Sunday, July 29, 2012

Wong confirms cholera outbreak in Bintulu

BorneoPost Online KUCHING: Minister of Local Government and Community Development Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh yesterday confirmed that there is a cholera outbreak in Bintulu.
Speaking to reporters after a briefing by officers from the state Health Department at his office here yesterday, he said the department detected the outbreak on July 14 after a case was confirmed positive with Vibrio Cholerae.
“Since July 14, the state Health Department declared there is an outbreak detected in Bintulu.
Since then, the state Health Department initiated its investigation to trace all the suspected symptomatic cases. Anyone coming down with diarrhoea and vomiting will be investigated to check whether it is cholera or not,” he added.
Based on investigation by the department, the outbreak was believed to have started when three groups of regatta participants from Rumah Gawan, Kampung Jepak and Kampung Hilir in Sebauh, Bintulu used water from Kemena River to wash plates, fish and their hands.
“The bacteria from the river had contaminated the food and the hands of the people during the regatta and then continuously spread from person to person and contaminated food and drinks. Now the state Health Department is also suspecting that it is spread from Ramadan Bazaar due to contaminated food and drinks,” he added.
He noted that as of yesterday, the department had received 140 cases – 33 positive for cholera, 55 negative and 52 cases still pending result. The youngest patient was one year 11 months old while the oldest was 84 years old. The department also detected nine cases with Vibrio Cholerae but without any symptom.
As of yesterday, 177 people had been screened for signs and symptoms of acute gastroenteritis and were given doxycycline, an antibiotic.
On the outbreak, Wong said it was still spreading in Bintulu with 11 localities declared positive for cholera; Rumah Panjang Gawan at Sungai Sebauh, Kampung Jepak, Kampung Sebauh Hilir in Sebauh, Rumah Usah in Sungai Segan, Setinggan Mozako, Kampung Assyikirin, Kampung Sinong in Jalan Masjid, Setinggan Hock Peng Tanjung Kidurong, Batu 10, Jalan Bintulu/Miri, Kampung Baru and Kirana Palm Oil/Brightwood Quarters, Kemena Industrial Estate.
“The state Health Department will continue to take all samples from Sungai Kemena and its tributaries as well as food sampling from Ramadan Bazaar and houses. Besides that, the state Health Department will intensify diarrhoea and vomiting surveillance in all health facilities in Bintulu and issue cholera alert to all government, private health facilities in the state whereby when there is increase in number of admission, the state Health Department will investigate whether it is cholera or not,” he said.
Wong said attention would also be given to all food handlers in the Ramadan Bazaar in Bintulu to ensure that they meet the department’s health standards, which also requires them to go for cholera screening.
“Once they are cleared from the disease, they will be issued health cards and they must bring the health cards with them when they operate the stalls. If they refuse to go for screening, they will be asked to close down their stalls,” he added.
For the convenience of the public, a screening centre is opened at the old Bintulu health clinic from 8am to 10pm every day.
The department is also using Bintulu Hospital for isolation of severe cases while mild cases and asymptomatic cases would be treated at the national service camp in Samalaju in Bintulu.
Wong appealed to the public to give their fullest cooperation to the department to ensure that the outbreak could be contained.
At the same time, he advised the public to practise good hygiene, especially washing hands after using the toilet and before handling food or eating.
“During any disease outbreak, drink only boiled water, eat only cooked food and avoid eating at unhygienic food outlets. Besides that, seek treatment immediately if you have diarrhoea, vomiting, nausea or abdominal pain,” he said.
The press conference was attended by Assistant Public Health Minister Dr Jerip Susil, state Health Department consultant epidemiologist Datu Dr Andrew Kiyu, state Health Department deputy director of health services (public health) Dr Jamilah Hashim, Dr Noorzilawati Sahak from the communicable diseases control section and state health department assistant environmental health officer Muslim Mhd Ghazali.

'Many unaware hepatitis can kill'

New Straits Times PETALING JAYA: THE Health Ministry yesterday urged the public to get themselves tested for viral Hepatitis and go for early treatment if the disease is detected.
Its minister, Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, said many Malaysians were still unaware of hepatitis B and C, both of which caused irreversible damage to the liver.
"Hepatitis is a neglected disease as many believe that the disease no longer exists," he said after launching the World Hepatitis Day 2012 campaign themed "It's Closer Than You Think".
"Many people are not vaccinated and do not know that they are Hepatitis B and C carriers."
Liow said despite its dangers, awareness on viral hepatitis was neglected even though it was mandatory to notify the disease under the Health Ministry's Prevention and Control of Infectious Disease Act 1988.
"We want the public to understand that hepatitis can cause liver inflammation and later lead to liver cancer."
He added that Hepatitis B was 50 to 100 times more infectious than HIV.
"It is a silent disease which we should not take lightly. The disease does not only affect patients, but those who are close to them."
Liow said in 2010, 640 Hepatitis B cases were detected while 724 had Hepatitis C.
Meanwhile, he added that last year, 1,250 Malaysians were diagnosed with Hepatitis B while 1,047 had Hepatitis C.
Statistics also show that more than 80 per cent of Hepatitis B and C patients were aged between 25 and 55 years.
Liow added that over 85 per cent of liver cancer patients had Hepatitis B.
"We want to emphasise the importance of screening to minimise Hepatitis infection."
In Malaysia, Liow said five per cent of the population or 1.4 million people or one in every 20 suffered from chronic liver disease which may have been caused by hepatitis.
"It is a serious disease that we need to tackle."
He added that though the transmission rate was low, the liver disease was still high and the prevalence was seen in those born before vaccination was introduced.
He added that the ministry only introduced the vaccination programme in 1989 and those born before should get themselves screened.
"Although the number is not big, the transmission of the disease is fast. Awareness and understanding of viral hepatitis transmission is crucial to prevent the disease from spreading."
Liow said that the Hepatitis B vaccination programme for children, introduced in 1989, managed to reduce the rate of the disease among Malaysians to 0.3 per cent, exceeding World Health Organisation's target of one per cent.
The campaign involves 20 hospitals nationwide, including 13 government hospitals.
Under the national campaign, he said free Hepatitis C testing would be offered to high risk groups as many many patients remained undiagnosed.
"Last year's campaign saw nearly 10,000 tests for viral Hepatitis being conducted at 19 sites all over the country."
Liow added that individuals at risk included anyone who had a blood transfusion prior to 1994, a history of needle-stick injury, injected recreational drugs, with tattoos or had unsterile acupuncture and children whose mothers were viral Hepatitis patients.
"Those who are high at risk in contracting the disease should take advantage of the services provided throughout the campaign."
World Hepatitis Day is commemorated today.

