Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Pua: Short notice for 1 Care roadshow indicates ministry’s ‘insincerity'

MI KUALA LUMPUR, March 28 — DAP MP Tony Pua today accused the Health Ministry of being insincere in its promise to explain “1 Care” to Malaysians, pointing to the four-day notice given for the first of its nationwide roadshow this Saturday.

The Petaling Jaya Utara MP claimed that notices on the 10.30am event was just distributed to healthcare professionals today and offered little time to concerned stakeholders to arrange to be there.
If the notice was to be published in the newspapers tomorrow, the public would only have three days’ notice.

“I feel this is an insincere act by the ministry, because if they truly want to collect feedback from Malaysians and industry players, they need to give a longer notice,” he said at a press conference in Parliament today.

Pua said there would be “limited seating” for the event, to be held at the Healthcare Management Institution in Bangsar.

“From what I know, there are no more than 100 seats available there,” he said.

According to the notice, those interested to attend would have to register through email at

“I hope all concerned parties will attend this forum and record their opposition to 1 Care,” he said.

The ministry earlier this month said it would tour the country to explain and engage on healthcare plans after the opposition demanded it reveal details and the status of the 1 Care scheme.
PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail charged that the roadshow was an “afterthought”, mooted only after strong public opposition.

She said it was surprising Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai had waited until after the issue hit the headlines before engaging the public. She questioned Liow’s sincerity.

“Like other BN pronouncements such as the SBPA (Public Service Remuneration Scheme), it seems consultation is only an afterthought,” Dr Wan Azizah said.

“We have received complaints from doctors involved in previous consultations on 1 Care that there was no true engagement or dialogue involved. The government is set to continue with 1 Care.”

Dr Wan Azizah, who served as a government doctor for 14 years before entering politics, urged Liow to end his silence on the opposition’s suggestion on what should be done to improve the healthcare system.

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 that integrates 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 be treated at private clinics or hospitals and pay out of their own pockets, or opt for government clinics or hospitals, paying 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. Talks are continuing on the financial arrangements and their impact on the government and taxpayers.

Malaysia signs health MOU with Singapore

The Star SINGAPORE: Malaysia has signed its first health sector Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the ministry of health in Singapore related to pharmaceutical regulatory matters.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said that the MOU was a new milestone of cooperation between the health ministries as both Malaysia and Singapore face similar challenges in relation to the pharmaceutical field.

"With this collaboration, we will be able to achieve a win-win situation as we can combine resources eventually save cost and time," he said after witnessing the MOU signing ceremony at the Fullerton Hotel here on March 28.

The MOU was signed between the Ministry of Health's Pharmaceutical Services Division senior director Datuk Eisah A. Rahman and Health Sciences Authority (HSA) Singapore chief executive officer Associate Professor John Lim.

It was also witnessed by Singapore's Health Minister Gan Kim Yong.

Liow said that the MOU will enable both countries to share information on pharmaceutical regulatory matters and would include information related to safety issues.

"The sharing of information by both countries is vital to the public as this will include information on product recalls and other developments in the pharmaceutical sector.

"This will enable both countries to take appropriate and immediate action towards protecting and ensuring the safety of the people," he said adding that the MOU would also allow for joint evaluation and audits which would reduce time lines for pharmaceutical product registration for both countries.

"Other than that, we will also be able to cooperate by conducting mutual exchange of courses, seminars, attachment trainings, study visits and other related activities," he said.

Liow said that the MOU would also help strengthen enforcement especially related to illicit drugs and contraband products in both countries.

"Through the cooperation with Singapore we will be able to share information, track down and trace illicit drugs to ensure that the people from both countries will not receive such material," he said.

Liow added that Malaysia was looking forward to signing more such MOUs with Singapore and this could include areas related to public health and disease control in the near future.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Malacca govt, Manipal Medical College build RM100mil hospital

The Star

MALACCA: The Malacca state government and the Malacca Manipal Medical College (MMMC) will be jointly building a RM100mil Manipal Hospital here.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam said the 120-bed hospital would be built on a 6.5-hectare site in front of the MMMC in Batu Hampar, Bukit Baru in six months.

He said the construction of the hospital, expected to be completed in two years was in line with the state government's objective to develop the 12 subsectors of tourism including health tourism.

"The hospital will provide medical specialist services such cardiology, cancer and others apart from regular medical treatment with modern medical equipment," he told reporters after a visit to MMMC here today which was attended by college chancellor Datuk Ramdas M. Pai.

Mohd Ali said the state government was also proposing that MMMC conducts post-graduate courses in medicine and dentistry for its 1,500 students.

This is because the facilities at the college are among the best at medium cost to enable medical students to continue their studies. - Bernama

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Health Ministry wants private GPs to implement ‘DOT’ way to treat TB patients

The Star
KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry is planning to expand the "Directly Observed Treatment" (DOT) method for treating Tuberculosis (TB) patients to private clinics soon.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said Saturday the ministry was now in talks with the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) to get private general practitioners (GPs) to act as DOT supervisors to their TB patients.

DOT is a practice that requires a care-giver to observe directly TB patients taking their medication committedly for six to nine months in order to ensure that they are completely cured.

"We need our patients to comply with the treatment. If patients do not comply with the treatment plan, they will prolong the illness as well as raise the risk of communicating the disease," he told reporters after attending the World TB Day 2012, here Saturday.

Patients compliance in treatment was crucial to curing the disease, currently the number one cause of death amongst all reported infectious diseases in the country, he said.

He added that if left untreated, a TB patient could infect 10 to 15 people in a single year.

Liow said in the fight against TB, more health facilities were also being made available for diagnostic and treatment purposes, so that patients with tuberculosis can be detected and treated early.

He said cooperation with NGOs was also being intensified to increase public awareness on TB, which the government targets to eliminate by year 2050.

Apart from that, he said the government also allowed TB patients who did not have caregivers to be treated as in-patients at government hospitals, while patients who refused to comply with the treatment programme could be quarantined.

He said currently the success rate of patients cured from TB was 80 percent and that the ministry hoped to increase it to 85 percent.

TB cases in Malaysia saw an increase of seven percent last year with a total of 20,666 cases reported compared to 19,337 cases in 2010.

Liow said this was due to the wider screening and detection mechanisms implemented, which also allowed for early treatment of TB patients.

He said the higher number was also due to increased cases of HIV infection and diabetes cases while foreigners made up 10 per cent of the total TB cases reported. Bernama

Friday, March 23, 2012

Main - Malaysia - 1 Care roadshow an ‘afterthought’, says PKR president @ Fri Mar 23 2012

KUALA LUMPUR, March 23 — Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail has charged that the 1 Care roadshow is an “afterthought” as it was mooted only after strong public opposition.

The PKR president said it was surprising Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai had waited till now after the issue had hit the headlines to engage the public, questioning the health minister’s sincerity.

“Like other BN pronouncements such as the SBPA (Public Service Remuneration Scheme), it seems consultation is only an afterthought,” Dr Wan Azizah (picture) said in a statement today.

“We have received complaints from doctors involved in previous consultations on 1 Care that there was no true engagement or dialogue involved. The government is set to continue with 1 Care.”

Dr Wan Azizah, who served as a government doctor for 14 years before entering politics, urged Liow to end his silence on the opposition’s suggestion on what should be done to improve the healthcare system.

She reiterated that government should increase its healthcare expenditure to between five and six per cent of GDP, as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO), from 2.2 per cent in 2008.

Putrajaya should also first plug leakages in the system — which according to WHO causes 20 to 40 per cent wastage in the healthcare budget — as the introduction of 1 Care will “increase the opportunity for corruption” if existing inefficiencies were not addressed first, she stressed.

“This is similar to the privatisation of various sectors of the country’s healthcare system over the past two decades which were supposed to increase efficiency yet only resulted in more leakages,” she said.

“This includes the privatisation of the government medical store, university hospitals, the cardiology department of Kuala Lumpur Hospital and the hospital support services which have substantially increased healthcare costs... without improving efficiency.”

1 Care has come under heavy fire from healthcare practitioners and the public, who claim individuals and businesses will be forced to hand over 10 per cent of their earnings each month to a federal insurance fund.

The scheme is expected to replace the current two-tier healthcare system with one that 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.

Liow said last Thursday that the blueprint for 1 Care will only be done in two years, and urged all parties to not to jump to any conclusions as discussions with stakeholders were still at an early stage.

