Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia set up dengue network

ST Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia have set up a network to speed up the sharing of dengue information and training of dengue surveillance and control.
The new network, UNITEDengue, was announced on Tuesday at the third Asia-Pacific Dengue Workshop held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here, attended by public health representatives from 24 countries in the region.
Singapore's National Environment Agency (NEA), Malaysia's health ministry and Andalas University in West Sumatra are members of the new network, which aims to expand to other countries in the region.
Mr Andrew Tan, chief executive of the NEA, which manages the mosquito-borne illness here, said in an address: "With similar climates and ecologies, our communities share the sane vulnerability to dengue and other vector-borne diseases. We therefore need similar linkages among countries to deal with the challenge."

Friday, August 24, 2012

Revamp for hospital security

Revamp for hospital security - Nation | The Star Online

KLANG: A Health Ministry pilot project to revamp security at government hospitals is under way, with the effort at Hospital Tengku Ampuan Rahimah (HTAR) yielding positive results.
Although the number of security guards at HTAR has been reduced from 265 to 100, this has been made up with 95 advanced CCTVs installed.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai gave the thumbs up to the project, saying that besides improving security it had also saved the Government a considerable amount in terms of costs.
“Although the number of guards has been reduced, efficient security and surveillance technology has more than made up for this.
“There have been fewer cases of harassments and thefts being reported in the hospital,” he said.
Liow said the ministry would look into expanding the project to other hospitals when a full report on the pilot project was evaluated at the end of the year.
Chico Force chief executive officer Datuk Seri Juniur Khoo Gee Chongsaid it took about three years for the firm to study and execute the plan.
“There was a lot to consider in installing these cameras as the hospital is vast, with many entry and exit points,” he said.
He said two guards manned the control room in the hospital round-the-clock, working in three shifts to monitor the real-time surveillance cameras.
Khoo said each month's recordings were sent to the firm's headquarters for “re-inspection”.
He said that previously, there were cases of stolen medical equipment, with five to 10 police reports lodged every month.
HTAR director Dr Sukumaran Mahesan said the hospital was giving its full cooperation to the firm to ensure safety at the hospital.
Selangor deputy police chief Senior Asst Comm Datuk A. Thaiveegansaid no crime had been reported within the hospital since the revamp was implemented in February.
If the project is implemented in all 135 public hospitals in the country, the Government stands to save an estimated RM120mil on security expenses in hospitals.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Woman dies of H1N1 in Negri Sembilan

Woman dies of H1N1 in Negri Sembilan - Nation | The Star Online

SEREMBAN: A 27-year-old woman died of Influenza A (H1N1) in Negri Sembilan several days ago, according to State Director of Health Datuk Dr Zailan Adnan.
He said a thorough investigation was conducted and the situation was under control as the disease had not spread.
"We conducted a thorough investigation and have confirmed that none of the victim's family members have contracted the disease," he said when contacted.
Dr Zailan said the woman had returned to the state on holiday several days ago from Singapore, where she had been working, and had fallen ill and received treatment at a hospital here before succumbing to the disease.
He advised the people not to panic or make any speculation on the matter. - Bernama

New regulations on iodine in infant formula

New regulations on iodine in infant formula - Nation | The Star Online

PUTRAJAYA: The Health Ministry is amending the Food Regulations 1985 to include recommended minimum and maximum iodine content for infant formula.

Health Ministry senior director for Food Safety and Quality Noraini Othman said that currently, there was no minimum level of iodine specified for infant formula under the regulations.

She, however, added that the regulations on infant formula was being amended, involving the current Re-gulation 389 (Baby Formula) and the new Regulation 389B Baby Formula for the Purpose of Treatment.

Regulation 389 Baby Formula will recommend an amount of 10 microgramme/100kcal as the minimum level of iodine while the maximum will be set at 60 microgramme/100kcal.

“The recommendation is in line with the Codex Alimentarius/Standard for Infant Formula,” she said.

Regulation 389B Baby Formula for the Purpose of Treatment will be divided into five categories – baby formula for anti-regurgitation, baby formula without lactose, soy-based baby formula, completely dehydrolysed protein baby formula and baby formula for premature babies.

The recommended level of iodine for this category will be the same as Regulation 389, except for premature baby formula, where the recommended minimum level is 10microgramme/100kcal and maximum 50 microgramme/100kcal.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Wanted - more anaesthetists

The Star Online KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia needs more anaesthetists to meet the increasing demand for their services every day.

Malaysian Society of Anaesthesiologists president Datin Dr V. Sivasakthi said the country's ratio of anaesthetists to population was one to 45,000.

