Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Mahsa ticked off for ‘misleading’ ad

FMT PETALING JAYA: PSM central committee member Dr D Michael Jeyakumar took former Health Ministry director-general Ismail Merican to task over Mahsa University College’s (Mahsa) full-page advertisement in an English daily for its nursing diploma programme.
“Mahsa and its pro-chancellor are being highly irresponsible in taking out a full-page advertisement in the Sunday Star to entice parents to send their children to a course where there is now a gross over-supply.
“If Mahsa and its pro-chancellor took out the full-page statement despite knowing these facts, then their action crosses the line demarcating irresponsible from despicable,” Jeyakumar said in a press statement yesterday.
Ismail is also Mahsa College’s pro-chancellor and chairman.
Jeyakumar revealed that the Health Ministry does not recruit a large number of nursing graduates from private colleges.
“In the five years from 2006 till 2010, only 993 graduates from private nursing colleges were offered jobs by the government, which works out to fewer than 200 a year,” said Jeyakumar, who is also Sungai Siput MP.
He added that those in the nursing industry had told him that annually 7% of the nurses needed to be replaced.
As of December 2010, there were 69,110 staff nurses. Of this, 47,992 are in the government service and 21,118 in the private sector.
“Seven percent (in the private sector) is equivalent to 1,478 vacancies. Annually there are 12,000 graduates but 10,332 will not get job placements for the next few years,” Jeyakumar said.
A challenge to Mahsa

Jeyakumar was piqued by Ismail’s claim that Malaysia needs thousands more nurses to achieve a 1:200 nurse-to-patient ratio, which is the World Health Organisation criteria for a developed nation.
“It reveals extremely muddled thinking or is it a cynical attempt to mislead people? His [Ismail's] assertion seems to imply that Mahsa is contributing to Malaysia becoming a developed nation by training more nurses,” Jeyakumar said.
He said that the ratio can be achieved in advanced countries as they had more health institutions and specialised nursing programmes for specific ailments unlike Malaysia.
He also accused Mahsa and Ismail of promoting the nursing course to rake in profits in the form of National Higher Education Loan (PTPTN) funds.
“Mahsa and the other private colleges can earn an average of RM25,000 from PTPTN loans that the Higher Education Ministry unquestioningly approves for each of the students registered in the nursing programme.
“Let’s face facts… this is the motivating factor for your [Mahsa's] nurses training programme, it’s neither nationalistic nor altruistic,” said the physician-turned-politician.
Jeyakumar dared the college to secure jobs for its nursing graduates and repay students’ loans in the event graduates do not get a job.
“Until this employment problem faced by Mahsa graduates can be solved, the only decent thing Mahsa and its pro-chancellor can do is to stop taking in any more students for the nursing diploma course,” he added.

Doctor in video loses job

AsiaOne KOTA KINABALU - An Egyptian doctor allegedly involved in an assault case at a backpackers' lodge here has lost his job at an interior government hospital.
State Health director Dr Yusof Ibrahim said the doctor was dismissed for his below par performance and it had nothing to do with the alleged assault on two Malaysian women and a Canadian tourist.
"Our specialists have assessed his performance and established that he could not perform up to our standards and so, his services were terminated," he said, adding that a letter had been submitted to the Health Ministry recommending the termination.
It is learnt that the doctor was in Sabah for the last eight months and had been serving at an interior hospital.
Dr Yusof said there was also feedback that the doctor could not get along with the other medical staff.
A video was uploaded on YouTube showing a man flying into a rage after purportedly seeing Canadian Daniel Gunn kissing his girlfriend on the cheek at the lodge.
The Egyptian took out his frustration on a female lodge employee by slapping her in the face with a plastic bag, prompting the couple to come to her aid.
The Arab man was then seen moving to attack Gunn's girlfriend and Gunn, who recorded the video of the incident.
Sabah Commissioner of Police Datuk Hamza Taib said police had completed investigations into the case and submitted the papers to the Senior Federal Counsel.
"We are waiting for further instructions on the next course of action," he said.

Privatisation of Healthcare Turns Election Issue

IPS KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 26 (IPS) – A plan by the Malaysian government to privatise its public healthcare system and get consumers to pay for it through salary cuts is rapidly turning into a major election issue.
Whistleblower doctors let the cat out of the bag this month by sharing details of ‘Icare’ that the government had shared with doctors and select stakeholders.
Currently, the government pays Malaysian ringitt 34 billion (11.2 billion dollars) annually for a healthcare scheme that it wants to pass on to consumers under ‘Health Care Financing’ that the public and conscientious doctors are opposing.
These doctors are fundamentally opposed to any scheme that requires citizens to pay a part of their earnings – in this case 10 percent of net monthly wages – if the cost of health financing is passed on to consumers.
The existing system, which consists of a network of government hospitals and clinics and caregivers throughout the country, provides cheap, affordable and effective healthcare.
“Why fix something that is working reasonably well,” said Dr. Ng Swee Choon, deputy president of the Private Medical Practitioners Association, a group of doctors opposed to Icare.
“Malaysia has excellent healthcare coverage as nearly 90 percent of the people stay within a five km distance from a government-run clinic or hospital,” he said.
Ng told a Feb. 18 forum that the World Health Organisation (WHO) had acknowledged in its annual report of 2007 that Malaysia had an effective and efficient healthcare system and had rated the service “excellent”.
Currently, 4.7 percent of the GDP is set aside for healthcare, way below the WHO recommendation of eight or nine percent.
“It’s more important to increase the bill of healthcare as a percentage of GDP than to go and change the system,” said another activist doctor T. Jayabalan.
The government is moving away from providing nearly free healthcare to a financing scheme that will be paid for by all citizens, he said.
The government, however, says healthcare is getting more expensive by the day and believes that a better option is one that is financed by citizens.
“Everybody is entitled to equal healthcare…there won’t be a private or government distinction,” said health minister Liow Tiong Lai of a scheme in which people contribute monthly in return for getting best medical care available.
Currently, those who can afford it patronise the expensive, well-equipped private hospitals that have sprung up all over the country while others make do with crowded government hospitals that are under-equipped and under-staffed.
Icare is expected to pool resources under the National Health Corporation (NHC) that will foot the medical bills, assign the sick to a doctor and regulate treatment according to a fixed schedule.
Many people are not confident about giving a part of their wages to a government-managed NHC and fear it will be mismanaged and overtaken by cronyism and nepotism, like other public sector outfits.
“We fear pilferage and that other forms of corruption would overtake the scheme,” said Dr. Michael Jeyakumar, a lawmaker from the small Parti Sosialist Malaysia.
“Right now the government is simply telling the people to wait quietly for them to tell what is best for them,” he said. “This type of top-down policy does not work anymore,” he said.
Health minister Liow came forward last week to say the opposition is spreading “false” details to confuse the public about Icare.
He said the assertion that 10 percent of salary would be mandatory to finance Icare is false. “I myself will oppose the scheme if that is the case,” Liow told The Star daily on Feb. 19.
But neither the health ministry nor Prime Minister Najib Razak have accepted a challenge from the opposition to release all the details.
The government has asked Malaysians not to speculate about Icare and reserve judgment for when the system has been given a chance to develop.
The opposition Pakatan Rakyat has urged the people to vote out the ruling Barisan Nasional or National Front. “The Front cannot be trusted with the people’s money,” said Jeyakumar.
The opposition has rejected Icare as exploitative and is using the issue as campaign fodder for elections that are due by April 2013.
A top-down planning system is the hallmark of the National Front which has ruled the country since independence in 1957 and is dominated by the powerful United Malay National Organisation party.
Moves to privatise state-run public healthcare can damage the National Front which has projected itself as the protector of the socio-economic interests of its main constituency, the rural Malays.
Voters rejected the Barisan Nasional’s hold on power in the 2008 general election when nearly 49 percent abandoned the Front in favour of the incipient Pakatan Rakyat opposition coalition led by Anwar Ibrahim, a former deputy prime minister in the Front government.
The Pakatan Rakyat and the National Front are nearly equally matched for a return match in their contest for state power in a general election that is widely expected to be called mid-year.
“Many members of the public are unaware of the implications of the scheme,” opposition legislator Charles Santiago told IPS.
“The federal government argues that Icare will make healthcare more affordable and its delivery more efficient to the public,” said Santiago.
“But they are actually privatising our healthcare services through a social health insurance scheme that will only further burden the people, especially the poor,” said Santiago who has started an awareness campaign in his constituency of Klang, 30 km west of the capital.

