Materia Medica Malaysiana

November 23, 2007

Girl’s death: Panel probe claim hospital was lax

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 11:08 am

Star: PENANG: A five-man panel has started investigations into alleged negligence in the treatment of Year Six pupil, S. Subashini, who died at the Seberang Jaya Hospital, after apparently hanging herself.
State Health, Welfare and Caring Society Committee chairman P.K. Subbaiyah said the panel started talking to medical officers and staff of the Seberang Jaya and Sungai Bakap hospitals yesterday.
He said the panel would also invite Subashini’s parents to give their statements.
“We view this matter very seriously and want to be transparent in our investigations.
“Any negligence on the part of the hospital authorities will be dealt with appropriately,” he told reporters outside the state assembly hall here yesterday.
S. Subashini, 12, was sent to the hospital after she was found with a blanket around her neck in her house at Changkat, Nibong Tebal last Saturday.
Her father G. Sivakumar, 36, alleged that the hospital had neglected to ward her in the intensive care unit despite her critical condition. Instead, she was admitted to the general ward and pronounced dead the next day at 4.05am.
The panel, headed by Ipoh Hospital physician Datuk Dr K. Chandran, comprises forensic pathologist Datuk Dr Bhupinder Singh, Penang Hospital psychiatrist Dr Lai Fong Hwa, Penang Hospital anaesthesiologist Datuk Dr Jahizah Hassan and private practitioner Dr B. Ravichandran.
Subbaiyah said the inclusion of Dr Chandran and Dr Ravichandran was because the state wanted to be impartial in its investigations.

November 22, 2007

Move to make sure all doctors have required skills

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 9:07 am

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Newly qualified doctors will have to undergo two years’ compulsory housemanship from next year.
Currently, they only have to do a year of housemanship.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek, who announced the Cabinet decision yesterday, said the move was considered important to increase the knowledge, skills and experience of graduate medical officers.
“This will improve the quality of services and healthcare standards,” he said.
A rotation system of four months in six departments will be implemented. With the newest inclusion being the accident and emergency department, the rest are medical, paediatric, general surgery, orthopaedic, obstetrics and gynaecology.
“We have observed that in the past few years, about three to five per cent of graduate medical officers do not get full registration because they have weaknesses in knowledge or skills,” he told reporters before chairing his ministry’s post-Cabinet meeting.
“We cannot let this continue. We hope the move is seen as a positive one by future graduates and we are confident the rakyat (people) will support us.”
After the two-year housemanship, the doctors would have to serve their three years’ compulsory service with the Government or its agencies, he said.
Dr Chua said the ministry would apply to the Government to place them under the U43 grade upon completing the two years’ housemanship compared to the current U41. The U43 pay scale is RM500 more than U41.
He said the doctors would be able to pursue their specialist courses or Master’s after serving two years’ compulsory service compared to the current situation whereby they can only apply to further their studies after three years.
About 1,200 local medical students graduate annually.
Dr Chua also announced the Cabinet’s decision to disallow the future setting up of private cord blood banks because while it was a new service with huge potential to treat specific diseases, there were still ethical issues to be scrutinised.
He said the existing centres would have to apply for a licence from the ministry within the next two months and would be registered under the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998.

Housemen to serve an extra year

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 9:06 am

NST: PUTRAJAYA: Medical graduates will have to serve an additional year of housemanship beginning next year.
During the period, housemen will undergo four months’ training each in the fields of medical, paediatrics, general surgery, orthopaedics, gynaecology and emergency.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said the cabinet gave its nod to the one-year extension as it would provide future doctors with more experience, skills and knowledge.
He added that the extended training would also benefit the people as it would enhance the quality of the local healthcare industry.
Each year, some 1,200 medical students graduate from local public and private universities.
Dr Chua also said four companies handling private cord blood banking had been given two months to register with the Health Ministry.
The cabinet has given approval to the ministry to monitor their operations and ensure that they followed guidelines and maintained standards issued by the National Stem Cell Service Committee.
Dr Chua said their registration was made compulsory following complaints from the public.
The problems surfaced with the appearance of advertisements claiming that stem cells could cure various illnesses, although at present it has only been proven effective in helping cure leukaemia and thalassaemia.
He said the cabinet also approved an annual allocation of RM16.8 million for cord blood banking in public hospitals.