"Whereas, in developed countries, it is one to 10,000," she said in an interview with Bernama TV.

Dr Sivasakthi, who is also Kuala Lumpur Hospital (HKL) Anesthesiology and Intensive Care Department chief, said the shortage was, however, not at a critical stage yet and was expected to improve with the graduation of 40 to 50 medical students annually.

Even though they were sometimes constrained by a lack of anaesthetists currently, the situation was manageable through a more systematic management of schedules, she explained.

The demand is expected to increase when the Hospital's Day Care Procedure Centre opens in November.

The centre will have eight operating theatres, including day-care facilities such as rest and changing rooms.

Dr Sivasakhthi elaborated that being an anaesthetist did not just involve the administering of anaesthesia before surgery.

"People should be aware that they are also responsible for post-surgery monitoring in the Intensive Care Unit and also for chronic pain management," she added. - Bernama

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Serdang Hospital to have new paediatric cardiac specialist unit

New Straits Times KUALA LUMPUR: The nation’s second paediatric cardiac specialist unit will be set up in Serdang Hospital by the end of this year.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the es timated cost of setting up of the new specialist unit will be about RM20 million.
He said there was a need to increase the number of centres handling heart defects in babies due to the urgent nature of the condition.
“At the moment, we only have one such centre in National Heart Institute (IJN) which treats about 1,000 to 1,500 heart patients a year.
“Urgent cases are sent to local private hospitals or over seas,” he said, after visiting Serdang Hospital’s coronary care unit.
Liow made the visit his wife Datin Seri Lee Sun Loo in conjunction with Hari Raya Aidilfitri.
The new centre, he said will reduce the waiting time for babies to get much needed heart operations.
Regarding the ceiling collapse in Serdang Hospital on Aug 12, Liow said he had instructed the hospital director to get an audit of all the ceilings in the hospital with the help of the Public Works Department.
“We have to double check all the ceilings to protect the safety of the staff and patients as well as to ensure it does not happen again.
On another matter, Liow said the shift system for house man training was still under review although the feedback he had received so far was positive.
“The important thing is the quality of the housemen, if specialists are not happy with the performance of housemen, then we will review it.

Dental Act to be amended

The Star PETALING JAYA: After four decades, the country's Dental Act is set to be amended to ensure patients' safety and health.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the proposed amendments for the Dental Act 2012 included having registration and regulation of dental therapists and provisions for the registration of dental specialists under a separate specialist division.
He said the new Act also proposed for dental nurses with diploma qualification to register as dental therapists.
They would be able to practise and carry out procedures, such as tooth extraction, in public and private sectors under the supervision of dental surgeons.
It is also proposed that the period of compulsory service for dentists be reduced from three years to two after registration under the new Act.
“Dental therapists will have their own committees to register their members and to regulate the standards of practice,” he said of the Dental Bill 2012, which was targeted to be tabled in the next meeting.
They would also be able to conduct their own disciplinary proceedings and impose punishment on their members.
A dental therapists' register would also be set up and they would have representation on the Malaysian Dental Council (MDC).
Other new inclusions are to link the continuing professional development points with the renewal of practising certificates and to have a new section for enforcement to strengthen enforcement capability and capacity on the practice of dentistry.
“The amended Dental Act allows for more effective regulation of the practice of dentistry, strengthening of disciplinary procedures on dental practitioners and reviewing fees for registration, applications for practising certificates, qualifying examinations and letters of good standing,” he said.
Liow added that it would also have a review of the penalties for offences against the proposed Act.
It is also proposed a technical committee for recognition of dental programmes to assess programmes for all categories of dental personnel, and recommend them to the MDC for qualification recognition.
A dental evaluation committee would also be proposed to assess recognised qualifications, set the qualifying examination for dental graduates with unrecognised qualifications, determine the requirements for the qualifying examination and determine assessment methods.
There would be a proposal for a dental specialists' qualifying committee to determine the criteria for registration of dental specialists in the Specialist division of the dental register, determine the standard of proficiency and formulate guidelines on standards of practice.
For enforcement, the proposal provision would include enabling action to be taken against unregistered persons in registered practices and unregistered individuals in unregistered premises.
Previously, the Dental Act 1971 does not allow for enforcement against unregistered dental practitioners practising in registered practices.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Tobacco players agree to ruling, want strict enforcement

theSundaily PETALING JAYA (Aug 15, 2012): Tobacco companies said they would comply with the government's new minimum-price ruling of RM7 for 20-stick packs come Sept 1, but want strict enforcement to ensure compliance by retailers.