KPJ in excellent health with robust 4Q results, aggressive expansion growth Read more:

Borneo Post KUCHING: KPJ Healthcare Bhd (KPJ) is on solid ground as seen by its latest quarterly results, solid fundamentals and aggressive expansion plans to provide healthcare to the ever-growing Malaysian healthcare segment moving forward.
The group’s fourth quarter financial year 2011 (4QFY11) core net profit of RM39.5 million, up 62.6 per cent year-on-year (y-o-y) and 20 per cent quarter-on-quarter (q-o-q) came in within expectations, making 102 per cent of consensus full-year estimates.
Revenue for FY11 came in at RM1.89 billion, yielding a y-o-y jump of 14.3 per cent, driven by the higher number of patients and heightened activities at its hospitals.
Q-o-q, revenue grew by 6.4 per cent due to higher number of in-patients and out-patients throughout KPJ’s hospitals across Malaysia.
Due to a better utilisation rate per patient, 4Q core earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) margin expanded by 0.5 percentage point q-o-q to 10 per cent from 9.5 per cent in the 3Q.
OSK Research Sdn Bhd (OSK Research) opined in a research report, “Moving forward, we expect the group’s hospital in Jakarta to register further improvement in its financial performance, driven by growing recognition of its brand, which will enable it to draw a higher number of patients.
“The counter is an excellent long term investment and the current price weakness presents a good opportunity to accumulate KPJ shares.”
In a concurrent report, RHB Research Sdn Bhd (RHB Research) noted, “KPJ is on track to open three hospitals (two new hospitals and one replacement) this year. It is set to open its first phase (comprising 90 beds) of the 200-bed Bandar Baru Klang Specialist by 1H (first half) FY12 while construction of the Pasir Gudang hospital is targeted for completion by end-2012.
“In addition, we understand that the construction of the first phase (comprising 100 beds) of the new Sabah Medical Centre (replacement to the existing facility) would be completed in 2HFY12 and thus, should begin contributing from 2HFY12 onwards.
“We view the company’s aggressive growth strategy of two new hospitals per annum positively given its high occupancy rate of 70 to 75 per cent currently (optimum level at 80 per cent) and the need to accommodate the growing number of patients.
“We remain positive on KPJ’s aggressive expansion plans which should help it maintain its dominance in Malaysia’s growing healthcare market. In addition, we expect the stock to benefit from a possible sector rerating from the listing of IHH in mid-2012.”
RHB Research noted the risks to KPJ’s earnings including lower than expected patient numbers which could be due to slower-than-expected economic recovery and serious disease outbreaks (such as SARS or swine flu) in Malaysia as well as slower than expected turnaround in loss-making hospitals.
The group declared a third interim gross dividend per share (DPS) of 2.5 sen (less 25 per cent tax), bringing the year-to-date net DPS to 12.4 sen, thus translating to a net payout of 55.8 per cent and net yield of 2.6 per cent respectively.
OSK Research maintained the fair value pegging at RM5.84 per share, based on 23.1 times price earnings ratio (PER) on FY12 earnings per share.
Likewise, RHB Research made no change to its fair value derivation of RM5.09 per share, which was based on an unchanged 2012 PER of 20.5 times.

We did not cut HIV cash aid

FTM KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry denied that funds for HIV/AIDS-related social work had been cut earlier this year.
Its minister, Liow Tiong Lai, said that these funds – needed by many NGOs to do their work – were merely delayed.
“There is no such decision (to cut the funding)… when I checked…We didn’t cut any funding for any communicable disease,” he told reporters at the Putra World Trade Centre today.
He was responding to claims by several HIV/AIDS-related NGOs which complained that their funds had been cut, forcing many of them to sack their workers and abandon their programmes.
Since 2006, the Health Ministry had been giving a certain sum of money to the Malaysian AIDS Council (MAC) for the purposes of combating the spread of HIV/AIDS in the country.
The MAC would then disburse these funds to the many NGOs under its wing.
The NGOs would then use this money to counsel infected patients, as well as distribute items such as condoms and lubricants to sex workers.
They would also help with transgenders, drug users and children born with the virus.
(It is not clear how much the ministry gives the MAC. However, it is believed that the amount is a substantial figure.)
Earlier this year, the ministry allegedly cut its funding for these NGOs, forcing some to say goodbye to their workers.
This, was apparently done without warning, and has since raised alarm bells for the HIV/AIDS-affected community.
Liow maintained, however, that some of the programmes were merely delayed, and that the amount of funds had not changed.
“Only certain programmes may be delayed, so the funding is not there. It’s not because of funding that the programme has been delayed. Sometimes the programme is delayed, then the funding didn’t come down.”
“Once the programme continues, then the funding (will also) continue. We didn’t cut any funding,” he said.
He added that the government disbursed its funding according to the separate programmes.
“So whatever funding given to the MAC would be the same. Only that numbers may be different for different programmes,” he said.
The MAC is expected to meet with the ministry over the matter in the near future.

Sex education helps young be responsible

Star WITHOUT access to sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services, adolescents and youth, especially girls, face daunting reproductive and sexual health problems: unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, maternal mortality and morbidity, violence, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV, exploitation, and discrimination on the basis of gender or sexual orientation.
As in many countries, some 60% of the population of Malaysia is under 25 years of age.
Evidence shows that sexuality education programmes have a positive effect on initiation of sex, frequency of sex, number of sexual partners, condom use and other sexual behaviours that can prevent negative sexual and reproductive health outcomes.
Sexuality education also enables them to make informed decisions when they become young adults later in preventing unintended pregnancies, baby dumping and getting STIs.
While it is desirable for parents to provide sexuality education to their children, many parents dread it, and some rely on available educational materials.
Parental guidance is one of the most influential means in getting messages across to the children especially when it is delivered with warmth and openness.
Children are curious and naive, they keep looking for answers until they are satisfied. Therefore, parents have to be prepared with sufficient and appropriate information to educate their children.
The book Where Did I Come From? represents a good resource. It should not be brushed away. As long as sex education is presented in a wholesome manner – its biological and moral aspects intact – to the young, there is less danger of children becoming prey to irresponsible adults or sexual perverts. We need to teach our young to protect them, not to expose them to irresponsible sex.
Changing social conditions, rapid urbanisation, and an early start to puberty and delays in marriage, the accelerated spread of information and communication technologies across cultural boundaries, and the gradual decline of extended families have all contributed to changes in relationships and sexual behaviours among young people.
All these have prompted the Federation of Reproductive Health Associations Malaysia (FRHAM) to develop a comprehensive module called Reproductive Health of Adolescent Module.
FRHAM, as a leading sexual and reproductive health NGO, has partnered with relevant organisations in conducting numerous training sessions on how to use the module and has reached out to many young people in the country in improving their knowledge and skills with regard to issues on sexuality.
We strongly believe that it is important to inform and educate children so that they can make informed and responsible decisions in their life.

Federation of Reproductive Health Associations Malaysia.

Rules for those who perform aesthetic ops

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Guidelines are being finalised to provide a clearer definition on the jobs that can be carried out by beauticians, specialists and general practitioners who perform aesthetic surgeries, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.
He said the ministry's guidelines, which would be ready by the first quarter of the year, would specify what beauticians, general practitioners and specialists, including dermatologists and plastic surgeons, were allowed to carry out on their clients.
A committee, made up of dermatologists, plastic surgeons, general practitioners and ministry officials, was also finalising the syllabus of a short course that general practitioners were required to attend should they intend to carry out aesthetic surgeries in their clinics.
“This will be a special skills course that is different from normal medical courses. It will deal with issues related to skin and beauty,” he told reporters after the opening ceremony of Beauty Professional 2012 here yesterday.
Liow said there was a growing demand for aesthetic surgeries among Malaysians, thus the course would better prepare general practitioners who offered such services.
“It will also help the ministry to not just regulate but also monitor practitioners who offer such services,” he said.
Liow also urged the cosmetics industry to set up a panel to self-regulate its products and practitioners to ensure that the services they provided were safe and of quality.
“The industry must ensure that the marketing and advertising of cosmetics are conducted in an ethical manner that promotes proper use of its products,” he said.
“It certainly must not mislead or deceive the consumers through fantastic or optimistic claims.”
He said it was important to show the public that the industry was voluntarily doing the right thing to ensure the safety of its products as this would help the industry gain public trust and brand loyalty.

On the number of hand, foot and mouth disease cases in Sarawak, Liow said there was an accumulated number of 1,231 cases since January, which is an increase of 936 cases compared with 295 cases during the same period last year.
“The situation in the state is stable. Most of the patients showed mild symptoms of the disease,” he said.
Liow added that among the cases, 80 of them were clustered cases that happened in families, nurseries, kindergartens and primary schools.
He said Kuching still recorded the highest number of cases at 449, followed by Bintulu (202), Samarahan (119) and Betong (107).
“Of all the samples that we have taken so far, 87% of them are EV71 positive while the rest are Coxsackie A16 positive,” he said.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Focus on health of commercial vehicle drivers

The Star IN a joint study with the Road Safety Department (JKJR), the Sleep Disorder Society Malaysia (SDSM) found that 30% of bus drivers are affected by sleep disorders.
Its president Dr Muhammad Muhsin Ahmad Zahari said 8% had chronic conditions and needed to be treated first before they could resume driving.
More shocking discoveries would be unearthed if similar studies were conducted on the mental and physical health of those driving lorries, buses and taxis.
Commercial vehicle drivers are required to renew their Goods Driving Licence (GDL) or Public Service Vehicle (PSV) licence annually at the Road Transport Department (JPJ).
The renewal form must be stamped and signed by a medical practitioner who has examined the applicant to certify he or she is fit to drive a commercial vehicle.
However, GDL and PSV licences are swiftly renewed at JPJ without the authenticity of the signatures being checked.
It is no surprise if 50% of commercial vehicle drivers fail a stringent medical examination, especially if drug and eye tests are included.
Many of them are overweight or obese and suffer from hypertension, diabetes and other lifestyle diseases.
Many are likely to be dehydrated and constipated for working long hours behind the wheel. Some binge on food and cigarettes during breaks.
If a National Health Service scheme were in place, they would be among the 20% of the population that would gobble up 80% of the expenditure.
If all unhealthy commercial vehicle drivers are taken off the road, our road public transport will be crippled. It will also be unnecessarily cruel to them and their families.
As such, the various authorities such as JKJR, JPJ and the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) should institute measures to promote the health of these drivers as part of an overall road safety campaign.
The initiative by SDSM ought to be lauded, and for every driver treated for chronic sleep disorder it is as good as having a time bomb removed from our roads.

Kuala Lumpur.

