Thursday, January 30, 2014

Dengue forces city-based clinics to open longer

PETALING JAYA, Jan 30 — Clinics located primarily within major cities could soon be open later at night due to the increase of dengue cases.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said longer clinic operating hours are currently being discussed but will be finalised next week.
“This effort of extra operating hours for clinics will lessen the burden (on accident and emergency departments).
“Not all dengue cases require patients to be admitted into hospitals, so depending on the severity (of the case), clinics can also provide appropriate healthcare,” he said.
There were 2,229 reported dengue cases in week four (Jan 20 — 26), making a total of up to 7,370 cases and nine deaths so far this year.
Subramaniam said the ministry had decided to increase the ‘Dengue Prevention Programme’ primarily within the Petaling district. 
He believed the cause of dengue was primarily from within homes, not just outdoors.
“Mosquitoes can breed anywhere and in places we do not expect.
“We are currently dealing with a different kind of dengue mosquito.
“They have a stronger ability to infect people. They can even breed on a leaf. The government is doing its best,” he added.
Subramaniam stressed that the government would require the cooperation of the public in order to overcome this problem.
Meanwhile, Subramaniam also stressed on the importance of information technology with healthcare. He said that with technological advancements today, people can easily monitor and acquire health information from various sources and detect illnesses at early stages.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Dengue cases skyrocket

KAJANG: There has been an alarming rise in dengue cases in the country – more than three times the number recorded over the same period last year.
As of Wednesday, a total of 6,155 cases were reported, an increase of 243% over the same period in 2013.
The number of deaths has also doubled, with 10 reported so far compared with only five in January last year.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subra­maniam said Selangor had the most number of dengue cases with 3,168, making up 51% of the total number of cases.

“Two of the 10 deaths were in the Hulu Langat district,” he told reporters after a visit to dengue hotspots here yesterday.
Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya recorded 666 and 502 cases respectively. There were 333 cases in Negri Sembilan, Malacca (241), Kelantan (173), Penang (166), Sabah (110), Terengganu (100), Sarawak (85), Kedah (66), Pahang (53) and Perlis (20).
He said the sharp increase of cases was worrying and urged the public to be more vigilant in ensuring homes and surroundings were not breeding grounds for Aedes mosquitos.
“Generally, people are highly aware of the dangers of dengue but they tend to overlook places that may turn out to be Aedes breeding grounds,” he said.
The latest figures indicate that the rise in dengue infections might be worse this year, if efforts to destroy the Aedes mosquitoes were not intensified,
A total of 43,346 cases were recorded last year, with 92 deaths.
“Selangor had the highest number of cases with 23,852 or 55% with 25 deaths,” Dr Subramaniam said, adding that Petaling, Hulu Langat and Gombak districts had been categorised as dengue hotspots.
More than four million premises were checked nationwide and about 15,000 compounds were issued amounting to RM7.7mil.
“The ministry will step up its efforts, particularly in dengue hotspots through its on-going Ops Gempur Aedes, to destroy mosquito breeding grounds,” said Dr Subramaniam.
“From Jan 1 to 22, about 168,000 premises were checked nationwide and 411 compounds were issued with the fines amounting to RM205,500,” he said.
the measures being taken to address the dengue menace includes biological control using Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (a type of bacteria) spray to kill mosquito larvae.
“We will use more temephos spray (a pesticide) to kill larvae and adult mosquitos, and autocidal traps (a new method to trap and kill larvae and mosquitos),” he said.
The ministry’s Vector Borne Disease Sector head Dr Rose Nani Mudin told The Starthat the increase in dengue cases was due to various factors.
“Of late, there have been more cases globally and the disease is being spread faster because of human mobility.
“Another factor is the weather. Rainwater collected in rubbish bins, even as little as one teaspoonful, is enough for Aedes mosquito to breed,” she said.
Dr Rose said about 70% of Aedes breeding grounds were in residential areas as the mosquitos were attracted to highly populated areas.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Socso baffled