British American Tobacco (Malaysia) Bhd (BAT Malaysia) corporate and legal affairs director Christine Lee said the regulation on minimum price has been in place since January 2010, with the aim of making cigarettes less affordable, especially to youth.

"As a responsible company, BAT Malaysia will comply with all sensible regulation enacted by the government governing the sale of our products," she told SunBiz today.

"However, there are still a high number of illegal cigarette brands being sold at extremely cheap prices of between RM2.50 and RM4.

"As such, for the laws to be effective there must be strong enforcement and strict penalties for non-compliance. We hope that the Health Ministry will continue its good efforts in the enforcement of cigarettes that are still being sold below the minimum price," said Lee.

JT International Bhd (JTI Malaysia) said while it has yet to receive an official letter from the Health Ministry on the amendments to the Control of Tobacco Products Regulation 2004, it will comply with the new requirements.

Its managing director Shigeyuki Nakano, however, warned that the new requirements can only be effective if there is strong and strict enforcement to ensure proper compliance by retailers.

"Otherwise, illegal cigarette traders will likely take advantage of the situation to increase illegal cigarette sales," he said in a statement.

Nakano added that the widespread sale of illegal cigarettes at below the mandatory minimum cigarette price of RM7 for a pack of 20 sticks remains a major concern. The latest Illicit Cigarettes Study commissioned by the Confederation of Malaysian Tobacco Manufacturers (CMTM) recorded the illegal cigarettes level at a high of 34.7% during the March-May 2012 period.

"We believe that with enhanced and stricter enforcement, coupled with increased awareness among retailers on the minimum cigarette price requirements, the sale of these illegal brands can be curtailed," he said.

Both BAT Malaysia and JTI Malaysia also see no impact from the ruling that tobacco companies can only sell 20-stick packs as they currently do not carry other packet sizes.

On Tuesday, Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai announced that the minimum price of all cigarette brands will be RM7 and only cigarette packets with 20 sticks can be sold come Sept 1. The new ruling is aimed at reducing the capability of children, youngsters and the low-income earners to buy cigarettes.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

New cigarette price from Sept 1

theSundaily PUTRAJAYA (Aug 14, 2012): The government has set the minimum price of all cigarette brands at RM7, effective Sept 1, and only allows cigarette packets with 20 sticks to be sold.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said with effect from that date, all discounting prices by cigarette companies would also not be allowed.

Cigarette companies would also be required to only produce cigarette carton containing 10 packets, he told a media conference after introducing the ASAP Smoke Free Lifestyle ambassador here today.

He said the move was to facilitate enforcement by the authorities. Liow said that the government had set the minimum price of cigarettes, for all brands, at RM7 for 20 sticks, since last year.

However, there was no ruling then on the packet size with the price of cigarette packets containing 21 sticks at RM7.23, 22 sticks (RM7.70) and 23 sticks (RM8.05).

Liow said that although the government did not allow cigarettes to be sold at a lower price, the cigarette companies had been allowed to make price adjustment three times a year with the difference in the price not exceeding five per cent.

He said the regulations imposed on cigarette companies were aimed at reducing the capability of children, youngsters and the low income earners to buy cigarettes. – Bernama

Serdang Hospital ceiling collapses, four staff injured

The Star Online SERDANG: Three nurses and a female medical officer at the Serdang Hospitals' Emergency Department were injured when 15 ceiling pieces measuring 2 ft x 2 ft each collapsed at 2.45am on Monday.

The hospital's director Datuk Dr Ardi Awang said the initial investigation found the incident happened when a screw holding the ceiling pieces together had come off, sending the pieces crashing down.

"At that time, three nurses and a female medical officer were at work at the nurses' counter while the patients were in their respective rooms.

"One of the nurses received stitches for her hand injury while the rest were injured on their head and back, but not seriously," he told reporters after visiting the scene of the incident.

He said the injured were given outpatient treatment and returned to their duties after that.

Dr Ardi said the repair work to the ceiling was carried out from 8am to 4pm without affecting the Emergency Department's operation.

He said no hospital equipment were damaged in the mishap except for a device for viewing x-ray pictures.

"We are still investigating to find out the actual cause of the incident and checking on the other areas of the hospital to avoid such an incident," he added.

This was the second such incident at Serdang Hospital which has been operating since December 2005, after the first incident involving the ceiling at the main lobby which collapsed in January last year.

He said no hospital equipment were damaged in the mishap except for a device for viewing x-ray pictures.

