Wednesday, November 27, 2013

235,000 benefited from Socso’s health screening programme — Riot

KOTA KINABALU: Over 235,000 Socso (Social Security Organisation) contributors have benefited from its Health Screening Programme to date, said Human Resource Minister Datuk Richard Riot Jaem.
He said of the 82,130 vouchers of the programme distributed in Sabah, more than 10,000 contributors made use of them since January with the total cost coming to RM918,500.
“The HSP was introduced because of the increasing number of cases of workers being affected by Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD).
“With the availability of the HSP, it allows early intervention so that the affected workers get the needed treatment,” he said at a Job and HSP carnival organised by the Sabah Manpower Department and Socso here yesterday.
He urged Socso contributors to take full advantage of the facility which enables contributors aged 40 and above to go for health screening at approved clinics. — Bernama

More young people having mental health problems

SIBU: The nation is likely to be burdened by a generation with mental health problem as the number of children aged 15 and below afflicted by it are on the rise.
This observation came from National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (Niosh) chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye.
“Health Ministry statistics show that mental health problems among the group rose to 13 percent in 1996, 19.4 percent in 2006 and 20 percent in 2011,” he said.
Lee, who is a member of the Mental Health Advisory Council, said in a press statement emailed here on Monday that it was imperative that school children detected to have severe symptoms of stress, anxiety or depression be given appropriate interventions including counselling and mental health coping skills.
“The increase in stress level whether in school, at the workplace or elsewhere is one of the major factors causing more people to develop mental disorders.
“Among the mental health promotion activities that can be implemented in schools are promoting mental health literacy in the school community through talks, exhibitions and quizzes that can be held as extra curricula activities involving PTAs and school clubs,” Lee suggested.
He said schools need to have more counsellors trained to guide and help students to handle stress and cope with life situations.
He added: “We need to instill basic self-confidence in children with the cooperation of parents so failures or disappointments are seen as opportunities to try again rather than a lack of ability and taking the road to disaster.”
He observed at community level growing evidence that the burden of disease was gradually but surely shifting towards poor mental health and mental disorder.
While heart diseases, cancer and HIV-AIDS and others took their toll yearly in the form of death, the burden of diseases such as depression was rapidly becoming a major source of stress not only on the individual and his family but also on his community, he elaborated.
Of late, there had been an increase in number of suicides among persons with mental health disorders, he noted.
“Psychiatric disorders and other forms of mental illness are tragic reminders of another side of life which must not be overlooked in our quest to become a fully industrialised nation.
“The impact of mental health problems on people and their families as well as society as a whole is immense and needs to be addressed,” emphasised Lee.
He said it was imperative for the country to have more community mental health care centres.
The centres would provide mental health counselling, deal with stigmatisation, create awareness of mental health, and empower service users and their families.
“Stigma is one of the biggest challenges surrounding mental illness. Stigma is the single most important barrier to quality of life of mental health consumers and family members – more so than the illness itself – and a major impediment to mental health reform and development.” Lee concluded
“We, therefore, need to train more psychiatrists and psychologists for our hospitals and clinics to deal with people suffering from mental disorders while non-governmental organisations should be given financial assistance to promote mental health in the community. We are also severely lacking in psychiatric occupational therapists,” Lee concluded.

Malaysia’s health tourism industry booming, says Dr Hilmi

REVENUE of RM351.5 million was recorded  from 401,262 health tourists to the country until June this year, said Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya.
He said the figure was expected to double by the end of December based on the number of health tourist arrivals to the country.
“The target this year is RM630 million in revenue from the strategies, promotional efforts and intensive marketing undertaken by the Malaysian Health Tourism Council (MHTC) to ensure that Malaysia becomes a major health tourism destination,” he said to a question from Datuk Dr Nik Mazian Nik Mohamad (PAS-Pasir Puteh) at the Dean Rakyat sitting, here, yesterday.
Nik Mazian wanted to know the number of health tourists to Malaysia, the estimated revenue earned from health tourism and the number of medical centres from which they sought treatment.
Dr Hilmi said the efforts undertaken by the MHTC proved fruitful as the number of health tourists to the country increased each year, thus giving a big impact to the industry.
“The number of health tourists to Malaysia rose to 583,296 in 2011 from 392,956 in 2010 (48 per cent increase).
In 2012, the number increased further to  671,727 (15 per cent rise),” he said.
As for revenue, he said the figure increased to RM511.2 million in 2011 from RM378.7 million in 2010 (35 per cent rise), and in 2012, it rose to RM594 million, a 16 per cent increase over the previous year.
Dr Hilmi said there were 72 hospitals and healthcare centres registered with the MHTC for the promotion of health tourism in this country, and they were offering attractive treatment packages at reasonable costs.
Among the hospitals which received a high number of tourists in 2012 were the Prince Court Medical Centre Kuala Lumpur, Gleneagles Kuala Lumpur, Johor Specialist Hospital, Sime Darby Medical Centre Subang Jaya and Lam Wah Ee Hospital in Penang. — Bernama

Monday, November 25, 2013

Suspended hospital braces for major layoff

DIRE: More than 100 staff to lose jobs if Health Ministry doesn't respond to appeal

