Materia Medica Malaysiana

May 31, 2005

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Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 7:06 pm

New Phone Service To Help Smokers Quit

KUALA LUMPUR, May 30 (Bernama) — From Tuesday, smokers seeking help to quit can turn to a telephone-based advice programme that will coach them on a step-by step procedure with personal attention.
The National Poison Centre of Universiti Sains Malaysia started the novel programme for smokers in the country.
Called Quitline, the programme will be serviced by trained pharmacists of the centre five days a week from 10am to 4pm in conjunction with World No Tobacco Day that falls every May 31, said the centre in a statement, Monday.
Its director Professor Rahmat Awang said the programme would provide information to smokers who previously might not know where to seek help to kick their habit.
“Quitline will focus on advice and information dissemination. We hope to achieve some quitting rates from this manner rather than relying on medication alone,” he said.
The number to call is 04-6572 924.

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Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 6:42 am

PSD: Pensioners’ medical claims get priority treatment

It is government policy to deal promptly with complaints and claims of public sector retirees.
The Government, through the Public Service Department (PSD), would never ignore or delay the medical claims of these retirees, PSD public relations officer Hasniah Rashid said today.
The immediate action is in recognition of the contributions made by these employees during their years of service.
Hasniah added that retirees’ medical claims in 2003 cost the Government RM37.2 million. Last year, the claims amounted to RM41.7 million.
There are, at present, 513,689 retirees and pensioners in the country.
Medical benefits for retirees and their dependants are provided for under the General Orders and are applicable to personnel of the Federal and State Governments and statutory or local authorities.
Retirees, she said, should call the PSD directly at tel: 03- 8885406/4476/4477/4478 for any queries or to forward their complaints.
They can also seek help from the pensioners’ associations in all States.
“If they have problems going to the association, they can always approach the Ex-Servicemen’s Association or the Ex-Policemen’s Association.
“We work closely with them for the benefit and convenience of retirees.”
She added that the bulk of the complaints that the PSD received from retirees involved bureaucracy, which they claimed was delaying the reimbursement of their medical claims.
Retirees, Hasniah explained, should understand that the PSD could not make payments without medical bills or authorisation by government medical officers, adding that the problem with some retirees was that they wanted the Government to pay for their medical bills at private hospitals.
“They are public sector retirees and, therefore, should go to government hospitals for treatment and not private hospitals.”
However, those admitted to private hospitals in the event of an emergency would be given special consideration.
On May 14, the New Straits Times highlighted the plight of Sebastian Lopez’s wife, Theresa Alphonso Gomez, who waited 26 months to get medication she badly needed for her multiple sclerosis.
Sebastian is a retiree of the Perak Water Board.
It took six months for Theresa to be reimbursed for the cost of the drug. The delay was said to have exacerbated her medical problem.
Commenting on Gomez’s case, Hasniah said the PSD received the first and only correspondence from her in a letter dated Nov 27, 2002.
A reply was given on Dec 17, 2002, to the effect that the matter was within the purview of the Perak Water Board.
A copy of the reply was extended to the board, which contacted the Health Ministry to determine the prescription for the drug issued by the hospital concerned.
Only after it was confirmed that the prescription was made did the board reimburse RM3,000 to Lopez in July 2004.

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Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 4:22 am

