Saturday, May 31, 2014

More family medicine specialists soon

PETALING JAYA: More family medicine specialists are being trained to beef up primary health care and reduce congestion in hospitals.
Health director-general Datuk Seri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said there were now 238 family medicine specialists in health clinics and 70 in university hospitals.
“We still don’t have enough of these specialists and we hope more doctors will pursue a course in family medicine,” he said after the launch of the Primary Care Mini Conference 2014 held in conjunction with World Family Doctors’ Day yesterday.
Dr Noor Hisham said with the small numbers of such specialists, their services were only available in 25% of the 900 health clinics nationwide.
Each year, the ministry offers 60 post-graduate scholarships for doctors in the government service to pursue a Master in Family Medicine specialisation, a four-year programme under local universities.
Dr Noor Hisham said the failure rate, however, was high due to the depth and wide spectrum of fields to cover.
“Half of them failed the course and had to re-sit,” he said, adding that the training of the specialists was part of the 1Care health care transformation efforts to provide better care in the community and reduce congestion in hospitals.
“The presence of family medicine specialists helps improve the quality of services in health clinics, with services such as laboratory services, diagnostic imaging and specialist-category drugs.
“Services in health clinics will also be broadened to include community mental health, community-based rehabilitation for children with special needs and methadone replacement therapy for recovering drug addicts.”
Prof Datuk Dr D.M. Thuraiappah, convenor of the World Organisation of Family Doctors’ Working Party in Quality and Safety in Family Medicine, said general practitioners sent too many cases deemed “normal” to specialists, resulting in patients making unnecessary visits to hospitals and incurring high costs.
Family medicine specialists function as family doctors like GPs and family physicians, but they have more in-depth knowledge and expertise.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Ukraine visas still needed for Malaysian students to Crimea

PETALING JAYA: Malaysians planning to study medicine in Crimea must still obtain visas and authorisation from Ukraine said the country’s ambassador to Malaysia Ihor Humennyi.
He said the annexation of the Crimean peninsula by the Russian Federation is neither recognised by the United Nations or Malaysia and students risked being caught in a quandary if they by-passed Ukraine’s immigration laws.
“Crimea remains part of the Ukraine and students will need visas as well as Special Permission to enter Crimea,” he said.
Humennyi said those who fly directly into Crimea via Moscow or through alternative means risked arrest and deportation if they are caught at Ukraine’s borders.
He said the Special Permission requirement was imposed recently to prevent the flow of illegal arms and separatists into Crimea.
He gave his assurances that Malaysian medical students would have no problem getting the Special Permission.
However, he pointed out that the situation in Crimea was volatile and he advised students to opt for universities in other parts of Ukraine.
“There are at least five other medical schools in Ukraine which are recognised by the Malaysian Medical Council,” he said.
Humennyi said some 2,000 Malaysians had studied in Crimea over the last decade.
He said based on their records, only a handful of Malaysian students remained in Crimea.
“We are ready to help these students should the need arise.
“We hope they are able to graduate,” he said.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

‘Diabetes time bomb’

KUALA LUMPUR: MALAYSIANS tend to follow a “see-food” diet — they eat what they see — and this is unwise, especially for the overweight, as this puts them at greater risk of developing diabetes, said senior consultant endocrinologist Professor Dr Chan Siew Pheng.
“We have many fast-food outlets and mamak stalls that are open 24 hours a day, but the practice of eating any time and more than the required need, needs to be changed.
“There are many Malaysians who are not yet diabetic, but at a high risk for developing diabetes because of risk factors, such as a family history of diabetes, being overweight, and/or living a sedentary life. They may also be pre-diabetic.
“Diabetes usually does not occur alone. Diabetics frequently also have hypertension, dyslipidaemia (low HDL-cholesterol, high triglyceride) and abdominal obesity.
“Each of these increases the risk of heart disease and stroke on its own, but when they all occur in the same individual, this person is a ‘time bomb’ for having a heart attack or stroke.
“Therefore, diabetics should have their blood pressure, lipid profile and waist circumference checked and treated accordingly.”
Dr Chan said Malaysia had a huge burden of diabetes with prevalence of 20 per cent of adults above the age of 30 years, or one in five adults, having diabetes .
“As many as 50 per cent of diabetics are unaware that they have it and the same percentage of people do not experience any symptoms.”
In many cases, the delay in recognising that diabetes is present could be up to seven to 10 years, during which the high blood glucose causes irreversible damage, said Dr Chan.
She said, at the pre-diabetic stage, there is an increased risk for heart attacks, and so blood pressure and cholesterol should be checked, and treated to reduce the risk.
Body weight should be assessed, and weight reduction is recommended if the person is overweight,said Dr Chan.
“The good news is that progression to diabetes can be delayed or prevented by up to 58 per cent if these individuals increase physical activity (for example, exercising 150 minutes a week) and restrict their diet to reduce five to seven per cent of their body weight.”

