDG5) so that it can be achieved by 2015.
“Women Deliver 2013 will be an opportunity for the world to reassess our progress on MDG5 and set ambitious but realistic goals for impacting maternal mortality and reproductive health access for 2015 and beyond,” Sheffield said.
Women Deliver 2013 aims to build on the commitments and investments made in 2010, including the Muskoka Initiative launched by the leaders of the G8, the resigning of the Maputo Plan of Action by the African Union, and the United Nations’ Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health.