KUALA LUMPUR (Jan 22, 2014): An overwhelming majority of the 1.9 million workers registered with the Social Security Organisation (Socso) appear uninterested in using the organisation's free health screening facility.
"This is appalling. It is an opportunity given to workers to be screened for free but only a fraction, or 326,690, took up the offer," Socso deputy chief executive (operations) Datuk Dr Mohammed Azman Aziz Mohammed told theSun.
Azman said 65% of those who used the voucher for the health screening did so for the first time in their life – with startling results: 222 women who had a mammogram for the first time found suspicious-looking lumps, 37.9% were overweight, 18% obese, 16.1% diabetic, 39.9% had high blood pressure and 58.9% high cholesterol.
"If these people had not gone for the health screening, they would not have known that they were victims of these non-communicable diseases (NCDs)," he said, adding that the vouchers were given to workers aged above 40.
Socso allocated RM200 million to finance the one-off health screening of workers at 3,068 clinics nationwide under their Health Screening Programme (HSP) for early detection of NCDs.
"The validity of the voucher was until Dec 31 last year but with the very poor take-up rate, we have decided to extend the period to June this year," said Azman, adding that workers must be serious in using the free voucher especially with the number of NCDs going up alarmingly in the working population due to unhealthy lifestyle habits.
Last year, Socso also took the initiative to go to 112 companies under a joint programme with them to do health screening for the workers.
The objective of the HSP is to promote health awareness of NCDs, ensure early detection of NCDs, prevent disability and death due to NCDs, prevent the loss of income due to NCDs and improve human capital resource and productivity through a vibrant business environment besides stimulating nation's economy.
This year another 257,000 workers who attained the age of 40 years were issued the vouchers.
"Our biggest challenge is to get the workers to participate in the HSP and I strongly urge all those who have not done the health screening to do so immediately as probably it could either save your life or your quality of life," said Azman.
He also urged employers to play a proactive role by getting employees who received the vouchers to go for the health screening as they too would benefit in the long run.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Health Ministry formulates policy to control diabetes

PUTRAJAYA : The Health Ministry is to publish policy briefs outlining current issues, challenges, opportunities for improvement and action to be taken to empower the diabetes control programme in Malaysia.

Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said the policy was important and must be published to boost the knowledge and spirit of diabetics as it could better clarify steps that could be taken to control the disease. 
"Diabetic patients play an important role in making a positive behavioural change towards achieving the target of treatment, reducing the risks of complication from diabetes and ensuring a good quality of life," he told a media conference after attending a Diabetes Policy Round Table Series Meeting at the ministry, here, today. 
The inaugural meeting was organised by the ministry and the Danish Embassy in Malaysia. It was opened by Princess Benedikte of Denmark who was on an official visit to Malaysia from Jan 11 to today.  
Subramaniam said the main objective of the meeting was to get the views and inputs from the participants, who comprised doctors, nurses, dietitians and specialists, to seek the best method to boost the diabetes control programme in Malaysia. 
"Until to date, the ministry has recorded 2.6 million diabetics in Malaysia and the number is expected to go up. 
"There is a possibility that some of diabetics do not get complete and proper treatment and so this policy will be important for them," he said. 
Among the factors contributing towards diabetes is food intake, and in this regard, the people of Malaysia must adopt a healthy intake of food, especially by reducing consumption of sweet foods for optimum healthcare, he said.-- BERNAMA

Entry requirements for medical school may be tightened, says Subramaniam

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 17 — The government may tighten the minimum entry requirement for students who want to pursue higher education in medicine, in future.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam(picture) said a study and discussion with the Education Ministry had been carried out on this matter.
He said the proposal was to ensure that only truly qualified students would take up medicine and in the long-run, would control the number of new medical graduates entering the job market.
“Now it’s (minimum entry requirement) 4Bs. We may raise it because a lot of students are getting A’s now. We will also make this mandatory for students who are taking up medicine overseas,” he told reporters after the Thaipusam celebration at Batu Caves, near here, today.
There are currently 33 medical schools in the country which produce about 5,000 new medical graduates each year and causing an influx of new doctors in the job market.
“Our ratio has almost reached one doctor per 600 population and as far as training is concerned, the Health Ministry ensures that everybody will get adequate amount of training. We won’t compromise on the level of training and exposure,” he said.
Dr Subramaniam said the government had also frozen the registration of new medical schools in the country and applications to increase the student intake into their medical programmes.
Earlier, Dr Subramaniam who is also MIC deputy president, said Thaipusam at Batu Caves this year had attracted some one million visitors over the past 10 days.
He said a medical team from the ministry, assisted by members of the Red Crescent Society and St. John Ambulance as well as the Fire and Rescue Department, had been on duty at the site to provide medical help to those in need.
Up to today, the medical camp had registered 85 cases of visitors seeking medical help, he added. — Bernama

School-in-hospital expanded

KUALA LUMPUR: The "Hati Nuraini" committee plans to extend its school-in-hospital (SDH) initiative to three more hospitals this year following good response.