Medical tourism in the pink of health

BT Medical tourism in Malaysia hit record levels in 2011 and is on track to achieve yet another year of healthy numbers in 2012.
Receipts from foreign patients spending on medical treatment in Malaysia 2011 stood at RM509.77 million, while foreign patients count was 578,403.
Chief executive officer of the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC) Dr Mary Wong Lai Lin said the 2011 revenue had grown by 34.5 per cent, while the number of patients had swelled by 47.2 per cent compared to 2010.
These figures were well above the initial projection of RM431 million revenue projected to be spent by 400,000 foreign patients.
Accordingly, an upward revision for the 2012 projection (which was made in the third quarter of 2011) will be made.
MHTC had forecast revenue from medical tourism to reach RM548 million from a total of 600,000 patience. MHTC was established under the Ministry of Health Malaysia as the primary agency to develop and promote the healthcare travel industry and position Malaysia as the healthcare destination of choice in the region.
Medical tourism receipts are separate from tourist receipts, which are tabulated by the Tourism Ministry. A total of 41 hospitals and eight ambulatory care centres (dental, eye, health screening centres) are registered with MHTC.
Wong, who was speaking to Business Times recently, said Penang received the highest share of foreign medical revenue at 49 per cent, followed by hospitals within the Klang Valley at 21 per cent and Malacca, at 10 per cent.
The Indonesian market continued to form the bulk of foreign patients in Malaysia due to its proximity and accessibility.
“We are targeting Japan, China, Middle East and Bangladesh as well as countries within South East Asia such as Cambodia
and Myanmar,” she said, when asked about markets with potential.
Foreign patients who come here often seek very specialised treatment such as cardiac, orthopaedic, in vitro fertilisation
and oncology, while an increasing number are seeking cosmetics and dental-related treatment.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Make rotavirus vaccination a must

SunDaily PETALING JAYA (Feb 20, 2012): Paediatricians are urging the Health Ministry to make vaccination against the deadly rotavirus compulsory under the national immunisation programme.
In light of an outbreak of acute gastroenteritis (AGE) associated with the rotavirus in Perak last week, these doctors want the ministry to include the vaccines in the national vaccination schedule, in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations.
Academy of Medicine of Malaysia College of Paediatrics president Prof Lee Way Seah and Asia-Pacific Paediatric Association president-elect Datuk Dr Zulkifli Ismail in a joint letter today said two vaccines have been available in Malaysia since 2009.
"Both vaccines have been found to be highly effective and safe in the prevention of rotavirus infection in infants," they said.
"We urge the government to consider including rotavirus vaccine as part of our national immunisation programme for Malaysian children," they added.
Rotavirus, which is named for its pinwheel-like appearance, is a fatal virus which causes diarrhoea, vomiting, severe dehydration and fever.
It is related to almost 50% of all childhood AGE cases; and AGE is the second leading cause of death among children under five years old.
According to WHO, some 10 million young children die from AGE annually.
Locally, the recent outbreak of AGE in Perak, which began on Jan 27, has thus far resulted in the deaths of two infants aged two and 10 months, due to suspected rotavirus infection.
So far, a total of 3,823 cases of AGE have been reported in Hilir Perak and Batang Padang, but the cause of the outbreak is still undetermined.
Pantai Medical Centre consulting paediatrician Dr Chai Pei Fan said looking at the facts and figures of rotavirus infections, it is imperative that the government look into making the two vaccines mandatory.
"WHO figures show that between 400,000 and 700,000 deaths annually are related to rotavirus," he told a media briefing here today.
He said a 2004 study based on Health Ministry data showed that 1 in 37 children have been treated as outpatients due to rotavirus, 1 in 61 hospitalised and 1 in 15,000 die from it.
Chai said the study also showed that 30% of AGE-related hospitalisations in Malaysia is due to rotavirus infections.
"However, there is no antiviral treatment for rotavirus. Treatment is usually focused on oral rehydration solutions – as most deaths from rotavirus is due to severe dehydration and organ failure – and probiotics, to reduce the symptoms of vomiting and diarrhoea," he said.
The virus is also extremely resilient, staying on surfaces for up to 10 days, and resistant towards ordinary hand soaps or mild disinfectants.
"The best ways to prevent rotavirus infection is to use alcohol-based disinfectants to clean surfaces which the child comes in contact with, as well as to ensure hygiene, as the virus is transmitted through hand-to-mouth contact with contaminated surfaces," he said.

Mercy Malaysia to initiate humanitarian projects in Pakistan

Borneopost KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Medical Relief Society (Mercy Malaysia) in support of the Malaysian government has set to initiate humanitarian projects in Pakistan to alleviate the province’s dire situation after it was hit by severe flooding in August last year.
Heavy monsoon rain on Sindh and the northern parts of Punjab had affected the livehood of 9.27 million people who rely heavily on agricultural produce.
Mercy Malaysia president Datuk Dr Ahmad Faizal Mohd Perdaus in a statement yesterday said with the US$1 million (RM3.2 million) generous contribution from the Malaysian government, Mercy Malaysia was able to respond to the disaster with more impetus and to greater effect.
“Mercy Malaysia is genuinely heartened by the support of the Malaysian government.
“Our assessment team found that there are still health related concerns six months after the flooding in Pakistan with the hygiene and sanitation situation very worrying,” he said.
Ahmad Faizal added that the people of Sindh in Pakistan were having difficulty accessing health facilities and there were also infrastructure damage to hospitals and health centres. — Bernama

Health Ministry cuts back on HIV funding

FMT The Health Ministry has allegedly cut HIV/Aids-related funds this year, potentially leaving thousands of infected patients to fend for themselves.
KUALA LUMPUR: Six years ago, Suzy (not her real name), was forced through difficult circumstances to become a sex worker.
Her family was out of money, riddled in debt and her father was suffering from gout. Back then, Suzy (now 31) had no other choice. She is a transgender.
Because of her sexuality, no “normal” company would hire her. She would remain jobless since she left school.
“Yes (it was my choice to become a sex worker)…I had to take care of my family,” the shy Suzy, told FMT. “I had to take care of our debts. My father is sick. He has gout. It was very difficult to find a job.”
After a short stint as a sex worker, Suzy was taken in by the HIV/Aids NGO Women & Health Association of Kuala Lumpur (WAKE) in 2006.
She would eventually become an outreach worker there, handing out condoms and lubricants to sex workers, as well as giving counsel to HIV-infected people.
Safe sex and HIV prevention were some of the topics she would tell her 377 “clients” from time to time.
But in a few days, Suzy (and many other HIV-outreach workers like her) will lose her job. She faces the prospect of selling herself on the streets again.
This is because the money for these NGOs, allocated to them from the Health Ministry, has been cut.
In early January this year, the ministry supposedly cut a large portion of its yearly funds to the Malaysian Aids Council (MAC).
The MAC acts as an umbrella body to several HIV-treatment NGOs across the country, distributing the ministry’s approved funds since 2006.
This year however, it has left several of these NGOs out of the loop, forcing some of them to sack their workers.
No reason given
Suzy’s manager Muhammad Daruz told FMT that the ministry did not give a reason why it stopped approving funds for WAKE’s HIV prevention work, even though it had been steadily funding them since 2007.
“Every year, we submit our proposal (for the funds), but this year we’ve been told that it was not approved…There was no reason. It was not approved, and that’s it,” he said.
According to Muhammad, the cut funds meant that he had to see many of his people go by the end of February.
“If we have no funding, how are we going to pay them?..Of course (we’re not happy), they’ve been with us (for so long), but (now) they won’t have any income,” he added.
But the biggest losers from this change, Muhammad said, were the thousands HIV/Aids-infected clients, who had no one to turn to because of this money cut.
These included Malaysia’s sex workers, transgenders, drug users and children born with the deadly virus.
NGOs claim that there as many as 91,362 cases of HIV infections in Malaysia, as well as over 60,000 sex workers.
The cut funds came as a shock to many of the NGOs, who felt that the government’s support and funds in recent years has helped to curb HIV infections.
In a March 2010 media report, Deputy Health Minister Rosnah Abdul Rashid Shirlin was quoyed as saying that Malaysia had seen a drop in HIV cases, as compared to a decade before.
According to the MAC’s website, Malaysia recorded 3,652 HIV cases in 2010. In 2001, the number of cases that year was 5,938.
Johor HIV-outreach worker Ita (not her real name) feared the worst with the government supposedly cutting these funds.
Speaking on her work at Intan Life Zone (her NGO), Ita warned that the HIV virus could spread if there was no money for these outreach workers.
“We need to help (the HIV-infected), and we need the budget for it. We’re not a business, and we can’t earn back the money for this every month.”
“If we can’t run the NGO, we cannot give (clean) needles to (drug users),” she said, adding that many drug users tended to share needles.
Ita said that this might cause the HIV virus to spread amongst drug users, and in worst-case scenarios, on to their wives and children.
She also defended her NGO’s work, saying that it was not encouraging drug use, but keeping the HIV pandemic in check.
Seeking a meeting
Malaysian Aids Council president Mohd Zaman Khan told FMT that the ministry’s funds this year fell short of previous years.
He also confirmed that not all the NGOs had been affected by the cut. “Some, not all…The budget (for 2012) has been approved, but has been short of what we asked for.”
“We were told of the amount, and they (ministry) told us some of the project was approved and (some) were not approved.”
“Of course we don’t expect (a lot) to be given. We expected a cut, but we did not expect such a cut that tends to affect our ability on the ground,” he said.
Zaman was however reluctant to disclose how much this cut, or the total approved budget was.
Nevertheless, he told FMT that the MAC had – very soon after it saw the cut- sent a letter to Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai asking for a meeting on the matter “as soon as possible”.
He added that some NGOs did not seem to record a good performance, whilst others did not submit reports back to the MAC for the ministry to check.
Even so, Zaman said that he would consider bringing up the matter with Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak if the meeting with the ministry did not end satisfactorily.
When contacted, the ministry was unavailable for comment.