SEREMBAN: THE Negri Sembilan Chinese Maternity Hospital and  Medical Centre (NSCMH) is expected to downsize its clinical and non-clinical staff from 145 to about 20,  should the Health Ministry  not respond to their appeal in the coming weeks.
NSCMH general manager G.T. Selvam told the New Sunday Times that the process of transferring the remaining seven in-house patients was underway, following the ministry's orders to suspend the hospital's in-patient services.
"The seven patients are elderly people, who are just undergoing physiotherapy treatment.
"They are under the medical officer's care and are awaiting their children, who are abroad, to take them home," he said yesterday.
Selvam said following the suspension of in-patient services, the hospital was experiencing a drop in out-patient services, too.
"Not many patients are coming in. If there is no reply from the ministry, we have no choice, but to lay off 110 to 120 of our staff."
However, the layoff is up to the board members, who will decide in the coming days, as they are awaiting a reply from the ministry, following an appeal they made on Friday.
The other area of concern, Selvam said, was the procurement of three specialist doctors in three disciplines.
"We are worried, as the suspension will affect the procurement of these doctors. Who wants to work in a hospital with suspended in-patient services?"
On Friday, the director-general of Health, Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, suspended the hospital's in-patient services for failing to meet the ministry's requirements under the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998, despite the hospital responding with an appeal dated Oct 24.
He said NSCMH had committed 10 violations and had been suspended from admitting new patients after site observations were conducted.
Existing patients are to be transferred to other hospitals.
Deputy director-general (medical) Datuk Dr S. Jeyaindran yesterday said the hospital's reply on Oct 24 was unsatisfactory.
"The ministry has no option, but to take action. Patients' safety and comfort come first."
MCA vice-president Datuk Donald Lim also expressed concern over the issue.
"I will be meeting ministry officials to follow up and get details on what really transpired," he said after the party's state annual general meeting here yesterday.
He said NSCMH should adhere to the rules and regulations outlined by the ministry, but added that MCA would help settle the issue.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Mercy Malaysia lends a helping hand

KOTA KINABALU: Medical services at a central Philippines city devastated by Typhoon Haiyan are slowly returning to normal, thanks to the Malaysian Medical Relief Society (Mercy Malaysia).
The NGO has deployed a field hospital within the grounds of the severely damaged Ormoc District Hospital.
Mercy team member Dr Cheah Phee Kheng (pic) said the field hospital was functioning as an outpatient department as well as a temporary emergency department while the original hospital was being repaired.
He said all that was left of the 100-bed Ormoc hospital after the typhoon, which struck on Nov 7, was its emergency unit.
Despite that, patients from more devastated areas such as Tacloban city, which is about 100km away, have been coming to Ormoc for medical treatment.
“All the wards, including the operating theatre, delivery suites and neonatal intensive care units, were destroyed.
“The only department that could function was the emergency department, which became the centre of all activities.
“Patients were placed along the corridors and hospital lobby,” Dr Cheah said, adding that Mercy had deployed four doctors who had so far treated more than 250 patients.
He said some very ill patients from the interior areas arrived at the hospital by tricycle.
Mercy vice-president Norazam Samah said the NGO would also help in the reconstruction of the Ormoc hospital, beginning with the replacement of the roof.
“As it is a double-storey building, water collects on the second floor and leaks when it rains heavily,” said Norazam, an architect by profession.
Mercy would also be involved in rebuilding the male, female and paediatric wards.
Donations can be channelled to the Mercy Humanitarian Fund, MBB 562179504126 Swift Code: MBBEMYKLA. Mercy Malaysia can be contacted at 03-2273-3999. For online donations, visit

Health Ministry shuts down Chinese Maternity Hospital

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 22 — The Health Ministry has issued an order to the N.S. Chinese Maternity Hospital and Medical Centre (NSCMH) to suspend its in-patient services with immediate effect.
Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said this was because the hospital was found to have committed 10 violations of the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998.
“These violations encompass matters involving both in-patient and out-patient services. One such example is that NSCMH lacks full-time resident doctors in certain core disciplines, thus raising concerns about patient safety,” he said in a statement, here.
The statement dated yesterday was faxed to Bernama, here, today.
Dr Noor Hisham said the hospital was now not allowed to admit new patients and the existing in-patients were to be transferred to other hospitals as patient safety and quality of healthcare were of paramount importance to the ministry.
He said the suspension order followed a thorough investigation into a complaint received by the ministry in August and was substantiated by findings obtained during a verification visit to the hospital on Sept 4.
“The ministry had twice issued show-cause letters on Sept 18 and Oct 21 respectively, asking for the hospital to provide detailed response regarding the remedial actions that had been taken and those that were being planned in order to overcome these 10 violations.”
He said a special meeting was convened on Oct 17 with the hospital’s representatives and NSCMH life members, seeking detailed explanation for the 10 violations noted during the verification visit and also to discuss possible solutions to the problems faced by the hospital.
“The hospital’s management was given 14 working days to respond to the second show-cause letter dated Oct 21 and that period lapsed on Nov 8.
“Hence, due to the failure of the hospital’s management to adequately address and overcome these 10 violations, the ministry was left with no other option but to issue a notice of immediate suspension of in-patient services at the hospital in order to ensure safe medical practices and to protect the interest of the patients,” he said. — Bernama

