Wednesday, July 31, 2013

16 food poisoning cases linked to bazaars

The Star Online
PETALING JAYA: Sixteen people have come down with food poisoning after consuming delicacies bought from Ramadan bazaars nationwide.
Health Ministry disease control division director Dr Chong Chee Kheong said the cases were recorded as of July 22.
Kerang rebus (boiled cockles), bubur lambuk and popiah basah are suspected to have caused the outbreaks,” he said, adding that there were no deaths.
Dr Chong said the 16 cases represented 1.1% of the total 274 food poisoning episodes reported this year.
A food poisoning outbreak occurs when there are two or more cases resulting from exposure to the same food within the same period.
Last year, 36 cases of food poisoning linked to Ramadan bazaars were reported during the fasting month.
Dr Chong said the ministry provided guidelines to district health offices and local authorities on the management of Ramadan bazaars to prevent food contamination.
“The ministry also inspects Ramadan bazaars nationwide before, during and after the fasting month,” he said.
“These checks include the medical examination of food handlers, which covers anti-typhoid vaccinations, food handling practices and cleanliness.”
Malaysian Medical Association president Datuk Dr N.K.S. Tharmaseelan said strict monitoring by health officers had controlled the number of food poisoning cases.
He added that dust and the environment were the compounding factors for contamination even if the food was clean.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Designer Vaginas Now A Trend Among Middle Class Malaysians

Designer Vaginas Now A Trend Among Middle Class Malaysians

KUALA LUMPUR: These days, it’s not just your nose or eyes that can be “improved” with cosmetic surgery. Now women can opt to have more attractive or even designer vaginas.
In fact, vaginal rejuvenation is a multi-million ringgit industry that has expanded in the last five years due to the emergence of non-surgical procedures like Fractional CO2 laser, surgical threads and dermal fillers.

But what is an attractive vagina? As described by aesthetic physicians, it is tight and light-skinned with symmetrical inner labia sheared to tiny strips of skin that cannot be seen while standing, almost akin to a Barbie doll.

Cosmetic vaginal surgery is becoming increasingly popular among middle-class women in Malaysia who desire tighter, fairer and neater genitalia to boost their self-confidence and sexual satisfaction.

“For most women, after giving birth or having many sexual partners, your body is not able to repair the looseness of the vagina,” cosmetic surgeon Dr Alice Prethima Michael told The Malay Mail Online in a recent interview.

“It loses the folds and becomes shortened,” she added. “In most cases, men and women lose sensation during sexual intercourse.”

According to aesthetic physicians, vaginal rejuvenation can be done through surgical or non-invasive laser procedures, with the former usually costing between RM12,000 and RM15,000, while the latter can be anything from RM6,000 to RM10,000.

Vaginal rejuvenation includes designer vaginoplasty (plumping the labia majora, or outer lips, and trimming the labia minora, also called inner lips), vaginal tightening (strengthening the tissue of the vagina), clitoralplasty (snipping off the excess skin of the clitoris), hymenoplasty (restoring the hymen), and G-spot rejuvenation (making the G-spot more prominent).

Dr Alice said that the number of patients seeking cosmetic vaginal surgeries has jumped five times since she opened her clinic in 1999.

Back then she had about 10 to 12 patients a year who wanted vaginal rejuvenation. Today, the number of patients who opt for laser vaginal rejuvenation has multiplied by 10 to a current average of 20 cases a month.

The aesthetic physician noted that most of her patients are middle-class and upper middle-class women, ranging from working professionals to socialites, as well as housewives. About five per cent of her patients are foreigners from the UK, US, Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong who fly in specially to see her.

Women who typically go for designer vagina surgeries or non-surgical procedures are between 25 and 55 years, with the majority comprising women who have had children or are going through menopause, or even women who are about to get married.

Ageing and childbirth result in laxer muscles of the vagina, and thinner and darker outer labia, while menopause creates dryness and reduces sexual gratification.

Young women, who have yet to give birth, want to reconstruct their vaginas to “feel more firm and tighter”, said Dr Alice.

Dr Alice’s clinic, which also offers other cosmetic procedures, is located in the affluent neighbourhood of Bangsar here and is watched over by a security guard who records visitors’ particulars.

Past security, patients wait in a cool, comfortable, softly-lit room, surrounded with posters featuring before and after pictures of slimmed bellies and wrinkle-free faces. The vagina, it seems, is simply just another body part to beautify.

Dr Chin Shih Choon, the president of the Malaysian Society of Aesthetic Medicine (MSAM), told The Malay Mail Online: “Among practitioners, we find that it’s a trend that’s become more popular because of more non-invasive procedures. In the past, they used surgical procedures to tighten vaginas.”

He added that women also whiten the area surrounding their genitalia through peels, laser and platelet-rich plasma (PRP) stem cell injections.

“They want to feel better, they want to look better, and they want to have a better sex life at the same time,” said Dr Chin. “The vagina is another part of the body to rejuvenate.”

Unlike cosmetic surgery on one’s face, the results of a vaginal rejuvenation are not visible to the public but the aesthetic physician said: “You show it to your sexual partner. It’s for self-confidence.”

Aesthetic physician Dr Sutina Nordin, who provides laser procedures to enhance the vagina, said that some women want to take care of their vaginas the same way that they care for their skin.

