Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Greek doc says ‘aye’ to e-ciggies

Saturday, October 3rd, 2015

KUALA LUMPUR: A cardiologist from Greece has argued that e-cigarettes should be made available to smokers who want to stop using cigarettes, but could not or did not wish to give up nicotine.

Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos said e-cigarettes, like other reduced nicotine-containing products, had unique characteristics and role to play in tobacco harm reduction.

The University of Patras’ Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center cardiologist and researcher quoted studies that said the current nicotine replacement therapies had less than a 6% success rate while oral medications had less than a 20% success rate.

“Most smokers do not want to go to the doctor,” he said yesterday in a media briefing on facts about e-cigarettes initiated by the Malaysian Organisation of Vape Entity.

Alternative method: (from left) Boley and Dr Farsalinos listening to co-founder Heneage Mitchell (right) as he explains that Malaysians would still vape even if e-cigarettes are banned.

Alternative method: (from left) Boley and Dr Farsalinos listening to co-founder Heneage Mitchell (right) as he explains that Malaysians would still vape even if e-cigarettes are banned.

Instead, the e-cigarette was more acceptable to smokers to use it to reduce smoking, argued Dr Farsalinos, saying that it was 95% less harmful than cigarettes.

On Aug 13, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said the ministry was in discussions with various agencies and parties on the effects the various methods of smoking have on one’s health.

He urged the public to stop vaping until comprehensive findings on the risks were released.

John Boley, the co-founder of the consumer advocacy group pointed out that from 400 Malaysian smokers aged 18 and above surveyed online by Ipsos from June 3 to June 17, eight in 10 (82%) agreed that “e-cigarettes represent a positive alternative to today’s cigarettes”.


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Trapped by haze – how long more?

Monday, September 28th, 2015

THE agony of being trapped in the all-enveloping haze, which should be more accurately called smog, continues with no end in sight.

It is no longer a transient irritation that can be “tolerated” because it will soon go away.

“The number of forest fires and land fires could rise until end-November,” according to a spokesman of Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Agency on Sept 23.

Part of the reason is the El Nino which causes dry weather that causes peat lands to burn faster.

The burning of peat lands and the forest fires caused by plantations and farmers in Sumatra and Kalimantan are the sources of the haze in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

It is incredible that after so many years of the annual haze affair, after so many promises of action, and after so many meetings and agreements in the context of the three countries and of Asean cooperation, there is still a severe and prolonged haze this year.

Especially if the haze is to continue another two months, solving this problem should be the highest priority for the leaders of Asean – or at least of the three countries.

Asean leaders have given priority to forging trade and investment agreements, and launching an Asean Community by the end of this year.

But the most visible and urgent issue – how to end the haze which is affecting the health of millions of citizens in the three countries – has yet to receive the full attention it deserves.

Health of the people and the environment we live in are surely more basic and important than expanding trade.

Some people may treat the haze as just an inconvenience that will soon go away.

It is immensely frustrating to have to breathe in the polluted air, especially for people who are vulnerable.

Those who have the means can close the windows in their homes, put on the air conditioner in every room, and buy air purifying machines to catch the haze particles.

But most Malaysians don’t have air-conditioners or air purifiers.

They have to open their windows and tolerate the smog-filled air for the whole day and especially night.

People whose health will be most affected include those living near the epicentres of the forest and peat fires, especially residents of Sarawak and Sabah, and those in the southern and central states of the peninsula.

For them, the Air Pollutant Index may often or continuously be in the unhealthy range (101-200), very unhealthy range (201-300) or even hazardous range (more than 300).

Note that the API reading exceeded 1,000 and even 2,000 in parts of Indonesian Kalimantan on some days last week.


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Haze: Schools in several states to close on Monday

Sunday, September 27th, 2015

PETALING JAYA: Schools in several states will be closed again due to the worsening haze.

The Education Ministry said that schools in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Negri Sembilan and several parts of Sarawak will be closed on Monday.

The schools affected in Sarawak are located in Kuching, Sri Aman and Kota Semarahan.

On Sunday, the Ministry said in a statement that the closure was because the Air Pollutant Index (API) readings in these areas reached unhealthy and very unhealthy levels.

As of 11am Sunday, the API readings for Port Klang was 252, Shah Alam (281), Petaling Jaya (232), Putrajaya (206) and Batu Muda (256).