November 21, 2007

Not all in favour of anti-smoking proposal

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 9:01 am

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: The proposal by the Health Ministry to ban smoking in more public areas, including open-air eating premises, received mixed reactions.
The Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners’ Association (Presma) and Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) commended the proposal.
“It’s a good move to protect second-hand smokers, especially children. But the government should be firm and prohibit smoking in all public areas,” said Presma president Jamarulkhan Kader.
MAH executive director B. Sarjit Singh said the proposal was welcome but more awareness campaigns should be carried out.
However, the Malaysian Indian Restaurant Owners’ Association president Datuk R. Ramalingam Pillai said it would be difficult for them to implement the ruling.
“We welcome the move but it will be a problem because we sell cigarettes in the premises,” he said.
Last week, the New Straits Times reported that the Health Ministry was finalising the Tobacco Product Control Bill which will see smoking being banned in National Service training camps nationwide, open-air eating premises, health centres and factory buses.
The bill is being drafted and would be presented to the cabinet by early next year.
Health Ministry parliamentary secretary Datuk Lee Kah Choon said restaurant owners should change their mindset as more customers would visit their premises when the ruling was implemented.
He said the ministry was looking forward to banning smoking in more public places in the future.
Lee said smokers in the country spent at least RM15 million daily on cigarettes.
The amount was based on the estimated expenditure of three million smokers nationwide which could increase to four million by the year 2020.
He said the figure was alarming and more aggressive efforts were needed to curb the situation.
“It’s a waste of money and the government has to bear the cost of treating the diseases caused by smoking,” he said at Klinik Kesihatan Tanglin yesterday.
Lee had launched the Stop Smoking Infoline which offers help and information for smokers , with tips to quit the habit.

China food on alert list

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 9:01 am

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Honey, oyster sauce and dried mushrooms are among food products from China which have been placed on the food alert list for contravening regulations in Malaysia.
Data from the Health Ministry Food Quality and Safety Division indicated, in samples taken on specific dates, that pesticide residue was detected in the dried mushrooms on four occasions from April to July this year.
Drug residue was found in the honey sample taken in June while the cancer-causing agent 3-MCPD was found in oyster sauce tested in May.
There were 32 Chinese products placed under the ministry’s Food Safety Information System (FoSIM) level five alert, where products are held, tested and then released, from January to October this year.
There are six levels of alerts – the first is auto clearance and the sixth is auto rejection.
Other products included frozen eel, seaweed, frozen royal red prawns, shitake mushrooms and salted turnip. All other China-imported food items were put on level four alert which requires examination.
Food found to have contravened the Food Act 1983 and Food Regulations 1985 was either destroyed or returned to the country of origin.
Malaysia imports US$680mil (RM2.3bil) worth of food items from China yearly.
Thailand had 17 food products on the list while nine food products from India contravened regulations including groundnut kernels in which aflatoxin, a cancer-causing agent, was found on six occasions from sampling done from March to September.
Six products from Indonesia including natural honey, kicap manis, prawn crackers and chilli sauce were also put on the watch list.
Roasted seaweed from Singapore was found to contain metal contaminants on four occasions from July to September.
In all, 103,480 imported food consignments were tested until September. A total of 49 consignments were rejected or destroyed.
Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek told reporters yesterday that the quality of imported food was safe because of constant monitoring at 36 entry points with the cooperation of the Customs Department and other agencies.
Dr Chua said the monitoring and inspection of food and premises was also carried out.
“Some operators do not practise cleanliness. That is why food poisoning happens from time to time, including at school canteens. They think that if the food is cooked, it is safe to be eaten,” he said, adding that factors like how the food was kept and the equipment used also contributed to food poisoning.
From January to June this year, a total of RM416,260 in fines was collected from 2,290 cases. The ministry also shut down 2,957 unsanitary food outlets.