“If you want to take care of your facial skin, you use laser to get new skin cells,” Dr Sutina told The Malay Mail Online in a recent interview. “It’s the same way with the vagina.”

Saturday, July 27, 2013

DaVita Expands Operations in Malaysia

DENVER--(BUSINESS WIRE)--July 22, 2013-- 
DaVita(R), a division of DaVita HealthCare Partners Inc. (NYSE: DVA) and a leading provider of kidney care services, today announced the acquisition of the dialysis operations of Malaysia's Caring Dialysis Centre Group (CDC Group) by DVA (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd.
"This is an important move for DaVita in the Asia-Pacific region," said Dennis Kogod, chief operating officer of DaVita HealthCare Partners(TM) . "Scaling up operations in Malaysia allows us to bring outstanding quality of care to this region."
With the addition of CDC Group's 18 centers, DaVita now operates a total of 21 centers in Malaysia with plans to expand in the coming years.
"We're excited to build on the reputation of CDC Group and to welcome the teammates and patients from their 18 centers to DaVita," said Atul Mathur, president of DaVita's Asia-Pacific operations. "Malaysia is a key market for our growth strategy in the Asia-Pacific region where we are now serving patients in five countries."
DaVita has improved clinical outcomes 13 years in a row in the United States and has consistently demonstrated clinical results that are the best or among the best in virtually every category in the kidney care industry. These outcomes help drive lower mortality rates and fewer hospitalizations, directly supporting DaVita's aim to improve patients' health and quality of life.
"We always have been dedicated to delivering quality care to our patients, and we constantly seek opportunities to improve the care they receive," said Dr. Ong Kee Liang, founding nephrologist of CDC Group. "With DaVita's impressive record of improved clinical outcomes coming to the patients in our centers, we believe it is our patients who are the true beneficiaries of this transaction."

Firm ordered to pay RM70mil to hospital for breach of agreement

The Star Online

JOHOR BARU: Kumpulan Perubatan Johor Sdn Bhd (KPJ) has been order­ed to pay RM70.486mil in damages to Hospital Penawar Sdn Bhd after it breached a joint venture agreement between the two.
The summons was filed by Hospital Penawar chairman Dr Mohd Adnan Sulaiman and managing director Azizan Sulaiman following KPJ’s decision to set up a hospital in Pasir Gudang – less than a kilometre from Hospital Penawar.
In the agreement, KPJ, which owns about 30% of shares in Hospital Penawar, should be responsible for mobilising resources and expertise for the mutual benefits of both hospitals.
High Court’s Justice Datuk Abdul Rahman Sebli said KPJ had breached several terms and conditions in the agreement.
He set the amount even though Hospital Penawar, represented by Datuk Mohammad Adam Abdullah, claimed for damages amounting to RM155.6mil.
He ordered KPJ to pay an additional interest of 5% per annum if it failed to settle the amount within two weeks.
Abdul Rahman also ruled that KPJ should settle the legal costs of RM150,000 for the claimants.
KPJ was represented by S.Youggeswary and Jagjit Kaur.
The agreement between both hospitals was signed on May 30, 1995.
Hospital Penawar was set up in 1993 but KPJ announced that it would build the new specialist hospital in October 2009. Hospital Penawar then filed a civil case against KPJ in May last year.
In their statement of claim, besides general damages, Hospital Penawar sought RM115mil in compensation or get KPJ to purchase shares in its company totalling RM142mil.

Most Malaysians keep mum on birth control

The Star Online

PETALING JAYA: One in eight Malaysians have never discussed birth control with their partners although 90% of them recognise the need for it, a survey has found.
The Bayer HealthCare survey, conducted with 216 respondents aged between 20 and 35, found that while slightly more than half (54.6%) felt comfortable discussing contraception with their partners, one in eight (12.5%) had never discussed birth control with their partners and only 22.7% talked about it at the start of a relationship.
The survey also found that 17.6% of the respondents depended on the Internet to look up on contraception matters while another 13% preferred to discuss it with their doctors.
Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals medical director Dr Sharon Chong said the survey highlighted the inconsistency between acknowledging that communication on contraception was crucial and the actual act of engaging in a conversation about it.
“Unfortunately, this disconnect can lead to the use of emergency contraception, commonly known as the morning-after pill, whose frequent use can resort to certain health risks and side effects,” she said in a statement.
The survey was part of Bayer HealthCare’s public education campaign, aimed at encouraging open conversation on contraception among couples.
The statement noted that the disconnect between beliefs and practice was worrying since a sizeable number of those surveyed – 29.6% – have used emergency contraception (either they or their partner) at least once over the past year.
Also, nearly a quarter do not use any form of contraception while of those who do, 54% forgot to use contraception at some point or other.
“The reason for this inconsistency can perhaps be explained by the fact that 22.7% avoided talking about birth control because of the perception that their partner has no interest in the issue while another 16.7% feared looking ignorant in their relationship,” the statement said.
However, the survey found that 90.3% agreed regular discussion on birth control was important and 91.2% agreed that such discussion would bring a couple closer.
Federation of Reproductive Health Associations Malaysia executive director Yeoh Yeok Kim said the foundation of any strong and fulfilling relationship was communication, making plans and continually updating them.
“However, when it comes to open and honest communication in relationships, it is the norm to think about topics such as finances and sometimes emotions,” she said.
“We don’t realise that contraception is a crucial part for inclusion in that conversation and this silence has to be addressed.”