MMA: Doctors fees not the only cost | Free Malaysia Today

Free Malaysia Today PETALING JAYA: Doctors’ fees are no problem for most people. It is the extra charges that they have a problem with.
This was confirmed by Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr S R Manalan, who told FMT in a statement: “…the main complaints were not on the doctors’ fees but the exorbitant health fees, medical insurance premiums and the fee controlled by Managed Care Organisations (MCO) and Third Party Administrators.”
He was responding to Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai, who said that the the high medical charges are a cause for concern.
Liow added that he is working with private hospitals as well as insurance companies to resolve this issue.
At the time, he said his ministry is trying to see if it can increase private doctor and specialist fees by 14%.
Adding to this, Manalan said that inflating costs of healthcare does not grow in tandem with the cumulative general inflation, which he added, is marked at 18.9% from 2003 to 2010.
“…this is mainly due to non-professional fee components such as pharmaceutical products, other medical products, therapeutic appliances and equipment,” he said.
Manalan added that in many cases doctors are both consumers of healthcare and employers as well.
The wage increase of clinic employees, he said, has to be factored into professional fees together with the general inflation rate.
“Medical liability insurance premiums for various specialties have outpaced the general inflation rate.
“…It would appear that doctors have been singled out for this discriminatory practice,” he said.
According to him, MMCA has always encouraged medical practitioners to determine their fees based on their own practice costs and the ability of patients to pay.
“The cost of running medical practices varies across the country, including employing general practice staff and operating expenses such as computers, rent, electricity, general insurance and professional insurance among others,” he said.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Private medical group seeks better healthcare for rakyat

Malaysian Reserve The Association of Private Hospitals of Malaysia (APHM) is requesting more engagement between the medical community in the private sector and the government to ensure a better healthcare system for Malaysians.

APHM president Datuk Dr Jacob Thomas said the engagement would ensure that the private sector continues to deliver quality healthcare especially when the proposed 1Care for 1Malaysia scheme takes effect.

“The Health Ministry has given the assurance that when the new system takes place, both the public and the private sectors will be seen as partners and key players. This is as much as we know now but we were assured that this whole process is still in the area of research and study,” he told The Malaysian Reserve in a recent interview.

In reports earlier this year, Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the government has yet to decide on the new system as it was still evaluating the various models including studying the feasibility of the 1Care scheme.

He said the government was currently looking at and studying various models, including the health insurance model, Employee Provident Fund type model, social health insurance model, taxation model and other hybrid models, involving government-employer-employee participation.

Healthcare is now a big business witnessed by the listing yesterday of IHH Healthcare Bhd, one of the largest listed private healthcare providers in the world with an expected market capitalisation of close to RM23 billion. It also ranks among the largest companies on the Main Market of Bursa Malaysia.

Dr Thomas said the government plans to make the 1Care scheme mandatory for the public but details of the plan, which is deemed controversial by some, are still sketchy. The scheme is aimed at providing quality healthcare for all citizens regardless of financial ability.

“We know, and the government also realises, that private healthcare is not subsidised by the government. It is not affordable to the ones that do not have the means to pay for it,” he said.

In APHM's meeting with the Health Ministry officials on the 1Care scheme, he said they were told that the government was in the midst of talking to the stakeholders to see how they can bring about the new scheme which will be fairer and more equitable to the rakyat.

“The new scheme shouldn’t go backward. It should also cover everybody. That means, one who is old, a pensioner or a retiree, should have access to healthcare. That is the aim of the 1Care scheme but what the association and the medical community has been saying is whatever you make it to be, it has to be better than the current system,” he said.

Dr Thomas, who is also the group medical advisor of Sime Darby Group and Subang Jaya Medical Centre (SJMC), said the medical tourism industry would remain rosy this year due to the positive response from regional countries.

Malaysia has recorded a 48% increase in medical tourists last year to 583,000 patients from 393,000 patients in 2010, collecting a revenue of RM511 million in 2011, said Dr Thomas.

“The number of foreign patients will definitely increase because the efforts by the government and the medical fraternity to promote Malaysia in the last five to 10 years is finally bearing fruit,” he said.

The domestic healthcare sector is expected to reach RM548 million in revenue in 2012, with over 600,000 foreign patients arrival this year, according to health-related consultancy website Malaysia Healthcare chief operating officer Vijayan Samuel.

Dr Thomas said Malaysia is on the right track to boost healthcare services with the government placing much emphasis on medical tourism and healthcare travel through the Economic Transformation Programme.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Ministry to focus on training more medical specialists

theSundaily KUALA LUMPUR (July 26, 2012): The Health Ministry will now focus on training more specialists to cater to the growing demand for specialised medical needs among the people.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the ministry aims to place specialist doctors at all government district hospitals by 2020.

"In the past, we were short of doctors but we've trained enough doctors and have sufficient doctors in all government hospitals. So now we want to focus on training more specialists," he told reporters after opening the ANOC Neuroscience and Orthopedic Centre in Bangsar here, today.

He said currently only 55 of 135 government hospitals nationwide had specialists care. Liow noted that the ministry trained about 800 specialists a year and currently there are about 5,000 specialists in all medical fields in the country.