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Ministry may recognise CSMU degrees

THE Health Ministry may finally recognise the degrees of the Crimea State Medical University (CSMU) after an eight-year hiatus, Makkal Osai reported.
In 2001, the ministry had recognised CSMU, but withdrew after four years and since then, various groups including MIC, opposition leaders, NGOs and the university alumni had called for its recognition.
It said Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr.S.Subramaniam had promised to consider the recognition to the Ukrainian based medical university during a closed door meeting with the Malaysian Indian Education Transformation Association (MIETA) on Nov 11.
MIETA chairman A. Elangovan said that he was positive that the university would get its recognition very soon.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

35pc of cardiovascular disease-related deaths below 60 years of age

Cardiovascular diseases continue to be the leading cause of deaths at the health ministry's hospitals where about 35 per cent of deaths involve those aged less than 60 years, notes the minister, Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam.
He said there were 8,000 new heart patients annually and heart disease was the Number 1 killer in the country for the past three decades.
“More alarmingly, Malaysian children are just as vulnerable to the risk of cardiovascular diseases. These risks can begin before birth during foetal development and increase further during childhood with exposure to unhealthy diets and lack of exercise,” he said in his speech during the launch of the Sunway Pyramid Healthy Living here today.
He said the ministry was very concerned over the growing number of Malaysian adults and children who suffered from cardiovascular diseases.
Dr Subramaniam said disabilities and deaths from cardiovascular diseases were occuring amongst the economically productive members of the Malaysian population.
“In addition to its negative impact on the quality of life, cardiovascular diseases increase the economic burden of individuals, families and communities and reduce the productivity of the country. This has also put a tremendous strain on Malaysia's public health care system,” he added.
At a press conference later, the minister said lifestyle diseases or non-communicable diseases caused mainly by eating habits and less emphasis on physical activity was a burden to the country.
“There is also increase in the use of tobacco among women. To combat these lifestyle diseases, the health ministry has outlined a major campaign for healthy lifestyle. It is better to keep people healthy than to treat them after they fall sick,” he added.
On a proposal brought up in the Dewan Rakyat recently, to limit the operating hours of 24-hour restaurants as a means to fight obesity, Dr Subramaniam said it needed to be discussed with the urban wellbeing, housing and local government ministry. — Bernama
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Subra: Amending act a way to check on medical grads

SUBANG JAYA: Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam is concerned about the standard of foreign medical graduates seeking to practise here and may make amendments to the Medical Act 1971 to improve this situation.

"We (the ministry) are looking at how we can address this issue, one of which is to make amendments to the act.
"It should be mandatory to see that a minimum requirement is met when taking up a medical course, apart from having a recognised degree to practise here."
Dr Subramaniam said this in response to the deans' council of the Medical Faculties of Public Universities' call for the setting up of a task force to re-examine medical education in light of the proliferation of medical schools and oversupply of inadequately trained graduates.
The council had cautioned that the standard of medical practice in the country could fall further if the issue was not redressed urgently.
It added that Malaysia had the highest number of medical schools per million people in the world.
The council's dean of medicine Prof Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman said there was a need to set up a task force, comprising representatives from the Health Ministry, Education Ministry, Malaysian Medical Council (MMC), Malaysian Medical Association (MMA), Public Service Department and the deans council of public and private medical schools to review the situation and devise a plan for the development of the medical profession.
Speaking after declaring Sunway Pyramid the country's first health-promoting mall, Dr Subramaniam said such a step would need the engagement of all parties concerned, including deans, the ministry and those related to medical education.
"We must also control the numbers, because as it is, the number of those returning is very high and we might face problems to give them adequate training and ensure quality."
It is understood that some 2,500 medical graduates are produced annually from local public and private universities, with another 2,000 from foreign universities.
Dr Subramaniam said the ministry was serious about addressing the issue of proliferation of medical schools and oversupply of inadequately trained medical graduates.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