Malaysians’ HIV food supplement takes Chicago prize

The Malaysian Insider

A Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) team of five technology students has bagged the first prize at the International Food Technology Competition in Chicago.
The team, comprising leader Sew Chang Chew, Tan Tai Boon, Mohd Asraf Mohd Zainudin, Kuan Chee Hao and Najla Gooda Sahib, won US$3,000 (RM9,585) and a trophy with its product "EnerTEIN", a food supplement to nourish HIV patients whose immune systems are weakened due to loss of energy and proteins.
This is the second time the group has won the competition organised by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). The first was last year Sew told Bernama in Washington.
He said the Chicago event had two competitions, one for candidates from North America (USA and Canada) and another for international candidates. The international contest had three competing teams, one from Malaysia and two from Indonesia.
The competition, which was held on July 15, was part of a conference and food expo themed “Producing Food Supplement to Help People Living with HIV”. It encouraged participants to provide solutions in the form of nutritious food.
“We did some brainstorming within our team and came up with a few ideas. However, in the end, we developed an instant fish soup called EnerTEIN, a combination of energy and protein, which people suffering from HIV tend to lack because of their depleting health condition caused by viruses within their system.
"Their daily food intake does not provide them with adequate energy and protein which our product will provide them as a supplement,” Sew said.
He said that last year the team won the first prize with ‘Vita-A-Go’, an energy-booster that looks and tastes like gummy bears except that it has a mango texture.
Sew, 26, who is doing his masters’ degree at UPM, acknowledged the “generous support” the team had received from the university and the Malaysian Institute of Food Technology. – Bernama, July 27, 2013.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Assemblyman ticked off over allegations against doctors

The Star Online

KLANG: The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) has condemned an assemblyman for accusing several doctors in Penang of being racist in their practice at a recent state assembly meeting.
MMA president Datuk Dr N.K.S. Tharma­seelan said using privilege of the office to hurl unproven accusations was cowardly and a misuse of power.
He was referring to Pinang Tunggal assemblyman Datuk Roslan Saidin’s allegations on four Chinese doctors who refused to treat patients in Penang.
Roslan, who raised the issue during the state assembly meeting, said he had received six complaints since May this year.
Dr Tharmaseelan said Roslan, being an educated assemblyman, should have brought the issue straight to the authorities rather than raise it at the assembly.
Penang state health director Datuk Dr Lailanor Ibrahim, meanwhile, was reported as saying that the department received a formal complaint from Roslan on July 15 while a team had been set up by the Health Ministry to investigate the matter.
Roslan has come under criticism for the allegations involving two hospitals on the mainland that were first made at the recent state assembly sitting.
Since then, four former patients have come forward in support of Roslan.
While Dr Tharmaseelan welcomed the action by the ministry in forming the team, he urged Roslan and other quarters to refrain from spreading more allegations on the matter.
“If the four doctors are caught condoning such racist practice, then the MMA will also support the action that would be taken against them. Until then, it is best to let the ministry do its work.
“The law says one is not guilty unless proven to be so. Such matters should not be tried over the media. It is immoral to judge someone prematurely before ascertaining the facts,” said the doctor who also has a law degree.
In Butterworth, one of the two hospitals in Penang implicated in the allegations that Chinese doctors refused to treat Malay patients acknowledged being informed of the official complaint.
A hospital spokesman said they were informed by the state Health Department that a complaint had been lodged on the matter.
However, she declined to elaborate further on the matter.
The Star was unable to contact the other hospital involved in the controversial allegations.

No consensus on medicines as TPPA's 18th round ends


There has been no consensus on the controversial issue of intellectual property rights involving medicine in the 18th round of talks for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) in Kota Kinabalu.

NONEInternational of Trade and Industry Ministry chief negotiator J Jayasiri (right) said that negotiations are still ongoing.

"We have some concerns with the current proposal that is on the table. Our position is to find a balance and take care of Malaysia's concerns," he said.

Addressing the media after the conclusion of these round of talks in Kota Kinabalu yesterday, Jayasiri however declined to provide further details citing negotiation "confidentiality".

Speaking alongside representatives from 11 other countries party to the negotiations, Jayasiri said that intellectual property is one of the key issues in this round of talks.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Ministry awaiting report on e-ciggie