Private hospital market ‘will rake in RM14b in 2015'

Malaysian Reserve The private hospital services market in Malaysia is expected to reach RM13.79 billion in 2015, with a compound annual growth rate of 16.5% from 2010-2020, according to an independent research house.
The segment earned a revenue of RM7.48 billion in 2011, and spent an estimated 4.4% of gross domestic product on healthcare in the same year, according a study presented by Frost & Sullivan yesterday.
The research house said despite low spending on healthcare, the performance of Malaysia’s public sector is "commendable and comparable" to some developed countries.
Frost & Sullivan Asia Pacific vice president for healthcare Rhenu Bhuller in her presentation entitled "Asia Pacific Healthcare Outlook 2012-2015" in Kuala Lumpur yesterday, said Malaysia has the potential to see a threefold increase from 2007 in the private hospital market in 2015.
Breaking down the figures by state, Bhuller said by 2015, private hospital services in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor are expected to earn RM3.17 and RM3.14 respectively, followed by Penang with RM1.89 billion, Johor RM1.23 billion and Malacca with RM1.31 billion.
She said the Joint Commission International (JCI) accredited hospitals in Asia have increased by almost sevenfold over the past six years (2005-2011) and Malaysia currently has nine JCI accredited hospitals.
Touching on medical tourism, Bhuller said hospitals in Malaysia are diversifying to increase competitiveness to capture more medical tourism market.
Indonesian patients represent the biggest bulk of health travellers constituting to nearly 70% of the total arrivals to Malaysia.
The report showed the state of Penang, which account to 20% of its private hospitals entrusted by the government for medical tourism and has the majority of Indonesian patients, managed to grow its medical tourism revenue by 5% to RM165 million in 2009 despite the economic downturn.
“Patients from Indonesia are the biggest market for medical tourism in Malaysia, and in identifying this influx, the Indonesian government is looking at ways to improve their healthcare system to cater their population,” she said

Socso approves nearly RM5 million for occupation safety research and activities

Borneo post KUALA LUMPUR: The Social Security Organisation (Socso) has approved almost RM5 million this year to be given as aid to 22 non-governmental organisations and local universities to carry out research and activities on occupational safety and health for workers.
Its chief executive, K Selvarajah, said the research was to find ways to enhance safety and health practices at workplace to ensure workers’ safety and provide them with a safe working environment.
Socso also worked with the NGOs to organise activities to enhance public awareness on occupational safety and health, he told reporters after presenting the outcome of the studies here yesterday. They included a ‘Study On Commuting Accident’ by Universiti Utara Malaysia and on ‘Occupational Safety and Health (OSH)’ by Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) and the Malaysia Society for Occupational Health and Safety (MSOSH). The studies were based on statistics gathered by Socso based on information from its subscribers.
Selvarajah said the research was important following the 12.58 per cent increase in commuting accidents, from 22,036 cases in 2010 to 24,809 cases last year. — Bernama

Docs must tell women with high breast density about breast cancer risk

Star. PETALING JAYA: Doctors who detect high breast density in their patients must tell them about the link to higher risk of breast cancer so that the women are diligent about getting their routine screening.
Universiti Malaya consultant breast surgeon Prof Dr Yip Cheng Har said that post-menopausal women with very dense breasts were four to five times more likely to develop breast cancer than women with low breast density.
She said that doctors often hesitated to tell their patients about the higher cancer risk as they were concerned that the women would be become unduly anxious.
But such knowledge would help the women be more conscientious about having their breast screened on a regular basis as many Malaysian women were generally quite complacent.
“Currently, radiologists do not record breast density readings and women in the category may want to ask for this to be done,” she said in an interview in conjunction with the 1st Asian Symposium on Breast Density recently.
Dr Yip said that it was normal for younger women to have dense breasts but not older women.
The reason for the increased risk is not known but researchers postulate that denser breasts have more breast cells and, therefore, hence, face a higher chance of things going wrong or that cancer grows better in dense breast tissue cells than other cells.
The more dense the breast is, the lighter it appears on mammogram while less dense breast appears darker.
As the image is much lighter, it lacks detail and radiologists cannot detect if anything untoward is happening.
Dr Yip said that women with denser must know that it was even more important for them to combine self and clinical examinations on a regular basis.
The most common method for breast density measurement is the American College of Radiology's Breast Imaging Reporting and Data System (BI-RADS) for breast density, she said.
However, it is not routinely reported or used by health care providers to assess breast cancer risk.
In the United States, Connecticut and Texas have passed laws requiring doctors to inform the women that they have high breast density and about the increased risk to breast cancer.
There was now a move to make the Breast Density Inform Law to be extended to other states, she said.
Besides age, genes also determine breast density while women with children tend to have breasts that were less dense.
Asian women have denser breasts than Caucasian, but among Asians, Chinese women tend to have denser breasts, she said.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Ministry: 2,104 health offence fines issued in January alone

Star: PUTRAJAYA: The Health Ministry has been hard at work weeding out health offenders across the country, issuing a total of 2,104 compound notices in January alone.
Health director-general Datuk Seri Dr Hasan Abdul Rahman said the notices included 1,132 for offences related to dengue control while the rest were related to tobacco offences.
Aside from the dengue compound fines totalling RM484,500, another 231 cases were filed in court under the Destruction of Disease Bearing Insects Act 1975, of which 56 were found guilty and fined a total of RM16,950.
The 972 tobacco offenders, on the other hand, were compounded a total of RM219,750.
There were, however, nearly triple the number of court cases filed against tobacco offenders compared to dengue cases, at 659 cases in total under the Control of Tobacco Products Regulations 2004.
Of the cases, 56 ended with convictions leading to total penalties worth RM10,030.
Dr Hasan noted that the Health Ministry would only take enforcement action as a last resort.
“The public and all parties are urged to carry out their duties and responsibilities to make sure we can optimise the implementation of health activities,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Orang asli healthcare services to be further improved

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry is confident that healthcare services for the orang asli community will be further improved by taking over the Hospital Orang Asli Gombak and three clinics in Pahang, Kelantan and Perak, said Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.
He said the ministry, which took over the hospital and the three clinics from the Rural and Regional Development Ministry, would offer better quality of healthcare services to the community as it was the professional in the field.
The Health Ministry also took over the mobile clinic, mobile dentistry service team and the flying doctor service from the Rural and Regional Development Ministry.
“We will also be able to provide them with upgraded primary healthcare and introduce preventive measures for different diseases.
“The orang asli community, especially those who live in the interior areas, will also enjoy better access to quality health services by being able to utilise the facilities provided by the ministry,” Liow told reporters after the handing over ceremony of the health and medical division under the Orang Asli Development Department to the Health Ministry here on Friday.
Liow said the move to take over the division would also ensure doctors and medical staff working at these hospital and clinics a better career path, whereby they would have more opportunities for transfers and promotions.
He also assured that traditional practices, including exclusivity and family admission, at the hospital would continue under the administration of the Health Ministry.
“It is the tradition of the orang asli that when a patient is admitted to the hospital, his or her entire family will also check into the hospital and we are maintaining this practice at the hospital, which has a capacity of 166 beds for the patients,” he said.
He said the ministry would also ensure that patients were only sent home after they had fully recovered from their illnesses because “it would be difficult for them to get out of their house to receive treatment again.”

Ex-MMA heads want EGM

Star: SEREMBAN: Three past presidents of the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) have threatened to embark on a signature campaign to compel its council to hold fresh elections.
Datuk Dr Abdul Hamid Abdul Kadir, who headed the MMA in 1997, Datuk Dr Lee Yan San (1998) and Datuk Dr P. Krishnan (1999) have come together, saying they wanted to save the MMA from being deregistered by the Registrar of Societies (ROS).
“It is three months now since the conditional suspension of the MMA by the ROS and yet the association says the directive was not clear.
“This is indeed a sad state of affairs, as time is running out on the grace period of six months granted by the ROS,” Dr Abdul Hamid said.
Instead of holding fresh elections as per the ROS’ directive, he said the present MMA leadership was planning for its next annual general meeting in Kedah in May to elect office-bearers for the 2012-2013 term.
The ROS de-registered the MMA on Nov 16 after it failed to give a proper explanation on several charges of irregularities during its elections last May.
However, punitive action was put off by six months following MMA’s appeal.
Dr Krishnan said the MMA council should not allow itself to be manipulated by a few office-bearers.
“It is sad that the role of the MMA council as a governing body has been undermined by a few office-bearers,” he said, adding that a signature campaign would be conducted if the MMA council did not act.
Dr Lee appealed to the MMA leadership to take the ROS directive seriously.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

MMA courting deregistration, warns ROS

Star: SEREMBAN: The Malaysian Medical Association will only have itself to blame if it is deregistered for failing to hold fresh elections.
Registrar of Societies Datuk Abdul Rahman Othman said the body had been given ample time to conduct fresh elections after it had violated several procedures during the last election in May.
“We cannot be issuing reminders to the MMA. We deferred their deregistration by six months and they should have rectified all wrongdoings committed during the last election,” he told The Star.
MMA president Dr Mary Cardosa had said the association was only told to abide by provisions in the Societies Act as well as its own laws in future to prevent the body from being struck off. She claimed that although the MMA had made some technical errors, this did not mean it had to declare the last election null and void.
It is understood that an MMA delegation led by Dr Cardosa met Deputy Home Minister Datuk Lee Chee Leong to discuss the issue last week.
The ROS deregistered the MMA on Nov 16 after it failed to give a proper explanation to several charges of irregularities during the May election.
The deregistration was deferred by six months after the MMA appealed.
Abdul Rahman said it was to be “understood” that the MMA must go back to its members for a fresh election for contravening election rules.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Hypertension alert

Sun Daily HERE are some grim news: many people who have hypertension do not even know that they have it.
According to Dr Azani Mohammed Daud (right), who is the president of the Malaysian Society of Hypertension, “for every person diagnosed with hypertension, there are six who are not”.
Speaking at the society’s ninth Annual Scientific Meeting recently, he said only 40% of Malaysians suffering from hypertension are properly diagnosed with the disease.
“Most patients with hypertension don’t know that they have it,” said Azani. “Hypertension is a risk factor for heart attacks and in Asians particularly, it’s a risk factor for strokes. In Malaysia, we see six new stroke patients a day.
“Over the long term, hypertension causes damage to the kidney. Malaysia has one of the highest rates of patients undergoing dialysis.”
Azani said most people are unaware that they have hypertension due to the absence of symptoms.
Some people, however, have persistent headaches and a check with their doctor usually reveals that they have high blood pressure readings.
“They are the lucky ones as they can get treatment immediately,” said Azani who suggested that people request for a blood pressure reading each time they visit their doctor, no matter what their ailment is.
He added that health authorities recommend that people over the age of 30 should have their blood pressure checked regularly. “You should get your blood pressure checked at least once a year.”
The director general of health, Datuk Seri Dr Hasan Abdul Rahman, said that according to a survey by the Ministry of Health, there are some 5.8 million people in Malaysia who have high blood pressure but only 2.2 million seek regular treatment.
He pointed out that the best way to control hypertension is through early detection.
He said people can even get their blood pressure read when they visit their sick family members or friends at hospitals.
“Just go to the counter and the nurses or hospital attendants will do it for you for free,” said Hasan.