"Our target is to ensure that our district hospitals have enough specialists to serve the people at each district. We also encourage more doctors to take up specialist courses," he said.

Earlier, in his speech, Liow expressed confidence that facilities at the ANOC Neuroscience and Orthopedic Centre, the first of its kind in the country, would appeal to local as well as overseas patients seeking medical treatment in Malaysia.

The one-stop tertiary out-patient referral centre focuses mainly on the clinical areas of neurology, neuro-surgery, orthopedics, rheumatology and radiology.

The centre has the technology and personnel capable to detect and treat conditions such as stroke, brain and spinal cord tumours, spondylosis and prolapsed disc, at an early stage. – Bernama

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Liow: Doctor, specialist fees to be revised up by 14%

The Star Online KUALA LUMPUR: Doctor and specialist fees in the private sector are likely to see a 14% increase if approved by the Cabinet, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.

He said the ministry carries out the revision every five years. It is now finalising the dental fees before a new structure is presented to the Cabinet for approval.

“We hope to bring it to the Cabinet this year,” he said after the ANOC Neuroscience and Orthopaedic Centre launch.

Liow said the fees were revised to make them competitive as the fees here were low compared with other parts of the world due to Government controls.

He said currently, the main complaints were not on doctors' fees but the exorbitant hospital fees which the Ministry was working on resolving with the private hospitals, insurance and managed care organisations.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Health screenings on wheels

New Straits Times SUNWAY Group, in collaboration with the National Kidney Foundation (NKF), launched its second mobile health screening bus here, recently.
The NKF LifeCheck mobile unit is a customised 40-seater bus that provides basic health screenings on early detection and prevention of kidney-related diseases for the public.

The bus has seven work stations designed to carry out various tests including blood pressure, body mass index, blood sugar, cholesterol, as well as provide counseling.

The mobile unit will cover urban, suburban areas and rural areas in Klang Valley.

Present at the launch was Sunway Group founder and chairman Tan Sri Jeffrey Cheah, who said the rise of kidney disease in the country needs to be addressed.

He said the funding for the vehicle was from the NKF's 40th Anniversary Charity Dinner which was held in 2010.

"From the charity dinner, we raised RM877,380 to fund this second NKF LifeCheck mobile unit.

"Healthcare has always been Sunway's way of giving back to the community.

"Our partnership with NKF is an example of how we work to raise awareness on leading a healthy lifestyle.

He said nearly 15 per cent or 4.2 million Malaysians are at risk of developing chronic kidney disease.

Last year, 4,000 Malaysians was diagnosed with the disease.

"Today, 24,000 patients require dialysis treatment. This growing number of patients is alarming.

"What is worse is people who are affected only find out about the disease in the later stages of the illness when treatment is less successful.

"So with early detection, it will help prevent and reduce the number of cases," said Cheah.

He said the first mobile unit was launched in 2008 with RM780,000 raised through one of their charity dinners.

NKF Board of Directors chairman Datuk Dr Zaki Morad Mohd Zaher said currently NKF has 1,450 dialysis patients receiving subsidised dialysis treatments at its 25 dialysis centres.

"Unless one goes for health screenings, the disease is unlikely to be detected.

"Among the common kidney-related diseases are diabetes and high blood pressure," said Zaki.

He said that in Malaysia, the number of dialysis patients have tripled from 7,837 in 2001, to 22,932 in 2010.

They were mostly diagnosed with diabetes and hypertension.

NKF has screened more than 140,000 members of the public throughout the country since the first mobile unit was launched.

"While there are no charges, we encourage people to contribute by having a donation box for those generous enough to donate," he said.

For details on the health screening venues, visit

Monday, July 23, 2012

Acupuncture for surgery soon

The Star Online PUTRAJAYA: Acupuncture may play a role in easing pain during surgery in the future when more people are trained for it, said Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.

The idea came about following a minor surgery to remove a thyroid nodule from a patient was successfully done with only acupuncture and minimal local anaesthesia administered at the Raja Permaisuri Bainun Hospital (RPBH) in Ipoh last month.

“It was a great success,” said the Health Minister, adding that more surgeons needed to be trained in the procedure before it could be introduced to other hospitals.

Putrajaya Hospital surgical department head and consultant breast and endocrine surgeon Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the acupuncture anaesthesia at RPBH was the first done in Malaysia.

Dr Hisham, who performed the surgery, said needles were inserted at a few acupuncture points in the neck and around the patient’s wrists, and mild electric currents were introduced to numb the patient throughout the surgery.

“The surgery took 35 minutes and no other medications were used apart from a small dosage of local anaesthesia to block the contraction of the muscles,” he said in an interview here.

“The surgery went well and the patient was aware — before, during and after the surgery,” he said, adding that the 65-year-old man was even able to speak to Liow through a video call about an hour after the surgery.

And, four hours after the surgery, the patient was discharged.

Dr Hisham said such a surgery was previously performed on patients who were given general anaesthesia, before local anaesthesia was used in recent years.

“It’s not going to replace our traditional way of doing things in ‘Western’ medicine. But it just adds to our armamentarium of surgical services that we can provide for our patients,” he added.

Nevertheless, Dr Hisham said acupuncture anaesthesia was in line with the pain-free hospital concept introduced by the ministry last December.

“A pain-free hospital encourages minimally-invasive procedures, optimum or adequate analgesics, and acupuncture to achieve better pain control,” said Dr Hisham.

“The patient could also be discharged on the same day.”