The Star Online
PUTRAJAYA: The Health Ministry will decide whether to ban e-cigarettes and shisha after a report on their effects is produced by the end of August.
Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the ministry would study the possibility of prohibiting the sale of e-cigarettes to children instead of a blanket ban.
However, this is still subject to the recommendations by a committee set up to look into scientific evidence on the “harmful effects” of shisha or waterpipe smoking and e-cigarettes.
“The committee will also verify claims that e-cigarettes may help smokers to quit the habit,” he said.
Dr Noor Hisham said the ministry would then decide based on the scientific report on whether to ban or regulate the sale and use of the two products.
“Meanwhile, we welcome the fatwa issued by the Islamic Development Department (Jakim) to ban shisha, which is in tandem with the ministry’s initiative on tobacco control,” he said.
It was reported that the Consumers Association of Penang had urged the ministry to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to prevent youths from getting hooked on it as there was no age limit on the sale of the product.
The Fatwa (Edicts) Committee of the National Council for Islamic Affairs declared smoking shisha as forbidden for Muslims after considering it a health hazard.
Dr Noor Hisham said about 123,000 Malaysians aged 15 and above smoked shisha while approximately 164,000 adults smoked e-cigarettes, according to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey in 2011.
“The number of shisha and e-cigarette smokers may have increased in recent years due to the two products gaining popularity, especially among young adults, which is something we view with concern,” he said.
A proponent of e-cigarettes, who declined to be named, questioned the move by the Government to consider banning e-cigarettes based on health reasons but not ordinary cigarettes.
“The level of nicotine in e-cigarettes can be lowered to zero whereas ordinary cigarettes have a fixed amount,” he said.
The 41-year-old, who has been smoking e-cigarettes since 2009, said there was no second-hand smoke from e-cigarettes as only vapour was produced

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

1 in 5 Malaysians has a mental health problem, says Deputy Health Minister


KUALA LUMPUR — About 20 per cent of Malaysia’s total populations has a mental health problem, the country’s Deputy Health Minister said today (July 23).
Dr Hilmi Yahaya, speaking in Parliament during a question-and-answer session, gave his estimation of the reach of problems like depression, stress and anxiety in the country, Malaysia’s official news agency Bernama reported.
He added that the health ministry has made available screening facilities at 806 health clinics, 40 hospitals and four mental hospitals nationwide to help detect these problems.
“There are 224 psychiatric specialists and 100 clinical psychiatric specialists nationwide,” Dr Hilmi said. He was responding to a senator’s question on what measures the government is taking to raise awareness of problems such as stress.
Dr Hilmi also said that one per cent of the population suffers from more serious mental problems. AGENCIES

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Malaysians face danger of serious NCD if they do no(t) lead healthy lifestyle

 Astro Awani

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysians are facing danger of dying from serious non-communicable diseases (NCD) if they do not practise a healthy, due to the luxury of life they are enjoying now.

Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya said NCD had been regarded a global pandemic.

He said that based on a report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2008, 63 per cent of the 57 million deaths due to diseases worldwide was because of NCD.

From studies conducted by the Health Ministry, it was found that 1.7 million Malaysians aged 18 and above were obese because they did not lead a healthy lifestyle, he told reporters after opening a health carnival at Kampung Air Terjun here today.

He said the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) conducted in 2011 showed that the prevalence of diabetes among Malaysians increased to 15.2 per cent, from 11.6 per cent in 2006.

Hypertension among adults also increased from 32.2 per cent in 2006 to 32.7 per cent two year ago, he added.
"The prevalence of obesity also increased by three-folds, from 4.4 per cent in 1996 to 15.1 per cent in 2011, likewise on the prevalence of smoking, it increased to 24.7 per cent in 2011, from 21.5 per cent in 2006," he added.

Hence, he advised the people to live a healthy lifestyle by not smoking cigarettes, eat healthy food and to exercise.

Dr Hilimi said the Health Ministry was planning to get the cooperation of Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM) to air "Medik TV", currently screened in hospitals, on its television channels.

The ministry, he said, would also seek the cooperation of the relevant departments and agencies, including the Social Development Department, to provide information to the public on the importance of living a healthy lifestyle.

Friday, July 19, 2013

KPJ Healthcare prepares for aged care business in Malaysia

BorneoPost Online
KUCHING: KPJ Healthcare Bhd (KPJ Healthcare) has been proactively preparing for the aged care business in Malaysia, following the success of its 51 per cent stake acquisition of Australian-based Jeta Gardens – an Asian-themed retirement resort that houses an aged care facility, retirement homes and apartments – in 2010.
According to AmResearch Sdn Bhd (AmResearch) in a research note on the group, KPJ Healthcare could potentially collaborate with a property developer to launch the retirement villages, given that building such greenfield facilities is beyond its expertise.
In addition, the group is also looking at building facilities which consist of various types of properties such as apartment units and villas.
While studies are ongoing for the development of KPJ Healthcare’s Malaysia retirement village, the facility would cater to both those who are highly dependent on medical personnel, and retirees that are independent and relatively healthy.
“From our point of view, although earnings contribution from its aged care business is still relatively small, the venture into retirement villages in Malaysia could turn into a long-term revenue generator, especially since the country’s aged care industry lacks proper attention from qualified nurses and doctors.
“More importantly, present baby boomers are approaching retirement age and it might be the right time ripe to cash in on this segment,” AmResearch opined.
Underpinned by the group’s first mover advantage in the aged care business and supported by its ‘know-how’ attained at Jeta Gardens, a planned Step Down Services centre at the old Tawakkal Building is expected to be completed in the financial year 2014 forecast (FY14F), subject to approval from the health ministry.
Meanwhile, a replica of Jeta Gardens in Bandar Dato’ Onn, is earmarked to be opened in FY16F.
“ Our bullish conviction on KPJ Healthcare remains, thanks to its strong domestic foothold riding on the lucrative and booming local private healthcare sector and its defensive earnings profile.
“Growth prospects remain favourable with bed capacities expected to grow by 65 per cent over the next three years, driven by eight greenfield projects, four expansions and two acquisitions,” the research arm added.
As such, AmResearch reaffirmed its ‘buy’ recommendation on KPJ Healthcare Bhd, with an unchanged fair value of RM8.00 per share, based on its discounted cash flow valuation.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Great strides in Malaysia's healthcare system

The Star Online
KUALA LUMPUR: Doctors should be rewarded for promoting good health and keeping people out of hospital, in addition to treating those who are already sick.