Drop in HIV cases

KUALA LUMPUR: New HIV cases in Malaysia recorded a drop of more than 50 per cent in 11 years, from 6,978 cases in 2002 to 3,393 cases last year, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam.

He said new HIV infection among drug addicts, a group that previously recorded the highest rate of new infections, had also shown a drop.
“This is the outcome of the Reducing Harm programme (Injection tools and needle exchange programme and Methadone Replacement Therapy) being launched simultaneously by the ministry, Malaysian AIDS Council and affliates in 2006.
“New HIV infection among drug addicts has since then decreased from 53 per cent in 2006 to only 22 per cent last year,” he said in his speech at the 12th Malaysian Aids Council biannual meeting here yesterday.
However, he said, sexual transmission had contributed to over 74 per cent of new cases last year, a drastic rise compared with only 32 per cent, five years ago.
Those infected with HIV must be sincere and responsible in not spreading it to their partners, he said.

2 Cadbury chocolate products officially ‘not halal’ for now

Following the statement issued by the Health Ministry today, that two Cadbury chocolate products contained pig (porcine) DNA, the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) has suspended with immediate effect the halal certification for the two products, Bernama reported today.
The two products are Cadbury Dairy Milk Hazelnut, with batch number 200813M01H I2 that expires on November 13, 2014 and Cadbury Dairy Milk Roast Almond, with batch number 221013N01R I1, that expires on January 15, 2015.
According to Bernama, Jakim director-general Datuk Othman Mustapha said the move was taken based on the Health Ministry's findings.
"Further and thorough investigation will be carried out to determine the actual cause of the contamination of the products," he said in a statement in Kuala Lumpur today.
Othman said Jakim had carried out periodical checks on the product manufacturer on February 20 and found that the company complied with the halal certification standards.
Meanwhile, he called on consumers not to be too worried with the use of Jakim's "halal" logo as constant monitoring was being done from time to time.
"If there is any breach or non-compliance with the halal certification requirements, Jakim has the power to suspend or revoke the halal certification immediately," Bernama quoted him as saying.
Meanwhile, Bernama has reported that Cadbury Confectionery Malaysia has taken immediate action by recalling its two products which were tested positive for traces of pig DNA (porcine).
Its head of cooperate affairs, Raja Zalina Raja Safran, said they were informed that only Cadbury Dairy Milk Hazelnut (with batch number 200813M01H I2 that expires on November 13, 2014) and Cadbury Dairy Milk Roast Almond (with batch number 221013N01R I1 that expires on January 15, 2015) analysed by the Health Ministry were tested positive for traces of porcine.
"No other Cadbury chocolates are affected by this test," she said in a statement today.
According to Bernama, Cadbury Chocolates wished to reassure consumers that all its products manufactured in Malaysia were halal-certified by Jakim, including the locations and raw materials used in the production of these products.
"We are undertaking a full review of the supply chain to ensure all quality standards continue to be met.
"We employ stringent quality procedures to ensure that our products are of the highest standard of safety and quality," she said. – May 24, 2014.

Health Ministry to form committee to strategise against the increase of HIV transmission

KUALA LUMPUR: Health Ministry is going to form a special committee to strategise against the increase of HIV transmission which is currently on the rise.
Deputy Director General of Health (Public Health), Datuk Lokman Hakim Sulaiman said the rise was drastic compared to the last five years.
"Committee members will try to find strategies and solutions for the drastic rise in HIV cases through sexual transmission," he said after the launch of the Malaysian AIDS Council (MAM) 12th Biennial General Meeting here today.
The committee will adhere to the World Health Organization's (WHO) guidelines especially on Treatment as Prevention.
Eventhough the Health Ministry's aggressive campaign against HIV/AIDS since 2002 has been described as a success, with the country seeing a decline from 6,978 cases in 2002 to 3,393 cases in 2013, it still plans on having new preventive measures like visiting several schools in Malaysia to give talks on HIV and AIDS.
Lokman also urged Malaysians to go for HIV screenings.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Health minister: El Nino may increase dengue, malaria risk