"We are still investigating to find out the actual cause of the incident and checking on the other areas of the hospital to avoid such an incident," he added.

This was the second such incident at Serdang Hospital which has been operating since December 2005, after the first incident involving the ceiling at the main lobby which collapsed in January last year. - Bernama

Monday, August 13, 2012

15,420 Malaysians on organ waiting list

New Straits Times KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has the lowest number of organ donors, resulting in nearly 15,000 patients being put on the waiting list to undergo organ transplant.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the figure was low at 0.6 for every million people in the population.
"Organ donors in Malaysia are still low compared with other countries. We need to create awareness to encourage more people to make the pledge," he said in a statement yesterday.
There are 15,420 patients waiting to receive organs as of June 30, with the majority of them being kidney patients while the rest suffered liver, heart and lung diseases.
More than 196,300 Malaysians, or 0.88 percent of the population, had pledged to donate their organs.
The majority of them are Chinese, followed by Indians, Malays and other races.
Liow said there was a steady rise in new pledges made over the years, from 10,081 in 2006, to 28,769 last year.
The World Health Organisation's Global Observatory on Donation and Transplantation said the organ donation rate in Malaysia was at 0.636 for every one million population.
In Spain, 34.35 per one million of the population were donors, followed by the United States (25.49), the United Kingdom (15.07), Australia (11.33) and Singapore (5.0).
Liow said since the first organ transplant was performed in 1975, Malaysia had conducted 1,659 transplants involving organs from dead and live donors.
He said the procedure was easier to perform after the recent landmark operation at Kuala Lumpur Hospital, where a kidney transplant was done between two people with different blood groups.
"The procedure, known as ABO incompatible kidney transplantation, has been done in many developed countries."
Liow added that the surgery was more complex than a conventional transplant as higher doses of anti-rejection drugs, plasma filtration and closer antibody-level monitoring were needed. But he said this procedure could help more patients.
Previously, kidney transplant could only be done when the donor had the same blood group as the recipient.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Malaysia bars infant formula from Japan after iodine worry

BM KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is investigating two infant formula brands from Japan that appear to have elevated iodine levels. The resulting investigation has seen the government bar the importing of the infant formula to the country for fear it could have adverse health affects.

The ministry did note that the two brands, Wakodo and Moringa are not imported directly from Japan, but through distributors in New Zealand and the Netherlands, respectively.

The ministry assured parents that it “will maintain strict monitoring on the two Japanese infant formula milk brands alleged to be dangerous for babies, even if one of the two brands is not imported into the country.”

Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai said in a statement that the ministry would ensure that no tainted milk powder was imported.

“Consumers need not worry because the Health Ministry is constantly carrying out enforcement and monitoring activities on issues related to food safety, to make sure public health is maintained,” he told reporters on Friday.

On Thursday, the minister announced a ban on the two brands of infant formula, following a report by the Center for Food Safety (CFS) Hong Kong which found that the Wakodo and Morinaga brands imported directly from Japan had iodine levels lower than the Codex Alimentarius international standard.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Govt ‘adoption’ of some pharmaceutical firms leads to skewed medicines market

theSundaily A preferential policy – practised for more than a decade by the government – in the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry may have left the door open to abuse due to its lack of openness and transparency.

Industry players decry that the policy has prevented industry growth and skewed the local market by making the Health Ministry play "favourites".

Speaking on condition of anonymity, those in the know say an 'adoption' policy, which has been enforced for more than 15 years, goes against the government's effort to move towards reforms in transparency, integrity and the use of open tenders.

"It is dubbed the 'adoption' policy – where a bumiputra company which produces, manufactures and distributes a generic drug locally is adopted by the Finance and Health ministries.

"This company is then given a five-year contract to exclusively provide specific medication to the Health Ministry," a source, who is a major industry player, told theSun.

"These companies negotiate directly on the price with the ministry, and do not undergo an open tender for the product," he added.

The source claimed that such direct negotiations may have led to cases where the ministry paid above market rates for some drugs – possibly by as much as 15% – as these "adoptees" need not bring down prices to compete in open tenders.

While the move is aimed at boosting bumiputra participation in the pharmaceutical industry, it may be open to abuse as many of the contracts can – and have been – renewed indefinitely, creating a lopsided market situation.

"It skews the domestic market because the number of products in this 'adoption' list also continues to increase," said the source, who estimated the number at about 200 products.