A public health expert said any new healthcare model should consider this as preventive care is more cost effective than curative care.

Universiti Malaya deputy vice-chancellor (Research and Innovation) Prof Dr Awang Bulgiba Awang Mahmud noted that under Britain's National Health Service, general practitioners are rewarded for keeping patients out of hospital.

"I hope a Malaysian model will be less likely to reward the use of (health services) but more likely to reward doctors for keeping their patients healthy and out of hospitals."

In Britain, GPs are paid cash incentives to improve healthcare. The "pay-for-performance" scheme is designed to pay work by doctors that previously wasn't funded, such as managing conditions like hypertension as well as monitoring smokers and obese patients.

Prof Awang Bulgiba said there were three grand challenges facing the healthcare system - the rise in lifestyle diseases, an ageing population and rapidly spreading infectious diseases. He said any new healthcare model must address these factors.

"The rise in lifestyle diseases such as cardiovascular conditions, cancer and diabetes is due to our sedentary lifestyles and environmental changes.

"The cost of statins and lipid lowering drugs is getting higher. Healthcare is getting more expensive because more people are affected by these non-communicable diseases," said Prof Awang Bulgiba, adding that the private sector must play a role in preventive care, which until now has almost exclusively been the preserve of the Government.

He noted that the top cause of deaths in government hospitals was heart disease. The increase in the rate of diabetes prevalence is worrying too. In the National Health and Morbidity Surveys, it increased from 8% in 1996 to more than 14% in 2006. In the fourth survey in 2011, the rate of diabetes was an alarming 20.8%.

Other than the rise in lifestyle diseases, Prof Awang Bulgiba also noted Malaysia's ageing population would put stress on the country's healthcare.

"By 2035, more than 7% of Malaysia's population will be 60 years or older. Healthcare must recognise this fact and take steps to prepare for it," said Prof Awang Bulgiba, who was the first Malaysian doctor to gain a PhD in Medical Informatics.

He said that with cheap air travel, infectious diseases like SARS and H5N1 can spread faster than ever before.

"What used to take months, now takes days to spread," he said, noting that Chikungunya, a viral disease from Africa, has been detected in Malaysia.

Prof Awang Bulgiba also highlighted the disparity in the allocation of resources between the public and private healthcare sectors.

In 2011, public healthcare providers had 41,616 beds compared to 13,568 in private facilities.

"Although government institutions provide 75% of beds, only 40% of doctors work in the public sector with the majority in private practice," he noted.

Prof Awang Bulgiba said there was also an imbalance of resources in healthcare. For example, there are far too many MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging machines) in the Klang Valley, "probably more than in the whole of Australia."

He was speaking at a lecture on The Evolution of Public Healthcare in Malaysia held at UM recently after his election as a fellow of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia (ASM).

Prof Awang Bulgiba also talked about the rapid growth of private healthcare in Malaysia.

There has been a proliferation of private healthcare facilities, from 174 in 1992 to 660 in 2011. In 1980, there were only 50 private hospitals but in 2011, the number had grown to 220.

The share of private healthcare expenditure has been rising and is almost on par with government spending, from 5.8% in 1981 to 45.4% in 2009.

Looking at the bigger picture, Malaysia's total expenditure on health was RM33.7bil or 4.96% of Gross Domestic Product. This is below the World Health Organisation's recommended level of not less than 5% of a country's GDP.

"As a comparison, the United States spends 15% of its GDP on healthcare," said Prof Awang Bulgiba.

He noted that although Malaysia has made great strides in healthcare, there is concern on whether the current model is sustainable.

Rising costs would eventually force the government to evaluate how a national healthcare financing scheme can be implemented. Previous attempts, including the 1Care for 1Malaysia plan, have failed to get off the ground following opposition from stakeholders.

"I hope the new model will integrate the public and private healthcare facilities to promote equitable access," said Prof Awang Bulgiba.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement will see medicine price hike, MP warns