Driving home the message for public's organ donation

New Straits Times

WITH support from Volkswagen (VW) Beetles Club Malaysia, the National Kidney Foundation of Malaysia (NKF) sent its LifeCheck Mobile Health Screening bus, Direct Debit Donor Programme truck and Secretariat cars to selected locations in Johor Baru, Malacca, Seremban and the Klang Valley to promote organ donation, the theme for this year's World Kidney Day (WKD) 2012 celebrations.
In Johor Baru, a total of 342 people attended the free health screening at Hospital Sultanah Aminah (HSA), a joint effort by hospital staff and NKF.

The programme was officiated by Johor's state health director, Dr Mohd Khairi Yakub, along with HSA's consultant nephrologist, Dr Hooi Lai Seong and NKF chief executive officer, Chua Hong Wee. Owners of VW Beetles went to Plaza Angsana in a convoy in the afternoon to reach out to local shoppers.

Moving to Malacca the next day, Pantai Hospital Ayer Keroh (PHAK) senior operations manager Tan Yew Aik welcomed the NKF and VW convoy to the hospital as he encouraged the public to attend regular health screenings in his opening speech.

The hospital staff and nephrologists cheered the convoy which was flagged-off from the hospital to Dataran Pahlawan in a shower of bright confetti and WKD mini flags. Locals and tourists participated in the organ donation campaign at the shopping mall.

The day after, 16 vintage VW Beetles joined the NKF convoy to Seremban town.

Health screening counters, health and organ donation exhibitions, a games session and colouring contests for children were organised by Hospital Tuanku Jaafar Seremban (HTJS), NKF and the National Transplant Resource Centre at Seremban Parkson Parade.

Back in the Klang Valley a day later, the NKF convoy invited VW Beetles Club members to join the final flag-off to Tropicana City Mall and 1Utama Shopping Complex.

Shoppers at both malls were given freebies and goodies bags upon signing up as an organ pledger. or upon completion of quiz and puzzles related to the campaign's theme.

The convoy aimed to get the public to come forward and pledge to be organ donors.

It was also aimed at raising awareness on the positive outcomes of kidney transplantation to patients with end-stage kidney failure.

This year's WKD theme is Donate Kidneys for Life Receive.

Speaking about the programme, Chua Hong Wee, chief executive officer of NKF, said: "This is one of the ways we reached out to the community to come forward and support our cause.

"Currently, there are over 15,000 patients in the national waiting list for kidney transplants, and we hope our programme can give hope to these patients suffering from end-stage kidney failure so that their lives can be saved."

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ban Ki-Moon Impressed With Malaysia's Commitment In Tackling TB

Bernama KUALA LUMPUR, March 22 -- United Nations (UN) secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon said he is impressed with the country's commitment in addressing tuberculosis (TB), the second top infectious killer of adults in the world.

During his visit to the Institute of Respiratory Medicine in Jalan Pahang here today, Ban commended the Health Ministry which had provided free clinical management to all tuberculosis patients.

"I commend the government of Malaysia for helping tuberculosis patients here and many others. The government provides free services and treatment to those involved. This is remarkable," he told reporters at the end of the visit.

Ban, who was accompanied by his wife Ban Soon-taek, is on a two-day official visit to Malaysia, his first since taking office on Jan 1, 2007. He and his entourage comprising UN officials and staff arrived here yesterday.

Ban and his wife interacted with two TB patients undergoing treatment at the institute. They were joined by Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.

In his speech, the UN top diplomat called for intensified global solidarity to ensure that all people were free from tuberclosis and its devastating effects.

"Millions of children have lost their parents, children who are exposed to sick family members are at a high risk of contracting the disease," he noted.

"Far too many go untreated since TB is difficult to diagnose and treat in children. That's why this year we should aim to expand awareness on how children are affected by this disease," he added.

According to Ban, 46 million people had been cured and seven million lives saved since 1995, thanks to the efforts of the UN, governments, doctors, civil society groups and other members of society.

In 2011, 8.4 million people were infected with TB, while 1.4 million died from it.

Twenty-two countries carry 80 per cent of the burden of TB, four of which are in the Western Pacific Region, namely Cambodia, China, the Philippines and Vietnam.

Liow told reporters later that there had been a slight increase in TB cases in Malaysia -- 64 per 100,000 population in the last decade compared with 72 per 100,000 currently.

He noted that foreign workers made up 10 per cent of the 20,666 TB cases in the country.

Ban's visit to the institute was part of the commemoration of the World TB Day, celebrated on March 24 annually.

It marks the day in 1882 when Dr Robert Koch detected the cause of tuberculosis, the TB bacillus.

The theme of this year's celebration is 'Stop TB in Our Lifetime'.

The Institute of Respiratory Medicine in the Malaysian capital is a renowned referral centre for the management of tuberclosis since 1958.

Initially known as Clinic Jalan Pahang, the facility later saw the construction of new structures for the country's national tuberculosis programme and Tuberculosis Hospital.

More control against adulterated food and traditional medicine

Star: PETALING JAYA: The new Pharmacy Bill will give drug control authorities more flexibility to protect consumers from food or traditional medicine that is adulterated with prescription drugs.

Health Ministry Pharmaceutical Services Division enforcement director Mohd Hatta Ahmad said under the proposed new legislation, it would be able to issue directives to stop the sale and distribution of such products according to market trends.

“For instance, if we find that adulterated slimming products are being sold in night markets, we can issue a directive to ban their sale in night markets,” said Mohd Hatta.

He added that the division could also bar offending manufacturers or industry players from the pharmaceutical industry.

Mohd Hatta said existing laws, including the Control of Drugs and Cosmetics Regulations 1984, did not have provisions for the division to do that.

He said the division conducted active market surveillance and tested samples of suspect products for prescription drugs before taking the culprits to court if a food product or traditional medicine was found to be adulterated with drugs like sex stimulants or appetite suppressants.

However, the individual penalty was only a maximum fine of RM25,000 or a jail sentence of not more than three years or both for the first offence.

While companies that were found guilty could be fined up to RM50,000 and RM100,000 for the first and subsequent offences respectively, Mohd Hatta said this was not a deterrent.

He said the new pharmacy laws would also provide for stiffer fines in the range of millions of ringgit.

On Tuesday, The Star had highlighted that appetite suppressant drugs sibutramine (banned) and phentermine (controlled) were still being added to traditional medicine and health supplements by unscrupulous manufacturers.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sime Darby opens new RM240m medical centre

Malaysian Reserve Sime Darby Medical Centre (SDMC) has opened a new medical centre in Ara Damansara, Selangor, which is said to be the first standalone facility to focus on heart, brain, spine and joint medical cases.

The centre, built at a cost of RM240 million, was launched yesterday by the Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah Alhaj. According to the chairman of Sime Darby Healthcare Group, Tan Sri Dr Wan Mohd Zahid Mohd Noordin, the setup of the medical centre is aimed to set a new benchmark in the provision of healthcare services in the region.

"Over the last two decades, the Sime Darby Healthcare Group (SDHG) has scored numerous achievements and mi lestones in Malaysia's medical history and our flagship medical centre, the SDMC in Subang Jaya, is today a multiple award winning private hospital that complies with globally-recognised standards.

"In line with Sime Darby Healthcare's vision of becoming a gold standard healthcare provider in the region, it is only natural that we leverage on our experience and expertise to set a new benchmark for the healthcare industry, which is reflected in our new medical centre in Ara Damansara," Dr Wan Mohd Zahid said.

According to Dr Wan Mohd Zahid, there is currently a need for greater capacity to treat heart, brain, spine and joint-related cases in Malaysia and the region.

"SDMC Ara Damansara is specially tailored to meet those needs with our three centres of excellence, for instance, our paediatric and adult heart centres are led by specialists whose reputation has been built upon decades of cutting edge practices and innovation.

"In addition, we have state-of-the-art equipment such as an EP (electrophysiology) unit with a 3D mapping system and in essence, this helps us detect and treat more types of heart diseases in less time," he explained.

SDMC Ara Damansara will feature 220 beds, 30 clinic suites, five operating theatres and two cardiovascular laboratories and will also have a fully-equipped, rehabilitation facility which includes neurospinal rehabilitation (stroke and spinal injuries), paediatric therapy, musculoskeletal rehabilitation, occupational therapy, hydrotherapy and speech therapy.