KUALA LUMPUR, May 23 — The El Nino phenomenon, expected to hit the country from June to December this year, may increase the risk of vector borne diseases such as dengue and malaria, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S.Subramaniam

He said the climate and temperature changes caused by the phenomenon would influence the vector population and behaviour including the virus replication.
“Various studies have shown that the incubation period of the virus reduces in warm temperature as demonstrated in the laboratory experiment which reduced from 12 days at 30 Celsius to 7 days at 32 to 35 Celsius,” he said when addressing the 67th World Health Assembly 2014 in Geneva, Switzerland.
His speech text was faxed to Bernama today.
The phenomenon is characterised by a band of unusually warm ocean water temperatures that periodically develops off the Pacific coast of South America that could cause extreme weather changes across the Pacific region such as fluctuating droughts, floods and scrappy crop yields in some regions.
Subramaniam said the existence of mosquitoes in new areas had also increased due to global warming and would increase the epidemic potential by 31 to 47 per cent for dengue and 12 to 27 per cent for malaria transmission.

He said although studies linking climate factors with dengue were limited in Malaysia, it was generally accepted that changes in precipitation, ambient temperature and humidity may influence the abundance and distribution of the mosquito vectors.
“Several studies have shown a positive relationship between rainfall and dengue, the timing of rainfall was as important as the amount of rain.
“Warmer temperatures can increase transmission potential by allowing the mosquitoes’ vector to survive and reach maturity much faster and shorten the virus incubation period,” he said.
He said the government had taken firm steps in mitigation and adaptive measures through multi-agency intervention, which also included strengthening existing programme within the ministry.
It included addressing climate sensitive diseases and health conditions such as vector borne, food and water borne disease, sanitary waste disposal, the provision of clean water with high priority to research and development, he said.
“Malaysia has also prepared a plan of action for drought to face the uncertainties that may arrive due to the El Nino phenomenon,” he said. — Bernama

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Operation to ban smoking in public transport launched today

An integrated operation on the smoking ban in public transport was launched today to ensure full compliance of the ruling among drivers

The operation involved enforcement officers from the Ministry of Health, Royal Malaysian Police, Road Transport Department and the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD).
Deputy Director-General of Health Datuk Dr Lokman Hakim Sulaiman said the operation was also aimed at ensuring all public transport operators would display the "No Smoking" sign inside their respective vehicles, as stipulated under the Control of Tobacco Product Regulations 2004.
"It is also aimed at protecting non-smokers from the hazards of passive smoking," he said in a statement today.
He said those who violated the smoking ban in public transport were liable to a compound of not exceeding RM5,000, a maximum fine of RM10,000 or maximum jail sentence of two years if convicted under the regulations.
Public transport operators who failed to display the no-smoking sign in their vehicles were also liable to a compound of RM1,500, a fine of not exceeding RM3,000 or maximum jail sentence of six months, he added. – Bernama, May 17, 2014.

College staff in limbo over unpaid salaries

PETALING JAYA: Allianze University College of Medical Sciences (AUCMS) is under fire over alleged unpaid salaries, lea­ving employees in a state of uncertainty.
Located in Kepala Batas, Penang, it has been accused of ignoring the plight of some of its higher ranked employees, ranging from acade­mic to administration staff, whose salaries were not paid for up to five months.
“Our patience is running thin. It’s been five months now and we haven’t received a sen,” said an employee who requested anony­mity.
He claimed that the situation worsened since Tabung Haji withdrew as its strategic partner on July 3, 2012.
Despite repeated reminders to the management, including a signed petition letter, he claimed that they were ignored.
“We are planning to take legal action. We will start boycotting classes,” he said.
Acting deputy vice-chancellor Dr Badrul Akmal Hisham Mohd Yusoff, when contacted, said the situation would improve “very, very soon”.
“We acknowledge that we have financial issues and we have assisted our employees in many ways, such as giving them transport and meal allowances.
“On top of that, we are also assuring them that any incurred losses they face will be borne by the company, even though it is not in their contract,” he said.
He said only 10% of the staff had left the company while the rest were still working despite the shortcomings.
The college has about 2,000 students and 500 staff members.