Signing the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) will see an increase in the cost of medicines, an MP said today.
This is because the TPPA would limit access to generic medications when intellectual property rights come into play, said Klang MP Charles Santiago.
"Currently, it costs RM136,000 for 18 cycles of medicines for a breast cancer patient. This will go up further if TPPA comes into  play," he said.
Santiago said the average Malaysian will not be able to afford medication and if they are poor and sick, they will be in serious trouble.
He cited the example of a similar trade agreement signed between the US and Jordan which saw the cost of medicine increase by 20 to 30 per cent.
Other than higher cost of medicines, there is also concern that the government's policy making powers will be curtailed if Malaysia goes ahead with the TPPA.
"We in Parliament make the law, but that law can be overturned by a two or three member tribunal outside Malaysia and that cannot be brought again before our court of law, so it raises the issue of sovereignty," Santiago said.
He added that the Malaysian government was not engaging the stakeholders but instead ongoing negotiations with member countries are kept under wraps.
"The level of consultation on a scale of one  to 10 is  zero. This is the key problem we are facing and also secrecy seems to be the Malaysian government's number one priority.
"In more mature economies which are part of the TPPA negotiations, the element of secrecy does not arise," he said.
He added that there is a chapter on labour in the TPPA but in Malaysia, the government did not even consult the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC), the largest labour body, for their input.
Santiago was speaking to reporters after a roundtable discussion with non-governmental organisations and representatives with TPPA member countries, namely Australia, Canada, US, Chile and New Zealand today.
He also said that a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report revealed that Malaysia would not benefit from trade with the US.
Kelana Jaya MP Wong Chen said there was a need to look at the cost benefit analysis and  the fiscal impact for the country, if it signs the TPPA.
He said US officials had said that Malaysia's exports would total US$40 billion (about RM120 billion) under the TPPA.
He said based on the assumption that Malaysian companies would make a 10 per cent net profit on this, it would translate to a gain of RM3 billion yearly to the Malaysian budget, based on a 25 per cent tax rate.
"So we need to analyse this RM3 billion gain against the losses in terms of higher pharmaceutical costs, loss of sovereign rights, and our economic model. We want the government to engage us on this most basic level," Wong added.
Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar said while the government had agreed to set up a parliamentary caucus on the TPPA, it was too late as the agreement is slated to be concluded at the APEC in Bali, Indonesia, in October. - July 10, 2013

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Radioactive pendants may cause cancer

New Straits Times

PUTRAJAYA: The Health Ministry has advised the public to refrain from buying and using pendants made of volcanic ash containing natural radioactive substances as it could damage their health and cause cancer.

The pendants contain Uranium-238 and Thorium-232 and prolonged use could lead to damaging side effects , especially to children, pregnant women and lactating mothers, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said at a press conference here today.   
He said an analysis of the pendant samples (Quantum Pendant, Fusion Excel) by the Secondary Standard Dosimetry Laboratory, Malaysian Nuclear Agency detected dangerous levels of the two substances.   
"Please don't use these radioactive pendants as there is no evidence they have any medical benefit.  
"The analysis also found they could cause cancer and genetic disorders," he said. 
Dr Subramaniam said the Health Ministry would discuss the banning of the items with the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation and the Atomic Energy Licensing Board, in the near future.  
The pendants have been in the local market since 2009 and the companies marketing them claim that they improve blood circulation, enhance memory and energy. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Health Ministry plans to expand PPC unit

Health Ministry plans to expand PPC unit – BorneoPost Online 
JOHOR BAHARU: The Ministry of Health intends to expand its Paediatric Palliative Care (PPC) services in an effort to improve the quality of life and reduce stress among children who suffer from chronic illnesses that lead to death.
Its minister Datuk Dr S Subramaniam said so far, such a service centre was only available at the Sultan Ismail Hospital (HSI) here which has been operating for the past three months and currently treats 57 patients.
“This PPC centre is the first of its kind in the country and we intend to expand this service elsewhere as we find the method of treatment better and gives encouraging results.
“In contrast to the treatment at normal wards, children placed in this ward are treated in a more friendly environment while the family becomes part of the patient’s treatment system,” he told reporters after attending the opening of the PPC centre at HSI by Raja Zarith Sofiah Sultan Idris Shah, the consort of Sultan Ibrahim Ismail of Johor yesterday. — Bernama

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Area in Miri declared dengue hotspot


The Pujut area in Miri has been declared a dengue outbreak zone after statistics revealed an increase of cases reported in the city.
The outbreak involved two cases which were reported to have occurred in the same house.
Pujut is of particular concern because it had been declared an uncontrolled dengue outbreak area from 2009 to 2010, according to deputy health officer Dr Veronica Lugah from the Divisional Health Office, the Borneo Post reported.
"Based on the facts of the case, the movement of the epidemic dengue outbreaks occurred at the Pujut area, making it the first dengue outbreak area recorded in Miri this year."
Pujut, which is 19.5km from Miri, had three reported dengue cases from June 9 to 5. Between June 15 to 29, there were 10 cases, prompting authorities to sound the alert earlier this week.
The places involved are Pujut Corner (hotspot), Pujut Anting, Pujut Rail and Pujut Tanjong Batu. Besides Pujut, other cases where dengue cases have been recorded include Tudan, Permyjaya and Taman Tunku, all nearby areas.
Lugah said the residents in the affected areas had got together to conduct community clean-up activities to rid their compounds of potential Aedes mosquito breeding grounds.
Fogging exercises were carried out, but that would only kill the adult mosquitoes, not the larvae. Hence the importance of a joint cleaning effort to prevent the mosquitoes from reproducing.
She said the Health Ministry had begun conducting a nationwide public health law enforcement operation to stem the dengue outbreak.
Those found to have Aedes breeding grounds within their premises could face stiff fines. – July 6, 2015.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

No compromise on the health and safety of pilgrims

No compromise on the health and safety of pilgrims

The government will not compromise on health and safety of haj pilgrims following the outbreak of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS) in Saudi Arabia, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom.
He said Malaysian pilgrims were required to undergo a medical examination as well as taking medication and vaccinations before leaving for the Holy Land of Mecca and Medina to perform the haj.
"The government takes precaution whenever an outbreak of a disease occurs," he told reporters after attending a briefing on the findings on the transformation of the Islamic legal system in Malaysia. 
MERS, which was first reported on Sept 22, 2012, has so far infected 55 people and claimed 33 lives in Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, Jamil Khir asked travel agencies not to fix the dates of umrah and haj travels until the application for visas was approved by the Saudi government to prevent pilgrims from getting stranded. - Bernama, July 1, 2013. 