In addition, the facility features a comprehensive multisensory room for sensory stimulation for children with autism, learning difficulties, attention deficit disorder and hyper-active disorder.

SDMC is a unit under SDHG and a division within the public-listed Sime Darby Bhd. SDHG currently comprises of Sime Darby Medical Centre Subang Jaya, Sime Darby Specialist Centre Megah and Sime Darby Nursing & Health Sciences College.

Also present at the launching ceremony were the Mentri Besar of Selangor Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim and Sime Darby's president and group chief executive Datuk Mohd Bakke Salleh

Malaysia to be ageing nation by 2035

AsiaOne KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia is expected to attain Ageing Nation Status by 2035 with an increase in life expectancy due to better healthcare and improved standards of living.

It is, therefore, important to teach children about healthy ageing because health in old age is determined by healthy living when young, said Permata Negara Early Childhood Education and Care Programme policy executive committee chairman Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor.

She said children were "our most invaluable assets and our investment in them was our investment in the future of the nation.

"The youth are now heavily involved in activities such as risky road races, excessive drinking and use of drugs, which not only harms society but also their own health in the long run".

Rosmah said it was the task of parents, family members and leaders to influence the people closest to them to observe a healthy lifestyle from an early age.

"Children who receive unconditional love and adequate attention will grow up to be balanced individuals physically, emotionally and spiritually," she said when opening the First World Congress on Healthy Ageing 2012 here yesterday.

An ageing nation is one where 15 per cent or more of the country's population are aged 60 and above.

Globally, the United Nations has projected the number of persons older than 60 to reach two billion by 2050 from 606 million today, which is a three fold increase, and people over 80 to increase five-fold.

Rosmah said growth in global ageing had forced countries to develop correct policies and practices and this was a new phenomenon.

"We are forecasting more middle-aged adults in our population in the next 20 years," she said, adding that ageing shouldn't be seen negatively.

"We need to move away from the notion of ill health, wrinkles and loneliness when we talk about ageng."

Rosmah said the Permata centres were designed to provide opportunities for children from rural areas below the age of 5 and disadvantaged children in semi-urban areas. In five years, the number of Permata centres has grown to 600. The programme has been validated in the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia and New Zealand.

Rosmah said Permata centres had always emphasised that every child in the centre should have a health card with health screening twice a year for early detection of illness.

The four-day congress will see 187 speakers discussing world health issues and there will be more than 120 hours of lectures, workshops, forums and seminars.

The congress themed, Evolution: Holistic Ageing in an Age of Change will be attended by 977 participants from 39 countries.

Some of the major issues to be discussed are promoting healthy ageing, stress management, fitness and ageing, elderly care, financial management in elderly care and the psychology of ageing.

The congress will also discuss preventive measures in relation to healthy ageing.

Johns Hopkins & Perdana University to build 1000 bed teaching hospital

Medical Tourism MagIn collaboration with the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Johns Hopkins Medicine International, Perdana University has completed the strategic programming and planning phase of a new healthcare system in Malaysia, led by a team comprised of Jones Lang LaSalle and Ayers Saint Gross.

The strategic planning process is, according to the planning team, the delivery model recipe which will create the final design for the 1,000-bed teaching hospital, medical university and research campus. The goal is to deliver the completed and fully-operational facility in late 2014 or early 2015.

Phase One will be comprised of a 600-bed all-private room teaching hospital (a first in Asia), 750,000 gross square feet of teaching space and 100,000 gross square feet of research space.

Ultimately, the new campus will consist of a three-million-square-foot complex containing a teaching hospital, medical education facilities, research facilities, administrative offices, and student support amenities.

The architectural design phase will commence with the selection of an architecture firm pending the finalization of an international design firm competition.

The new facility will be known as Perdana University Hospital and Graduate School of Medicine (PUGSOM) in Malaysia.

When completed, the ways in which medical care, teaching and research will be delivered in Southeast Asia will take quantum leaps forward.

The new development, being led by Johns Hopkins Medicine International (JHMI) in collaboration with a Malaysian public-private partnership, will create the first fully-integrated private four-year graduate medical school and teaching hospital on the continent. It is also the first health system application in the world to incorporate Johns Hopkins' new interdisciplinary ‘Genes to Society' curriculum that melds science and teaching into a hospital.

The project is being developed 20 minutes south of downtown Kuala Lumpur in Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia by Chase Perdana Sdn Bhd.

"We envision a medical school and campus that focuses on investigative science to drive innovation and fuel clinical care delivery," said Sanford Wu, Assistant Director, Global Strategy, Johns Hopkins Medicine International. "We're implementing a new curriculum, in real time, for Perdana University in Malaysia."

Scot Latimer, Managing Director of the Healthcare Solutions group at Jones Lang LaSalle, led the planning effort. The Perdana University/Johns Hopkins Medicine International team is drawing from the experience of Latimer and the Ayers Saint Gross team.

Latimer has personally advised nine of the US News 2010 ‘Honor Roll' hospitals and five of the top 10 children's hospitals, and led planning of 30 million square feet of acute healthcare space within the last decade. Ayers Saint Gross has completed more than 125 campus master plans for colleges and universities.

"Perdana University will embrace breakthrough ways to teach, conduct research and deliver healthcare - not just in Malaysia, but across the globe," said Adam Gross, FAIA, principal at Ayers Saint Gross. "The physical plan for the new campus will be reciprocal with the mission of Johns Hopkins Medicine which is to balance and interweave the components of clinical care, teaching and research."

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

At least 17 new private hospitals by 2015

Business TimesKUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia could see at least 17 new private hospitals by 2015, with licence to operate some 4,500 beds, involving investments to the tune of RM4.5 billion.

At least three other hospitals have applied to expand its facility and will add another 770 beds.

Industry sources say that based on various reports, this would bring the total number of new beds close to 5,300.

An industry expert contacted by Business Times, said that the average cost of new hospitals (based on number of beds) is around RM1 million, while for extension it is about RM500 million.

Total investment in private hospitals by 2015 would translate roughly to as much as RM4.8 billion, including extending the hospital facility.

Previous reports indicate that Gleneagles has a goal of operating 2,000 beds by 2020 from 380 beds at its two hospitals in Kuala Lumpur and Penang.

Apart from the Pantai Parkway group, which operates the Pantai and Gleneagles hospital, and KPJ which operates the largest hospital chain in Malaysia, Sime Darby Healthcare is one of the hospital groups that is expanding.

Several private teaching schools are expected to be established. UCSI University Hospital, is poised to be the first private teaching hospital with 1,000 beds scheduled to open in 2015.

It was also reported that Sunway Medical Centre plans to open a teaching hospital with 1,000 beds, but no confirmed date yet for its opening.

Another private player, John Hopkins University is expected to open a 600-bed teaching hospital but still unclear of its opening.

Meanwhile, the state of Johor alone is expected to have some five hospitals with a 1,140 beds.

The Performance Management and Delivery Unit has projected that by 2020, the hospital bed requirement - between 5,000 and 6,000 beds - set to meet both domestic and overseas demand. Of this, 1,900 beds are for foreign patients.

In a recent interview, the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council chief executive officer Dr Mary Wong Lai Lin said the bed occupancy rates in Johor and the Klang Valley are at 70 per cent.

And once hospitals reach 80 per cent or 90 per cent, it is considered maximum capacity as a certain percentage is usually kept for emergency cases.

She also added that the whole of Malaysia, particularly Sabah, needs more private hospitals.

Drugs still added to health supplements despite being banned

Star: PETALING JAYA: One was banned and another controlled, but appetite suppressant drugs sibutramine and phentermine are still added to traditional medicines and health supplements by unscrupulous manufacturers.

This has put millions of Malaysians at risk as the drugs can be dangerous if taken without medical supervision, especially for people with underlying conditions, such as heart disease.

“Sibutramine was banned in Malaysia in 2010 after it was observed to increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes in patients with a history of heart disease,” said Health Ministry pharmaceutical services division senior director Datuk Eisah A. Rahman.

“While phentermine is still allowed to be prescribed by qualified doctors, it is generally not recommended for people with heart disease or high blood pressure.

“It is also only approved for short-term use (less than three months),” Eisah said.

Last year, about 20 types of slimming products, valued at RM610,581, were seized in the 225 recorded cases, said director of pharmacy enforcement Mohd Hatta Ahmad.