Total of 13,733 dengue cases reported in Penang, says deputy health minister

BALIK PULAU, May 17 — A total of 13,733 dengue cases were reported in Penang between January and yesterday, which was an increase of 178 per cent compared to the corresponding period last year.
Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya said so far, three fatal cases were reported, that is, one case in the North-East district and two cases in Central Seberang Perai.
 “The people must not be too dependent on fogging because this is only a temporary measure and will only kill the adult mosquitoes. Members of the public must take their own initiative to destroy the mosquito breeding areas,” he told reporters when observing the 'War Against Aedes' programme at the Balik Pulau Parliamentary Level, here today.
The ‘gotong-royong’ programme was participated by more than 600 villagers including 330 trainees from the National Service Training Programme from the White Camp Resort, Balik Pulau.
Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya suggested that the people spent some time daily to inspect stagnant water especially in hidden areas because mosquito larvae could breed in water that was less than five milimetres deep and could last up to six months if not destroyed.
He said that on average, 1,200 dengue cases were reported nationwide each week compared with 2,000 cases last year. — Bernama

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


PUTRAJAYA, May 12 (NNN-Bernama) — A total of 15,700 nurses are being recruited since last year to fill a shortage in government hospitals and clinics, said Health Minister Dr S. Subramaniam.
Five thousand nurses were taken last year and 4,037 more in January and February this year, he said, adding that 2,972 of nurses recruited this year were from private institutions of higher learning while 1,065 more were from Health Ministry colleges.
He said the government has also approved one post each for Grade U54 and U52, Grade U48 (10 posts), and U44 (23 posts).
The ministry is looking into the possibility of providing five pairs of uniforms a year to nurses from three pairs at present, he told reporters after opening the International Nurses’ Day here Monday.
Subramaniam said the uniform sewing allowance would be repaid in full through salary while the ministry was also considering reimbursement for the purchase of shoes, also through salary.
He said of 117,305 nurses in the country, 80,055 were in the public sector and efforts were being made to raise the ratio of nurses to the population gradually from 1:375 to 1:300, 1:250 and eventually 1:200.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Docs cry foul over low foreign worker health check fees

PETALING JAYA: Doctors are crying foul over the low fees they are paid for the health status examination of foreign workers while Fomema (an agency to manage and operate a mandatory foreign worker health screening system in Peninsular Malaysia) rake in huge profits.
Malaysian Medical Association president Datuk Dr N.K.S Tharmaseelan said for the past 14 years, doctors have only been paid RM60 for medical examinations and RM25 for X-rays.
"When doctors ask for an increase, they blame the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) for not agreeing to it while EPU says otherwise," he said in a statement.
Tharmaseelan said to cough up a little extra from Fomema's massive coffers does not need the approval of the government which the latter is blaming.
"With the fees collected, Fomema can certainly afford to pay doctors more. Only the coffers of Fomema has multiplied. They do little but reap in millions," he claimed.
He pointed out that doctors now have to provide a more comprehensive medical examination including a newly-introduced psychiatric assessment of foreign workers.
"All this is done while being paid the same old fees," he added.
He said for a less detailed doctors' examination on foreign students, the fees charged by the Education Malaysia Global Services (EMGS) is RM120.00.
"This does not encompass detailed examinations as required for examining foreign workers and yet they are paid more," said Tharmaseelan.
He also pointed out that the Health Ministry had informed that digitalisation of X-rays is not mandatory but Fomema disagrees.
"Fomema has made it difficult for doctors who send X-rays by courier saying that they go missing and have advised them to go digital and pay the transmission fee of RM4 per transmission. A million X-rays a year brings in RM4 million without any effort by Fomema," he added.
Tharmaseelan said they are not against digitalisation of X-rays but it cannot be done with the fees being now offered to doctors .
"Doctors will suffer a loss if the present fee is not increased by Fomema," he said.
He pointed out that Fomema removes doctors from its panel without valid reasons while some foreign workers are forced to do X-rays or examinations only at certain clinics.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

MACC: Doctors who sell MCs risk prosecution, loss of licences

KUALA LUMPUR: Doctors who are caught selling medical certificates (MC) could lose their license to practise and face the risk of prosecution, said the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).
"We can do so as such acts have an element of fraud, with the principle intention of fooling employers and obtaining financial gain," said its director of investigations Datuk Mustafar Ali.
He said this was an ethical lapse and a serious crime, and such doctors would be referred to the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC).
He added the MMC had the right to revoke their license as a medical practitioner, while MACC would also investigate them under Section 18 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Act 2009.
"MACC has taken action against several doctors who had issued fake MCs to workers that were not sick and had paid for it," Mustafar said, adding that the recipients of the MCs could also be prosecuted.
This came after Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said that the Government would take stern action against any doctor found selling MCs, calling such doctors a shame to the profession during a ground-breaking ceremony of SJK(C) Hwa Nam at Batu Anam here Friday.
Mustafar urged the Ministry and Health Department to refer any cases or evidence involving malpractice to the commission to ensure the continued integrity of the medical profession.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Health ministry to increase water testing in Selangor