‘Go back to basics to stem HIV rise’

The Star Online

KUALA LUMPUR: There is a need to go “back to basics” if Malaysia wants to stem a further rise in HIV cases caused by sexual transmission, an infectious disease expert said.
“When it comes to heterosexual transmission, you need to provide sex education. For infections to be arrested, it has to start at school with education that is age appropriate and evidence-based,” said Prof Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman, local co-chair of IAS 2013 conference yesterday.
When it came to the key affected populations such as men who have sex with men (MSM), Dr Adeeba said one had to be more innovative such as using new media tools to reach out to them.
“Tackling drug users is a walk in the park compared with tackling gay men and sex workers. There needs to be focus on groups which are at risk. We need to separate religion from health,” she added.
Dr Adeeba, who is also the Centre of Excellence for Research in AIDS director, was commenting on a statement by Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam that intervention of sexual transmission has been included as one of the major activities in the battle against HIV in Malaysia.
This follows a rise in cases caused by injected drug abuse and sexual transmission, including among women and the MSM.
In 2011, the number of HIV infections through sexual transmission had overtaken that by injecting drug users (IDUs) with a ratio of 6:4.
However, she also warned that focus should stay on IDUs including putting them on treatment.
Malaysian Society for HIV Medicine immediate past president Datuk Dr Christopher Lee said it was important to use the data available to draw up behavioural studies in order to have a programme which was more focused.
He added that gaining access to sex workers was also difficult because the scenario had changed over the years.
“The syndicates will not let you go near them and they are also mobile,” he added.
Unaids Asia and the Pacific regional support team director Steven J. Krauss said Malaysia had to keep on moving and “readjusting their sights” when it came to battling HIV/AIDS.
Sexual transmission. he added, was a “tough issue” for every country.
But, what was needed was to create a space to talk to each othe

Medical tools to be registered within two years

 The Star Online

PUTRAJAYA: All medical devices will need to be registered with the Health Ministry within two years in line with the Medical Device Regulations 2012.
The move, effective yesterday, is meant to ensure all medical devices in the country are in compliance with safety and performance re-quirements as stipulated under the Medical Device Act 2012 (Act 737), said Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.
Dr Noor Hisham, who also chairs the Medical Device Authority in charge of the enforcement of the regulations, said there were some 70,000 existing medical equipments that need to be registered.
“One of the issues raised in the past is that medical devices were not regulated and we don’t want to be a dumping ground, where medical devices are being used but not being monitored according to the standard or the benchmark of the devices.
“So, the Medical Device Authority has taken this role to make sure all medical devices will be registered and licensed,” Dr Noor Hisham said at a press conference here after the launch of the Medical Device Centralised Online Application System (MedCast).
MedCast, an online platform for the registration of medical devices and the licensing of establishments as stipulated under the Act, was launched by Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam.
Under Act 737, all medical device establishments will be given a one-year transition period, starting yesterday, to apply for licensing with the authority.
The establishment licensing ini­tiative covers manufacturers, autho­rised representatives of foreign manufacturers, importers and distributors.
Registration of both medical devices and vendors would enable the authorities to carry out inspections on the equipment to ensure ongoing compliance, said Dr Noor Hisham.
“They can register from anywhere – from home or their offices, in the country or overseas. This marks a significant milestone for the Health Ministry in discharging our responsibility to protect the public in terms of patient safety and use of medical devices,” he added.
More information can be obtained from the Medical Device Authority website on

Monday, July 01, 2013

Over 600 cases of dengue reported nationwide in first six months

The Star Online
GEORGE TOWN: More than 600 cases of dengue fever were reported nationwide in the first six months of this year, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam.

"Most people are aware of the source of dengue but not many take the initiative to destroy the breeding grounds of aedes mosquitoes. As such, we will monitor the housing areas and tell residents to clean up, failing which we will take action.

"Apart from the campaign, we feel that with enforcement, the people will take the dengue menace more seriously," he told reporters after opening the Penang Free School Carnival in Jalan Masjid Negeri, here, Sunday.