“This is about three times the value of products seized in 2010, which amounted to RM195,365,” he said, adding that most of them were laced with sibutramine or phentermine.

Mohd Hatta said adulteration was more common in food products and health supplements as manufacturers and distributors were not required to register them with the National Pharmaceutical Control Bureau or the Drug Control Authority.

As for traditional medicine products, there have been cases where the drugs are added to them after they have been registered.

According to the bureau, about five registered traditional products were tested positive for sibutramine between 2009 and last year.

As heart disease is a condition that is common among Malaysians due to the high incidence of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, the availability of products adulterated with the drugs is worrying, said Prof Dr Nor Azmi Kamaruddin, head of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia's Medical Centre Diabetes and Endocrinology Unit.

Besides sibutramine and phentermine, laxatives, diuretics (which increases the rate of urination) and other drugs which increase a person's metabolic rate can be dangerous as well.

“When people have underlying health conditions, the side effects of the drugs may be multiplied,” Dr Nor Azmi said.

Some of the warning signs consumers can look out for include drastic weight loss (1kg a day, for example), palpitations, insomnia, breathlessness and constipation, he added.

Sellers of such products usually try to convince their clients that the symptoms are normal but Dr Nor Azmi said consumers were putting their health at risk if they continued consuming the products.

He advised consumers to seek medical advice if they wanted to start taking a weight-loss product or if they experienced any of the above symptoms after consuming it.

Monday, March 19, 2012

All parties urged to take measures to control HFMD outbreak

Borneo post KUCHING: Parents, nurseries, kindergartens and primary schools in the state are urged to take all precautionary measures to put a brake on the outbreak of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD), failing which the number of cases could soar when schools reopen today.
Last week (March 11-17), the total reported cases stood at 460, way above the epidemic level of 327 cases, but much lower than the week before (March 4-10) with 757 cases.
The Ministry of Health has, since 1997 during the first outbreak of HFMD in Malaysia, collected data on cases nation-wide.
Based on the data, it determines that a state is at the alert level if it registers 217 cases or more, and declares that the disease is at an epidemic level if the cases exceed 327.
As of press time yesterday, no fatality has been reported. Of the accumulative 6,678 cases reported in the country, Sarawak had 3,144 cases – the highest of all states.
“Although there is no fatality and most are mild cases, we shall not take the disease lightly,” director general of Health Datuk Seri Dr Hasan Abdul Rahman told journalists after attending a briefing at the Pesona Conference Room of Sarawak General Hospital here yesterday.
He said the ministry aimed at putting a stop to the transmission of HFMD — a very contagious disease among children aged 10 and below — and feared that schooling, which resumed today, might dampen the effort.
“In Sarawak, most cases involved children below five years old – most probably due to close contact, and by touching things and lack of personal hygiene.”
Dr Hasan said the drastic drop in number of cases recorded in the 11th week (from March 11 to 17) compared to the week earlier could be because of the school holiday.
Despite the decrease, he called on parents to keep their guard and learning institutions to comply with the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP).
“I know some parents have to work but it is your child we are talking about. If your child is unwell and have red spots on their hands, feet and mouth, do not send them to nurseries, kindergartens or schools.
“If you send your sick child who shows those symptoms to institutions, it is very unfair to other children and the institution concerned might face temporary closure.”
He pointed out that Malaysia had the experience in curbing the outbreak of HFMD since 1997, disclosing that during the first epidemic outbreak which was over a period of three months, 29 lives were lost.
Citing the latest outbreak, he said most cases reported in Sarawak started at homes, particularly where cleanliness and personal hygiene were neglected.
“The majority of cases happened in households which are crowded or due to poor hygiene. In addition, children are very dependent and parents have to take good care of them.”
Dr Hasan stressed that parents must pay close attention to the health of their children, and they must send them to clinics or hospitals if they show symptoms of HFMD.
As stipulated under the regulations, he said all clinics had to report HFMD patients to the authorities to help keep the outbreak at bay.
“Hence, we demand that doctors notify us. Given our experience all these years, we can keep it under control and we want to stop the transmission. Only when we bring down the number of cases could we ensure zero fatality.”
He assured that all hospitals including their intensive care units (ICU) had been put on the alert to treat children infected with the disease.
He also asked for strong co-operation from every individual to curb transmission of the disease.
Meanwhile, as of today, all pupils and students will be screened for HFMD at their school gates to prevent the disease from spiralling out of control.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Liow: Don’t brush off insomnia as stress

The Star KUALA LUMPUR: If you are having problems sleeping more than three nights a week for more than a month and it comes with chest pain and shortness of breath, it is best to consult a doctor.

In issuing this advice, Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said people who had sleep problems or disorders should get diagnosed and their problems addressed for better health and quality of life.

He said there were 20 sleep laboratories in government hospitals and a few in the private sector throughout the country that helped diagnose the problem.

“If you have sleep problems that are prolonged, get checked by a doctor to rule out serious diseases before you brush it off as due to stress,” he said at a press conference after the 2012 World Sleep Day opening ceremony yesterday where the longest single spring mattress, measuring 28.83m, was displayed.

The ceremony was held in conjunction with World Sleep Day which fell on Friday this year.

At a press conference later, Liow said a sleep laboratory was meant to diagnose people with sleep problems and they would be required to spend a night in the hospital to be monitored.

Liow said 14% of adults suffered from insomnia.

Some “not-so-serious” causes of sleeplessness were old age, jet lag, poor sleeping environment, anxiety while serious causes include depression, alcoholism, hyperthyroidism and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Liow said the ministry was also looking into the possibility of getting commercial vehicle drivers to go for sleep tests so that they could be helped if they have any sleep disorders and not pose a danger on the road.

“We will discuss this with the Transport Ministry and assess the need for it,” he said.

Dengue cases continue to rise

The Sun Daily PETALING JAYA (March 15, 2012): More than 500 new cases of dengue were reported in the period between March 4 to 10, bringing the total number of reported cases to 5,184 cases nationwide since Jan 1.

However, there were no new deaths reported and the number of new cases have decreased by 63 cases to 504 cases, compared to 567 cases between Feb 26 to March 3.

The outbreak has so far claimed 16 lives, compared to 8 deaths in the same period last year.

Health Director General Datuk Seri Dr Hasan Abdul Rahman in a statement today said the number of hotspots have increased to 115 localities in 20 districts, compared to 18 districts the week before.

Hasan said, the current rainy season puts everyone at risk of the dengue threat.

"Continuous rainfall will increase the number of possible aedes mosquito breeding grounds.

"The dengue outbreak is still on an upward trend. I urge the people to ensure that their premises are free from pools or containers of stagnant water and work together to eradicate the dengue threat," said Hasan.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Liow: Allegations against 1Care baseless

FMT KUALA LUMPUR: The Ministry of Health has rebutted claims that the proposed national 1Care health plan will burden Malaysians.
Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai told the Dewan Rakyat today that many of the accusations aimed at the 1Care plan were untrue.
He said this was because the government had not yet finalised the plan, much less reach a decision on it.
“What has been raised by (certain) irresponsible groups that are engaged in roadshows right now… there has been no decision made by any parties that are involved with the betterment of the health system right now. We have not come to a decision,” the Bentong MP said.
Liow also denied claims that the proposed system would be launched in March this year, as well as allegations that people would need to pay 10% of their salary to fund 1Care and that it would be privatised.
The minister was responding to a query by Kota Melaka (DAP) Sim Tong Him, who asked how much the government would spend on 1Care every year.
Sim also asked how many people would be expected to benefit from the programme, how it would be able to generate funds and if it was indeed a joint-venture with the private sector.
According to Liow, an explanation for this would be difficult as the government had not yet come up with a blueprint on the proposed plan.
He added that the ministry was in the process of getting feedback from the public through hearings and dialogues.
Stakeholders will be consulted
During a press conference later, Liow said that the government hoped to come out with a blueprint for the 1Care plan within the next two years.
“Blueprint will be ready after the (public) feedback. When the blueprint is ready, then we’ll go back to the rakyat again…Then we will see how the response is from the public,” he said.
Liow also stressed that the approach to the plan would not be “piecemeal”.
He added that it would be “very detailed”, and would involve expert views from all stakeholders, including the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA).
Public feedback sessions, the minister added, would take place from the end of March until the end of the year.
He also said that the claim of people having to give up 10% of their salary was based off a study on how much people spent on healthcare.
“I want to reiterate that the 10% is actually based on a study carried out on how much you spend a year on health per household. That is the average that you spend out of your salary.
“I don’t know how they took it out (of context), and say that you’d have to pay 10% of your salary. It’s a totally different thing,” he said.
PKR wants more transparency

