Materia Medica Malaysiana

May 23, 2004

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Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 6:33 pm

FDA issues alert on tainted raw almonds

PETALING JAYA: The Health Ministry will look into a report that California raw almonds contaminated with salmonella bacteria have been shipped to Malaysia among other countries.

The ministry’s Food Quality Control Division director, Dr Abd Rahim Mohamad, said they were not aware of this and would investigate.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an alert on their website on Friday advising distributors, wholesalers and consumers that a recall of raw almonds from California’s Paramount Farms due to reports of Salmonella Enteriditis had been extended. The almonds were shipped to Malaysia, Mexico, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, France, Britain and Italy.

“Before eating any raw almonds having a “best before” date of August 21 or later, consumers are advised to check with the store where they purchased the product to see if the almonds came from Paramount Farms,” the FDA said.

“The FDA has learned that Paramount Farms distributed the recalled almonds in bulk or packaged nationwide to brokers, distributors and grocery store chains which in turn sold the almonds to consumers in a variety of package sizes under a variety of brand names,” it said.

Dr Abd Rahim said it was not common for nuts to be contaminated with salmonella.

“It’s very seldom one finds salmonella in nuts as it’s more common for nuts to be contaminated with afla toxin, a type of fungus which is very carcinogenic (cancerous). Salmonella is more common in meat and poultry products,” he said.

“We will look into this matter further,” he said, adding that they have a good food integration monitoring system with the Port Klang authorities to screen food at entry points.

The FDA said those infected with salmonella often experience fever, diarrhoea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

“In rare circumstances, infection with salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (infected aneurysms) and arthritis,” it said.

On Tuesday, Paramount Farms announced a limited recall of whole natural raw almonds sold under the Kirkland Signature, Trader Joe’s and Sunkist brands, Reuters reported on Friday.

The company recalled five million pounds of raw almonds on Tuesday after FDA received seven reports of food poisoning, abc7.com reported.

The FDA said they have received 18 reports of people infected with Salmonella Enteriditis possibly linked to the consumption of the recalled raw almonds.

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May 22, 2004

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Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 10:38 pm

Mental health checks for employers?

The mental health of prospective employers of domestic maids may be screened under a proposal to prevent the recurrence of abuse cases such as the one suffered by 19-year-old Nirmala Bonat of Indonesia.

This is one of the suggestions mooted to the Human Resources Ministry, which is drawing up a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Indonesia on the recruitment of domestic maids.

“It is a suggestion that we need to look into in our efforts to regulate the intake of Indonesian maids as well as put a stop to such cases of abuse,’ said Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr Fong Chan Onn, after visiting Nirmala at the Indonesian Embassy here yesterday.

“We need to take into account the background of the prospective employers because if they have a record of being abusive or abusing their children, then they should not be allowed to take one,” he said.

If the proposal is accepted, the domestic maid recruitment agencies would have to do the background checks.

Fong said the Government viewed this incident seriously and his Ministry would investigate how the abuse could have gone on for so long.

He said the Ministry would also look into amending the Employment Act to cover domestic maids as well to give them more protection in the event of injuries or accidents.

At present, the Act only covers foreign workers in the mercantile industry.

Other proposals include compulsory insurance coverage for the domestic maids. Fong said there should also be guidelines in place where domestic maid agencies are given regular access to the maids, for the first six months of employment at least to monitor their performance and the working conditions.

He hoped the details of the MoU could be finalised within the next two or three months.

He said although there were only two or three cases of domestic maid abuse which were reported to the Ministry over the last one year, they are “two or three cases too many.” Fong said the Ministry would soon be calling all domestic maid recruitment agencies for a meeting soon to put in place better guidelines to safeguard domestic maids and ensure that employers are aware of their responsibilities.

Indonesian Ambassador to Malaysia Drs K.P.H. Rusdihardjo said over the last four years, the embassy had received 26 cases of abused maids but he acknowledged that the majority of employers here took good care of their foreign workers.

At the function, Fong later handed over a cheque for RM2,000 from the Malaysian Association of Foreign Maid Agencies (Papa) to Nirmala. Also present was Papa vice-president Jeffrey Foo and Maggie Phong, managing director of Agensi Pekerjaan AZ Sdn Bhd, Nirmala’s recruiting agency.

May 21, 2004

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Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 4:52 pm

More mental illness cases recorded

The Ministry’s statistics recorded 11,120 mental health outpatients throughout the country last year compared to 5,687 in 1998.

Lee said 10 to 15 per cent of these cases were classified as “suicidal” or “could bring harm to the people around them”.

“It is estimated that one in four families has at least one member currently suffering from a mental or behavioural disorder.

“These families are required not only to provide physical and emotional support, but also to bear the negative impact of stigma and discrimination against them,” he said.

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Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 4:51 pm

Bid to list medical institutions

THE Federation of Chinese Physicians and Acupuncturists Associations of Malaysia hopes to register Chinese medical schools and practitioners from next month so that they will be recognised by the Government.

China Press quoted Federation president Ng Seow Hooi as saying the aim was also to find out the number of Chinese medical schools that would register with the Government.

