Saturday, June 28, 2014

Blood centre extends hours for Muslim donors

PETALING JAYA: The National Blood Centre has extended its operating hours during weekdays to cater to Muslim donors during the fasting month, its health education officer B. Sri Tharan said here.

He said the centre will be operating between 7am to 9pm on weekdays except Monday while on weekends, it will be from 8am to 4pm. It opens at 7.30am on Mondays.
He said although there will be fewer Muslim blood donors during the fasting month, the centre has sufficient blood supply to meet the needs of the people.
“The situation at present is good as we have sufficient stock of donated blood.
“But we are also taking proactive measures to ensure that donations of blood are still coming in during the fasting month,” he said. Sri Tharan said the public can help the centre in collecting blood by organising their own donation drives.
“The centre will provide them with our mobile donation unit for this cause,” he said.
Meanwhile, in Penang, Batu Uban assemblyman Dr T. Jayabalan has called on non-Muslims to come forward to donate blood during the fasting month as there will be a dip in supply.
He also organised a blood donation drive to replenish supply at the Penang Hospital blood bank.
Among the donors was his special officer Suresh Naidu, 40, who said he was donating blood in view of Ramadan.
“I know that there will be a lack in supply in the blood bank during the fasting month, and I want to help out,” said Suresh, who is a fifth time donor.
Also donating for the fifth time was Manoranjitham Muniandy, 50, who began doing so when her mother required blood due to an illness 12 years ago.
“After she passed away the same year, I continued to donate blood to those who need it,” she said.
USM student Bilal Saleem, 33, a Muslim from Pakistan, was also there to donate blood although the fasting month will start soon.
“It’s not a problem, I have been donating consistently for four years. This is my first time in Malaysia and I am happy to contribute for Ramadan,” Bilal said.

Friday, June 27, 2014

30% of TB cases from Sabah

KUALA LUMPUR: Thirty per cent of the total tuberculosis (TB) cases in Malaysia were reported in Sabah due to the high influx of illegal immigrants.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said illegal immigrants were one of the problems that the ministry faced in its effort to control the spread of TB in Sabah.
“Measures to detect TB cases are complicated as the immigrants often relocate to avoid detection by the authorities.
“For those who do seek treatment, they often fail to complete the whole course of treatment, resulting in Multiple Drugs Resistant TB (MDRTB),” he said.
As a developing country, Subramaniam said Malaysia offered a lot of job opportunities to non-citizens which attracted foreigners from neighbouring countries to Malaysia.
“This phenomenon has led to problems such as the spread of TB infection, when foreigners from countries with high risk of TB enter Malaysia.
“This cannot be avoided, but the Health Ministry through partners like Fomema and Gowarisan Sdn Bhd will continue to implement TB screening before allowing them to work in our country,” he continued.
Subramaniam said this in response to Senator Datuk Chin Su Phin’s question on the proactive measures taken by the Health Ministry to overcome TB disease that was increasingly serious in Sabah during the Dewan Negara sitting here on Tuesday. Chin also wanted to know if the situation was caused by foreigners.
Subramaniam revealed that the number of TB cases had increased between six and 14 per cent per annum for the past five years.
As of May this year, a total of 10,007 TB cases were reported, of which 1,439 cases (14.3 per cent) were non-citizens and 8,568 cases (85.6 per cent) were Malaysians.
Last year, a total of 24,071 TB cases were reported of which 3,384 (14 per cent) cases involved non-citizens.
Subramaniam said the Health Ministry was working closely with immigration authorities to assist in the detection of TB-infected foreigners for deportation.
Fomema and Growarisan are responsible for implementing health screenings, including for TB diseases among migrant workers before they are allowed work in Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah respectively.
“If they show signs of TB infection, their work permits will not be approved and they will subsequently be sent back to their country of origin.
“This method can directly reduce TB incidences among foreigners and combat the spread of TB among the society in Malaysia, especially in Sabah,” he added.
Besides that, Subramaniam said medical officers actively carry out TB screenings in all government health facilities to identify patients at early stages of infection as well as provide effective treatment to eliminate the infection immediately.
At the same time, the ministry also organizes health education activities to raise awareness about the dangers of TB in the community.
However, an increasing number of TB cases have become more complicated due to resistance to the first line of TB drugs.
He said TB patients resistant to the first line of drugs were between 0.3 and 1.3 per cent of the overall number of cases from 2004 to 2013.
Subramaniam said the Health Ministry was responsible for purchasing the second line of TB drugs to ensure chronic patients could recover and curb the spread of the disease.
However, the estimated cost of this drug is about RM6,000 to RM200,000 per person, he said.
In order to enhance early detection of patients with TB drug resistance, Subramaniam said the Health Ministry has undertaken planning and procurement of high-tech diagnostic devices so that patients would be given immediate treatment to curb the spread of drug-resistant TB strains.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Mercy Malaysia’s contribution to public health