Its patron, Puan Sri Noorainee Abdul Rahman, who is the wife of Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, said two of the schools would be set up in East Malaysia.
"We plan to introduce the programme at Sarawak General Hospital in Kuching and Children and Women Hospital (Hospital Likas) in Sabah. Both hospitals will house the first SDH in East Malaysia.
"We also plan to introduce another SDH at Tuanku Jaafar Hospital in Negri Sembilan," she said after visiting University Malaya Medical Centre's SDH, which began its first schooling session here yesterday.
Noorainee hoped the three schools could be set up before the end of this year to ensure that children who were hospitalised would not be left out in their education.
At present, she said, 10 hospitals ran the SDH programme, which had 19,240 participants since it was introduced in July 2011. Serdang Hospital recorded the highest number of student enrolment with 3,173 pupils.
Besides the UMMC and Serdang Hospital, other hospitals offering the SDH programme are Selayang Hospital, Kuala Lumpur Hospital, Ampang Hospital, Sultanah Aminah Johor Hospital, Universiti Sains Malaysia Hospital in Kubang Krian, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Medical Centre, Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah Hospital in Temerloh and Sultanah Fatimah Specialist Hospital in Muar.
"The response to the programme has been encouraging. The SDH programme offers a fun learning concept," Noorainee said.
"Children can attend class, gain knowledge and participate in fun activities during their stay at the hospital."
"Hati Nurani" is under the Nurul Yaqeen Foundation, which is collaborating with the Education and Health Ministries to realise the SDH goal.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Selangor to Health Ministry: Review cleaner’s contract

PETALING JAYA, Jan 10 — The Selangor government has asked the Health Ministry to review its contract with Radicare (M) Sdn Bhd.
Selangor executive councillor for health, entrepreneurship development, science and innovation for health Dr Daroyah Alwi said it was time for the ministry to review the contract, given the recent decision by Radicare to terminate its contract with a sanitation service sub-contractor had resulted in five hospitals in the state facing major hygiene issues.
“If Radicare said it terminated Alam Bersih Sdn Bhd’s contract because the company was not able to carry out its job, then it goes to show that Radicare has been negligent,” she said.
“They (Radicare) should have carried out proper background checks on Alam Bersih before hiring them. 
“The company has put public health at risk as a result of its negligence.”
Dr Daroyah said the ministry should review Radicare’s contract and allow other companies to bid for the work to avoid a monopoly. 
“Hospital operators should have their own sanitation department or be able to engage small companies to carry out the job,” she added.
Selangor health department director Dr Azman Abu Bakar said five out of 10 hospitals were affected by Radicare’s decision to terminate its agreement with the sub-contractor, leaving medical staff in the affected hospitals to take over cleaning duties. 
“It’s ridiculous as my medical staff were forced to sweep the floor, clean toilets and discard thrash, among other things,” he said.
“Banting Hospital was the worst hit as there was only one worker on duty instead of the usual 35.”
Dr Azman said the department will not hesitate to take action against Radicare for the fiasco. 
Government hospital cleaning contractor Radicare Sdn Bhd moved yesterday to assure the public the situation at hospitals in Selangor would be back to normal today.
A spokesman said it had re-appointed its former sub-contractor Harta Maintenance Sdn Bhd to carry out cleaning services.
“As of now, Harta Maintenance will take up its former responsibilities and operate according to the ministry’s health and safety regulations.
“Alam Bersih lacked the manpower to deal with the demand and workload at certain hospitals. They also lack the skills to dispose of clinical waste.”
The spokesman, however, decline to comment on why the company had appointed Alam Bersih to carry out the job in the first place. 
Radicare began offering sanitation and waste disposal services to hospitals nationwide in 1996.

Ministry To Implement Health Transformation Plan - Subramaniam

PUTRAJAYA, Jan 8 (Bernama) -- The Health Ministry will implement its Health Transformation Plan this year with the aim of providing the best health care for Malaysians.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S.Subramaniam said the plan was among its efforts and commitment to ensure that the people received optimum health services.

He said Malaysia has been internationally recognised at 18th place as an effective healthcare provider by Bloomberg in its August 2013 report.

"There are four core aspects to the Malaysian Health Transformation Plan. First, to strengthen basic health care and promote a healthy lifestyle.

"Second, to improve the services and management system; third, to develop a human resource master plan to enhance the skills of doctors and ensure there are enough doctors nationwide," he told a press conference here Wednesday.

The fourth aspect involves implementing an infrastructure master plan for facilities in hospitals including adding 15,000 beds in government and private hospitals nationwide, he said.

Also present was Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya.

"At present there are 50,000 beds in both government and private hospitals and it's inadequate to accommodate the expected increase in patients," he said.

Subramaniam said to date the ministry handled 1,831 community clinics, 178 1Malaysia clinics, 919 health clinics, 106 mother and child clinics and 140 hospitals nationwide.

On a separate note, he said following the high incidence of dengue last year, the ministry would continue its prevention and awareness campaign on the dangers of the fever and distribute larvicides (Abate), particularly in Selangor and the Federal Territory which recorded the highest number of cases.