He said that eight schools were registered with the associations, of which four were in Kuala Lumpur, three in Johor and one in Malacca.

Ng said the federation would sign a memorandum of understanding with the Chinese medical schools if they agreed with the federation’s policy.

This would ensure that graduates from the schools would be registered as traditional physicians with the Health Ministry, he added.

He said that more than 1,000 Chinese physicians in the country were not registered although many practised under various business registrations.

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Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 4:50 pm

Teamwork a must to fight outbreaks

KUALA LUMPUR: The emergence of health problems that transcend national boundaries has become a major challenge to many countries, especially within the Asia Pacific region, where tourism plays a big role in bringing in foreign exchange, said Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek.

“Thus, the strengthening of collaboration among countries, especially in the surveillance, prevention and control of communicable diseases, has become a priority in order to address the challenges posed by emerging and resurging infections.

“The SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak last year elicited an unprecedented level of regional and global co-operation among countries,” he said in his speech at the 57th World Health Assembly in Geneva.

Dr Chua said the world today had no real boundaries. Just as computer viruses could spread through the Internet, so too can the viruses of infectious disease spread across nations.

He said although there had been several meetings during the SARS outbreak to deal with the problem within the Asean region, it had not been enough to eradicate the transmission of other deadly diseases.

The minister also said that Malaysia was committed to the global eradication of poliomyelitis, initiated by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

During the Leaders of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference Summit held in Kuala Lumpur in October last year, member countries were urged to assist WHO in the “final push” to eradicate poliomyelitis and to finance the funding gap.

“To this effort, Malaysia is contributing US$1mil (RM3.8mil),” he said.

Dr Chua said the upcoming revision of the International Health Regulations (IHR), would also be more challenging to member countries especially in their implementation.

He said capacity building and ensuring that the necessary infrastructure and national legislations were in alignment with the IHR, again required co-operation and collaboration among countries, as it would not be possible for all countries with different levels of development to be able to implement all provisions of the IHR.

There was also the issue of non-compliance and its consequences, which might need to be addressed, he said.

Dr Chua said that the revision of the IHR should also explore the possibility of including provisions for strengthening control over the movement of infectious materials, as these can be sources of outbreaks.

“The stakes are high and the challenges are many, but I am sure with the strengthening of co-operation and collaboration among countries and among regions, and with the leadership and support of WHO, we can make this world a healthier place to live in,” he added. – Bernama

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Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 5:49 am

Pyongyang in need of medical aid, says MERCY

The Malaysian Medical Relief Society (MERCY Malaysia) medical relief and humanitarian assessment team to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) returned from their seven-day expedition to Pyongyang, North Korea last Saturday.

The non-profit, non-governmental organisation had established a three-man team comprising team head executive council member Dr Heng Aik Cheng, relief manager Aris Oziar and team photo coordinator Tengku Bahar Idris.

They left Kuala Lumpur on May 7 in response to North Korea’s appeal for international aid following the train explosion at Ryongchon on April 22 of last month.

Some 161 people were killed, 1,300 injured and about 8,000 people rendered homeless.

The MERCY team visited several county, provincial and village hospitals in Ryongchon and Sinuiju in the north-west, and Sunchon just north of Pyongyang, to assess the medical needs in the area.

They were studying the possibility of establishing a longer term humanitarian presence in the country.

Also, RM50,000 worth of medical supplies were sent to aid victims of the explosion which had affected a 10-kilometre radius of Ryongchon.

“From the blast site we saw some 2km worth of flattened land. Buildings from as far as 5km away were destroyed,” said Dr Heng.

Dr Heng also noted that many people at the hospitals suffered from malnutrition and lack of basic health facilities and clean water.

“The hospitals have only minimal medical supplies, much of which are in need of upgrade. In fact, most of the patients in the hospitals suffer greatly from basic health problems like diarrhoea and gastroenteritis due to the lack of clean water supply,” he said.

Some of the blast victims had to have their limbs amputated as there was a lack of medication to treat their infected wounds.

“The medical staff really do their best to keep the hospitals as clean as possible and to provide for their patients. But without the facilities and supplies, there is only so much they can do,” said Dr Heng.

In their quest to establish trust with the DPRK Government, the team met with the DPRK Government officials, United Nations agencies, international NGOs, directors from the Ministry of Public Health and the Flood Disaster Relief Committee.

“We want their trust. With that, we can proceed to working together with the DPRK Government to upgrade their medical facilities and providing for the people of North Korea,” said MERCY Malaysia president Datuk Dr Jemilah Mahmood.

“As the only Asian NGO to give aid in North Korea, we are seeking to open as many doors as possible to help in the health sector. We hope to share our knowledge and work with them in building their capacities, providing basic medical equipment and drugs, infrastructure rehabilitation as well as training of their medical staff,” she said.

MERCY Malaysia appeals to the Malaysian Government, other NGOs and the general public to join hands in their endeavour to provide basic food and health needs to the people of North Korea.

May 19, 2004

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Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 12:59 pm

AIA to spend RM5mil on ad campaign

AMERICAN International Assurance Co Ltd (AIA) will spend up to RM5mil in an aggressive advertising campaign called Protecting Your Future.