PneumaScan installed in Hospital Kuala Lumpur

MTB Europe Cambridge company PneumaCare Limited has installed its innovative PneumaScan respiratory assessment device in Hospital Kuala Lumpur (HKL), the largest hospital under the Ministry of Health in Malaysia.
Dr Ward Hills, PneumaCare’s CEO, and Dr Simon Baker the Product Director, delivered the device to Datuk Dr Jeyaindran Sinnadurai, Head of the Department of General Medicine at HKL, where it will be used to benefit a diverse range of patients.
"We were impressed with the ease with which the PneumaScan was installed and how straightforward it is to use after a comprehensive two-day training course," comments Dr Jeyaindran. "Nearly 10% of our admissions — that is 11,000 patients a year — are solely related to respiratory disease. Many of those could be helped by this device.
"We also intend to use it to further our research into patient care. Two of my general practitioners, Dr Paras Doshi and Dr Zulfa Siti, have been assigned to collect data using PneumaScan on patients within the Cardiac Rehabilitation Ward (CRW). The aim of our studies is to research whether the PneumaCare instrument can infer clinically relevant information before conducting invasive assessments."
On the final day of the PneumaScan training programme, the Chief Secretary to the Government of Malaysia, Tan Sri Mohd Sidek bin Haji Hassan, was visiting HKL. He was introduced to the PneumaCare team and actively took part in a demonstration of the device.
"Operating in Malaysia gives us the opportunity to explore the instrument’s performance on a wide range of ethnicities and in different environments," says Ward Hills. "For example, we hope to learn how comparable are results of lung capacities between ethnic groups to standard expected results. We are anticipating significant new data in the areas of cardio-thoracic, respiratory medicine and general pulmonary function testing.
"Specifically we are aiming for clinical collaborations and datasets looking at diseases such as COPD and tuberculosis, the latter being almost impossible to obtain in Western Europe. This will enable us to continue to improve and develop the effectiveness and applicability of our software and hardware."
The company says that discussions are taking place with other healthcare institutions in Malaysia, including the Malaysia Institute of Respiratory Medicine in Kuala Lumpur, on patient care and research collaborations, as well as multi-centre trials and research projects and international placements with PneumaCare users in the UK.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Rotavirus outbreak under control

Star: IPOH: The rotavirus outbreak at Hilir Perak and Batang Padang is under control and is settling down.
Perak Health Committee chairman Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon said the number of reported cases had dwindled since it first broke out.
“Out of the eight cases we tested on Thursday, only one was tested positive.
“When it first surfaced a week ago, 13 out of 18 cases were positive,” Dr Mah told reporters yesterday.
He said as at yesterday, 210 cases were reported in the two districts - 123 in Hilir Perak and 87 in Batang Padang.
He said not all cases reported were positive for rotavirus.
Dr Mah said there were many cases of anxious parents bringing their children with symptoms of diarrhoea, fever and vomiting to the hospitals and health clinics for checks.
“Some had symptoms of diarrhoea but these were mild cases,” he said.
“We encourage parents to bring their children with such symptoms to health clinics and hospitals if they are unsure and worried,” he said.
Dr Mah also said that nine samples taken from water treatment plants and distribution channels had tested negative, while results for 14 more samples were pending.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Dr M: Public contribution to healthcare needed due to rising costs

Malaysian Insider: SERDANG, Feb 15 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad pointed to the rising cost of healthcare as a defence for Putrajaya’s new controversial contribution-based “1 Care” proposal.
The former prime minister did not delve deeply into the matter, stating only that government could no longer shoulder the country’s healthcare burden on its own.
“Our (current) system is non-contributory. It was started by the British... but at the time, the cost of medicine was only one sen.
“But today, a capsule could cost as much as RM10... if you take four capsules a day for five days, the government may not be able to support that.
“So maybe there is a case for some contribution towards healthcare,” he told reporters after a function at the Perdana University here.
“It is very costly now... one operation could cost you RM100,000... how can the government support this?” Dr Mahathir (picture) added.
Putrajaya’s “1 Care” proposal has come under fire from industry practitioners and consumer associations who claim the system would force all wage-earners to contribute some 10 per cent of their income to a government-run insurance scheme.
Under the scheme, however, critics say the public would only receive limited benefits and would still be forced to fork out hefty sums for basic healthcare.
According to one online news report: “1 Care aims to place private medicine under government control, a step further than former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s sweeping health privatisation upheavals in the 1980s that delivered a hefty windfall to Umno’s partners, including Dr Mahathir’s son Mokhzani.”
During a recent forum on 1 Care by the Citizens’ Health Care (CHC), a representative Dr T Jayabalan said that the new healthcare plan would also result in a new bill, called the Pharmaceutical Bill to be passed in Parliament later this year.
The bill, according to him would see a separation between “dispersing and prescribing” medicine where doctors would generally only be allowed to prescribe medicine while pharmacists would be given full responsibility in dispersing medicine.
“In emergency cases, doctors would be allowed to give medication but a cap portion,” he said.
When asked by reporters where he obtained his information from, Jayabalan said doctors who were part of the working committee groups on 1 Care had informed him. He also admitted he was not part of the working committee.
Despite widespread criticism, the Health Ministry has repeatedly stated that 1 Care is merely an “upgrade” of Malaysia’s current two-pronged healthcare system, and that discussion was “premature” as nothing had been set in stone.

Authorities still unable to detect source of outbreak in Perak

Star: PETALING JAYA: The rotavirus responsible for the acute gastroenteritis (AGE) outbreak in Perak continues to evade detection.
Perak Health Committee chairman Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon said nine water samples taken from the affected areas tested negative for rotavirus while the results for 14 samples were pending.
He said more than half of the stool samples from patients had tested positive for rotavirus.
“Of the 95 stool samples, 59 or 62.8% were positive for rotavirus, 10 came back negative while the results of the remaining 25 samples are pending,” he told The Star.
Dr Mah advised parents to bring their children for medical treatment as soon as they showed symptoms like fever, vomiting and diarrhoea.
To prevent AGE, he said drinking water should be boiled thoroughly.
He reminded the public to practise personal hygiene like washing hands before cooking or handling food and after going to the toilet.
A total of 188 new cases were reported as at 8am yesterday, bringing the total number to 3,444 since the start of the outbreak on Jan 27, Dr Mah revealed.
Of the fresh cases, 114 were detected in the Hilir Perak district and the rest in Batang Padang.
Dr Mah added that of the new cases, 15 of those who remained warded were children.
“The cases are confined to the Hilir Perak and Batang Padang districts,” he said, allaying fears that AGE had spread to other areas.
The AGE outbreak has affected mostly young children, with two deaths so far.

Still divided over 1Care plan

Star: PETALING JAYA: Amid public uproar over the 1Care for 1Malaysia healthcare transformation plan, industry stakeholders remain divided over its status.
Despite the Health Ministry’s reassurances that the programme is only at the planning stage, some feel that it is well on its way to being implemented.
Academy of Medicine Malaysia head Dr Chang Keng Wee claimed that the “planning cart has already left” and the “direction has already been set”.
“The 11 Technical Working Groups (TWG) were set up to determine how best to implement the plan and not to plan what we should do,” said Dr Chang, adding that the academy was represented in one of the TWG.
In a statement on Tuesday, Dr Chang had questioned the need for a major transformation of the Malay­sian healthcare system to meet the Health Ministry’s objectives of meeting patients’ needs and overcoming limited and mismatched healthcare resources.
“What is the logic behind public-private integration?” Dr Chang asked.
“Private hospitals are for profit entities run by private corporations. Should public funds be used to finance such institutions?” he added.
However, Malaysian Pharma­ceutical Society president Datuk Nancy Ho disagreed that the plan was ready to be implemented.
“Our impression is that the model of the transformation is being finalised and nothing has been cast in stone,” she said.
“We are confident that the ministry will take note of all the opinions and feedback that are being expressed and come up with the most workable formula,” she added.
Association of Private Hospitals president Datuk Dr Jacob Thomas said he was unsure of the progress of the plan as the association had yet to be in active discussion with the ministry.
The 1Care for 1Malaysia plan has come under fire after citizen and medical professional groups posted purported details of the plan online.
The ministry has since quashed the claims and maintained that the details have yet to be finalised.