MMA probes complaints on foreign student check-ups

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 19 — The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) has acknowledged receiving grouses from member doctors over Qualitas Medical Group Sdn Bhd’s role in facilitating Education Malaysia Global Services (EMGS) to provide healthcare for foreign students in the country.
“We received several complaints, both verbally and in writing, from doctors who were rejected (from being part of the panel clinic) and regarding the low payment by Qualitas,” said MMA president Datuk Dr N.K.S. Tharmaseelan. 
“The MMA ethics committee is investigating a complaint from a senior member on alleged unethical practice by the parties involved.
“If the allegations are true, we will refer it to the Malaysian Medical Council, Health Ministry and Education Ministry for further action.”
He said the MMA may refer the matter to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and Malaysian Competition Commission if the matter remained unresolved.
Tharmaseelan was responding to The Malay Mail’s article Doctors unhappy with medical group published yesterday. Several doctors were upset their applications to Qualitas to screen foreign students, despite having done so prior EMGS, were rejected by Qualitas.
Those in the panel asked why they were only paid RM65 (RM25 for X-ray and RM40 for drawing blood) when EMGS collects RM250 from each student for medical check-ups. 
From that amount, RM200 goes to Qualitas while EMGS retains the balance of RM50. 
Tharmaseelan said MMA met EMGS after The Malay Mail’s expose on visa delays, alleged monopoly of clinics and insurance company in June. MMA insisted clinics near higher learning institutions should be part of the panel. 
“Many doctors complained they have been bypassed. We also raised this matter with the health minister (Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam) who has directed his officers to raise the matter with the education ministry. We await for developments on the matter,” he said.
The MMA had also met representatives from the education ministry as EMGS was the brainchild of the then higher learning education ministry which has, after the 13th general election, been incorporated as part of the education ministry.
“Why the education ministry, and not the health ministry, has been given jurisdiction is another perplexing question. With the Fomema experience of conducting health checks on foreign workers, the health ministry should have been the authority to oversee this project,” he said.
“Ministries under the same government competing against each other to run a project is difficult to comprehend.”
Tharmaseelan advised doctors against being part of the panel if they were unhappy with the payment scheme.
“We urge EMGS to dispel this growing dissatisfaction by appointing more non-Qualitas clinics. The payment should be increased as students examined pay more than foreign workers (under Fomema scheme),” he said. 
“The administration fees should be covered by the RM1,000 processing fee (charged to foreign students by EMGS) and not from the RM250 student pays for the medical check-up.”
Tharmaseelan said MMA was working closely with GP groups including the Malaysian Primary Care Network to resolve this issue.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Doctors unhappy with medical group

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 18 — Doctors have aired their grouses over the selection process and payment by Qualitas Medical Group Sdn Bhd in providing healthcare for foreign students in the country.
Qualitas was employed by Education Malaysia Global Services (EMGS) as part of the one-stop centre’s effort to streamline the intake of foreigners studying in Malaysia. 
A doctor was baffled why her application was rejected by Qualitas despite her clinic located near several colleges.
“We have conducted check-ups for foreign students. Our clinic also conducts medical screening for insurance companies and foreign workers under the Fomema scheme. We do not see the reason why Qualitas rejected our application,” the doctor said.
“Students required to do their check-ups will have to now travel a distance to get it done. This is troublesome and they will incur more cost.”
The doctor was informed by Qualitas its scrutiny committee were unable to accommodate her request since they have appointed clinics within a reasonable distance from her location.
Another doctor, who serves in a panel clinic appointed by Qualitas, is baffled why they are only paid RM65 per student. Students are required to pay EMGS RM250 for their medical check-up on top of the RM1,000 processing fee. Qualitas will then receive RM200 while EMGS retains the balance of RM50.
“We only get RM25 for X-ray and RM40 for drawing their blood which amounts to RM65. This is less than what we get from screening foreign workers. We feel like we are being bullied.”
Efforts to contact Qualitas over the weekend proved futile. 
The grouses of foreign students and doctors were first highlighted by The Malay Mail in a report “Foreign student uproar” on June 17.
Malaysia Medical Association president Datuk Dr N.K.S. Tharmaseelan, had in our subsequent report “Profit sharing fiasco” on June 18, claimed he was unaware of the new policy of screening foreign students, adding monopoly and fee-splitting is against medical ethics.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam, had on July 1, criticised the alleged monopoly by Qualitas.
Despite the uproar, EMGS refuted claims of Qualitas being anti-competitive and insisted the RM50 it retains from each student was used for operating costs including online systems and maintenance, review of medical examination reports, medical audits and reporting to the relevant government agencies.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

More Training Centres Needed To House Newly Graduated Doctors - Dr Subramaniam

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 16 (Bernama) -- The Health Ministry hopes to create more opportunities for newly graduated doctors to undergo housemanship due to an increase in the number of doctors graduating every year, said Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam.

Subramaniam said the number of graduates (doctors) has increased from 2,267 in 2008 to 3,655 in 2012 but the number of centres where they can be trained is only 42 hospitals throughout the country.

"The ministry is therefore considering to place new doctors at polyclinics and hospitals in districts so that they can gain experience, exposure and acquire the necessary skills and the communication capabilities in medical services for two years," he said after opening a seminar on "Housemanship Training in Malaysia" here, Saturday.

Also present was Malaysia Medical Association (MMA) President Datuk Dr N.K.S Tharmaseelan.

Subramaniam said new doctors may also undergo their housemanship at hospitals under the Defence Ministry.