He said the areas which recorded the highest number of cases were Johor Baharu, Selangor and Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysia moves to decriminalise drugs

The Star Online
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is moving towards decriminalising drugs to make it easier and more open for drug dependants to seek treatment and rehabilitation.
Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Nancy Shukri said the government's policy at present had shifted more to treating drug users than prosecuting them.
She said Asean's desire to be a drug-free region by 2015 was not very realistic, but noted that a change in approaches by the authorities could help to reduce the number of drug dependants.
 "There is no such thing as drug-free but we can control it by changing or shifting our policy.
 "Instead of looking at drug dependants as criminals, we should actually look at them as patients. Instead of bringing them to jail, we bring them to the clinic," she told reporters after attending the High-Level Panel Meeting on Drug Policy and Public Health organised by the Global Commision on Drug, here, Sunday.
The discourse was held in conjunction with the 7th International AIDS Society (IAS) Conference 2013 held here.
Nancy said Malaysia had in place a good policy and initiatives in treating drug users but these were not very publicly known.
Among the initiatives, she noted, was the needle exchange programme for drug users introduced in 2006, which had seen a reduction of HIV/AIDS infection through intravenous drug administration.
 "Others include the harm reduction programme and upgrading of the rehabilitation centres into Cure & Care Clinics.
 "We are already there (decriminalising drugs) but we are not making it loud enough for the people to understand that we have this policy. Our policy has not been established in a formal way," she said.
Nancy said the government was also currently reviewing laws related to drugs in this country, including the Drug Dependants (Treatment and Rehabilitation) Act 1983.
 "The Law Reform Committee is now in the process of discussing to amend that particular provision (Section 4(1)(b) of the Act which allows the detention of a suspected drug dependant for up to 14 days for a test to be conducted)."
Earlier, Narcotics Crime Investigation Department deputy director III, Jamaludin Kudin said the police were also shifting their approach in combating drug abuse by focusing on curtailing drug trafficking.
 "Our statistics show that we are focusing 70 percent on drug users and 30 percent on the drug dealers. We are changing that now," he said. - Bernama

AIDS scientists at Malaysia meet express hopes for cure


KUALA LUMPUR (June 29, 2013): AIDS scientists expressed optimism over their search for a cure for the disease Saturday ahead of a major conference in Kuala Lumpur, with more funding and research breakthroughs boosting their hopes.
Thousands of delegates will attend the four-day International AIDS Society (IAS) Conference which starts on Sunday in the Malaysian capital, the first time the bi-annual meeting will be held in Asia.
Sharon Lewin from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, said funding for cure research had gone from millions to tens of millions of dollars per year.
"I think we are a long way off, but what has changed in the last three years is a realisation, that there needs to be a commitment (to this)," she told AFP in a telephone interview.
"In 2010, at that time, very few people really believed it was possible... Between that time and now, there has been a major shift. There's evidence that things have really been moving."
Deborah Persaud of the US Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore, Maryland, said the case of the "Mississippi baby" that her team worked on presented a "ray of hope".
The baby, born in the US state of Mississippi, was apparently cleared of the virus after being given aggressive anti-retroviral treatment within 30 hours of her birth. She is now almost three years old.
"There needs to be a lot of work done... We have to replicate the case; we need to understand the case," she told reporters ahead of the conference.
"The key thing for us that we should focus on is to do what we know how to do -- and that is identify kids who are infected and treat them early."
Children below the age of 15 make up 10 percent, or 3.3 million, of the estimated 34 million people infected with HIV worldwide. In total, the global pandemic has claimed 30 million lives.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) is expected to release new medical guidelines at the conference Sunday, which could make more people infected with HIV eligible to receive drugs.
Last month, scientists meeting in Paris to mark the 30th anniversary of the discovery of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, said they have high hopes for a treatment that will be given at an early stage of infection.
But they said people with a long-running, untreated infection and a compromised immune system may never benefit from an envisioned "functional cure" -- through which a person would retain traces of the virus but no symptoms.
About 1.8 million people die every year from AIDS, a disease in which the immune system is destroyed, with sufferers exposed to pneumonia, TB and other illnesses. – AFP

Health Ministry mulls shisha ban

GEORGE TOWN (June 30, 2013): The Health Ministry is considering a ban on shisha and other forms of smoking.
Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said the ministry is studying the legal framework for a ban on alternative forms of smoking, including shisha (flavoured tobacco) and e-cigarettes.
"There are two issues here, which is the instrument used for smoking and the compounds used in the instrument," he said.
While it is easy to ban the substances used in alternative smoking, it is a challenge to classify the instrument used.
"In other countries, shisha is mixed with spices. However, the substances used locally are tobacco and sometimes drugs. This is where the problem arises," he said.
Subramaniam said the ministry is looking into the long-term effect of this form of smoking before making a ruling.
Subramaniam said this after visiting his alma mater, Penang Free School, today.
The Perlis Fatwa Committee issued an edict banning the sale and smoking of shisha in the state last week.
The Johor Islamic Religious Council has also supported the move to declare shisha smoking as haram (forbidden in Islam).
In 2011, Malacca and Kelantan banned the sale of shisha.
The Consumers' Association of Penang also called for a ban of e-cigarettes.
Subramaniam said the health ministry will carry out strict enforcement nationwide to tackle the rising number of dengue cases.
"We have to identify hotspots where dengue cases occur and get enforcement teams to supervise the areas," he said, adding that Johor, Selangor and Kuala Lumpur were critical states.
On the issue of federal funds for hospitals in Penang, Subramaniam said the government is fair, "and allocation for health is above politics and is based on needs and demand."
He was responding to calls by the Penang state government to speed up upgrading work at the Penang Hospital and Seberang Jaya Hospital after Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahya had announced an allocation of RM20 million to upgrade the Balik Pulau Hospital recently