In China, acupuncture anaesthesia has been used for heart, brain and breast surgeries.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Malaysia to fill region's health professional gap

New Straits Times KUALA LUMPUR: THE government will seek to expand education access in the health sciences field from 55,000 to 150,000 places in the next eight years.
Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said yesterday the move would help fill a shortage of 1.2 million health professionals in Southeast Asia, a number that is expected to grow to 1.8 million by 2020.
"I believe Malaysia can play a central role in answering the need for more health professionals in the region," he said when launching the new campus for the Pusrawi International College of Medical Sciences at Taman Batu Muda in Gombak, here.
He said the government had invested RM1.4 billion in the health sciences, which was expected to generate returns of RM2.8 billion in gross domestic product.
The health sciences field, one of the main clusters under the National Key Economic Areas for education, was expected to expand further in the future, he added.
"As such, health sciences students, who are considered highly skilled and employable, can expect a brighter future in this field," said Muhyiddin, who is also education minister.
Currently, he said, seven public institutions and 62 private institutions of higher education offered courses in the health sciences, with a total of 80,096 students.
Muhyiddin also said the government had recently completed the national public dialogue sessions, carried out as part of the ministry's education reform efforts.
"An initial report on the planned reforms will be published next month for feedback from the public before a final blueprint is produced."

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Health Ministry to begin rewarding healthy employees

The Star Online PUTRAJAYA: The Health Ministry will take the lead in introducing rewards for employees who do not take sick leave.

Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the programme would start immediately.

"They will receive the reward, which could include a certificate of appreciation, during the ministry's excellent service awards presentation next year.

"Besides the certificate, we are considering rewarding them with opportunities to attend special courses," he said after presenting the ministry's excellent service awards here Thursday.

Liow said he hoped other ministries would consider introducing a similar programme.

`Mark-ups' in the prices of essential drugs?

theSundaily PETALING JAYA (July 17, 2012): Is the government paying more for medication due to escalating costs of pharmaceuticals, or are there hidden "mark-ups" by middlemen in the prices of essential drugs?

Sources have told theSun that procurement of pharmaceuticals to the ministry is done through local tendering agents – at an average mark-up of 3% of the drug cost.

A reliable source familiar with the drugs procurement process in the ministry recently told theSun that hundreds of millions of ringgit have been given to local tendering agents, whose only role is to hand out government tenders for medication to manufacturers as "pass-through commissions".

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the agents will procure the required drugs from various manufacturers and bill it back to the hospital or Health Ministry at a mark-up of between 2% and 5%.

"When a hospital requires a particular drug, it will issue a local purchasing order (LPO) to a tendering agent.

"The agent will then source the drug from various manufacturers, be it from a multi-national pharmaceutical company or a local manufacturer. The agent will then receive a 3% 'pass-through commission' from the government or the hospital," the source explained.

Based on data provided by the ministry, a total of RM12.34 billion was spent on pharmaceuticals between 2001 and 2011. Roughly half this sum is spent via LPO.

The source said the 3% is also "clean profit" for the agent, since the cost of distributing the medicines to the respective hospitals is borne by the manufacturer or supplier.

"This practice has been going on for many years. All procurements are done this way," the source claimed.

Another source within the pharmaceutical industry told theSun that the use of "agents" to procure medication for hospitals is not necessary.

"The agents are used mainly in LPOs because a majority of products bought under them are patented drugs which are by multinational companies," explained the source.

Agents become the go-between for companies which are not registered with the Finance Ministry and the government. Only companies that are majority-owned by Malaysians can be registered with the Finance Ministry and bid for tenders.

"The use of agents have little value-add to the procurement process," said the pharmaceutical source.

The "mark ups" were once as high as 10% but have since come down.

However, he does not believe it has a significant cost impact on Health Ministry expenditure.

"While I do not think there is a need for tendering agents, it has minimal impact on the price of drugs because only around half of government procurements are done through LPOs," the source said.

When approached, Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai denied that there are middlemen in the ministry's procurement process.

"It's not true. Any company can supply to the government as long as they register with the Finance Ministry. It's all tendering (process)... the best price will win," he told theSun.

He stressed that the Health Ministry is transparent in its work and all procurements are done through open tenders. However, the ministry is not involved if the company has its own agents and distributors, Liow said.

"But they are not considered middlemen as they are providing a service to the company," he added.

On July 10, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng brought up the issue of middlemen in the purchasing of medicines for public hospitals, and asked Liow why they could not buy them direct from manufacturers.

He also claimed that pharmaceutical manufacturers based in the country were not happy with having to go through a third party to sell their products to the public sector.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Liow: Ministry’s medical tourism target surpassed

The Star Online KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry has surpassed the expected target for medical tourism.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the revenue last year was RM511mil, an increase of 18.6% from RM431mil in 2010.

“We expect it to hit RM600mil by year-end,” he said at a press conference after opening the 20th APHM International Healthcare Conference and Exhibition 2012 yesterday.

Liow said the RM600mil could easily be achieved as up to May 31, as many as 236,836 foreign medical tourists had been treated, bringing in a total revenue of RM200.4mil.

He said tourist arrivals had also been growing at the rate of 30% for the last five years.

The popular areas of medical tourism were cardiology and orthopaedic surgery while aesthetic medicine was also fast catching up.

He said the Government had given all ministries the task of contributing to the economic growth of the nation, adding that the Health Ministry had worked together with its partners and other stakeholders to achieve the target through medical tourism.

On another matter, Liow said government hospitals still lacked specialists and hoped that more doctors would move towards specialisation.

“My intention is to offer specialist services at all district hospitals,” he said, adding that the private sector too should train specialists as currently, most were trained by the Government.

Asked if there was any progress on the issue of Lincoln University College (LUC) recruiting students for three unrecognised medical schools in Ukraine, Liow said he would look into it again.

India's Vinayaka Missions University To Set Up Branch Campuses In Malaysia

Etp Pemandu KUALA LUMPUR, 16 JULY 2012 (Bernama) - India's Vinayaka Missions University is set to establish its Malaysian branch campuses through the establishment of the Vinayaka Missions International University College (VMIUC), with a RM530 million investment over eight years.

The multi-disciplinary VMIUC has received licence from the higher education ministry to set up faculties in Johor, Penang and the Klang Valley.

"The VMIUC dental college is set to be established in Pasir Gudang, Johor while the post-graduate medical faculty and distance education directorate will be set up in the Klang Valley."