Pharmacy grads will have jobs, minister says

Malaysian Insider: KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 14 — Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai assured unemployed pharmacy graduates today they will have jobs soon.
The health minister blamed the delay of a salary scale for civil servants under a revised government remuneration scheme for the lack of jobs.
“Lately, the bit of delay of employing our pharmacists into our system is due to the new SBPA that has been deferred,” Liow (picture) said.
He assured the new pharmacists they will be recruited as soon as possible.
Liow said the government was working to bridge the public-private healthcare divide and will soon be able to offer more jobs to new pharmacy graduates.
“To say that we don’t have enough positions to cater is not true,” Liow said, responding to recent reports highlighting pharmacy graduates who claim they have been jobless as far back as eight months ago.
“In fact we are liberalising our policy, we would like to allow our pharmacists to work either in government or private (sectors),” he told reporters following the launch of a pharmaceutical industry fact here.
He said his ministry had even liberated attachment conditions for fresh graduates and was taking in more pharmacy graduates annually.
“We are engaging and we are employing more pharmacists from year to year,” the minister said.
Liow said that previously, pharmacy graduates were required to train a year and practise another three years at public hospitals in order to obtain their practising licence. The scheme was known as one-plus-three.
However, in October last year, the three-year attachment condition was slashed to only one year, meaning pharmacy graduates only needed to train a year and practise another year to win their practising licence.
The MCA deputy president also pointed out that pharmacists were no longer limited to train in public hospitals and clinics.
“We allow pharmacists to have compulsory training in private training, not only in government sector,” he said.
“They are allowed training in pharmaceutical companies. So this is the kind of flexibility that we have introduced,” he added.
An oversupply of potential recruits coupled with a shortage of pharmacy-related positions were initially blamed for the lack of vacancies leading to disgruntlement among the new pharmacy graduates, according to media reports.
However, graduates now believe their applications for placement were unsuccessful due to the review of the New Public Service Remuneration Scheme (SBPA), which Liow acknowledged today.
He said, “It is due to the salary scale that is under review now, but we will continue to engage them at the old salary scale because the SBPA is under review now.”

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Hand it to the docs

SunDaily: KUALA LUMPUR (Feb 14, 2012): An insurance agent who had lost a hand in a robbery will likely be able to use it again.
This is thanks to the team of doctors who not only carried out surgery through the night to reattach it, but went beyond the call of duty to search the crime scene for the severed member.
The quick action and exemplary dedication of the doctors from Gleneagles Hospital Jalan Ampang, led to the severed hand being reattached to its owner within 10 hours of the violent crime which occurred outside a restaurant in Jalan Ampang about 9pm of Feb 3.
The victim, who wished to be identified only as Poon, 47, had been attacked by three robbers including a woman, who chopped off his left hand before relieving him of his handphone and money he had withdrawn from an ATM shortly before driving to meet friends at the restaurant.
A shocked Poon, on realising his hand had been severed, drove himself to seek treatment at the Gleneagles Hospital, less than 2km away.
Doctors said when Poon reached the emergency department at around 9.30pm, he was about to collapse due to loss of blood.
"His car was smeared with blood. His blood pressure was dropping and the emergency doctor was quick to calm him down and treat him," Gleneagles Hospital consultant trauma and hand microsurgeon Dr Palani Ramasamy told theSun.
Palani said the hospital immediately reported the incident to the police and sought their help to locate the severed hand for reattachment.
"When we did not hear from the police even 30 minutes after seeking their help, our medical team decided that we should go and look for the hand ourselves as the crime scene was not far from the hospital," he said.
"We were racing against the clock, because the faster you reattach it, the better it would be. There is a chance for limbs to be successfully reattached within six hours to 12 hours of being severed, depending on whether or not it is kept in ice," he said.
"We knew we could save his hand if we could find it in time," he said, adding that the team found the severed member about 100m away from the place Poon was attacked, after searching the area around the restaurant for about a half hour.
Then came eight hours of surgery by Palani and his team through the night, beginning from 11.30pm to 7.30am the next day.
"We had to shorten the bone a little and stitch three major nerves, three major arteries, three veins, and about 30 muscles and tendons," said Palani, adding that Poon was lucky that everything worked out well.
He said after the surgery, Poon was beginning to be able to move his hand and feel some sensation.
Speaking to theSun from his hospital bed, Poon said he felt blessed to get his hand back.
"It may not function like it used to be but at least, I have my hands," said the insurance agent who expressed his gratitude to the doctors and medical team who went the extra mile to save his hand.
He said he could not recall much about the robbery, as he was in shock.
"At first I did not know what happened ... I suddenly felt a warm sensation and realised I was bleeding. Then only did I realise that my hand had been chopped off.
"The first thing that crossed my mind was that I had to rush to the hospital, so I quickly drove with one hand to Gleneagles to seek treatment," he said.
Expressing disappointment over the level of public safety, Poon said Ampang used to be a friendly area but armed robberies had become rampant.
"It is extremely sad to see that some people will go to whatever extent, even to jeopardising someone's life in order to get what they want," he said.
Cheras deputy district police chief Supt Abdul Rahim Hamzah Othman said police have classified the case as robbery and are on the lookout for the robbers.
He urged anyone with information about the robbery to contact the KL police hotline at 03-21159999.

Malaysia's Pharmaceutical Exports To Hit RM610 Million In 2012

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 14 (Bernama) -- The Malaysian pharmaceutical industry is gaining global recognition with exports expected to grow eight per cent this year to RM610 million from RM564 million in 2011.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said this at the launch of the PhAMA Industry Fact Book here today.
He said Malaysian pharmaceuticals was one of the 13 entry point projects (EPPs) related to the healthcare sector under the National Key Economic Areas (NKEA).
The industry was recognised as a strategic economic segment and was to be developed as an engine of growth for the Malaysian economy, he said.
"It is thus my fervent wish to see more multinational companies partnering with local Malaysian pharmaceutical companies as this is one of the key strategies identified that can provide the impetus which will enable the sector to achieve its fullest potential.
"Indeed, the Ministry of Health is cognisant of the fact that to realise all the Healthcare NKEA goals, we need to engage more fully with all our stakeholders," he said.
Liow said the private sector especially was very important to the realisation of the NKEA's objective and the ministry would positively encourage more dialogues with representatives from corporate organisations in order to obtain critical feedback on the way forward.
The healthcare industry is expected to generate RM42.2 billion in gross national income with over 260,000 new jobs to be created by 2020.
"To ensure all our 13 EPPs progress as planned, the Ministry of Health will rigorously monitor activities under the NKEA," Liow said.

Mercy Malaysia Seeks Funds For Somalian, Philippine Humantarian Missions

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 14 (Bernama) -- The Malaysian Medical Relief Society (Mercy Malaysia) is seeking public funds to raise at least RM2 million to carry out various humanitarian projects in Mogadishu, Somalia and Mindanao, Philippines.
Mercy Malaysia Vice-President II Norazam Ab Samah said they planned to use the funds for medical aid, supplementary feeding centres, outreach clinic for primary health care, food distribution and conducting psycho-social programme and training.
"Since last August, Mercy Malaysia has distributed food to 600 displaced families which arrived in Mogadishu on the eve of Eid Aidilfitri," he told a media conference at its office here Tuesday.
Also present were Mercy Malaysia humantarian team head in Mindanao, Jessica Wong Ming Shi.
Among the latest Mercy Malaysia projects in the war-torn Mogadishu are the opening of a new static clinic with local partner Aden Abdulle Foundation, in Tawfiq in the Yaqshid district.
"Mercy Malaysia is also working closely with students from the University of Somalia to conduct hygiene promotion to encourage the students to participate in humanitarian work as the nation is in need," said Norazam.
Apart from seeking funds, Mercy Malaysia is also appealing to the public to sponsor a Somalia child for RM60 a month or RM300 for a Somalia family for the same period, he said.
Meanwhile, Wong said they also needed funds for Mercy Malaysia's future projects in Mindanao, adding they had so far, collected about RM300,000.
The projects are the reconstruction of health centres and conducting psychosocial treatment for victims facing acute stress disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and other related sicknesses.
A devastating tropical storm 'Washi' hit Mindanao last December, causing massive floods and landslides, the hardest hit areas being the city of Iligan and Cagayan De Oro, with many houses swept into the sea.
Mercy Malaysia can be contacted at 03-2273 3999 or by logging on to the website,

GMP Certification Required For Imported Pharmaceutical Products From July

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 14 (Bernama) -- Pharmaceutical products not manufactured in Pharmaceutical Inspection Cooperation Scheme (PICS) member countries will be required to obtain Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) certification starting July before it can be sold in Malaysia.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said this was to ensure that imported medicine complied with safety and quality standards here.
"PICS is a group of inspectors in the field of GMP and Malaysia is a member since 2002. Therefore we need to make sure that pharmaceutical products brought into the country has the same status.
"India is a non-PICS before products from the country is imported into Malaysia we will carry out inspection but it will be accepted if their factory in India has already been checked out by any other PICS authority," he said after launching the The Pharmaceutical Association of Malaysia (PhAMA) Industry Facebook here Tuesday.
In his opening speech, Liow said the book was an important communication tool between the local pharmaceutical industry and other related parties such as the ministry, private sector and institutions of higher learning, among others.
Meanwhile, commenting on the latest development on the rotavirus, Liow said nine out of 24 water samples taken from various locations suspected to be polluted revealed that it was virus-free.
"Our first screening could not detect the virus so we are going through details of the sample now...time is needed because the analysis is a meticulous process.

"I have directed the State Health Department (Perak) to announce the latest figures regarding the virus because the number of people admitted will be reported by the state government and state health department," he said.
The acute gastroenteritis (AGE) outbreak caused by rotavirus has killed two infants and affected more than 2,200 others in Batang Padang and Hilir Perak.
Rotavirus is a water-borne virus which causes diarrhea among babies and children.