KUALA LUMPUR: Mercy Malaysia today distributed 1,800 face masks to the public to raise awareness on the haze situation in the country.
Its general manager for communications and fundraising, Megawati Md. Rashidi, said they wanted people to be aware of the seriousness of the weather conditions which could get worse.
They need to be more conscious of their health especially during the haze situation, added Megawati, who together with seven other staff members distributed the masks to the public at the Masjid Jamek and Ampang Park LRT stations.
"We chose these two areas because of the high traffic density," she said, noting that the air pollutant index (API) was more than 100 on Tuesday with a reading of 110 today morning.
"Since Mercy Malaysia focuses on medical relief, we want to encourage the people to take care of their health," she added.
Megawati hoped the public would take proactive measures to safeguard their health by getting their own supply of face masks, adding that if the haze worsened, they would do more to help the public.

Hospitals on alert for haze-related ailments

PETALING JAYA: All hospitals and health clinics nationwide are on alert and ready with medications and medical equipment to handle cases related to the haze, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam.
He said people who are having haze-related health complications, especially vulnerable groups such as children, the elderly, smokers, people with respiratory problems and heart diseases, should seek treatment at a clinic as soon as possible.
Three-ply surgical masks will also be available in government clinics and hospitals.
Subramaniam advised the public to minimise the impact of haze on their health by following several simple steps.
These include limiting outdoor activities, staying indoors as much as possible, using a mask, drinking at least eight glasses of water each day, and washing hands and face with soap and clean water after outdoor activities.
The Health Ministry, through state health departments, will be closely monitoring the number of haze-related cases of health complications.
Subramaniam said air-conditioners or air-purifiers can improve indoor air quality at home and the higher the purifier's capacity, the better.
He said drivers can also switch to recycling mode on their air-conditioners to limit the entry of smoke into their cars.
Schools can also close at their discretion without instruction from the Health Ministry if the air quality index in their area reaches 200 and stays there for more than 48 hours. Schools are 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

10,000 TB cases reported as of May

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said 10,007 tuberculosis (TB) cases were reported for the first five months this year.
Of this number, 8,568 cases involved Malaysians while the rest were foreigners.
“In 2013, a total of 24,071 cases were reported with 20,687 affecting Malaysians and 3,384 foreigners,” he said in reply to a question from Senator Datuk Chin Su Phin in Dewan Negara here today.
Chin wanted to know the ministry’s proactive measures regarding the TB situation that was a cause for concern, especially in Sabah, and whether it was linked to foreigners.
Subramaniam said there were many factors which caused the spread of TB, and the presence of foreigners in the country was one of the reasons.
He said should any foreign workers experience signs of TB infection, their working permit would not be approved and their would be sent back.
Besides that, he said government health personnel were actively diagnosing the cases at early stages so that treatment can be provided.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Option to get medication from clinics or pharmacies by next April