"Pre-university, art and science, business and management, engineering, hospitality and tourism, traditional and complimentary medicine and health sciences faculties will be established in Penang," said VMIUC managing director Datuk Dr S. Sharavanan at the university college's inaugration ceremony here today.

The ceremony was attended by Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin. Sharavanan said the Penang and Johor branch campuses would each cost about RM97 million, and the Klang Valley branch, about RM240 million.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Private hospitals urged to churn out own specialists

The Malay Mail PRIVATE hospitals were today told to train more specialists on their own to assist the government in tackling the shortage of specialist doctors in the country, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai today.

He said at the moment the country had 5,000 specialist doctors and of this figure, 3,000 specialist doctors were now serving in the public sector.

"Private hospitals should also have their own specialists and should not depend only on government hospitals to obtain the service of specialist doctors.

"They should also train their existing doctors to become specialists," he told reporters after opening the 20th International Conference and Exhibition on Health Care, here.

He said there were now 35,000 doctors in the country and the government hoped the ratio of one doctor to 400 people could be achieved by 2020.

Meanwhile, Private Hospital Association president Datuk Dr Jacob Thomas said the three-day conference which focused on human capital development in the hospital service sector attracted participants from 30 countries.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Guidelines soon on aesthetic treatment, says Liow

The Star Online KUALA LUMPUR: Guidelines on aesthetic medical practice are being drawn up to protect the public from botched jobs.

The draft is expected to be completed this month, which would lead to the setting-up of the National Registry of Medical Practi­tioners Practising Aesthetic Medicine next month.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said a committee comprising government and private practitioners had been selected to oversee the maintenance of the registry.

He said the registry would have three different categories of medical practitioners providing aesthetic medical services – general practitioners (GPs), dermatologists and other specialists and surgical specialists and plastic surgeons.

“We welcome GPs to practise aesthetic medicine but they need to take courses and be regulated by the ministry,” he said after the 1st Malaysia-Singapore Conference of Aesthetic Medicine opening ceremony here.

The minister said GPs would have to take up a course requiring up to 56 hours of study before they could be validated by the committee to be included in the registry.

Malaysian Society of Aesthetic Medicine president Dr Louis Leh said the main aim was to promote safe aesthetic medicine and cut down on people turning to fly-by-night operators.

“Many don’t know where to go for such treatment and they end up with botched jobs,” he said, adding that beauty consultants were not supposed to handle tasks that required the use of needles or knives.

On whether beauty consultants could hire trained aesthetic doctors to do minor procedures at their centres, he said doctors were not allowed to do so because the Private Facilities and Services Act required them to practise in a proper medical set-up.

Liow: Time to provide incentives for staying healthy

The Star Online PUTRAJAYA: The Health Ministry is looking towards promoting healthy living by rewarding Malaysians who stay hale and fit.

Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said it was about time for an incentive-based system to encourage Malaysians to adopt healthy lifestyles.

“It could be something like the car insurance policy where one gets NCB (no-claims bonus),” he said.

For a start, he suggested that employers reward employees who did not take sick leave.

“They could be given a bonus. Give them such incentives to live healthily. It is all about using a positive approach,” he said.

Liow said giving rewards was better than the “punishment” approach that had been suggested to him, under which those whose waistlines exceed 74cm to 76.2cm (29 inches to 30 inches) would be subject to certain kinds of action.

In Japan and South Korea, the promotion of a healthy lifestyle is “enforced” by employers who shun the overweight in favour of those who look healthy and fit.

In the United States, some insurance companies and Medicare programmes pay doctors for achieving specific health goals with their patients.

Liow said Malaysians were aware of the need to lead healthy lifestyles but needed to translate it into action, adding that the ministry was now looking at how such incentives could be given to its own staff.

He said statistics for non-communicable diseases (NCD) in Malaysia had not improved as reflected in the latest National Health and Morbidity Survey 2011.

Liow said the ministry was considering various ways to reduce the risks of NCDs, including addressing causes rather than consequences and cutting risk factor exposures such as tobacco, unhealthy diets and physical inactivity.

The Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) lauded the new approach.

MEF executive director Shamsuddin Bardan said that although the reward system was already adopted by some employers, the ministry's promotion would encourage more bosses to follow suit.

“When attendance incentives have been introduced, employers are sometimes accused of trying to encourage employees to come to work even when they are sick. But the incentives are aimed at reducing the abuse of sick leave,” he said.

He said that before policies on medical leave were implemented, companies lost an average of more than 4% of man-days a year.

“However, with implementation, the percentage of man-days lost has been less than 0.1%,” he said.

(A man-day is an industrial unit of production equal to the work one person does in a day)

Shamsuddin hoped that more employers would implement such rules because they would lead to a win-win situation.

“The employees will be reward- ed for their attendance and employers can recover lost man-days.

“This will also raise awareness among employees to cultivate healthy lifestyles,” he added.

Liow announces Malaysia's centre for food safety

Sinchew KUALA LUMPUR, July 16 (Bernama) -- The Health Ministry will set up a Centre For Food Safety equipped with a high-tech laboratory in Salak Tinggi, Selangor next year, to ensure the safety and quality of food in the country.

Health minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the centre was expected to form the scientific arm of the Ministry's Food Safety and Quality Division to ensure the safety of food products in Malaysia, particularly imports.

"We'll focus on safe and quality imports into the country and on efficient recall of products if contamination is detected," he said during a speech at the International Food Safety Conference, here today.

The two-day conference, themed "Building Global Trust and Confidence in Food Safety" was timely because consumer confidence in importers, exporters, food manufacturers and food safety authorities has been eroded due to the global food crisis, he added.

Liow said, the Ministry would also set up an International Food Safety Training Laboratory which would provide training in the subject, in collaboration with the University of Maryland, United States of America (US).

Commenting on the training laboratory at a press conference later, he remarked, "We hope to reduce incidences such as artificial milk and eggs, now that we have international cooperation from renowned experts at the University of Maryland."