November 20, 2007

Teach kids ‘to deal with stress’

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 9:07 am

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: More students will kill themselves if they are not taught how to deal with competition and modern day stress.
Psychologists yesterday warned that the trend was on the rise in Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore, and that it was only a matter of time before it becomes a norm in Malaysia.
Monash University and Sunway Medical Centre consultant clinical psychologist Paul Jambunathan said more children were becoming obsessive and compulsive due to competition and pressure.
“That’s because society expects a lot more from them. The focus now is on academic excellence and many children are unable to meet the needs,” he said.
He added that parents wanted their children to excel academically while schools were all out to out do each other.
Jambunathan was commenting on the death of 12-year-old Subashini Sivakumar of SRJK (T) Ladang Simpah, Nibong Tebal, who was found hanging two days ago from the ceiling of her room with a blanket tied around her neck.
She is believed to have been in a state of depression for achieving 4Bs, 2Cs and a D in the examination. She had promised her parents she would score 4As.
Jambunathan said no one had taught her to deal with stress or showed her that suicide was not the answer to “failure”.
“But she felt her results were not good enough. I feel she might have been trying too hard to meet other people’s expectations”, he said.
He said children learn to resolve their problems from their surroundings and models including cartoon characters.
Children also watch movies that focus on suicide, gangsterism, shooting and other negative aspects of life, he added.
HELP University College clinical psychologist Dr Ng Wai Sheng agreed that suicides were on the rise because of competition and stress.
“If the social support systems are not strengthened, we will end up with increased social emotional problems,” she said.
“When her goals were not met, she felt like a failure”, she said, adding that Subashini, her parents and teachers, were victims of an increasingly competitive world.
She said people needed to realise that suicide was not just confined to people with mental problems but could involve normal people caught in stressful situations.
Kuala Lumpur Hospital child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr Toh Chin Lee said parents should know the strengths of their children and develop them accordingly.
“They should be realistic about their expectations. Parents should remember that scoring As is not the only thing for a child,” he said.
He added that children who could not take academic pressure should be allowed to excel in other fields.

Health staff for NS camps

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 9:06 am

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Each of the 81 national service camps will have four medical assistants and nurses stationed there starting from the Dec 29 intake.
Right now, there is none.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said the move involved about 300 health personnel, to be loaned from public hospitals and clinics operating near the camps.
“The health personnel will be rotated on a three-month basis. They will be given a two-day course to expose them to the kinds of sicknesses or injuries trainees may incur.
“We have also recommended to the National Service Council that in the long-term, they should train health personnel of their own,” he told reporters after meeting council chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye here yesterday.
Dr Chua said it was decided that a sick trainee who did not recover after 24 hours be referred to the nearest hospital immediately.
As for placing doctors at these camps, he said there was no clinical justification to do so at present.
”The medical assistants and nurses are trained to take medical history and make diagnosis of simple complaints,” he said.
He added the mobilisation of these staff was not expected to stress the existing personnel or level of service at public hospitals and clinics.
“We have some 40,000 medical assistants and nurses throughout the country. Those placed at national camps will be entitled to the usual allowances,” he said.
The next intake for the 110,000 trainees will begin on Dec 29. Each camp has about 400 trainees at one time.
The programme had come under fire last year after several deaths involving trainees. As at May, there had been 12 fatal incidents.
He also reminded camp commandants and trainers not to smoke in front of their charges.
Lee said the council would bring up the proposal to train its own health personnel at a meeting with the National Service Department on Dec 13.
He reminded trainees to answer all 31 questions in the declaration of health status forms.
“This is compulsory. The forms will also have to be counter-signed by their parents,” he said, adding that only those who were fit would undergo the programme.

November 19, 2007

Minister: Show plans benefit patients

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 1:29 pm

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Companies offering health packages have been asked to convince the health ministry that they were not just out to make profits.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek wants managed care organisations (MCO) to show proof that those who signed up for their packages had gained from them.
“The health packages must be fair and beneficial to patients when they seek treatment at designated hospitals. Patients should not be shortchanged,” he told the New Straits Times.
He said people signed up for packages because of the escalating health cost. They also wanted doctors to do the necessary tests and treatment.
“Of late, the ministry has been receiving a lot of complaints about how patients with health packages have been shortchanged by the MCO. Doctors, too, have complained that their fees have been reduced and a limit had been imposed on clinical examinations,” he said.
MCO is a commercial body that enters into a contract with healthcare providers to provide programmes or packages within an agreed monetary arrangement.
Examples of MCO are health insurance companies, third party administrators, health maintenance organisations, preferred providers organisations, and the panel doctors system.
Dr Chua said MCO had been operating in health-related business in the country since the mid-90s and there had been several issues raised about their operation.
Among them is the disclosure of patient information and the practice of capping chargeable fees and limiting tests and procedures.
MCO are required to register with the ministry. They can register online at