Bootcamp for housemen

KUALA LUMPUR: New doctors may soon undergo their housemanship at army hospitals as the Health Ministry struggles to cope with their large numbers.
“We will be raising the issue with the Defence Ministry to allow housemanship training at their hospitals,” said Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam.
Speaking to reporters after opening a Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) seminar on housemanship training here yesterday, he said 3,700 new doctors enter the healthcare sector annually.
“There are certain hospitals with wards or units with 100 doctors,” he said, adding that the ratio in some hospitals was two or three doctors to one patient.
Dr Subramaniam said that due to this, new doctors may not be getting adequate training, exposure and experience.
He said the ministry was looking at setting up a curriculum for housemen to complete to ensure they had the skills to be competent.
Dr Subramaniam said the ministry was hard-pressed to find places for new doctors to undergo the required two-year housemanship with a “waiting list” that grew by the day.
He said other measures being considered were to send these doctors to serve in primary care clinics, district hospitals and expanding the number of teaching hospitals.
In the long-term, he said the ministry was looking at addressing the huge number of students taking up medicine every year.
“We need to reduce these numbers. It won’t be easy but we have started discussing this matter with the Education Ministry,” said Dr Subramaniam.
MMA president Datuk N.K.S. Tharmaseelan said that unlike in the past, housemen today did not get the opportunity to perform or witness many procedures such as a cesarean delivery.
“It’s easy for them to get disenchanted and disillusioned with becoming doctors because they lack confidence to manage patients on their own,” he said.

Be conscious of your health, says Dr Hazland

KUCHING: The people are urged to be conscious towards their health as the nation progress towards the modern nation by the year 2020.
According to Demak Laut assemblyman Dr Hazland Abang Hipni, taking care of one’s health was important although people were expected lead a busier life as Sarawak aimed to achieve high economy soon.
“A study by the National Health and Morbidity Survey in 2011 reveals that 5.8 million Malaysian suffers from high blood pressure, 6.2 million have high cholesterol and 2.6 million of Malaysians aged 18 and above are suffering from diabetes,” he said.
He was speaking at the ‘I Want Sihat’ camp at SK Tabuan here yesterday.
Dr Hazland added that the people should lead a healthy lifestyle and that there was no point of having much money if most of it were spend on treatment due to various diseases.
“The awareness should start from home and it should be realised that a healthy lifestyle will lead to a happy family,” he said.
Earlier, Health Education officer Hadi Bibi, who represented Kuching Health Department officer Dr Kamarudin lajim said the camp aimed to deliver the correct message on health to the community.
“There are various sources on health but information from the Health Ministry are the most valid and updated and we urge members of the public to take advantage of this programme to gain knowledge and inputs on health issues,” he said.
Dr Hazland at the same event also announced a contribution of RM5,000 to the school for its annual programme.
The two-day programme saw various activities such as health exhibition, food stalls, dance competition and the 10,000 steps programme.

Friday, November 15, 2013

World's first dengue vaccine

KUANTAN: A vaccine to treat dengue fever – the first in the world – is targeted for production in 2018.
Pahang Technology Resources Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Sazali Mohd Nor said the entire project development would take at least five years, noting that the period was necessary to ensure that it was completely fit and safe to be used.
“The first phase of two years involve research and development, construction design, product design and formulation as well as pre-clinical studies on rodents in institutes in Russia.
“During this process, Malaysian scientists will participate via an exchange programme to acquire knowledge and technology.
“The second phase of another two years will involve pre-clinical studies on primates in Malaysia,” he said after the opening of the biotechnology investment and convention here yesterday.
Sazali said that towards the end of the fourth year, the vaccine would be registered with the Health Ministry.
He said the intellectual property of the vaccine would be co-shared by Malaysian and Russian parties.
“By the beginning of the fifth year, pre-marketing and sales will commence. A total of RM240mil will be invested over five years for the three phases,” he said.
He said a special purpose vehicle – Pahang Applied Advance Pharma Sdn Bhd (PAAP) – had been set up to launch a new full-scale project on transfer of technology from Russia to Malaysia.
Among the transfers include training qualified Malaysian personnel in the field of genetic vaccine, intellectual property sharing, research and development of dengue fever vaccine and product commercialisation and construction of a state-of-the-art pharmaceutical plant in Gambang.
Sazali said PAAP would have the right to manufacture, promote and market the product throughout the Asia-Pacific region and Islamic countries.
He said the return of investment was expected to be achieved within two years of production.
Presently, dengue fever is endemic in over 100 countries in Asia, the Pacific, America, Africa and the Caribbean.
Meanwhile, Pahang executive councillor Datuk Mohd Soffi Abdul Razak, who opened the event on behalf of Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob, said Pahang was committed to embracing biotechnology as the way forward to generate investments.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Ceiling of baby ward in Serdang Hospital collapses, fourth incident in three years

KUALA LUMPUR: A portion of the ceiling at the Serdang Hospital newborn babies intensive care unit (ICU) collapsed early Thursday morning.
Pieces of the ceiling collapsed at around 1.30am and covered an area between eight to 10 feet in the wing.
No one was injured in the incident.
The matter was handled internally by the hospital.
Police and Fire and Rescue department sources said they had not received any report of the collapse.
When contacted, a hospital spokesman declined to reveal any more details of the incident and said the management would release a statement on the matter soon.
This is the fourth incident at the hospital in three years.
On Sept 30, parts of the ceiling at the maternity ward of the hospital collapsed.
In August last year, three nurses and a medical officer were injured when 15 ceiling pieces collapsed in the hospital’s emergency department.
The Health Ministry's deputy director-general of health (medical) Datuk Dr Jeyaindran Sinnadurai said the Ministry viewed the incident very seriously and said the Minister had instructed the Public Works Department to look into the matter.
“He will also visit the site. Efforts into this have already begun since the last incident at the hospital.
“This is because the ceiling slabs are hung from the concrete above it and due to material failure they give way,” he said.