Meanwhile, in another press conference, PKR leaders urged Liow to be more transparent in the implementation of the 1Care programme.
Gopeng MP Lee Boon Chye questioned the success of the plan when public faith in the government health care services was low.
“According to figures in last year’s budget, 48 million people went to private clinics and only 27 million opted for government clinics,” he said.
He also asked on how the government health services could be improved when the ministry’s allocations have been declining over the past three years.
“According to last year’s budget, development allocation for the ministry was reduced through the years. It was RM3.7 billion in 2010, RM2.2 billion in 2011 and RM1.8 billion in 2012,” he said.
PKR vice president and Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh also urged more transparency from the health minister.
“The minister is claiming that the opposition is trying to sabotage the government’s intention but why can’t they just be more transparent? Just consult the stakeholders even before having a blueprint,” she said.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

1 Care blueprint ready in two years, says Liow

MI KUALA LUMPUR, March 15 — The blueprint for the controversial 1 Care healthcare system will only be done in two years, Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said today.
The health minister said the government had yet to decide which model to use and that it was too early for critics to jump to any conclusions.

“We haven’t even decided what model to use yet. We haven’t finalised it. The blueprint will be ready in two years,” he said in Parliament.

He was replying to a supplementary question from Kota Melaka MP Sim Tong Him.

RM100m allocated to expand Cosway Pharmacy

BT BERJAYA'S direct selling unit, Cosway Corp Ltd, will spend an estimated RM100 million to open its Cosway Pharmacy retail concept to as far as South America.
Cosway Pharmacy, a three-in-one store, will offer Cosway products which range from household products to personal care, pharmaceutical products and its Country Farm Organics range.
Chief executive officer of Cosway Al Chuah said that the investment includes existing markets as well as new ones like Mexico, Colombia and Russia, which it will venture into in the first quarter this year.
The company hopes to open 50 stores within the first 12 months in these new markets.
Here in Malaysia, Cosway (M) Sdn Bhd's target is to have 200 Cosway Pharmacy outlets this year with an ultimate goal of strengthening its network to 1,000 stores within five years.
Al Chuah, who launched the first Cosway Pharmacy in Berjaya Times Square yesterday, said within the next one-and-a-half years, Cosway could emerge as the largest retail pharmacy chain in Malaysia, overtaking Guardian.
This is because expansion will involve both the incorporation of pharmacies within an existing Cosway store or vice versa, as well as the opening of completely new Cosway Pharmacy outlets.
There are a total of 800 Cosway stores and 2,000 retail pharmacies in Malaysia. To date, Cosway has obtained the commitment of about 10 pharmacists to set up the concept.
Malaysia currently has a shortage of pharmacists, which is expected to be resolved within the next two to three years.
As such, the Cosway package has to be attractive enough for get a pharmacist to join now.
The store, referred to as a free store, will see Cosway bear the burden of renovations, rental and utilities. It will also supply the products on consignment.
To lure the pharmacists, Cosway plans to match the take-home salary of a pharmacist, but it is expected to more than double immediately after adopting this model.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Malaysia to tackle unpaid medical bills

AsiaOne KOTA KINABALU - The government will act over unpaid bills at public hospitals in Sabah which amounted to RM25.834 million (S$10.7 million) from 2009 to last year, said Deputy Health Minister Datuk Rosnah Abdul Rashid Shirlin.

As the biggest outstanding sum was owed by foreign workers at RM21.54 million, she said the Health Ministry planned to introduce compulsory medical insurance for foreign workers with the help of the Human Resources Ministry.

She said employers would be compelled to provide insurance coverage for their foreign workers.

On the other hand, local residents owed public hospitals in Sabah only RM4.24 million, she said in a statement yesterday.

She was commenting on a claim by Sabah DAP assistant secretary Junz Wong that patients owed public hospitals in the state RM100 million in unpaid bills.

Rosnah said the ministry also planned to impose a requirement that patients settle half of the estimated hospital bills before being treated or warded.

She said Likas Hospital recorded the highest unpaid bills at RM8.171 million, followed by Tawau Hospital (RM6.120 million), Lahad Datu Hospital (RM3.307 million), Dutchess of Kent Hospital, Sandakan (RM2.4 million) and Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Kota Kinabalu (RM2.162 million).

Monday, March 12, 2012

Health NKEA generated RM4.65 bln GNI last year

Borneo Post KUALA LUMPUR: The six entry point projects (EPP) under the National Key Economic Area (NKEA) for Healthcare successfully achieved 224 percent, above the target set since it was launched last year.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said total investment generated from the six EPP was RM3.1 billion, contributing to RM4.65 billion (Gross National Income) GNI.
Total job creation from the EPP was 18,059 jobs, he added.
“We are doing very well in all the six EPP for the past one year. We had achieved 224 percent, above the 100 percent target set for all the six EPP,” he told reporters here yesterday.
The six EPP launched are foreign worker health insurance scheme, clinical research and diagnosis hub, pharmaceutical exports, health tourism, diagnosis services nexus and developing a health metropolis.
He added that the seventh EPP, namely the medical devices manufacturing, would be launched in two months.
“I hope to encourage more Malaysians to go into manufacturing medical device. It is a big industry that can create a lot of job and creating lots of economic value,” he said.
Liow said all the seven EPP would generate revenue of RM42 billion by year 2020.
“We have already put up all the plans. We are very confident we will achieve the target before year 2020,” he said.
Earlier when opening the 1Malaysia Youth Business Expansion Strategies (1MYBest) Expo, Liow said youth should seize opportunities and the conducive environment for doing business in Malaysia by venturing into entrepreneurship.
He added that youths who comprise up to 40 percent of the 28 million Malaysian population, should also participate constructively in the nation’s aspiration of becoming a high-income nation by 2020.
The 1MYBest, organised by United Movement of Youth Malaysia (GBBM) and Young Malaysians Movement (YMM), was aimed to provide a platform for aspiring youth entrepreneurs to start up business or to expand their business. — Bernama

Ministry: Laws on organ transplant need to be drafted

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Laws governing organ transplantation for living unrelated cases must be drafted carefully to prevent abuse, said the Health Ministry.

“The problem with living unrelated cases is assessing the intention and motivation. We cannot exclude the commercial factor,” said Dr Hirman Ismail, principal assistant director from the transplantation unit.

He added that there were concerns about abuse because there had been cases where people were kidnapped for their organs in other countries.

“We don’t want this to happen here,” he said.

Dr Hirman was speaking on “Living Unrelated Kidney Transplant in Malaysia” at the World Kidney Day 2012 forum at the Prince Court Medical Centre here yesterday.

“The term ‘living unrelated’ means someone who is a friend. Anyone can say he is a friend of the recipient.

“Such cases have to be referred to the Unrelated Transplant Approval Committee set up a few years ago,” he said.

He added that applications must come from the doctor and the recipient. This could only be considered when there was no alternative treatment, and if there was no compatible organ donor in the family.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Government to reveal healthcare plans in roadshow

MI KUALA LUMPUR, March 11 — The government said today it will tour the country to explain and engage the public over healthcare plans after the opposition demanded it reveal details and the status of the controversial 1Care scheme.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai (picture) told reporters his ministry will take into account public feedback on how to improve health services in the country.

“MOH will conduct open dialogue with the public to engage and talk about strengthening healthcare in Malaysia.

“The (1 Care) model is not final. We are very open minded to suggestion and feedback from the public,” Liow said when asked if the government would make public details of plans to revamp the healthcare system.

The MCA deputy president said the roadshow will start at the “end of this month or next month” PKR yesterday urged Liow to reveal 1 Care’s current status, expressing doubt over the “value” of the health minister’s recent promise that the healthcare scheme would not be introduced if found unsuitable.

Party president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail questioned whether the MCA deputy president’s pledge had any meaning after his assurances over radioactive waste from the controversial Lynas rare earths plant appeared to be at odds with those of his Cabinet colleagues.

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 that 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.

Liow stressed today the 1Care model “is not final” and the roadshow will help to find the best way to strengthen the Malaysian healthcare system.