PETALING JAYA: Patients will soon have the option to choose between getting their medication from doctors as they do now, or to insist on the doctor giving them a prescription to buy the required drugs from a pharmacy.
It is learnt that the Health Ministry is working with the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) and the Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society (MPS) to have this choice in place by next April.
However, some issues are still to be ironed out to ensure that it is a favourable solution for doctors and pharmacists, as well as patients.
The issue of separating drug prescribing and dispensing of medication between doctors and pharmacists, has been a bone of contention for a long time, as there are pros and cons to both arguments.
"Most importantly, we need to ensure that separating these functions do not burden patients financially," said a ministry official, who declined to be identified.
"We also have to ensure there are enough pharmacists in both urban and rural areas nationwide for this system to be effective," he added.
MPS president Datuk Nancy Ho told theSun a special committee has been set up with the relevant authorities to draw up a mechanism which will ensure all parties including patients, are not shortchanged by the move.
In recent years, calls to separate the prescribing and dispensing functions have been growing.
Pharmacists argue that separation of the functions can avoid the conflicting roles of doctors who have the potential to profit from the prescription and sale of drugs, and be part of a check-and-balance system to prevent over-prescribing practices.
In many Asian countries, including Malaysia, doctors dispense drugs directly to patients, earning profits that vary with the types and amount of drugs given.
However, profits from this practice helps doctors to offset clinic costs and allow them to charge lower consultation fees.
Commenting on the proposed move, MMA president Dr H. Krishna Kumar told theSun that doctors have no objection to the separation as long as all parties, including Managed Care Organisations, agree to let them charge consultation fees (without medication) of between RM30-RM125 as per the revised rate under the 13th Schedule of the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998 annouced last March.
He added that while doctors are fully aware the separation of functions will happen eventually, it has to take into account certain factors.
For example, he said, if the suggestion to stop doctors dispensing is adopted, there must be no double standards and it should be across the board for all doctors, irrespective of whether they are in the urban or rural areas.
"That means there must also be pharmacies and pharmacists in rural or remote areas to cater to this system. Otherwise, it will create unnecessary complications as to the fees to be charged by doctors if have to dispense medicines, especially in areas with no pharmacies," he added.
He pointed out that patients may incur extra expenses if the pharmacies are situated far from the clinics.
"The move should not inconvenience patients," said Dr Krishna.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Health Ministry concerned over spread of leprosy

MIRI: Every year the state records 15 to 20 cases of leprosy mainly in poor rural areas.
Although this figure is not alarming, the Ministry of Health is very concerned over the occurrence of this dreaded disease.
It is carrying out continuous awareness programmes in the rural areas to curb the spread of leprosy and identify those who have contracted the disease to give them early treatment.
During a recent meeting with reporters here, Miri Divisional Health officer Dr Faizul Mansoor advised those in contact with leprosy patients to go for yearly medical checkups.
He added that the medical department would carry out a leprosy awareness programme at Long Banga in the interior of Baram on June 26.
The `Leprosy Day Campaign’, is a collaboration between the Ministry of Health, Samling Group of Companies, Welfare Department, the Village Security and Development Committee (JKKK) of Long Banga and Yaw Teck Seng Foundation.
“We hope to reduce the number of cases through such programmes.
“They will be more effective with the strong support from the villagers and the society ,” Dr Faizul said.

Health Ministry mulling ‘sin tax’ on soft drinks

The Malay Mail Online

KUALA LUMPUR, June 21 — The Ministry of Health is studying a “sin tax” for soft drinks as a way to stunt the rising prevalence of diabetes in the country, The Star daily reported today,

Health director-general Datuk Seri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah was quoted saying the ministry will discourage ministerial meetings from serving sweet drinks, starting with his own ministry.
“We will look at the sugar content in these beverages and see what other countries are doing about it and how best we can implement some of these measures,” Dr Noor Hisham was quoted telling reporters yesterday.
He listed Denmark, Hungary and Mexico as examples of countries which have hiked the prices of sweetened beverages.
Dr Noor Hisham said the report of the study will be received in two months.
This comes as he revealed that Malaysia was spending 4.6 per cent of its gross domestic product on healthcare, with 2.6 million or 15.2 per cent of Malaysian adults suffer from diabetes.
“Most important is the need for a change of mindset among Malaysians,” said Dr Noor Hisham.
Malaysia is already slated to implement the 6 per cent goods and services tax (GST) starting April next year, which is expected to raise the prices of most items.
In February this year, neighbouring Vietnam also said that it is considering an added tax on soft drinks.
The proposed 10 per cent tax was expected to add VND1.5 trillion (RM232 million) revenue to Vietnam.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Malaysia's obesity rate highest in Asia

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has been rated as the highest among Asian countries for obesity.