Liow attacks 1 Care critics

Malaysian Insider: KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 14 — Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai today slammed critics for manipulating Putrajaya’s controversial 1 Care proposal.
“There are certain quarters trying to manipulate the situation and trying to confuse the public by focusing on the 10 per cent salary (deduction), which is also a false figure,” Liow told a press conference following the launch of a pharmaceutical industry factbook here.
“It is totally confusing the public and furthermore it is at the very preliminary level... At the technical and discussion level, it hasn’t even come to the ministry level,” he said.
1 Care has come under fire from healthcare practitioners and the public, who claim that individuals and businesses will be forced to hand over 10 per cent of their earnings each month to the government-run insurance fund.
However, Liow dismissed this, saying: “They know very well the contribution is from three parties.”
“It is from employers, employee and government,” he explained.
“But there are certain quarters out there that are confusing the public and saying that it’s 10 per cent from the employee, which is totally wrong.”
Liow reiterated that “all discussion on 1 Care” was still at a preliminary level and that it was “premature to decide on anything”.
“So whatever concerns raised by the public we would take note,” he said.
He added that his ministry will continue to consult the public in order to “come up with a good programme for the nation”.
“It is the health of the people that we care for. So not to worry about all these details. We will definitely come back to the public.”
Asked if any action would be taken against these “manipulative quarters”, Liow said his ministry will clarify the situation and urged the public to ignore rumours.
“The true picture is that it’s just a conceptual plan and definitely we will take note of public concern,” he said.
“The 1 Care programme is an ongoing transformation for uplifting the healthcare system in the country.”
The 1 Care scheme is expected to replace the current two-tier healthcare system with one which integrates both private and government hospitals in the hope of ensuring more equitable healthcare for Malaysians of all classes.
Under the present system, patients can choose to seek treatment at either private clinics or hospitals and pay out of their own pockets or opt for government clinics or hospitals instead, where they will pay a nominal fee for basic, federally subsidised healthcare.
The ministry has assured critics that the 1 Care scheme will not burden the public with undue costs, saying that talks on the financial arrangements will be made available while discussions on their impact to the government and taxpayers were ongoing.

Health Ministry: Clarifications on 1Care article

Malaysiakini: We (Ministry of Health) refer to the article titled 'Ill-Feelings over 1Care in East Malaysia' printed in your portal on Feb 12, 2012.

This article unfortunately contains various inconsistencies and misleading facts on the 1Care concept. This is despite us explaining the idea clearly to the media, including a Malaysiakini representative in a briefing organised on Feb 9, 2012.

We wish to highlight the following incorrect statements:

Paragraph 1 under Section Obligatory Contribution

One of the most provocative recommendations mooted is a new tax: an obligatory contribution of 10 percent of each household's income, to finance a National Health Insurance fund.

We had explained clearly to the media representatives present at the briefing that there has never been an idea to deduct an obligatory 10 percent tax of household income.

On the contrary, we had explained that our research indicates that households at the moment spend 9.4 percent of their income on healthcare annually. This is merely a statistic.

Yet, it is disappointing to see that your portal has once again misled its readers by publishing the above mentioned paragraph in this article, three days after the media briefing your reporter attended.

Paragraph 4 under Section Obligatory Contribution

His director-general Dr Hasan Abdul Rahman echoed Liow's avowal that 1Care remains tentative. Dr Hasan backpedalled on the ministry's leaked announcements to stakeholders, including the Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society, that planning is in the final stages.

We had clearly explained to the media representatives at the briefing that 1Care is still at concept stage and is nowhere near its final stages.

For the record, at no point did ministry representatives inform the Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society that planning was in its final stages.

Yet, your portal continues to highlight this inconsistency with no efforts made to verify this fact with any member of the ministry.

Paragraph 2 under Section 1 Care a Political Football

It may turn out that premier Najib Abdul Razak will attempt to portray himself as a statesman, and announce that 1Care will be postponed while studies are carried out...

We had clearly explained to the media that 1Care is at the conceptual stage and that studies are still being carried with various technical committees.

This paragraph is both misleading and malicious implying that the idea is very close to being implemented. It is not, and this was explained repeatedly to the media at the media briefing, in which a Malaysiakini reporter was present.

Besides the above, this article contained another sentence that is clearly contrary to the facts explained to the media regarding the 1Care concept. the hope of bulldozing them all through in one frenzied legislative drive

As mentioned in the media briefing, 1 Care has been at the study stage for many years as MOH has constantly looked at ideas to improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare in Malaysia. To imply that it will be frantically made into legislation is highly malicious.

We at the Ministry of Health are very disappointed with the negative and misleading tone of reporting regarding 1 Care that exists in your portal. The above highlighted sections referred to is a clear indication of the misreporting that exists in Malaysiakini regarding this issue.

At the media briefing, your reporter was informed that our representative, Dr Nordin Saleh, is ever willing to validate any facts regarding 1Care. We hope that you will contact us to verify any statements made by third parties before publishing it in your articles.

At least, allow us the right to reply as this is standard procedure in any form of ethical journalism.

Restructuring the Malaysian health system: Is there a need? — Academy of Medicine of Malaysia

Malaysian Insider: FEB 14 — We observe with concern and interest the recent discussions by the ‘rakyat’ and explanations by the Ministry of Health Malaysia (MOH) in the print and electronic media regarding the planned National Health System Transformation. We agree that there are deficiencies in the present system that need to be addressed and applaud the Director-General of Health’s pledge to engage the ‘rakyat’ and stakeholders in its planning.

There is no denying that the Malaysia’s Health System is acknowledged internationally as being successful in providing health services to the ‘rakyat’. Notable successes include:

1. Reduction in mortality and morbidity and increased life expectancy, rising from 56 yrs for male in 1957 to 72 years in 2006; and 58 yrs for females to 76 years correspondingly. Infant mortality rate is comparable to developed countries.

2. An equitable public sector and universal access to comprehensive treatment; where everyone has access to medical treatment up to tertiary level at a nominal fee; and for the poor for free.

3. An effective Public Health Service focused on health promotion and disease prevention.

4. An efficient and effective rural health service; this has been used as a model for other developing countries by WHO

All these were achieved with a total health expenditure amounting to 4.8 per cent of GDP; with the government spending less than 3 per cent of GDP. This is way below that recommended by WHO which is 7.6 per cent.

The MOH in its Concept Paper dated 11th August 2009 had proposed a complete restructuring of the Malaysian Health System. The reasons given were:

1. Ensuring that services provided meet clients’ needs

2. Enhancing performance to improve equity of service

3. Providing higher quality care

4. Overcome limited and mismatched health care resources

The question arises whether there is a need for major transformation of the Malaysian Health System to achieve the stated objectives. What is the logic behind public-private integration? Private Hospitals are for profit entities run by private corporations. Should public funds be used to finance such institutions? Why do we need such public-private integration to improve quality and outcome?

It is mind-boggling to think that such an integration will result in such a change without first finding the reason behind such a problem.

The two-tier health system, separate public and private health services, complement each other. The private general practitioners play a vital role in providing primary care to a large portion of Malaysians in urban areas.

We are one of the rare few where private GPs offer 24-hour service. This had helped tremendously to reduce the load of emergency rooms in public hospitals. Primary care for those in the rural community is taken care off by the public health clinics and centres. Secondary and tertiary care are similarly complemented although all the private institutions are concentrated in urban areas.

The MOH had explained that all this is still in its planning stage, with 11 technical working groups discussing the final blue-print. One must understand that these groups are working on the micromanagement of the whole transformation based on the Concept Paper; which is total restructuring of the Health System with a Social Health Insurance Scheme and Public-Private Integration. The path has been fixed from the very beginning; there is no discussion as to the needs to be fixed and how to go about doing it. Since the DG of Health has pledged the he is willing to engage with the ‘rakyat’ regarding this major transformation, we hope that good sense will prevail and the interest of the ‘rakyat’ shall be foremost in everyone’s mind.