Chua: Eat right, exercise regularly

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 9:07 am

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Nearly 70 per cent of Malaysians aged over 18 do not exercise and have been sedentary in their lifestyles over the past decade, giving rise to health risks.
This alarming indicator comes from a recent Health Ministry survey that found that only 30.9 per cent of Malaysian adults exercised. Of this, only 11.6 per cent did so adequately.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said overeating or poor eating habits contributed to an increase in the prevalence of many chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular illnesses.
“The proportion of overweight Malaysian adults increased from 16.6 per cent in 1996 to 29.1 per cent last year, while obesity had increased from 4.4 per cent to 14 per cent during the same period.”
Dr Chua added that there was an increase from 8.3 per cent in 1996 to 14.9 per cent last year for diabetic adult Malaysians above 30.
“For the same age group, the proportion of those who were hypertensive increased from 29.9 per cent to 42.6 per cent for the same period,” he said at the “Sierramas Community Fun Run” at the Sierramas Resort Homes in Sungai Buloh yesterday.
Dr Chua put the blame for the obesity problem on the attitude and change in lifestyle of the people following the socio-economic development of the country after independence.
“There have been dramatic changes in our lifestyle, especially in the last two decades. Food used to be scarce and malnutrition a problem, but we are now consuming less complex carbohydrates like cereals, grains and tubers and consuming more sugar, red meat, eggs, animal products, fats and oils.
“There are also changes in food consumption patterns with increased eating frequency, eating out more often and meals at odd or the wee hours of the day.”
He added that despite the efforts and resources of the government to improve health, it was the people themselves who could determine whether to stay healthy. “This is a matter of choice and will-power.”
Dr Chua called on Malay-sians to engage in regular physical exercise which was not confined to games but also walking up stairs, dancing, jogging and cycling. This could be done at no cost at all.
“Let us walk the extra mile, take extra fibre and forgo the extra servings. The choice or decision is ours.”

November 17, 2007

Ministry finalising bill to ban smoking in more places

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 10:45 am

NST: GEORGE TOWN: The Health Ministry is finalising the Tobacco Product Control Bill, which will see smoking being banned in more places in the near future.
Besides a proposal to ban smoking in National Service training camps nationwide, the ministry is looking at expanding the list to include open-air eating premises, health centres and factory buses.
Its parliamentary secretary Datuk Lee Kah Choon, however, said the matter was pending discussions.
“The enlargement of non-smoking areas is constantly under review.
“If all goes well, we hope to present the bill to cabinet for approval by early next year,” he said yesterday.
Lee said the bill would consolidate the law on tobacco control together with the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control’s requirements.
“The bill is our commitment to reduce diseases and to slow the rise of chronic diseases and early death.”
He, however, said until such time the new act came into force, which he said could take a long time, similar amendments would be made to the Control of Tobacco Product Regulation 2004 under the Food Act 1983.
“It will take a long time for a bill to be gazetted into an act, sometime years, because it has to go through numerous processes: the Attorney-General’s Chambers, parliament and the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
“If amendments are made to the existing law, we can implement and enforce the smoking ban on such places faster and I can assure you enforcement will be strict then,” he said, adding that once the new act came into force, the existing law would be made obsolete. “The amendments are to cater for the interim period until the new act comes into force.”
He also said it was looking at making it mandatory for cigarette manufacturers and importers to make sure that health warnings covered at least half the cigarette packet.
It is understood that the warnings must cover more than half of the front and back of the cigarette packets and may include a graphic illustration of the hazards of smoking.
Many countries, including those in the European Union, require cigarette manufacturers to carry graphic photographs illustrating the consequences of smoking to health.
Singapore has, since Aug 1, required cigarette packs to carry graphic warnings, including images of a cancerous lung and a brain oozing blood after a stroke.

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