The campaign is aimed at reminding customers of the real-life costs and implications of inadequate insurance protection.

Executive vice-president and general manager Richard Bender said in a statement that studies had shown that modern lifestyle had contributed to health risks and was increasingly becoming a major concern.

“The studies cautioned that more people are being hospitalised in their most productive economic year with heart disease as No. 1 killer in Malaysia, while more and more are being afflicted with serious illnesses such as cancer and stroke at young age.

“In total, 40,000 new cancer cases are diagnosed annually in Malaysia. In fact, between 2000 and 2003, 60% of critical illness claims made with AIA were for cancer-related,” he said.

He said AIA hoped to drive home the message that insurance was about protection and not just financial growth and investment. – Bernama

May 18, 2004

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Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 6:03 pm

Private wings can make doctors stay back

KUALA LUMPUR: One reason for setting up private wings in public hospitals is to get doctors to continue their service with the Government, said deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad.

He said many health professionals had found jobs in the private sector more lucrative.

“By letting our government specialists become legalised locums, we can be sure they will not leave government hospitals as they will be able to earn extra income by seeing patients in the private wings,” he told reporters after launching World Nurses Day at Hospital Kuala Lumpur here, yesterday.

Dr Abdul Latiff said the ministry welcomed the suggestion for government doctors to use facilities at private hospitals, adding that this created a ‘free-flow’ of skills where government specialists could earn extra and still work for public hospitals.

He said the public health system here was facing problems similar to the British National Health Service. He added, however, “only a Malaysian solution should be found for a Malaysian problem”.

To an opinion voiced by Association of Private Hospitals president Datuk Dr Ridzwan Bakar that the private wings in public hospitals would not necessarily be cheaper than the private hospitals, Dr Abdul Latif said the association had the right to voice its views.

“Of course there will be problems,” he said.

He added: “We are trying to establish the best system for the Malaysian public health establishment as no other country has a system where the public gets excellent health care for as low as RM1.”

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Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 4:50 am

Hepatitis B herbal cure under testing

PENANG: The Institute for Medical Research (IMR) is conducting interim tests on the effects of herbal treatment of Hepatitis B on humans, Health Ministry deputy director-general Datuk Dr Mohd Ismail Merican said.

He said preliminary tests, using the extract from a certain type of plant, were carried out by the IMR on animals successfully.

“The tests on animals have been carried out for the past two years,” he told reporters after the launching of Penang Hepatitis Day by Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon at the Prangin Mall Atrium A.

Dr Mohd Ismail, who is also the Malaysian Liver Foundation (MLF) president, said that it would take about five years before the herbal treatment could be commercialised.

“However, if the trial run is good, then we can even look into commercialising the product much earlier,” he added.

He said India, which had conducted tests using a different type of herb, had approached Malaysia to collaborate on the matter but “we have very stringent standard to be complied with”.

Earlier, in his speech, Dr Koh said there was a need for more concrete action to ensure Hepatitis B was contained and the rate of incidence reduced.

He said although the number of Hepatitis B cases had declined over the years, there were still one million Hepatitis B carriers in Malaysia, which was 4% of the population.

He added that although most people were aware of the disease, very few acted to take preventive measures as they would procrastinate until it was too late.

The one-day campaign, jointly organised by the MLF and the state Health Department, saw visitors having their blood tested for Hepatitis A, B and C.

Vaccinations for Hepatitis A, B and AB were carried out for a special fee.

A public forum was held at the Atrium’s foyer area.

A public exhibition, membership drive, quiz and an organ donation campaign were also held in conjunction with the campaign.

May 16, 2004

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Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 5:02 pm

Doc: Private wings do not mean cheaper fees

PETALING JAYA: The setting up of private wings in government hospitals will not mean that medical fees would be cheaper compared to private hospitals, said Association of Private Hospitals of Malaysia president Datuk Dr Ridzwan Bakar.

He said fees charged would depend on the tests needed by the patients.

He said private wing charges would be different from those at private hospitals due to the cost of machines and efficiency of usage.

“Private hospitals are possibly more efficient in using the machines as the machines are used for more hours compared to those at private wings,” he said.

Dr Ridzwan was commenting on the recent statement by Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek that his ministry was looking into the feasibility of setting up private wings in government hospitals to halt the brain drain of doctors and specialists and follow-up reports that private hospitals were worried about competition from the private wings.

Private wings are available at the Universiti Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) and Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

Dr Ridzwan, who said the association was not in favour of private wings, said a quick check with the UMMC showed that charges for an abdomen ultrasound scan cost RM110 while a private hospital nearby charged RM10 less.

“This private hospital can give the report within two hours while the quickest UMMC can give the results is overnight,” he said.

Dr Ridzwan said private hospitals welcomed competition from private wings but said a level playing field should be given to all players.

“This means all players must be exposed to the same subsidies and business risks,” he said.

He said the theory private wings would help to retain specialists had yet to be proven as some might use the private wings as a “testing ground” before leaving for the private sector.

He also said the association would propose that specialists in government hospitals be allowed to have limited private practice.

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