Science Advisor to the Prime Minister, Tan Sri Zakri Abdul Hamid, said new findings from British medical journal, The Lancet, showed that 49% of women and 44% of men in this country were found to be obese.

 "This is a very big problem because it has implication on diabetes, heart problem and others and our Prime Minister has also asked the global science and innovation advisory council to work on this," he told reporters.

According to a new study published last month by The Lancet, Malaysia was rated heavyweight at 45.3% of its population, followed by South Korea (33.2%), Pakistan (30.7%) and China (28.3%).

Zakri was at the launch of the United Nations University-International Institute for Global Health (UNU-IIGH) at the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) medical centre here.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Wound Care Unit for all Sabah hospitals

KOTA KINABALU: The State Health Department has proposed the setting up of a Wound Care Unit in all hospitals in Sabah.
State health director Dr Christina Rundi said a Wound Care Unit had been set up in Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH1) as a start, but the department would ensure that the unit would be set up in all hospitals and specialist hospitals to provide the same level of treatment to patients in Sabah.
She said this in an interview after officiating at the opening ceremony of the 10th Sabah State Enterostomal Therapy (ET) Workshop 2014 (Wound Care) at QEH here yesterday.
The three-day workshop, which ends on June 13, is organized by the Surgical Department of QEH, in collaboration with State Health Department.
ET is a specialized field of nursing that involves the care of patients with stomas, wounds and incontinence.
Christina said the circular of the Director General of Health in 2011 puts forth the guidelines to set up wound care teams in hospitals under the Malaysian Health Ministry (KKM).
She said that KKM issued the guidelines after conducting a study in seven hospitals in the country on the number of patients needing wound care back in 2010.
Results of the study show that 6.5 per cent (11,732) of total inpatients and 10 per cent (16,586) of total out-patients required wound care. The actual dressing time for wounds are found to be eight to 25 minutes for diabetic foot ulcer (10cm x 8cm), 20 to 60 minutes for pressure sore (15cm in diameter) and 15 to 25 minutes for traumatic wound.
“The cost of dressing solutions and materials used was calculated to be RM1.5 million; this is a huge amount of money just for wound care.”
Christina pointed out that the number of patients needing wound care was on an upward trend. In 2013 alone, wound management for in-patients had increased from five patients in March to 66 patients in December.
She said the Wound Care Unit in QEH is aiming to reduce treatment costs of patients in terms of their duration of stay in the hospital and usage of wound dressing and medicine, as well as to cut down on infections due to long duration of stay in the hospital.
Since the setting up of the Wound Care Unit in QEH, Christina said wound care in the hospital has become more organized as there is now a team tasked with caring for patients with wounds before they were sent to the hospital, or during medical treatment in the hospital.
In addition, the hospital could collect data on wound care, which has shown that the number of patients requiring wound care is on the rise, she said.
Besides wound care, Christina said the unit was also responsible for organizing trainings such as the workshop yesterday, where they could impart information on modern methods of wound care and devices.
“We also invite those from health clinics to participate in this workshop because when patients are discharged from hospitals, they need to continue their wound care in health clinics. So we want to ensure that wound care in hospitals and health clinics are of the same standard,”she said.
The objective of the workshop was to enhance the knowledge and skills among nurses in wound care. The event also focused on the importance of wound care to a patient’s quality of life. The workshop includes talks, practical sessions and presentation by the participants.
Although the job of an ET specialist nurse is demanding and sometimes stressful, Christina said it could lead to high job satisfaction.
“Many nurses are able to give treatment and support to patients till the patients can return to their previous roles like before. It is a great satisfaction to see the joy of patients when they are finally able to conduct their daily activities again.”
Also present were KKM Wound Care Programme chief Mohd Anuar Hau Abdullah, Malaysia Society of Wound Care Professional president Dr Harikrishna K. R Nair, QEH director Dr Heric Corray and QEH Wound Care Unit chief Dr Yap Jiann Wen.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Cochrane comes to Malaysia