The laboratory would also help to cut cost because the Ministry had to send samples to Singapore and the US for testing, he added.

The conference, attended by about 200 people, was jointly organised by the Ministry of Health and Malaysian Institute of Food Technology, in cooperation with the University of Maryland.

Sarawak MMA members told to supporty 1Care

The Star Online KUCHING: A controversial proposal to revamp public health that will involve mandatory private sector participation, loomed large at a Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) gathering.

The 1Care, which was recently renamed Malaysian Health System Study, had such bad publicity that the Government had to send its top officials to engage the Opposition in forums held to raise awareness of the proposal nationwide.

At MMA’s Sarawak branch committee installation dinner, its new chairman Dr Donald Liew reassured his members that the non-governmental body would continue to engage and advise the Government on the study.

“Ever since 1Care was presented to the Economic Council in 2009, MMA fought hard to be included in subsequent discussions to formulate a better healthcare model for our country,” Liew said in his maiden speech as state chairman.

He said the existing healthcare model was a financial burden, but cautioned the Government against forcing through legislation without adequate consultation with doctors.

“To remain relevant, MMA members must contribute to this transformation of our healthcare system. This is a huge task, and the challenge is spiralling costs. Since the Health Ministry is carrying out roadshows, all ought to attend and make an effort to formulate constructive contributions,” Liew said.

The proposed revamp is essentially a restructure of public healthcare. It proposes to redistribute finances and responsibilities.

When a forum on the matter was held here earlier this year (when the plan was still known as 1Care), government officials explained that private clinics could be turned into part and parcel of public health care.

The proposal called for clinics – government and private – to act as gatekeepers. Patients would visit their designated clinics while doctors at clinics would be responsible for determining whether further treatment was required at hospitals.

The move was aimed at tackling overcrowding at public hospitals, and leverage on the fact that private clinics were numerous and scattered throughout the country. However, 1Care came under almost immediate criticism.

Liew told MMA Sarawak members to brace themselves for “a new way of practising medicine in our country”.

The Government has not said when the new proposals would be implemented or whether further revisions would be made.

In a recent paper by Sarawak General Hospital director Dr Abdul Rahim Abdullah, which was included at MMA’s installation night booklet, he wrote that injecting funds into the existing healthcare model would not solve problems.

It would be akin to “pouring water into a leaking container,” said Dr Abdul Rahim’s paper titled “Transforming Health System”.

“There are significant mismatches in workload and resources between the public and private sector. Just over 10% of primary care clinics are publicly owned, but handling 40% of total patients visits. Meanwhile, about 80% of hospital admissions are in public hospitals, but only 55% of doctors are within the public system.”

The clinic-as-gatekeeper approach is officially known as the “regional area approach”.

Under it, a combination of public and private clinics would be allocated to patients within a specific area.

Through this, the proposal aims at better utilising doctors in the private sector. These private clinics would be paid by the Government.

Patients, however, can still bypass such systems by paying private fees, out-of-pocket or from private insurance.

Dr Liew’s 2012-2013 executive committee included Dr Albert Wong as vice chairman, past chairmen Dr John Chew and Prof Dr Sim Kui Hian as committee members

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Follow-up plan at private clinics to ease congestion in public hospitals

The Star PUCHONG: Patients at government hospitals may soon be able to go for follow-up treatment at private clinics near their homes.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said this was to ease congestion in public hospitals and make it more convenient for these patients.

He said the move would not only cut down waiting time, it would also free up public hospitals for more serious cases.

“If, say, someone went for surgery in a public hospital, he would need to see a doctor to check the stitches, or monitor possible side effects.

“Normally, patients would have to go to a government hospital for follow-up (treatment) but we are trying to take the innovative approach and send them to private general practitioners near their homes,” he said at a community health awareness programme here.

While the study was still in its preliminary stage, the exercise should not cost the Government much, he said.

“Every time a patient goes to any public hospital for a check-up, it still costs us money.

“So why not pass the patient and the cost to a private GP? It should cost the goverment the same amount,” he said.

Liow urged the public not to dwell too much on the cost, saying that it would be “futile in the discussion to innovate healthcare service”.

“Let's focus on the services that we can provide to minimise cost in all sectors,” he added.

He also announced that the Government had approved the setting-up of a health clinic in Bandar Kinrara 5 here.

This is in addition to two government clinics in Batu 6 and Batu 14, respectively.

The clinic, which will be part of the third rolling plan in the 10th Malaysia Plan next year, will serve 500,000 residents in Puchong.

Puchong MCA division chairman Datuk Wong Hock Aun said the public clinic in the army barracks nearby closed down in 2007.

As such, the two other clinics in the area are bursting at the seams. With the booming population in Puchong, low- and middle-income earners need an additional facility, he said.

“We have been writing to the Health Ministry about this and hope to have a clinic by next year,” added Wong.

Increase in HFMD cases in Sarawak

MI SIBU, July 14 — The number of hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) affecting children in Sarawak is still high, but has yet to reach an epidemic level, State health director Dr Zulkifli Jantan said today. He said more HFMD cases were reported among children when they returned home for the Gawai Dayak festival and school holiday. However, he said, no deaths from HFMD had been reported yet He advised the public to take the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of the disease. “They should take care of their hygiene and children with symptoms of the disease should not go to schools,” he told reporters after opening the Clinical Research Centre (CRC) at Sibu Hospital here today. Dr Zulkifli said so far the Kuching division reported the highest number of HFMD, totalling 115 cases, followed by Sri Aman (64); Miri (57); Sibu (31); Kapit (26); Betong (21), Bintulu (15); Mukah (14) and Sarikei (3). — Bernama

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Malaysia ratifies ILO's occupational safety framework

The Star PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia is the third country in Asia after Japan and South Korea to ratify the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Promotional Fremework for Occupational Safety and Health Convention 2006 (C187).

Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said the signing of the C187 with ILO showed the government's commitment in ensuring occupational safety and health.

"We can meet the safety standards set by the international body.