The Health Ministry will be increasing water testing at treatment plants in Selangor to ensure water supplied to consumers is not polluted by dangerous substances and is safe for consumption.
Health Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam said under normal procedure, the testing frequency to check for chemicals and metals was once a month, but now it would be done once a week.
“If the Selangor government’s decision to draw raw water from ex-mining pools is continued, we will step up testing to ensure the water supplied meets the Health Ministry’s standards,” he said here today.
He was responding to a front page report in a local daily today, which among others, had alluded that water from the former mining pools was not safe for consumption.
Subramaniam said according to sampling done two weeks ago, treated water in Selangor was determined to be safe for consumption and did not contain any dangerous elements.
He also urged the Department of Environment (DOE) and Lembaga Urus Air Selangor (Luas) to do continuous checks on the contents of raw water and to issue warnings if there were adverse changes in the water quality.
“The cooperation of all agencies responsible is important to ensure raw water drawn and treated water are safe.
“If the ministry finds that raw water sourced in Selangor is unsafe, the state government will be asked to stop drawing the water from those sources.”

Monday, May 05, 2014

Malaysia may be first to have dengue vaccine

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will be the first country to have the vaccine for dengue in the next two years if no stumbling blocks stand in the way of approval from the authorities.

Baptiste De Clarens, the managing director of Sanofi Pasteur (Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei), the largest pharmaceutical company dedicated to manufacturing vaccines, said the phase three studies on the vaccine involving 10,000 children in Southeast Asia, shows that the vaccine could bring down the incidence of dengue by 56 per cent.
Dengue affects between 50 million and 100 million people worldwide a year.
"We are validating the analyses and hopefully the vaccine could be made available by late 2015 or 2016," said De Clarens recently for the launch of the country's first vaccine centre dedicated to adult immunisation at the Pantai Hospital here.
Sanofi Pasteur partners with Pantai Hospital in the VaxinLife programme offering various tools to support the centre, also known as Vaxin Centre@PHKL set up in conjunction with the 40 anniversary of the Pantai Hospital Kuala Lumpur.
This includes an immunisation expert software where a patient can be checked on what immunisations he needs, and a pre-designed communication package where the patient can be informed of his immunisation history and needs whenever she requires them.
Pantai Hospital chief executive officer Anwar Anis said the effectiveness of childhood vaccinations fade away over the years and so it is important that adults are vaccinated.
"Prevention is better than cure. With the inevitable increase in the cost of treatment, it is a sound investment," said Anwar.
Vaxin Centre@PHKL with specially trained consultants and nurses dispenses vaccine for influenza for as low as RM70, and RM367.50 for yellow fever.
There is a promotion till May 15 where the administrative cost of RM40 is waived.
More than a dozen vaccines are available at the Vaxin Centre including cholera, whooping cough or pertussis, hepatitis A, chickenpox, meningococcal disease, pneumococcal disease, human papilloma virus, Japanese encephalitis and rabies.

(From second left) Baptiste De Clarens, Anwar Anis, head of Pharmacy Services — Malaysia Operations Lee Seng Dee, Regional Head Dengue Asia Pacific and Commercial Operation of Sanofi Pasteur (Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia) senior director Joselito Santa Ana during the launch of Vaxin Centre. Pic by Nurul Shafina Jemenon

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Health Ministry finalises traditional, complementary medicine regulations

KUALA LUMPUR: The Traditional and Complementary Medicine Act 2013 will only be enforced after the process of formulating regulations on traditional and complementary medicine now in the final stage is completed.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S Subramaniam said the ministry would continue to obtain the views of interested parties to enhance the act which had been gazetted at Dewan Rakyat in February last year following a public campaign.

“Besides ensuring the quality, safety and efficacy of such medical services, continuous improvement of the law will also raise the professionalism of such medical practitioners,” he said in his winding-up speech for his ministry at the Senate here yesterday.

While awaiting its enforcement date, Subramaniam said the ministry had appointed practitioners in eight areas to represent their fields of practice identified and conducted self-supervision based on practice and ethical code developed by the ministry and the constitutions of the bodies concerned.

He said the six main fields of practice under traditional and complementary medicine were Malay traditional medicine, Indian traditional medicine, Chinese traditional medicine, Islamic medicine, homeopathy and therapy.

“When the act comes into effect, all traditional and complementary medicine practitioners are required to registered with the Traditional and Complementary Medicine Council,” he said. — Bernama