“We are very open minded to suggestion and feedback from the public,” he said, adding that 1 Care has been “totally taken out of context by irresponsible parties”.

Liow: Healthcare professionals should continuously improve skills and knowledge

The Star KUALA LUMPUR: Healthcare professionals must strive to achieve high work standards throughout their careers, Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said.

They must not only be good technically, but should also have the required “psychomotor skills” to competently perform their tasks.

He said while it was important for medical professionals to have sufficient knowledge of their field, they also needed to know how to properly apply their knowledge.

“We could end up with many individuals who may possess proper qualifications, but to all intents and purposes, are unemployable in the real world,” he said at the opening ceremony of the 15th Ottawa Conference here last night.

Liow said there would be continuous demands and expectations from the public following the rise in income and wealth.

“We need to train more health-care professionals to meet this demand. It's equally if not more important to ensure that the quality of these professionals is of a very high standard.

“The healthcare professionals should also have the required skills to competently perform all the procedures they are required to undertake. They must carry out their tasks in a professional and ethical manner,” he added.

Liow also said Malaysia's healthcare system had been successful in providing universal health coverage for its citizens.

The conference provides a glo-bal forum for medical and other healthcare educators to network and share ideas on developments and innovations in medical education.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Number of organ donors still small: Lee

Daily Express Kota Kinabalu: The number of people pledging to donate their organs in Malaysia is still small compared to other countries even though there is an increase in the awareness.

The Ministry of Health's Organ Donation Awareness Promotion Action Committee Chairman, Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye (pic) in a statement on Wednesday said Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai revealed this at the commemoration of World Kidney Day recently.

He said Liow stated that more than 15,000 Malaysians are waiting for organ transplants, as there are not enough donors.

Of the 15,078 patients seeking organ transplant in the country 15,055 are for kidneys, he had said, adding that the number of Malaysians requiring dialysis treatment owing to kidney failure had increased from 7,837 in 2001 to 22,932 in 2010.

Lee said statistics from National Transplant Resource showed that the number of organ donation pledgers, and awareness level is increasing.

"Yet, the number of pledgers is only about 0.6 per million population compared to Spain with 35 per million population and 5 per million population in Singapore.

"From data made available until February 2012, the number of registered organ pledgers is 190,041 since the campaign started in 1997.

For last year 28,769 persons pledged to donate their organs.

For Sabah alone the number of registered organ donation pledgers totalled 3,151 since 1997 which represented only 1.66 per cent of the total number of pledgers.

What is essential, Lee pointed out, is to continuously disseminate accurate information to increase public awareness and motivate the public of all races to donate organs.

In this respect, he said the process leading from donation to transplant is complex and is influenced by many factors, such as legislation, training, public attitude and cost.

"These factors also influence organ donation. The shortage of donated organs is the major challenge currently facing transplant programmes in Malaysia.

"Although there are 190,041 organ pledgers as at end of February 2012, the fact is that the actual number of cadaveric donors is small," he said.

The major impediment to developing an organ transplantation programme in the country is the lack of cadaveric donors, Lee pointed out.

Organ and tissue transplantation has provided the gift of life and enhanced the health of hundreds of thousands of health impaired and terminally ill people.

"Unfortunately the waiting list for organ donation grows longer and longer each day," he said.

For most forms of transplantation, the organs must come from cadaveric sources.

The lack of cadaveric donors, Lee suggested, is largely due to attitude, mindset, prejudices, misconception and even misconceived ideas of the public towards donating their organs upon death.

"There is no legal or religious obstacle and there is presently a consensus on brain death that is essential to cadaveric organ retrieval.

There are no major ethical issues in cadaveric transplantation programmes," he said.

Towards this end, he urged people to be more caring and donate for a good cause in the society.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Herbal industry to contribute RM2.2bil to GNP by 2020, says Noh

The Star MELAKA: Malaysia's fast growing herbal industry is expected to contribute about RM2.2 billion to Gross National Product (GNP) by 2020.

Under the National Key Economic Area (NKEA) programme, it would also create 1,800 job opportunities and 300 entrepreneurs as well as increase the income of 1,500 farmers nationwide, Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Noh Omar said today.

He said the herbal industry was one of the important industries in the development of health foods in Malaysia.

As the world market for herbal products expected to exceed RM2 trillion by 2020 from RM777 billion in 2009, the local herbal market was likely to grow 15 percent annually from RM7 billion in 2010 to about RM29 bilion by 2020, he told reporters after opening the National Food Technology Seminar here.

Present were Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI) Director-General Datuk Dr Abd Shukor Abd Rahman and Food Technology Research Centre Director Normah Omar.

Noh said farmers should grow herbs on a big-scale basis or mix it with other crops so that the industry's objective under the NKEA programme could be achieved.

The government also provided allocations for the farmers and entrepreneurs including to carry out research, he said.

One example, he said, RM25 million had been allocated for a local company to conduct clinical research on Tongkat Ali with a view to securing approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA).

“We hope with the assistance and grant provided by the government, our herbs receive the USFDA recognition to be marketed at pharmacies internationally,” he said.

The three-day seminar that began today will see the tabling of 19 working papers on the latest developments in the country's health food industry.

“The health food industry has been expanding rapidly off late in line with the government's aspiration to encourage the participation of small and medium industry players in the industry,” Abd Shukor said.

He said the health food industry gave lucrative returns, accounting between 30 and 40 percent of the RM30 billion food and beverage market. - BERNAMA

Record year for Malaysian medical tourism

IMTJ Medical tourism in Malaysia hit record levels in 2011 and is on track to achieve yet another year of healthy numbers in 2012. But with the bulk of business coming from Indonesia, attracting people from other countries is vital for long-term growth as Indonesia has a new hospital improvement plan.

Receipts from foreign patients spending on medical treatment in Malaysia in 2011 were RM 509.77 million, while foreign patient numbers were 578,403. This compares to revised figures for 2010 of 392,956.The 2012 prediction is over 600,000.

Dr Mary Wong Lai Lin of the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC) says the 2011 revenue grew by 34.5 %, while the number of patients went up by 47.2 % on 2010. These figures are well above the initial projection of RM 431 million revenue and 400,000 foreign patients.

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. 41 hospitals and 8 dental, eye, and health screening clinics are registered with MHTC.

Penang received the highest share of foreign medical revenue at 49 %, followed by hospitals within the Klang Valley at 21 % and Malacca, at 10 %. The Indonesian market continued to form the bulk of foreign patients in Malaysia due to its proximity and accessibility. Dr Mary Wong Lai Lin of MHTC adds, “We are targeting Japan, China, the Middle East and Bangladesh as well as countries within South East Asia such as Cambodia and Myanmar.” Foreign patients often seek very specialised treatment such as cardiac, orthopaedic, in vitro

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Strengthening Malaysia's Healthcare System: The Way Forward, Government Seeking Public Views