The world-renowned Cochrane Collaboration, which produces credible and accessible health information, recently launched the Malaysian Cochrane Network locally, paving the way for more evidence-based treatments in our healthcare system.
According to Cochrane CEO Mark Wilson, the Malaysian Cochrane Network was officially formed as a branch of the Australasian Cochrane Centre last September.
It is made up of five network sites: Universiti Malaya, Penang Medical College (PMC), Universiti Sains Malaysia, the Research and Technical Support Programme of the Health Ministry, and Melaka Manipal Medical College.
Cochrane is a global independent network of health practitioners, researchers, patient advocates and others in 120 countries working together to produce credible and accessible health information in the form of Cochrane reviews.
Cochrane reviews are systematic reviews that pool together and evaluate the results of similar clinical trials worldwide. These trials usually look at the efficacy and safety of various new drugs, devices or other forms of medical treatment or diagnosis.
“Now that we have the network, we must work at ensuring that health care workers incorporate the findings of Cochrane reviews into the decisions they make about patient care,” said Malaysia Cochrane Network convener Prof Dr Jacqueline Ho.
Speaking at the ceremony officiated by Health deputy director-general Dr Shahnaz Murad in Kuala Lumpur, the PMC deputy dean of academic affairs added that there are now 220 clinicians and researchers in Malaysia who have written a total of 70 Cochrane reviews.
Prof Ho, a paediatrician and long-time Cochrane author, also said that these reviews could be used by policymakers, clinicians and patients to make evidence-based decisions about their health.
Patients, in particular, could be more empowered to participate in the decision-making process on effective treatment choices.
“We hope that the public understands the importance of the Cochrane reviews and make use of the findings for their own health and wellbeing,” she said.
“A systematic review summarises the results of available carefully-designed healthcare studies and provides a high level of evidence on the effectiveness of healthcare treatments and drugs,” he explained.
He said that Cochrane review results can, for instance, help the Health Ministry in making better choices in buying medicines and health devices, based on high-quality, relevant and up-to-date synthesised researches.
Members of the public interested in reading non-technical summaries of Cochrane reviews can visit Meanwhile, healthcare professionals in Malaysia will be able to access The Cochrane Library online ( for free for one month beginning May 28.

Proposed tougher entry requirements for aspiring doctors

PETALING JAYA: The minimum entry requirement into medical schools may be increased to all As or a combination of As and Bs for Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia and Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia students.
Sources from the Malaysian Medical Coun­cil said the ministry and the Education Ministry were looking into making that proposal to overcome the huge number of medical students graduating each year, thus over-taxing training hospitals.
“The move to increase the minimum qualification is not too drastic because each year there are 14,000 to 14,500 SPM students scoring all As and 400 to 500 of them scoring all A+,” a source told The Star.
For now, the minimum requirements are Bs in Science and Mathematics for SPM and STPM.
According to the source, the ministry acknowledged that the large pool of medical graduates had raised concerns whether there were adequate number of instructors and training hospitals for them.
There were also complaints that some private institutions brought in expertise from other countries that could affect the quality of students, he said.
By increasing the minimum criteria, the source said better quality doctors would be recruited.
The five-year moratorium on establishing new medical schools until end of 2015 would likely continue after the deadline, the source said.
Another source said that the ministry hoped to remove the list of accredited foreign medical training institutes in the Medical Act and impose a medical licensing examination for medical graduates returning from overseas.
Currently, under the Act, only students in unrecognised foreign medical sch