Exposed by WikiLeaks, TPPA draft backs fears of dearer drugs

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 14 — Pressure is set to mount on Putrajaya over the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) after whistleblower group WikiLeaks released portions of the secretive trade deal that support fears it may force Malaysians to pay more for medicine.
According to the draft of Intellectual Property (IP) Rights chapter published online by WikiLeaks, the United States — seen as the key driver of the deal — is pushing for a five-year ban against the introduction of generic equivalents to patented medicine.
This would also apply from the date a drug undergoes marketing approval in the signatory state, rather than from the date it was originally patented.
In Article QQ.E.16 titled “Submission of Information or Evidence Concerning the Safety or Efficacy of a New Pharmaceutical Product”, it was proposed that a country shall not “authorise a third person to market a same or a similar product” in its territory for at least five years from the date of the approval given to the original product.
This may prolong the period that cheaper generic versions of the drug cannot be made available, a fear that members of the medical fraternity and opposition lawmakers opposed to the murky trade deal have previously voiced.
Malaysia was among the countries opposed to the proposal, together with Australia, Peru, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, Singapore, and Brunei.
The same section of the draft also sought for the same moratorium to apply to any similar generic medicine produced in territories aside from the signatory state without consent from the original producer.
The US also wanted a three-year ban to unbranded versions of patented medicine that contained a previously-approved chemical ingredient but is undergoing approval.
Articles in the document concerning US pharmaceuticals were followed by a blank placeholder for a specific provision applying to “biologics”, suggesting that the restrictions could be broadened even further by the US in later negotiations.
“Biologics” refer to organic medical products, such as medicinal vaccine, cells or tissues created through biological processes instead of through chemical synthesis.
In the US and European Union, almost all biologics are brand-named since generic versions—called “biosimilars”—were previously not authorised due to the complexity and difficulties in making them identical to the original producer’s version.
In August, Putrajaya vowed to reject any proposal that would block Malaysians from accessing affordable medicine in the agreement, noting widespread concerns raised over a likely surge in healthcare prices should the trade deal be formalised.
Local resistance to the TPPA has been such that it has united often-opposed groups and personalities — including former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and archrival Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim — under the umbrella of fighting Malaysia’s inclusion in the agreement
Critics have regularly raised concern over costlier healthcare from the TPPA, among others, saying the free trade agreement would enable pharmaceutical giants to patent medicines and obtain longer exclusivity.
The exposé by WikiLeaks yesterday comes as chief negotiators of each country are set to meet in the decisive summit in Salt Lake City, US on November 19 to 24.
The 95-page, 30,000-word chapter on copyright, patents and other intellectual property issues was obtained after the last round of TPPA meet in Brunei between August 26 and 30, and contains annotations detailing each country’s negotiating positions, unlike previous leaks.
WikiLeaks also noted that while Australia is the nation most likely to support US negotiators’ hardline position, countries such as Malaysia, Vietnam and Chile are the ones most opposed.
“If instituted, the TPP’s IP regime would trample over individual rights and free expression, as well as ride roughshod over the intellectual and creative commons,” WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange said in a separate statement.
“If you read, write, publish, think, listen, dance, sing or invent; if you farm or consume food; if you’re ill now or might one day be ill, the TPP has you in its crosshairs.”
The TPPA is a free trade agreement that has been negotiated by the US, Malaysia and nine other nations as part of the larger Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership since 2010.
Critics allege that the agreement has since been co-opted by powerful corporations to allow them to trample over existing consumer, worker and environmental rights in signatory countries.
Up until yesterday, it had not been definitively known how much — if any — of the allegations against the agreement were true.
WikiLeaks is an international whistleblower organisation that rose to prominence in 2010 when it released troves of confidential US diplomatic cables that revealed political intrigue, espionage and other — often embarrassing — revelations involving American embassies across the globe.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

More specialists for mental patients

IPOH: WITH about 10 per cent of Malaysia's population projected to experience mental illness by 2020,  measures are being put in place to address the problem.
Dr Raba'iah Mohd Salleh, the director of Hospital Bahagia Ulu Kinta in Tanjung Rambutan, said more psychiatrists, psychologists and family medical specialists would be groomed to attend to patients with mental illness, as well as offer home care services.
There are 252 psychiatrists, 80 clinical psychologists and 228 family medical specialists in health clinics to detect and treat patients with mental illness.
Dr Raba'iah said more health clinics and mental health community centres would be set up.
"Hospital Bahagia is no longer a place to treat patients with mental illness unless they have acute and chronic problems. We now encourage family members to care for their loved ones. On the Health Ministry's part, we will provide home care services (if they have registered with us) and offer assistance on how to attend to those with mental illness. This will also bring us closer to society," she said after the launch of the mental health carnival by Hulu Kinta assemblyman Datuk Aminuddin Md Hanafiah here yesterday.
It was the first time such a carnival was held at a hypermarket.
She said that despite the recent spate of cases involving criminals with mental illness, there were no plans to make it mandatory for everyone to undergo mental health screenings.
Asked if mental illness among Malaysians was at a serious level, Dr Raba'iah said it was the same as in other parts of the world.
"It is just that we have no issues discussing it openly now compared with previously."