National Health Insurance Can Marginalise Poor, Say Activists

PENANG, Malaysia, May 30 (IPS) – Civil society activists are concerned that a proposed national health insurance scheme scheduled to take off at the end of next year, while catering to well-off Malaysians, will marginalise Malaysia’s poor — many of whom can barely afford to pay for basic medical services.
So far few details of the scheme have been disclosed. Consultants have been appointed under a shroud of secrecy to work out the mechanism for the scheme under which a proposed National Healthcare Financing Authority would manage the annual 13 billion ringgit (3.4 billion U.S. dollars) financing for healthcare in the country, of which 8 billion ringgit (2.14 billion U.S. dollars) is currently spent by the public sector.
To allay fears, officials say that one million civil servants, 200,000 disabled, 1.8 million senior citizens, 435,000 pensioners, 250,000 in hard poverty and the unemployed would be exempted from making mandatory monthly contributions.
But there are worries that even with these exemptions, the lower income group would struggle to make regular contributions.
For official purposes, households earning less than 500 ringgit (131 U.S. dollars) per month are considered poor, while the threshold for measuring those in hard poverty is about half of that. But activists say a more realistic poverty line should be closer to 1,000 ringgit (262 U.S. dollars) or even higher.
According to the Eighth Malaysia Plan, a quarter of all households have monthly incomes less than 1,000 ringgit, which means that these families would be hard pressed to make any sort of monthly healthcare contributions.
Even households earning less than 2,000 ringgit (524 U.S. dollars) — 57 percent of all households — would find it difficult to cope with regular healthcare contributions, say activists.
”This means that the government would still have to subsidise some patients,” said Jeyakumar Devaraj, a respiratory physician-turned-activist campaigning against healthcare privatisation, at a recent talk.
The consultants looking into the scheme face a huge dilemma given the gulf between the public and private hospitals in the country.
Malaysia’s public sector, catering largely to the lower-income group, is already overstretched and under-funded. The 120-odd government-owned hospitals have 34,000 or three quarters of the total hospital beds in the country. In contrast, 220-odd private hospitals have only 9,100 beds.
But the government-owned hospitals employ only a third a third of the physicians and surgeons in the country. These underpaid and overworked professionals have to cope with 80 percent of the total in-patients in the country.
Critics say many of the problems plaguing healthcare in the country have their roots in the era of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. Economist Subramaniam Pillay notes that when Mahathir came to power in 1981, he introduced policies to allow the private sector to play a greater role in non-traditional roles such as health and higher education. The number of private hospitals soared.
But, instead of solving problems, the public sector experienced a massive brain drain. Two thirds of the surgeons and physicians in the country prefer to work in private hospitals, where they receive lucrative monthly incomes amounting to tens of thousands of ringgit and in some cases more than 200,000 ringgit (26,300 U.S. dollars) per month.
”The basic cause of the problems is structural: the growth of the private hospital industry catering to the wealthy in society sucked away expertise from the public sector,” said Subramaniam, who is also a member of the steering committee of the Coalition Against Healthcare Privatisation, made up of 81 civil society groups.
”The consequence was a decline in the perceived quality of healthcare provision in the public sector,” he told IPS.
To make matters worse, certain sectors of the public healthcare system were privatised or ‘corporatised’. In 1993, the procurement of medicines for government hospitals and clinics was privatised to a politically well-connected firm. The result: the cost of medicines doubled the following year.
In 1996, five more areas – laundry, cleaning, equipment maintenance, waste disposal and facilities maintenance of general hospitals – were privatised to three other firms. Total costs for these services jumped from RM140 million (36.82 million U.S. dollars) in 1996 to RM450 (118.3 million U.S. dollars) the following year.
”They have created a monster that has bled the public sector dry,” said Jeyakumar, adding that privatisation and the emergence of private hospitals was a big mistake. ”You can’t put the genie back into the bottle.”
The new insurance scheme will also have to take into account the 5,000 clinics, mostly centred in urban areas, run by private general practitioners, who treat a host of common ailments.
”How they would operate under the proposed scheme, nobody knows?” asked T Jayabalan, a private general practitioner deeply concerned about equitable access to healthcare for all.
He worries that the government might be forced to back-pedal after implementing the scheme, leaving a trail of chaos in its wake.
The government says that it cannot cope with the rising costs of healthcare and there is a need for restructuring. Part of this, it argues, is due to the changing patterns of disease – from communicable disease in the past to serious illnesses such as cancer and cardiac problems, for which treatment is costlier.
The rising demand for quality healthcare and sophisticated equipment is also another factor.
But expenditure on healthcare in Malaysia has traditionally hovered around three percent of GDP, well short of World Health Organisation recommendations of five to six percent. Despite inadequate funding, government hospitals have performed impressively, if the vital health indicators for the population are any indication.
The new national insurance scheme, however, will reportedly ”prepare specialised packages for members who want better service”, which will probably give more options to those who can afford it.
This is precisely what rankles campaigners like Subramaniam who want the proposed scheme to provide one common package with comprehensive coverage for all regardless of income levels.
”No private insurance must be allowed for the conditions covered in the basic package,” he stressed, adding that payment for the poor must be subsidised and equitable access must not be denied by imposing large co-payments.
What makes it difficult for concerned doctors such as Jayabalan is the level of public apathy and ignorance about the proposed scheme. “The public is totally unaware of what is going on,” he lamented.

