Materia Medica Malaysiana

October 1, 2007

Free health screenings milking fears

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 9:16 am

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Those attractive free health screenings, often offered in hotels or shopping complexes, come with a cost.
Director-General of Health Tan Sri Dr Mohd Ismail Merican told the New Straits Times that not only were the screenings carried out by unqualified people, “they often come as part of a package or with conditions attached. The screening is free but, often, getting the results is not”.
He spoke in support of Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek’s recent caution to the public to stop going for free health screenings. Dr Chua had said that some businessmen offering them were in cahoots with doctors to make money off people’s fears for their health.
For example, if someone wanted to take the test results to their own doctor, then the test results would be withheld.
If they went to the recommended doctor, they were offered a “health package” that cost nothing less than RM400. These doctors then paid the businessmen a commission.
Dr Ismail said the instruments and the modality used for screening must be validated by a recognised and accredited body, so that the results could be validated. And, anyone screened must be given access to further treatment, if necessary.
He advised anyone who wanted a health screening to go to a government facility, where screening was free and follow-up treatment given immediately.
“Those conducting free health screenings in shopping complexes and hotels are targeting the vulnerable and high-risk groups,” he said, adding that the personnel were often not qualified to interpret the results.
He said that in a recent case, someone was told he had hepatitis B after a free screening but another test in hospital showed he did not have the disease.
Conversely, these screenings could create a false sense of security if someone who might have a serious underlying condition was given a clean bill of health.
Dr Ismail said both the Health Ministry and the Malaysian Medical Council took a serious view of the matter and the ministry was looking at whether action could be taken under the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act.

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