"This is also a commitment by the government to make sure the health and safety of employees in the country are protected," he told reporters after launching the national-level Occupational Safety and Health Week 2012, here.

On June 7, Malaysia confirmed the ILO Convention on Occupational Safety and Health to join developed countries in putting safety and health first at the workplace.

In line with the confirmation, Malaysia also agreed to be monitored by the ILO in matters related to occupational health and safety and to meet its high standards.

Dr Subramaniam said the government was serious in reducing occupational accidents as well as accidents to or from the workplace.

"Overall, a total of 59,897 accidents were reported by Socso (Social Security Organisation) in 2011 compared to 57,639 accidents in 2010, which shows an increase of 3.92%.

"However, holistically, the number of occupational accidents recorded last year was 3.4 per thousand workers compared to 2007, whereby 4.52 per thousand workers were recorded.

"This decrease is a relief, therefore, we must make more efforts to reduce this figure further," he added. - Bernama

Monday, July 09, 2012

Bulk of IHH’s IPO proceeds will go to repay borrowings

theSundaily KUALA LUMPUR (July 4, 2012): IHH Healthcare Bhd, Asia's largest healthcare provider, will use more than 90% of the RM5.13 billion proceeds raised from its dual listing exercise in Malaysia and Singapore to repay bank borrowings, said its managing director Dr Lim Cheok Peng.

A small portion will be used for its expansion drive which will see the group building 17 hospitals and increasing the number of beds to 8,200 by 2015. As at March 31, IHH operates 4,900 beds in 30 hospitals.

IHH's listing exercise involves 2.23 billion shares comprising a public issue of 1.8 billion shares and an offer for sale of 434.65 million shares. It is expected to make its debut on the stock exchanges of Malaysia and Singapore on July 25.

The healthcare group is expected to raise up to RM5.13 billion from the 1.8 billion public issue shares based on RM2.85 and S$1.18 apiece.

Of the proceeds, 90.9% or RM4.66 billion will be used to repay borrowings in 12 months, RM279 million for working capital and general corporate purposes within 24 months, and RM188 million for listing expenses.

Speaking at the launch of IHH's prospectus by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak here yesterday, Lim said the company plans to reduce its gearing to two times from the current four. Its debts stand at some RM6 billion while its cash pile is over RM1 billion.

On the expansion plan, Lim said IHH has invested 75% or RM3 billion as at June 30, and the rest of the investments will come from the proceeds of its listing and also bank borrowings.

"We plan to continue to grow and are in the process of increasing bed capacity at the existing facilities and building new hospitals in home markets of Singapore, Malaysia and Turkey. We also have presence in China, India, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Brunei."

20,000 to benefit from 1Malaysia Clinic

The Star RAWANG: Over 20,000 residents in Bandar Country Homes in Rawang can expect to benefit from the ser­vices of the 1Malaysia Clinic after Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai decided to set up a clinic in the area following a visit recently.

Bandar Country Homes residents’ association chairman Soong Beng Khoon said the issue regarding location would need to be sorted out before the clinic was constructed.

He said the clinic, once approved and established, would bring convenience to the residents who had to endure traffic congestions while travelling to the nearest medical centre in Pekan Rawang.

Soong said the travel time between Bandar Country Homes and Pekan Rawang would usually take about 20 minutes.

However, with traffic congestions occuring frequently, the travel time could take up to 40 minutes or more, and this could post a problem for those who require immediate me­dical attention.

He added that the affordable rates of the 1Malaysia Clinic’s services would also greatly benefit the residents as they were mostly from the low- to middle-income households.

The 1Malaysia Clinic is an initiative, under the Government Transformation Programme’s (GTP) Cost of Living National Key Results Area (NKRA), aimed to provide affordable basic health care to the public.

Friday, July 06, 2012

All government hospitals may soon function as baby hatches

The Star PETALING JAYA: All government hospitals may soon be able to function as “hatches” for unwanted babies once a standard operating procedure is put in place.
Women, Family and Community Develop­ment Ministry deputy secretary-general Harjeet Singh said discussions were being held with the Health Ministry to introduce a SOP so that all government hospitals could have a mechanism to receive the babies.
He said the plan was in its preliminary stages, and a workshop would likely be held by the end of this year to come up with the SOP.
“This would mean that there would be more places where people could send unwanted babies,” said Harjeet after launching the “Say No to Baby Dumping” seminar here.
There are now two baby hatches in the country – one operated by OrphanCARE (a non-governmental organisation) in Petaling Jaya and another in Ipoh by the KPJ Ipoh Specialist Hospital.
Harjeet said the ministry has also initiated many programmes to help young mothers with unwanted pregnancies.
One support programme is the Talian Nur helpline (15999) and the venues offering assistance are Nur Sejahtera clinics and welfare department offices at state and district levels.
“Our message to mothers who need help is don’t throw the baby away,” said Harjeet, adding that there are 55 welfare institutions, 104 district welfare department offices, and 56 Nur Sejahtera clinics that are ready to help care for the babies.
Of the 31 cases of baby-dumping so far this year, 10 babies have survived while 19 died.
“The status of the remaining two babies has yet to be confirmed by the hospitals,” Harjeet said.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