May 30, 2005

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Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 8:11 pm

National oral health plan takes shape

The dental fraternity has formulated a national oral health plan for 2010 in tandem with the World Health Organisation’s oral health goals for 2020.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said the plan documented oral health goals in four areas: dental caries, periodontal disease, oral cancer and dental injuries.
The plan, he said, sought to reduce the prevalence of dental caries and tooth loss, aesthetically-unacceptable enamel defects, gum disease, deaths due to oral cancer and dental injuries.
He said it also outlined Malaysia’s strategies towards ensuring good oral health for Malaysians.
“It is a plan specific to us, much in line with the WHO aspirations, that countries identify levels of disease or health within their own capacity and capabilities.”
This year, Dr Chua said, Malaysia was at the half-way mark towards 2010, and it was reviewing goals and strategies.
He said that while maintaining primary healthcare as the thrust of oral healthcare, the Ministry would consider a proposal to develop a centre of excellence for oral health.
He said this centre could serve as a referral centre where all oral health specialties would offer services under one roof.
This, he said, would be particularly beneficial for patients who require multi-disciplinary management, such as patients with orofacial deformities who need corrective surgery, implants, orthodontic treatment and other restorative work.
He said the centre could be equipped with a central laboratory for the fabrication of dental appliances and prostheses. — NST

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Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 1:22 pm

MMA: Not all in white overalls are doctors

KUALA LUMPUR: They wear white overalls and carry stethoscopes when treating patients at health centres which provide anti-ageing treatment.
But they are not doctors, and this has got the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) concerned.
“It is alarming that many people are donning white coats, giving the false impression that they are Western-trained when they actually are not. They are doing this basically to give confidence to the client.
“The practice is becoming more common among beauty centres and traditional medicine practitioners,” MMA president Datuk Dr N. Arumugam said.
“Some of these centres are also named as health clinics. They are not to use the word clinics unless they are run by Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) registered doctors,” he added.
Dr Arumugam was commenting on the mushrooming of such centres, which promote Vitamin C injections and anti-ageing treatments using imported animal placenta and other forms of facial booster injection.
He reiterated that only trained practitioners and nurses should administer any form of injection, including Vitamin C.
He said doctors, unless otherwise stated in their Annual Practising Certificate (APC), should not be working in these health centres.
If there were doctors carrying out such practices, he said, clients should check their credentials.
He said the MMC had guidelines on doctors who could operate medical clinics.
“Anyone giving traditional and complementary treatment cannot be called doctors.
“They should not mislead the public into thinking that they are Western-trained,” he said.
The MMC had received complaints from general practitioners whose patients complained to them when treatment went wrong.
On fake medicines, Dr Arumugam said it was alarming to note that the Pharmaceutical Enforcement Division of the Health Ministry seized unregistered medicine and health supplements worth RM26mil last year.
He said the ministry’s move to make use of the Meditag hologram to check on illegal products was timely and there should be constant monitoring so that there was no abuse.

May 29, 2005

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Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 8:57 pm

Too Many People Hurt In Road Accidents, Says Dr Chua

BATU PAHAT, May 29 (Bernama) — “Every six minutes, one person is hospitalised due to road accidents,” said Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek, describing the huge number of people injured on Malaysian roads.
The rate, he said, was based on the total of 82,304 people admitted to hospitals nationwide after they were involved in road accidents in 2003 which also saw 6,286 killed.
“What saddens us is five per cent of those killed were children below 12 years old,” he told reporters after opening a “DaimlerChrysler Autohaus” operated by BR Jaya Sdn Bhd, here.
Dr Chua said the number of registered vehicles in Malaysia in 2003 was 12.8 million while the number of road accident cases was 268,653 and the losses they caused were estimated to be between RM5.4 billion and RM5.7 billion.
He blamed the attitude of road users in 80 per cent of the cases such as exceeding the speed limit and negligent overtaking.
“I can be said to use the road everyday and I can see drivers committing various offences; they drive as they like,” he said.
He said the other 20 per cent was contributed by the lack of safety features in the vehicles and the condition of the roads.