The adopted products are very commonly used generics, including:

metformin, which is the generic for Glucophage used for diabetes treatment,

glicazide, generic for Diamicron, also for diabetes treatment,

diphenhydramine, generic for Benadryl, which is a cough medicine,

metoprolol, generic for Lopressor, used for high-blood pressure treatment, and

omeprazole, used for gastric and gastro-esophageal reflux treatment.

The source claimed that many players, both local and multinational, are reluctant to enter the market or take up the production of new generic drugs because the products could at any time be declared as 'adopted' and the contract given exclusively to a particular producer.

"It's difficult to invest RM150 million to open a new factory only to have to struggle to recover your investment when the drug is 'adopted'," he said.

The source estimates that some RM350 million of RM700 million spent yearly on generics is done through such direct negotiations.

He claimed that the value of drugs purchased from local manufacturers via competitive tender has dropped sharply in 2011 compared to 2010, due to, among others, this adoption policy.

"Based on the National Drug Policy interim report 2012, this value dropped from 24.3% to 13.9% out of RM726 million," he said.

Another industry player agreed that this scheme has distorted open competition in the industry.

"After more than 10 years, it is still not clear to many local manufacturers what this whole policy is or who decides which company gets adopted. It is not transparent," he said.

Despite numerous text messages, emails, and calls, the Health Ministry has yet to officially respond to questions on this policy.

Malaysia says no to TPP

Malaysia says no to TPP KUALA LUMPUR (August 6, 2012): Malaysia is against the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) which seeks to extend the patent periods of medicines by foreign companies.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the agreement, which is being negotiated among eleven countries including the US and Malaysia, would be detrimental to the local medical industry.

"We are against the patent extension. According to the agreement, if a medicine is launched in the US, and then three years later it is launched in Malaysia, the patent would start from when it is launched here and not when it was launched earlier in the US," said Liow. "This is not fair."

He stressed that the agreement would in effect make healthcare less affordable to the public.

Liow said this to reporters after launching Project WATTS (Where Aid Turns To Sustainability), an environmentally focused charity campaign by The Truly Loving Company Sdn Bhd here today.

The TPP is a multilateral free trade agreement intended to further liberalise economies in the Asia-Pacific region.

However, it has reportedly drawn criticisms and protests in part due to the secrecy of the negotiations and a number of controversial clauses in draft agreements that have been leaked to the public.

Parties that have studied the leaks claim that the US is demanding aggressive intellectual property provisions that go beyond what international trade law requires.

A key point of contention by Malaysia is that the existing patents on medicines would be extended for another five to 10 years or more, on top of the current requirement of 20 years.

The patent extension means generic companies would not be able to produce more affordable generic drugs during this period.

Liow also stressed that a company should not be given the power to sue a government due to its state policies.

Under the agreement, investors can claim compensation from governments on the grounds that a new regulation has adversely affected their investments.

The other nine member countries of the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership are Brunei, Chile, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, Peru, Vietnam, Mexico and Canada.

Non-governmental organisations in Malaysia had at a forum on Saturday expressed reservations about the TPP.

They include the Malaysian AIDS Council, Breast Cancer Welfare Association Malaysia and the Third World Network.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Govt hospitals to adopt green technology to reduce electricity bills

The Star Online KUALA LUMPUR: Major government hospitals will adopt green technology to reduce their electricity bills by next year, said Health Ministry.

Its minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said 28 government hospitals would be adopting several energy-saving methods to reduce electricity bills by 10% next year.

“We have found that these hospitals have incurred a total of RM115mil per year in electric bills. This does not include smaller hospitals as there are 135 hospitals nationwide,” he said during a press conference after “Promise Me 2012” campaign launch by the Truly Loving Company Sdn Bhd here on Monday.

He said the hospitals would use energy-saving air conditioners and light bulbs.

Liow added he would announce the hospitals selected that will go green by next year at a later time.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

BP Healthcare To Make Pharmacy Operations Its Core Business

Bernama KUALA LUMPUR, July 31 (Bernama) -- Malaysia's leading healthcare provider, BP Healthcare Group, has rebooted its pharmacy operations to grow it into a core revenue earner.

The company will expand into online sales and more value-added services to increase customer traffic and generate new business.

The well-diversified group has two pharmacy enterprises, the first being BP Pharmacy, established in 1995, and the Lovy Pharmacy retail chain, launched in February, that differentiated itself as a modern healthcare partner instead of a typical drug store.

"Lovy Pharmacy and BP Pharmacy will be turned into core businesses for the group.

"There is immense potential for growth and the timing is right because consumers are more health conscious and with their busier lifestyles these days, they want to enjoy more convenience," said BP Group Deputy Chairman Chevy Beh in a statement.