Bernama PUTRAJAYA, March 4 (Bernama) -- Malaysia needs to review and transform its current healthcare system in order to provide more comprehensive high-quality care and make it accessible to all Malaysians, as the country moves to become a developed nation by 2020, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.
"Healthcare transformation is needed, as the current healthcare system is facing a different set of challenges than what we had in the past, and it may not be good enough to take us into 2020," he said in an interview with Bernama.
He said that public expectation for higher quality health services is rising and the expectation will continue to rise as we become a developed nation. Besides that, the proportion of elderly is also increasing in the country.
"It is forecasted that by 2030, our population aged 60 years and above will be more than 15 percent of the total population, compared to the current six percent. The aged requires a lot more health care services and we must take care of their needs," he said.
Liow explained that there is also an increasing number of people suffering from non-communicable diseases (NCD) such as diabetes, hypertension and cancer, adding to Malaysia's disease burden of communicable diseases and vector-borne diseases such as dengue.
Liow pointed out that the recent National Health and Morbidity Survey in 2011 reported that the prevalence of diabetes is 15.2 percent, meaning 2.6 million of Malaysia's adult population aged 18 and above have diabetes. Diabetic prevalence in the country was only 11.6 percent in 2006. This is a 31 percent increase in just five years.
Another example is that the prevalence of hypertension which is 32.7 percent (5.8 million of the population) in 2011, an increase of 1.6 percent compared to 32.2 percent in 2006. The prevalence of obesity is 15.1 percent in 2011, or 2.5 million of the population, an increase of 7.9 percent when compared to the 14 percent prevalence in 2006.
"The number of Malaysians with undiagnosed NCD risk factors has increased alarmingly. For diabetes, there may be one undiagnosed patient for every patient diagnosed. For hypertension, for every two patients diagnosed, there may be another three still undiagnosed" he said.
Liow explained that under the World Trade Organisation agreements, we are required to liberalise our healthcare sector.
"Foreign doctors and foreign health care organisations can then come into our country freely. We can't stop them. Our doctors and hospitals in the private sector will have to face more competition" he added.
Therefore, Liow said, the country's healthcare system needs to be transformed in order to cope with all the challenges and meet the needs of a developed nation.
"In 1960s, '70s, '80, '90s, our healthcare system could be sustained. No doubt our system is good, but our current system is already under stress with all the challenges that have been mentioned. We cannot be complacent and wait until it is broken or collapsed before fixing it".
"Moreover, there are people who can't access affordable healthcare, despite the continuous effort by the government to upgrade its clinic and hospitals," he said, adding the current government budget for healthcare consumes about 2.71 percent of the GDP while people and companies are also already spending another 2.25 percent of GDP.
He stressed that the government will continue to increase the health budget in order to improve the public healthcare sector, but as the country moves toward becoming a developed nation, a more sustainable system is needed for the long term.
"Therefore, we are now looking at various modalities or models. We are not close-minded, we are not one-track minded, and we welcome input and feedback from all, " he said.
Liow said there are many misinformation being circulated about the proposal on 1Care for 1Malaysia.
The government has not decided anything yet and the discussion is still at the preliminary level.
He said that the Health Ministry will continue to engage the public on this health transformation.
"We are planning to organise an open-day soon, inviting the public to engage with the ministry to further discuss on how to strengthen the healthcare system in Malaysia.
"We want to hear their views on how we can strengthen the healthcare system and use them to input and deliberate as we develop the blueprint. After the blueprint is ready, we will engage the public again. It is not a done deal. It is totally wrong to say we have decided on 1Care," he added.

One in four women dies of heart attacks, strokes in Malaysia

Borneo Post KUCHING: One in four women dies of heart attacks and strokes in the country and the trend has remained unchanged for the last 10 years, and more women die from heart attacks than strokes, revealed Datuk Anne Teng from the Board of Trustees of Sarawak Heart Foundation yesterday.
She said deaths due to heart attacks and strokes were almost two and a half times more common than deaths due to all cancers combined.
Women who were overweight, middle aged and had just gone through menopause had higher risk of heart attack, she pointed out, while adding adopting a healthy lifestyle could help prevent the attack.
“By adopting a healthy lifestyle such as eating a balanced diet with low cholesterol and sugar, and with regular exercise, can help keep our heart healthy,” she said when launching the ‘Women’s Health Awareness and Screening Programme’ held by Women’s Heart Health Organisation and Sarawak Heart Foundation, at the Boulevard Shopping Mall here yesterday.
She said the programme aimed to increase awareness of the public and health care providers about the prevalence and presence of heart diseases and stroke in women, to develop a preventive strategy against heart attacks and strokes in women, as well as to provide continuous medical education to health care providers and to the public.
The health screening comprised of body mass index, blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol tests.
Leading cardiologist Professor Dr Sim Hui Kian who was also present at the programme said the cause of the highest number of deaths among women in the nation is heart disease, and they happened mostly in elderly women and those who had just gone through menopause.
However, a lot of women did not realise the fact because the symptoms and signs were not as classical as men.
“Most people believe that the most common cause of deaths among women is cancer. In facts, heart attacks recorded
the highest number. It is a matter of how many people are aware of this cause,” he said when met by The Borneo Post.
Dr Sim, who is also Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) secretary general, said risk factors of coronary heart disease were cigarette smoke, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, diabetes mellitus, obesity, and lack of exercise.
Women typically show different symptoms of heart attack than men do. The most common symptom, however, in both women and men is some sort of pain or pressure in the chest.
“In women, the chest pain is usually not as intense as it is in men. They usually complain of discomfort and pressure in the chest. Women with typical chest pain are fewer compared to men which is why these symptoms may be ignored
when they go for check-up because of lack of awareness,” he said.
He advised women who are more than 55 years old, who had just experienced menopause, who is a diabetic
or have family history of diabetes to go for medical check-up as a preventive measure.

Malaysian Patients Need To Wait Longer For Kidney Donor

Bernama Kidney patients in Malaysia will have to wait longer to get a kidney transplant as the number of registered donors in the country is a far cry from the number of kidney patients.

National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (Niosh) chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said this was because between 1997 and last month, the number of people who had registered as kidney donors stood at 4,318, while the number of patients on the waiting list for suitable kidney had reached 14,000.

"Furthermore, not all who had registered as donors managed to get the plan properly executed," he told Bernama here Saturday.

Lee said most kidney patients in the country had to undergo dialysis treatment on a weekly basis and had to rely on the dialysis machine for survival.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Medical grads see red with MMC

FMT PETALING JAYA: Medical graduates from three unrecognised Ukranian universities are seeing red with the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) for allowing a local university to run an offshore programme with those universities.
FMT learnt that last week, a large group of overseas medical graduates and their parents met with MMC president Dr Hasan Abdul Rahman to vent their frustration.
“About 300 students and parents had gathered but only 40 of us were taken in to meet with Hasan and other officials,” a medical graduate said on condition of anonymity.
“Our objective is to get an explanation from MMC regarding the Medical Qualifications Exam (MQE) but we are sad because Hasan did not answer our questions,” he said, referring to the examination which graduates from unrecognised universities must sit for in order to practise here.
He claimed that MMC was more interested in the welfare of private universities as opposed to that of students.
“Just look at Lincoln University College (LUC). They will make millions with the blessing of MMC,” he added.
A check by FMT showed that MMC had given the green light to LUC to run offshore programmes in three Ukrainian universities unrecognised by the Public Service Department (PSD).
The three universities were the Ternopil State Medical University, Danylo Halytsky Lviv National Medical University and Ivano Frankivsk National Medical University.
LUC was the only local university to obtain an approval from MMC to run offshore programmes in unrecognised universities.
“Why did LUC receive such a special privilege?” asked the student, who graduated from the Danylo Halytsky Lviv National Medical University.
“The actual cost of completing a medical degree in Ukraine is between RM120,000 and RM130,000. But with Lincoln being the intermediary, the price will now escalate to about RM200,000 (with accomodation),” he said.

‘This is unfair’
Furthermore, the student said that with the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) having given its approval, students doing these offshore programmes would receive higher education loan funds (PTPTN).
“PTPTN loan is usually given to those studying in local institutions that are MQA-approved,” he added.
He also pointed out that while the Malaysian ambassador to Ukraine had suggested that a Ukranian university could only enrol 50 Malaysian students if recognised, MMC however granted LUC 300 seats for the three universities.
“So LUC would earn about RM70,000 from each student and RM21 million in total from the 300 seats,” he added.
The student also asked why MMC appointed a third party (LUC), which resulted in students having to pay more, when the three universities had submitted a proposal to MMC directly to be recognised.
He also accused LUC of misleading the students by claiming that the programmes in Ukraine would be conducted in their offshore campus.
“Those three universities are Ukrainian government universities and their staff are paid by the Ukrainian government. There is no evidence of LUC building an offshore campus in Ukraine,” he said, adding that Lincoln was merely operating as a recruiting agent to send students abroad.
The student also said that those who complete the LUC offshore programme would not need to sit for the MQE upon their return to Malaysia, whereas he being a direct student of one of the universities, was forced to sit for it.
“This is really unfair. Why has MMC given this privilege to LUC students when the syllabus are the same? We want an explanation,” he added.