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Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 6:26 pm

RM9m to upgrade facilities

The Higher Education Ministry has set aside a special allocation of RM9 million to upgrade facilities to teach medicine in public universities.
Deputy Higher Education Minister Datuk Fu Ah Kiow said the money would be used for new equipment and increase teaching staff.
“The allocation will be used this year,” he said after presenting advance diploma certificates to graduates at the Kolej Tunku Abdul Rahman convocation ceremony, here today.
He said the ministry was also planning to add 1,400 new places in medical courses in universities in the next five years.
“We always increase the intake by four per cent every year.”

May 28, 2005

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Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 12:21 pm

Health Ministry D-G gets medal for achievements

Health Ministry director-general Datuk Dr Ismail Merican has another feather on his cap.
The practising senior consultant physician and hepatologist at Selayang Hospital received the Malaysian Medical Association’s Gold Medal today.
Incoming MMA president, Dr Teoh Siang Chin, presented the award to Dr Ismail at the association’s 45th annual general meeting at the Equatorial Hotel in Malacca.
Dr Ismail may be best remembered for updating the nation on the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) situation nationwide in 2003.
He is a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of London, Edinburgh and Glasgow and honorary fellow of the American College of Surgeons and Royal Australasian College of Physicians.
Dr Teoh said Dr Ismail was responsible for the research agenda and activities carried out by seven institutions under the National Institute of Health besides formulating the ministry’s research policies.
He had been a personal physician to royalty and the Governor of Penang.

May 27, 2005

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Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 4:56 pm

Five hospitals to specialise

KUALA LUMPUR: Five hospitals in the vicinity of the city will each specialise in a particular field of medicine to help ease the congestion at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital, Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said.
He said the Putrajaya Hospital would specialise in endocrinology, thyroid and cancer treatment, Selayang (liver), Serdang (urology, nephrology, cardiology and cardio thoracic surgery), Sungai Buloh (accident and infectious diseases) and Ampang (hematology).
The Putrajaya and Selayang hospitals are already in operation while the Sungai Buloh and Ampang hospitals are expected to be handed over to the Health Ministry by the Works Ministry this year.
“The hospitals would continue to provide normal medical treatment to patients,” Dr Chua said.
Speaking to reporters after witnessing the handing-over of the Serdang Hospital to the ministry, he said the hospital would cater to more than 300,000 residents from Puchong, Serdang, Putrajaya and the north of Seremban.
The hospital is expected to be opened in July with a staff strength of 400,” he added.
The RM687mil hospital is equipped with modern high-technology systems and energy-saving features. It also has 20 operation theatres and 19 hospital wards.

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Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 5:11 am

Govt Doctors’ On-Call Allowances Raised After 20 Years

SERDANG, May 26 (Bernama) — The government has agreed to raise on-call allowances of Health Ministry’s doctors and medical specialists by 100 per cent in some cases.

The review, the first in 20 years, would take effect next month, said Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek, Thursday.
He said with the review, specialists’ allowance for “active call” of over 16 hours continuously on a working day was raised from RM75 to RM150 while the allowance on a weekend and public holiday was raised from RM113 to RM170.
All categories of doctors on “passive call” and were recalled to come to work for over four hours on a working day would receive an allowance of RM90, instead of RM45 while the allowance on a weekend and public holiday would be RM100, instead of RM68, he said.
He said the allowance for “passive call” of less than four hours on a working day was raised from RM23 from RM50 while that on a weekend and public holiday was raised from RM34 to RM55.
Dr Chua said medical officers on graduate training would also receive higher overtime allowances.
Those on duty outside normal working hours of over 16 hours continuously on a working day would get RM100. The allowance on a weekend and public holiday would be RM110.
The overtime allowance previously was only RM25, he said.
He said the review was approved during a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Salary chaired by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi recently.

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