Govt upgrading hospitals in the Klang Valley

KUALA LUMPUR (Nov 11, 2013): The government commitment to provide patients with the best healthcare is proven by the upgrading of hospitals in the Klang Valley, especially Kuala Lumpur Hospital (KLH).
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S.Subramaniam said the HKL upgrading projects include the RM600 million mother and childcare complex and the RM46 million for a building to add wards.
"Another RM60 million has been allocated for a carpark capable of accommodating 2,000 vehicles scheduled for completion next year.
"We are also upgrading other hospitals in the Klang Valley so that patients do not converge on HKL," he told reporters after presenting Deepavali contributions at Orthopaedic Ward, HKL here today.
Besides infrastructure, attention is also given to equipment to ensure high quality services and in line with the latest medical technology. Established in 1870, HKL receives some 16,000 patients daily. – Bernama

New guidelines for TCM practitioners

KUALA LUMPUR (Nov 11, 2013): Traditional and complementary medicine (T&CM) practitioners will have to register with the T&CM Council that will soon be established once the T&CM Act 2013 is enforced next year, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam.
"Though there may be parties that will not be happy to adhere to the new act, we have taken on a role to have traditional medicine complementing modern treatments.
"It may be difficult in the short term after the act is enforced, but in the long term it will benefit the people and the country," he said at the International Conference on Siddha Medicine at Berjaya Times Square Hotel today.
Among the 11 hospitals are Port Dickson Hospital, Putrajaya Hospital, Kepala Batas Hospital (Penang), and Sultan Ismail Hospital in Johor Baru. The ministry is now conducting registration for local T&CM practitioners and has so far recorded 13,000 of them.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Doc: NFK’s surplus just isn’t enough to cope

PETALING JAYA: A nephrologist who volunteers at a haemodialysis centre has refuted claims that RM5mil is a huge surplus for the National Kidney Foundation (NKF).
Dr Liew Boon Seng, who has been providing his service to two NGO haemodialysis centres in Sabah, said the surplus reserve was not much in view of the foundation’s 1,557 patients.
He said if NKF picked up the Government’s tab of RM50 subsidy per session and 13 sessions per month for each of the 200 patients still waiting for the subsidy approvals, it would cost it RM1.56mil a year, not including the cost of Erythropoietin injection.
“How long should NKF fill the void while waiting for subsidy approvals? What if the approvals never come or the applications are rejected?”
Dr Liew was responding to The Star’s report on Friday where a life member of NKF had pointed out that the foundation had surplus income of RM5.644mil as of January last year and hence, should pick up the haemodialysis tab for their poor patients, even if the Health Ministry had not approved the subsidies.
This follows The Star’s front page report Thursday highlighting the plight of haemodialysis patients in NGO-run centres who had not received approvals for government subsidy.
The problem became acute since mid-last year and approvals became negligible this year. Some applications have yet to be approved since 2011.
On NKF’s accumulated savings, he said that NGO centres also faced increasing number of patients and to set up 20-chair hemodialysis centre in any cities would cost up to RM4mil.
Meanwhile, in response to the Ministry’s reply to the front page story that it had not stopped funding for the poor in NGO-run centres, MAA Medicare Kidney Charity Fund senior vice-president Aliyah Karen said it should respond to patients’ application forms quickly.
Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham said rejected and pending haemodialysis subsidy applications were mainly due to incomplete supporting documents relating to socio-economic status or that the NGO or private centre had not been approved by the ministry.

Diabetes among young on the rise, says deputy health minister

GEORGE TOWN, Nov 10 — More young people, some as young as seven, are suffering from Type 2 diabetes (T2D) and the figure is currently on the rising trend.
Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya said it was estimated that 2.6 million Malaysians were affected by the disease and the figure could be double if unreported cases were taken into account.
He said more young people were suffering from diabetes due to the spike in the rate of obesity which is related to their imbalanced eating habits.
“Almost one in three Malaysians is either overweight or obese, placing them at a high risk for diabetes, especially young people,” he told reporters after flagging-off a walkathon in conjunction with World Diabetes Day here today.
Dr Hilmi said studies also revealed that young diabetics were usually obese, and their condition could be traced to eating too much unhealthy food and having a sedentary lifestyle.
“Due to lack of awareness of the disease, parents continue to feed their children with ‘junk’ food and I hope all parents begin guiding their children to practise a healthy eating lifestyle.”
He said the disease was not just about having excessive sugar in the blood system but could also affect the patient’s vital organs like the heart, kidneys, nerves and eyes.
Nevertheless, Penang Hospital’s Consultant Endocrinologist and Head of Endocrinology and Diabetes Unit Dr Nor Azizah Aziz said diabetes was a chronic disease which could be prevented by practising a balanced eating lifestyle and exercise.
“For those affected, diabetes can be managed to delay or prevent its complications,” she said, adding that apart from bad eating habits, irregular eating hours also contributed to the rising trend of T2D among younger people.
Dr Nor Azizah advised Malaysians to prevent, manage diabetes and its complications by maintaining a healthy lifestyle and making better choices in their diet. — Bernama

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Ministry reviewing entry qualifications

New Straits Times

THE Health Ministry is looking into the possibility of increasing the minimum entry qualifications into medical colleges in a move to improve the standard of healthcare in the country and the competency of doctors.