LUC: We’ll conduct classes
When contacted, LUC’s marketing manager Murtado Alao said LUC was only using the Ukrainian universities’ facilities but the teaching would be conducted by LUC’s academic staff.
“It’s an offshore programme. The students, upon graduating, will get their medical degrees from LUC, not the Ukrainian universities,” he said, adding that their course was recognised by the MMC, the MQA and the Higher Education Ministry.
He added that even their exams would be conducted by LUC, under the strict supervision of MMC.
As for the programme cost, Murtado said it would be RM180,000 and not RM200,000. “The fee is inclusive of accommodation. No hidden costs involved,” he added.
When the matter was referred to Hasan, he redirected the e-mail queries to one Dr Ghani in LUC for response.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Roti canai makers in dilemma over gloves ruling

FMT KUCHING: Roti canai makers in Sibu are in a quandry over a new ruling requring food handlers to wear gloves.
The Sibu Municipal Council (SMC) has advocated for all food handlers to adopt a stringent level of hygiene and cleanliness including the wearing of gloves.
The council’s decision came in the wake of increasing cases of hand-foot-mouth-disease (HFMD) in the state.
Earlier this week it was reported that the number of HFMD cases in Sarawak was heading towards an outbreak.
Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai said the accumulated number of such cases for the first seven weeks of this year was 806, compared to 213 cases during the same period last year.
Although Sibu had no reported cases at the time, Liow said Kuching reported the most HFMD cases with 295 cases, followed by Bintulu (112), Betong (85), Samarahan (70) and Miri (65).
The ministry had recommended that food handlers be more careful and practice good hygienic.
Whilst gloves were practical for most other food handlers, roti canai makers however are uncomfortable.
For these men, the adjustment has its danger and could even affect the taste of the highly popular Malaysian bread.

Gloves will affect taste
One roti canai maker said gloves would not only slow down their hand movements but they also risk having their palms burnt.
“This will not only slow us down but the taste of the roti canai will be compromised as well. The (cooking) pan is very hot and if you put on plastic gloves, the heat can easily melt them.
“When that happens, our palms will get burn,” Rahman told a local daily here.
Rahman, who runs a restaurant, was quick to state that cleanliness was an essential part of his business and that he insisted his workers practiced a “high standard of hygiene and cleanliness”.
“But be mindful that wearing of gloves may not be feasible for all occasions.”
Meanwhile another restaurant owner S Gunalan said it would be too troublesome to make roti canai with gloves.
“This is because there are various hand techniques involved in the food preparation.
“We do agree that food handlers such as those preparing noodles need to use rubber gloves but not for roti canai makers.
“In all of my life, I have never seen roti canai makers using gloves,” Gunalan said

Sinseh may get to issue medical chits

NST PRACTITIONERS of traditional medicine may issue sick leave certificates to patients under a proposed law expected to be tabled in the Dewan Rakyat, possibly this month.
This is the Traditional and Complementary Medicine (TCM) Bill, which is now with the attorney-general's chambers.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the proposed legislation would weed out bogus healers and turn TCM into one of the core branches in healthcare.
"We are waiting for the attorney-general to get back to us and if they are fast, we could present the bill at the next parliamentary session this month or June at the latest," he said after opening Hospital Sungai Long (HSL) here yesterday.
Liow said the bill, which was drafted by TCM practitioners and experts, would not only benefit the industry, but also the public.
"The enforcement of the act will ease the burden of those who rely on TCM as the cost would then be borne by insurance companies as well. Employees who seek treatment from TCM practitioners would also receive official medical certificates."
TCM treatment has grown over the years and the Health Ministry estimates that there could be as many as 15,000 practitioners in the country. Currently, the ministry allows massages, acupuncture and post-natal care in 10 government hospitals.
Liow said the ministry was considering expanding TMC treatment to its clinics by the end of this year.
"We are going to start a pilot project to introduce such treatments in local clinics.
"It will then be easier for people to seek TCM treatment in their neighbourhood."
He said the pilot project would probably be in Johor Baru.
Malaysia's cooperation with China in traditional Chinese medicine has also been strengthened with the signing of a memorandum of understanding on policy regulations and promotion of traditional medicine by the two countries last November.
Liow said Malaysia would be hosting the fourth Conference on Traditional Medicine in Asean Countries this year.
At yesterday's event, he also witnessed an exchange of a memorandum of understanding between HSL and Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman for sharing facilities, resources and expertise in medical and health sciences.
Present were Deputy Higher Education Minister Datuk Dr Hou Kok Chung, UTAR council chairman Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik, HSL general manager Ric Lee Juin Sye and UTAR president Professor Datuk Dr Chuah Hean Teik.

Protein In Urine - A Sign Of Kidney Damage

Bernama Based on statistics by the health authorities, the number of Malaysians suffering from end-stage renal failure has increased to more than 12,000, from only about 40 in 1980.
This is the first of three articles on Kidney Failure in conjunction with World Kidney Day on March 8.
KUALA LUMPUR, March 2 (Bernama) -- According to human physiology, kidneys function to remove toxins and excess water from the blood, apart from helping to maintain blood pressure, produce red blood cells and keep the bones healthy.
However, kidneys can be damaged by diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), infection and inflammation, as well as stones and cysts in the organs.
Other causes of damage have been attributed to prolonged use of pain killers and consumption of alcohol.
If kidney damage becomes too severe, the organ will lose its ability to function normally. This is known as end-stage kidney (renal) disease (ESRD), or simply kidney failure.
Nephrologists have identified diabetes and hypertension as the leading causes of ESRD, accounting for more than 60 per cent of new cases of dialysis patients in Malaysia.

According to the National Kidney Foundation (NKF), there are three types of kidney failure -- acute, chronic and end-stage.
Acute kidney failure is usually temporary and is reversible.
"However, sometimes this type of kidney failure may not respond to treatment and may progress to chronic kidney failure or end-stage kidney failure," says a nephrologist.
The nephrologist says when the loss of kidney functions is gradual and progressive, it is known as chronic kidney failure.
"Eventually, the kidneys are unable to remove wastes or maintain the body's salt and fluid balance, resulting in the need to receive dialysis treatment".
He says a build-up of creatinine (a waste product normally removed by the kidneys) in the blood will indicate kidney functions and the level of kidney impairment, adding that the risk of chronic kidney failure increases with age.

Health authorities reveal that the number of Malaysians suffering from end-stage renal failure has increased between 1980 and now - from more than 40 in 1980 to more than 12,000 now.
Nephrologists believe that the number of registered patients may not reflect the actual situation in the country, as there could be many suffering in silence due to a lack of facilities.
Some also could have resorted to traditional or alternative treatment, they say.
Nephrology medical officer Dr B.H. Lim says medical authorities believe at least nine out of every 100 Malaysians have diabetes, and at least 40 out of every 100 diabetic patients have kidney disease.
"The incidence of kidney failure is rising," he says, adding that there are about 92 new end-stage renal cases per million population, or between 2,000 to 3,000 new cases every year".
He says early detection can help prevent kidney failure and this can be achieved only if people check regularly to see if they suffer from kidney disease, particularly those in the high-risk group.
"Those with a history of family members having diabetes and kidney failure are also advised to go for medical checks," Dr Lim says.

"Everyone should check whether they are at risk for kidney disease. Screening is essential for people considered to be at risk of kidney disease.
"The majority of individuals with early stages of CKD go undiagnosed, therefore early detection of kidney impairment is essential and allows suitable treatment before kidney damage or deterioration manifests itself through other complications," he explains.
He says kidney diseases develop slowly and the symptoms only appear at a late stage, when the patient already has kidney failure and may even need dialysis.
"Of course there is renal replacement therapy (RTT), but this treatment requires burdensome lifestyle changes for the patient and is extremely costly.
"A routine test of urine, blood and blood pressure can detect if there are any early signs of kidney problems. The needed laboratory tests are done on samples of blood and urine. When your kidneys are damaged, proteins leaks into your urine.
The medical officer says a simple test can be done to detect protein in a person's urine.
"Persistent protein in the urine is an early sign of chronic kidney disease. The doctor uses the levels of serum creatinine measured in the blood to calculate the overall kidney function, or Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR), and monitors your blood sugar to be sure you do not have diabetes.
Creatinine is a waste product in the blood that comes from muscle activity. It is normally removed by the kidneys but when kidney function slows down, the creatinine level rises.
Dr Lim says the kidney doctor can use the results of the serum creatinine test to calculate the kidney function, or GFR.
Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR) tells total kidney function. The normal level is about 100 ml/min.
Dr Lim says if the GFR falls below 60 ml/min, the person will usually need to see a nephrologist. If the treatment from the nephrologist does not prevent a further reduction in GFR, the kidney doctor will explain to the patient about the treatments for kidney failure, such as dialysis or kidney transplant.
The 7th World Kidney Day on 8th March 2012 has the theme: "Kidneys for Life", promoting organ donation and transplantation.