1 Care merely ‘upgrade’ of current healthcare system, says minister

Malaysian Insider: GOMBAK, Feb 11 — Putrajaya’s controversial 1 Care proposal is merely an “upgrade” of Malaysia’s current two-pronged healthcare system, Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said today.
The health minister told reporters that any discussion of 1 Care was “premature”.
He repeatedly stressed that the matter is at a “discussion level” in what appears to be an attempt to allay the public’s alarm and fury following disclosures on the internet by prominent healthcare professionals, including those who were involved in talks with the government over 1 Care’s execution as far back as three years ago.
“We are not changing the system; it is an upgrade. We are improving the system,” he said.
He added that his ministry was looking at “many other countries” to base the 1 Care healthcare plan on.
“The demand for health has increased, the burden of health is now higher,” Liow said, attributing this as the main reason for an “upgrade” of the country’s healthcare plan.
When asked why the government did not just increase the current healthcare budget instead of introducing a new system, Liow said the country’s “healthcare budget has increased every year.”
“Last year, it was RM16 billion, a 10 per cent increase from the previous year (2010). We have been doing that,” he said.
The MCA minister confirmed that the blueprint on 1 Care is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2013, and that his ministry has been given a two-year timeline.
“If it (1 Care) is not suitable, the government can scrap it.
“What is important is feedback from professional bodies ... we can’t give information now, we don’t have information now, the committee is still discussing it,” Liow said.
Yesterday, the Health Ministry’s director-general also insisted that the controversial 1 Care proposal is still a “work in progress” and that the government could reject the scheme if it is found to be unacceptable to Malaysians.
Datuk Seri Dr Hasan Abdul Rahman took great pains to point out that the details surrounding the healthcare scheme are still “ideas” and “proposals” and that nothing has been set in stone, despite news reports stating otherwise.
“Talking about 1 Care, this is still very much (a) work in progress. There are 11 main Technical Working Groups (TWGs) with multi-sectoral participation, both public and private,” he had said.
Liow today denied 1 Care would force Malaysians to contribute 10 per cent of their salaries to finance the scheme, maintaining yet again that proposals have not even reached the policy stage.
“These are spins by irresponsible people,” he said, adding that the said proposal touched on a collective contribution between the “government, employer, and employee.”
Dr Hasan had offered an explanation yesterday, in which he clarified that RM34 billion has been set aside by the government and the private sector for this new scheme, and that under the scheme, all costs related to medical visits and treatments will be borne by a central government agency which will pool contributions from “the government, employer, employee and those self-employed.”
The deputy director of the National Health Financing unit, Dr Rozita Halina Hussein, said on Thursday 1 Care would have to be made mandatory, but that private healthcare providers would be given a choice as to whether to participate in the new healthcare system that has seen stiff opposition from stakeholder groups.
A source, however, told The Malaysian Insider that the healthcare scheme is at a “very, very advanced” stage of planning and is not at as preliminary a stage as the Health Ministry has made it out to be.
1 Care has come under fire from healthcare practitioners and the public, who claim that individuals and businesses will be forced to hand over 10 per cent of their earnings each month to the government-run insurance fund.
The scheme is expected to replace the current two-tier healthcare system with one which integrates both private and government hospitals in the hope of ensuring more equitable healthcare for Malaysians of all classes.
Under the present system, patients can choose to seek treatment at either private clinics or hospitals and pay out of their own pockets or opt for government clinics or hospitals instead, where they will pay a nominal fee for basic, federally subsidised healthcare.
The ministry has assured critics that the 1 Care scheme will not burden the public with undue costs, saying that talks on the financial arrangements will be made available while discussions on their impact to the government and taxpayers were ongoing.

Health ministry to intensify anti-smoking campaign

SunDaily: KUALA LUMPUR (Feb 11, 2012): The Health Ministy will intensify the anti smoking campaign this year in its bid to reduce the number of smokers in this country.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said currently, 20 per cent of Malaysia's 28 million population were smokers.
He said as part of the campaign, all patients at government clinics and hospitals who are smokers will be encouraged to undergo a quit-smoking programme.
"The (quit-smoking) programme is free. I hope smokers will take advantage of it," he told reporters after opening a health carnival at Gombak near here, today.
He added that reduced smoking also helped lower the chance of getting non-communicable diseases.

Malaysia's health ministry mulls heavier fines for mosquito breeders

AsiaOne: KUALA LUMPUR - The Health Ministry is mulling over a proposal to increase the compound fine for neglecting to clear up stagnant water if the dengue situation worsens.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said that water stagnation was a prime Aedes mosquito-breeding ground.
He said the current compound fine was set at RM100, a reduction from the RM500 set in 2010.
"We will have to increase the compound fine if the need arises.
"Not only individuals can be charged but also organisations, district and state governments tasked with maintaining public areas and parks," Liow said after launching a children's Chinese New Year party organised by Resorts World Genting.
Liow said 549 cases had been brought to court last year with compound fines issued amounting to more than RM6 million.
"A stern warning has to be given to everyone, especially because of the alarming rise in dengue cases to 480 last week."
He reminded all doctors to report dengue cases immediately to the ministry so that action can be taken and hot spots can be investigated and fumigated. Last year, there were seven doctors who were fined for under-reporting dengue cases.
A list of hot spots will be updated on the ministry's website.
On the Communication for Behaviour Impact (Combi) teams, which were formed to destroy Aedes breeding grounds in houses, Liow said there were currently 2,000 such teams and the ministry hoped to increase the number.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Group claims GPs will need ‘double-licensing’ under 1 Care

Malaysian Insider: PETALING JAYA, Feb 12 — The proposed 1 Care health scheme will require all general practitioners to submit to additional accreditation before they are allowed to treat patients, a citizens’ group asserted today.
The Citizens’ Healthcare Coalition (CHC) claimed that all current general practitioners would be screened via special authority called the National Health Financing Authority (NHFA), and that the new accreditation would have to go through the Malaysian Society for Quality Health (MSQH).
“GPs have to accredited to be become a gatekeeper. Anyone who wants to be in the primary healthcare system, the criteria is that they be accredited.
“It’s double licensing,” CHC spokesman Dr T. Jayabalan told reporters at the sidelines of a 1 Care forum today.
He also claimed that each general practitioner would have to come up with RM10,000 to pay for the certificate of accreditation.
Jayabalan was one of three speakers at forum on the proposed 1 Care organised by CHC. Also speaking were Dr Ng Swee Choon of the Federation of Private Medical Practitioners’ Association of Malaysia (FPMPAM) and Selangor executive councillor Dr Xavier Jeyakumar.
Earlier, Jayabalan told the 600-odd attendees that the 1 Care healthcare plan would also require a Pharmaceutical Bill to be passed in Parliament later this year.
According to him, the bill would see an enforced separation between the “dispensing and prescribing” of medicine, whereby doctors would only be allowed to prescribe medicine while pharmacists would be given full responsibility in dispensing medication.
“In emergency cases, doctors would [still] be allowed to give medication but [only] a capped portion,” he said.
When asked by reporters to identify the source of his information, Jayabalan said it was gleaned from doctors who were part of the working committee groups on 1 Care. He later admitted he was not part of the working committee.
A Health Ministry official was invited to take part in the forum but did not show up. Organisers later told reporters the official had declined the invitation.
Public dissatisfaction was evident during the event, with many in attendance visibly upset when they found that no one from the Health Ministry would be appearing.
Many also said they were still clueless about 1 Care, and complained that the government did not give them a chance to understand it.
“There must be due process of engagement; it must be transparent,” said Dr P. Subramaniam, an executive committee member of the rights watchdog Aliran, during a question-and-answer session.
1 Care has come under fire from healthcare practitioners and the public, who claim that individuals and businesses will be forced to hand over 10 per cent of their earnings each month to the government-run insurance fund.
The scheme is expected to replace the current two-tier healthcare system with one which integrates both private and government hospitals in the hope of ensuring more equitable healthcare for Malaysians of all classes.
The Health Ministry has repeatedly stated that 1 Care is merely an “upgrade” of Malaysia’s current two-pronged healthcare system, and that discussion was “premature” as nothing had been set in stone.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

1 Care not yet cast in stone, says Health D-G

Malaysian Insider: KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 10 — The director-general of Health today insisted that the controversial 1 Care proposal is still a “work in progress” and that the government could reject the scheme if found to be unacceptable to Malaysians.
Datuk Seri Dr Hasan Abdul Rahman took great pains to point out that the details surrounding the healthcare were still “ideas” and “proposals” and that nothing had been set in stone, despite news reports stating otherwise.
“Talking about 1 Care, this is still very much (a) work in progress. There are 11 main Technical Working Groups (TWGs) with multi-sectoral participation, both public and private,” he said during his keynote address at the 9th annual scientific meeting of the Malaysian Society of Hypertension here.
He later told reporters at a news conference that the 11 working groups had been given a 2013 deadline to come with a 1 Care scheme blueprint for the government.
“If it (the blueprint) is not acceptable to the government, it can be rejected... then the working groups would have to work on it.
“If the proposal is agreed by the government, then we will present it to the public... but right now it is a proposal, it is not yet implemented,” Dr Hasan (picture) said when asked how far was the government from implementing the new healthcare scheme.
The director-general explained that a rumoured move to force Malaysians to contribute 10 per cent of their salaries to finance the scheme was just one of the “proposals” of the working groups.
“The 10 per cent is a proposal. We know that Malaysians are very sensitive about paying.”
He said that RM34 billion had been set by the government and the private sector for this new scheme, and that under the scheme all costs of medical visits and treatments will be borne by a central government agency which will pool contributions from “the government, employer, employee and those self-employed.”
“There is a need to review, reform and restructure the current healthcare system for both the government and private.
“Under the idea, we optimise the system, you can choose your doctor and you can go to any clinic, private or government as the costs will be paid by an authority handled by the government,” he added.
“It’s very simple. Say you need to be hospitalised and this system allows you a two-person per ward stay, but if you want one which you don’t want to share, then you have to pay for that option,” said Dr Hasan.
He said that 1 Care would eventually ease patient congestion in government clinics as people could now seek treatment at private ones.
Dr Hasan’s remarks come amid reports stating that the national healthcare proposal will be made mandatory for all Malaysians.
The deputy director of the National Health Financing unit, Dr Rozita Halina Hussein, said yesterday 1 Care would have to be made mandatory, but that private healthcare providers would be given a choice on whether to participate in the new healthcare system that has seen stiff opposition from stakeholder groups.
“Mandatory is the word used by the media, it is mandatory meaning it covers all Malaysians, it is a system for all Malaysians,” said Dr Hasan in response today.
A source however told The Malaysian Insider that the healthcare scheme is at a “very, very advanced” stage of planning and is not as preliminary as the Health Ministry has made it out to be.
1 Care has come under fire from healthcare practitioners and the public, who claim that individuals and businesses will be forced to hand over 10 per cent of their earnings each month to the government-run insurance fund.
The scheme is expected to replace the current two-tier healthcare system with one which integrates both private and government hospitals in the hope of ensuring more equitable healthcare for Malaysians of all classes.
Under the present system, patients can choose to seek treatment at either private clinics or hospitals and pay out of their own pockets or opt for government clinics or hospitals instead, where they will pay a nominal fee for basic, federally subsidised healthcare.
The ministry has assured critics that the 1 Care scheme will not burden the public with undue costs, saying that talks on the financial arrangements that will be made available and their impact on the government and taxpayers were ongoing.