The ministry, together with the Ministry of Education, has embarked on a study to review the existing entry requirements.
According to the Malaysian Medical Council website, the minimum entry requirement into medical school currently is five Bs at SPM level in biology, physics, chemistry, mathematics or additional mathematics and another subject.
"We're investigating whether the minimum qualification needs to be re-looked. Nursing colleges started with three credits which was later increased to five.
"Similarly, we are looking at this possible scenario for those applying to medical colleges," said the ministry's deputy director-general of health (medical) Datuk Dr Jeyaindran Sinnadurai.
On claims that many junior doctors are not as competent or passionate about their job because of insufficient training, he admitted this was partly true.
"We have had several meetings to address the training of house officers (HOs). For example, their training used to run for 12 months, but now it has been extended to 24 months."
He said this was because those trained overseas did not have similar exposure to patients, as local graduates did. Hence, it was necessary for them to relearn various aspects of all the six mandatory disciplines in medicine.
"Many are very stressed out because they have not been exposed to this type of clinical practice in their medical schools and it comes as a culture shock."
He also said the flexi-system introduced some time ago for house officers had some limitations in that it did not give the HOs ownership and accountability for their patients.
"To overcome this we have made several modifications and are confident that it will address these areas of concern.
"With our proposed new system, we're certain that HOs will have adequate supervision to ensure they take ownership of their patient and be accountable for their management. This will result in them working 65 to 75 hours a week, which we think is acceptable," he added.
To ensure adequate exposure to clinical procedures and other ward-based work, the ministry is working on implementing a one HO to four patients ratio.
Dr Jeyaindran said that when he was a HO in the early 1980s, it used to be a 1:20 patients ratio. While the original ministry quota was 1:14, today it's 1:3 patients. Other countries, such as Singapore have a ratio of 1:8 while in the United Kingdom it is 1:12.
"Still, some HOs are complaining about too much work and too many hours. It was recently brought up that HOs shouldn't work more than 60 hours a week.
"However, they should consider their housemanship as a period of training, not focusing on how many hours they worked but the amount of experience that was gained."
He said of the 144 government hospitals, 48 are designated as training hospitals for HOs, with close to 35,000 beds.
The ministry is hoping to open two more training hospitals soon.
"Over and above this, as non-communicable diseases (NCD) are beginning to be a burden to the healthcare system, we're looking at HOs to be trained at primary care clinics (klinik kesihatan) under the supervision of family physicians.
"This pilot project will start early next year. We need to realign the training of our future doctors based on changing needs of the nation and evolving disease patterns."
Dr Jeyaindran, however, does not foresee medical graduates becoming jobless in the near future, despite the fears expressed by the MMA.
"Admittedly there will come a time when they will have to wait a while to find suitable training posts. They will not get a vacancy straight away. They'll have to apply and wait their turn. It's a worldwide phenomenon.
"It's not a minibus, you can't shove in as many people at one time as you like. And, when a graduate applies to the government, he or she has to go through the process; it's not about not having enough posts."
He said the ministry was also studying the current status of medical colleges, particularly the number of students admitted per year.
"There are close to 360 medical colleges all over the world. Locally, we are producing about 4,000 medical graduates annually.
"This does not include the 2,000 to 3,000 who come back every year. But we don't really know the numbers because many are privately funded, mostly by their parents.
"The study has already been mooted and the outcome will be out next year."
On accusations that there aren't sufficient postings for HOs, Dr Jeyaindran said there was enough capacity.
"We have 9,500 medical postings and 10,000 available medical posts, so there is capacity.
"When we re-look the numbers, 9,000 might be the optimal figure but we are changing gradually, it must be a progressive move.
"How fast we do it will depend on the outcome of the two studies.
"The data will help us make rational decisions. We have to ask ourselves what is a safe number to attain in delivering safe healthcare; it's a numbers game.
"We are getting there but it may take a longer time."
He added that as of now, there were no plans to reduce the duration of HO training.
"We are still maintaining the need for HOs to undergo two years of housemanship and two years of compulsory service.
"If you come from an unrecognised college, you must sit for a compulsory exam. Unfortunately, it was decided that this medical qualifying exam can be taken almost anywhere.
"Before, it was only available in Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Universiti Malaya (UM) and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM).
"MMC strongly feels that the standard should be the same.
"Although we have many local colleges, the final assessment is very different from university to university.
"Building two, three or four more hospitals is not the solution, and MMA's suggestion to have training hospitals for medical colleges is not the answer either.
"We must have specialists of sufficient seniority; we want to get it right the first time and not make hasty decisions."