‘Toothache’ for dentists over multiple licences

Free Malaysia Today PETALING JAYA: Dentists are unhappy at a 41-year-old legislation that requires them to have more than one annual practising licences (APLs) if they want to work in more than one clinic.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior dentist from Subang Jaya said that the APLs were becoming a burden to many dentists, especially the young ones.
“You see, when a dentist takes leave, they may ask for another dentist to do a locum for them in their absence.
“The problem is, even if the dentist already has an existing APL, they will be required to apply for another one just because they are going to work for a while at the new clinic,” said the dentist.
According to the Dental Act 1971, a dentist must obtain an APL from the Oral Health Division of the Health Ministry for a fee of RM50 and it is renewable every year. The licence would also indicate address of the clinic the dentist would be serving.
However, if the dentist was planning to serve in another clinic on top of the existing one, they would be required to apply for another APL with the new address and charged the same fee.
Calling it illogical, the dentist of over 20 years said the law affected mostly the young dentists, as they would normally do locums in various clinics before establishing their own private practice.
“They don’t have the resources to set up their own clinics. So they become locums first and serve in many clinics and they have to get APLs for each clinics they serve,” said the dentist.
The dentist added that it was time for the Malaysian Dental Council (MDC) to look into the matter and resolve the matter soon.
Another dentist from Puchong said that she herself owned eight APLs as she does locum for several clinics owned by her friends.
“I know dentists who have more than 20 APLs. Imagine how much money the ministry is getting from this,” said the dentist who also claimed anonymity.
Even specialists not spared
She likened it to someone taking a test for driver’s licence saying, “It’s like having to apply for licence for every type of car your drive. It’s ridiculous. Even specialists are not spared.”
On arguments that it was to monitor dentists’ conduct, she said that if an owner of a clinic hires a locum, the owner should be responsible if any problems arise.
“Besides, you can track down an errant dentist because he or she is registered with the MDC,” she said.
Another dentist Dr V Nedunchelian said that it would best if the ministy just added the additional clinic addresses into the APL at no cost.
He added that under the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 2006, the owner of the clinic would be held responsible if any dentist hired gets entangled in a malpractice allegation.
“Besides, we renew our APL annually. Just add the name of the new clinic address on top of the existing one. No need to charge additional fee,” said Nedunchelian who himself has three APLs.
Whether anyone had lodged a complaint over the matter, all three dentists said no one had done so.
“We are afraid that the ministry may take action against us for highlighting the matter,” said the dentist from Subang Jaya.
Despite numerous attempts, FMT failed to reach Health Ministry director-general Hasan Abdul Rahman for comments.

Doctors and loved ones pay their last respects to Malaysia’s first silent mentors

The Star KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's first pair of donated cadavers were given a grand send off by their loved ones and the doctors who practised on them at the University Malaya Medical Centre.

Cancer patients Lim Kian, 67, and Low Siew Yeok, 47, had pledged their bodies to science in order to help doctors save other patients.

But more than just teaching surgical skills, “Silent Mentors” Lim and Low taught the doctors precious humanistic values.

The Silent Mentor programme, announced by Universiti Malaya in March this year, is based on the Taiwanese Tzu Chi University's programme with the same name where members of the public may pledge their bodies to be used for medical training and research after their death.

Cadavers are used for a three-day workshop, after which they will be cremated and the remains placed at a memorial hall.

“Conducting surgery on someone you do not know is not the way for doctors to express their humanity,” said Prof Dr Chin Kin Fah, director of UMMC's Minimally Invasive Laparo-Endoscopic Surgery (MILES) training centre.

“The programme insists that students get to know their Silent Mentors inside out to cultivate a caring and loving attitude.

“At the end of the workshop, participants take part in a small ceremony to show their gratitude to their Silent Mentors for teaching them,” said Dr Chin, adding that the programme would not turn away any donor, including those with cancer and physical deformities.

The programme is a collaboration between UM, Tzu Chi University and funeral services provider Xiao En Group.

MILES manager Sia Thiam Eng said about 25 bodies had been pledged to the programme, while 160 others had expressed their wish to be part of it.

“This is the best platform for doctors to acquire surgical skills because the Silent Mentors are in better condition than other cadavers, which are usually unclaimed bodies. But the main aim is to teach participants medical humanistic values,” said Sia.

For Segamat native Lim's children, their father's decision to donate his body to the cause was his “greatest act of charity”.

“We are very proud of him,” said eldest son Tian Tsyh, 42, after the memorial service yesterday.

He said his father, who died on June 2 after battling rectal cancer for over a year, was actively involved in charity such as donating blood and volunteering at recycling campaigns.

“Although he was not highly educated, he became a teacher to doctors in the end,” added Lim's son-in-law Tan Ching San, 45.

Tan said he and Lim learned about the programme after watching a television documentary about it last year.

“He was taken in by the show and said he wanted to donate his body, but there was no such programme in Malaysia then,” said Tan.

After Lim was admitted to the hospital for the second time in February, Dr Chin approached the family to inform them of the option of donating Lim's body to science and Lim agreed.

“Dr Chin fully explained all the aspects of being a Silent Mentor and we agreed it was a good programme.

“He told us the body would be treated with the utmost care and funeral preparations would be taken care of,” Tan said.

UMMC and Xiao En Group also provide the Silent Mentors a special memorial site at the Nilai Memorial Park for their ashes to be interred.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Private sector's urgent need for life-long pension plan, affordable health insurance scheme

NST KUALA LUMPUR: A life-long pension plan and affordable health insurance scheme must be in place for private sector workers whose savings are depleted soon after retirement.

President of newly formed Malaysian Society for Labour and Social Security Law, Datuk Dr Cyrus Das said it was generally believed that a private sector retiree who is non-pensionable exhausted his savings from Employees Provident Fund within three and five years of retirement.

"There must be therefore be due consideration of a life-long pension scheme for private sector workers and affordable health insurance schemes," he said in his speech at the inaugural conference on employment and labour law at a hotel here today.

He said social justice was not limited to looking at well being of employees during employment but also after retirement.

The event attended by about 200 participants is co-organised with the Malaysian Current Law Journal (CLJ), one of the leaders in law publishing.

Das said in a society where "people lived longer and money grew shorter", the dependence on social security schemes became critical.

He pointed out that the United States Supreme Court handed down a significant decision last week that validated the Obama healthcare reform, providing for mandatory health insurance from 2014 for nearly all its citizens.

He said his organisation would endeavour to provide constructive proposals to look into the welfare of private sector workers.

" Our society is well placed to do this (to provide feedback) as we are comprised of all the principal stakeholders - labour lawyers, academics, employer representatives and trade unionists,"