Monday, January 06, 2014

20pc of children are depressed

KUALA LUMPUR: THE number of children with poor mental health is rising,   with 20 per cent found to be suffering from stress, anxiety and depression in the latest National Health Morbidity Survey (NHMS).
The survey, conducted in 2011, said there were more children aged between 5 and 15 suffering from mental health issues or were prone to mental disorders, compared with the number from the NHMS conducted in 2006.
Deputy director-general of Health (Public Health) Datuk Dr Lokman Hakim Sulaiman told the New Straits Times the NHMS revealed that the figure stood at 13 per cent in 1996.
"It was at 19.4 per cent in 2006 and reached 20 per cent in 2011.
"Stress, anxiety and depression are the common mental health conditions from which students suffer.
"Some also suffer from schizo-phrenia, a severe form of mental illness."
The NHMS used to be conducted every 10 years, but has been held every five years since 2006.
Dr Lokman said the Healthy Mind Programme survey conducted last year revealed seven per cent of 19,919 Form Four students from 157 schools showed signs of severe and extremely severe stress, anxiety and depression.
The mental health screening was carried out based on the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale, where students answered a set of questionnaires.
The growing number has compelled the authorities to extend the screening programme in schools to cover Forms Two to Five students. Previously, it only covered Form Four students.
Dr Lokman said poor mental health could be the result of pressure on students from the high expectations of parents and teachers in academic excellence and individual personality, as well as social, family and interpersonal problems.
"Mental health problems cause major changes in a person's thinking, emotional state and behaviour, and disrupt the person's ability to work and carry on with personal relationships.
"Children and adolescents are assets to the nation's development.
"To achieve maximum potential, students have to develop self-identity, good self-esteem and be ready to accept life challenges in preparation for adulthood."
Poor mental health, he said, could be identified through emotional and behavioural symptoms.
"Students with poor mental health have low self-esteem, suffer from sadness or restlessness, show poor performance in school and have relationship problems.
"There are also mental and behavioural problems, like truancy, bullying, vandalism, substance abuse, tendency to self-harm and suicidal behaviour, that are tell-tale signs."
Dr Lokman said there were resources to support students who had poor mental health, including counselling and psychological and social service programmes by schools.
"For example, the Education Ministry has a school counsellor to student ratio of 1:500.
"It also has a referral system to health facilities."
He said schools should incorporate the Healthy Mind Policy in the existing school policy and conduct the Mental Health Awareness Week programme, which would see the participation of parent-teacher associations.
"Schools should provide social support to children through peer education groups and occasionally conduct courses on parenting skills."
On why the screening programme was not extended to cover all primary school pupils and secondary school students, Dr Lokman said the screening tools available were only suitable for those between 13 and 17.
"For primary schools, mental health promotion activities are carried out through other programmes, such as 'Pembimbing Rakan Sebaya'."
Dr Lokman said the Health Ministry would train more school counsellors and healthcare providers to detect early symptoms of mental health problems and suicidal behaviour.
He stressed that family and good parenting played a vital role in helping children and adolescents deal with mental health issues.
"This is because conflicts between parents and in the family environment, domestic violence and physical, emotional or sexual abuse can cause mental and emotional disturbances."
On Dec 13, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said school counsellors would be given extra training to increase their expertise in counselling students to tackle mental health problems.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Health Ministry to stub out illegal cigs

PETALING JAYA: The Health Ministry will be carrying out a series of integrated enforcement activities to clamp down on the sale or purchase of illicit cigarettes.
The ministry’s disease control division director Dr Chong Chee Kheong said to circumvent the shortage of manpower in enforcing the amendment to the Control of Tobacco Product Regulations 2004, they would work together with agencies such as the Customs Department, Domestic Trade, Co­ope­ratives and Consumerism Ministry and the Malaysian Mari­time En­­forcement Agency.
“The enforcement activities will be conducted thoroughly at the state and district level with the collaboration of these inter-agencies,” said Dr Chong in an e-mail interview.
Effective Jan 1, Regulation 15(4A) states that no person shall sell or offer for sale, buy or has in his possession any packet or carton of cigarette that is not printed with the text required and health warning images as specified in this regulation.
“Regulation 15 is the requirement for the labelling and packaging for the packet or carton of cigarettes. Any packets or cartons of cigarettes which do not comply with this requirement are considered as illegal or contraband cigarettes,” he said.
To date, the Health Ministry has conducted a briefing session with all personnel from the non-communicable disease section, inspectorate and legal officers to ensure that everyone is familiar with this requirement, he said.
He added that integrated and routine enforcement activities were part of the National Strategic Action Plan on Tobacco Control, which was developed by the ministry and would be carried out between 2014 to 2018.
Dr Chong said the police and local authorities would also assist in activities targeting illegal or contraband cigarettes, cigarettes sold below the retail selling price, and cigarettes without the pictorial health warning.