In Sarawak, Sri Aman recorded an API reading of 188, Kuching (139) and Samarahan (145).

Earlier, Deputy Education Minister P. Kamalanathan said an announcement would be made whether schools would be closed.

He said Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid had requested the ministry to monitor the haze situation.

“YBDS @MahdzirKhalid have requested @KemPendidikan to make an early announcement with regards to the current haze situation. Will update soon,” Kamalanathan had tweeted Sunday morning.


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API readings worsen throughout Malaysia

Sunday, September 27th, 2015

Return of the smog: Kuala Lumpur was covered in thick haze as air quality levels rose rapidly.

Return of the smog: Kuala Lumpur was covered in thick haze as air quality levels rose rapidly.

PETALING JAYA: People choked as the air quality in the Klang Valley, Malacca, Negri Sembilan and parts of Sarawak deteriorated.

Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and nearly all of Selangor were covered in thick haze, with a rapid rise in Air Pollutant Index (API) readings.

In Kuantan, the air quality also remained at an unhealthy level.

In Petaling Jaya, the API doubled from 61 at noon to 123 at 7pm, while in Shah Alam it rose from 62 to 128 over the same period.

A reading of 100 to 200 indicates unhealthy air quality, while 201 to 300 is very unhealthy and above 300 hazardous. A reading of 51 to 100 is moderate.

Other areas with unhealthy air quality as at 7pm yesterday were Putrajaya (121); Cheras (110); Kemaman (119); Port Klang (125); Banting (119); Sri Aman (118); Kuching (112); Indera Mahkota in Kuantan (105); and Balok Baru in Kuantan (122).

Also in the unhealthy range were Seremban (115); Port Dickson (115); Nilai (114); Bukit Rambai (108); and Malacca City (136).

The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry said in a statement that the haze caused by land and forest fires in Indonesia was currently being blown by winds from Kalimantan to West Sarawak.

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Dengue cases rising again

Saturday, September 19th, 2015

PETALING JAYA: As many as 2,604 dengue fever cases were reported from Sept 6 to 12, an increase of 16.8% compared to the week earlier.

The Health Ministry said the number of cases had been going down in the last eight weeks but had begun to increase last week.

Seven states showed increases in cases compared with the week before: Selangor, 122 cases (12.6%); Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya, 87 cases (54.7%); Kelantan, 46 cases (54.8%); Negri Sembilan, 44 cases (115.8%); Perak, 41 cases (33.1%); Malacca, 30 cases (75.0%); and Sabah, 13 cases (31.0%).

From January to Sept 12, the total number of dengue cases was at 85,488 compared with 70,337 the same period last year, an increase of 21.5% (15,151 cases).

There were 234 dengue deaths reported up to Sept 12 compared with 133 cases for the same period last year, an increase of 75.9%.

As many as 936 dengue outbreak localities were reported nationwide.

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Focus on day care health services

Saturday, September 19th, 2015

Tuaran: The Health Ministry will be proactively promoting day care health services in government clinics that can perform surgeries with less days to be hospitalised as a major transformation of the nation’s healthcare.

Minister Datuk Seri Dr Subramaniam, who disclosed this, said day care health services in government clinics will be given more medical tasks to carry out so that patients could seek treatment without being hospitalised or just cut the number of days warded.

He said the move is a revolutionary process in the overall healthcare system in the country under the 11th Malaysia Plan (11MP).

“I adopted the move when I met the Health Minister of the Netherlands at the World Economic Forum in China who told me that 95 per cent of healthcare services in the Netherlands was outpatient treatment cases as a result of providing day care health services.

“Hence, I believe this would further strengthen primary healthcare services in our country from hospitalisation to non-hospitalisation medical services,” he said here, Thursday.

Subramaniam said patients who undergo surgeries can come in the morning and return home in the afternoon which could cut the high cost of being hospitalised and also they would not be exposed to certain health risks at the hospitals.

For instance, he said surgeries to treat cataract patients could be done at the day care service whereby the patients can return home the same day.

“We have started this move by placing the day care in many hospitals such as in Kuala Lumpur, and the very strong day care is in Ipoh, Perak where many operations and surgeries have been carried out, unlike before where few such non-hospitalisation operations were done.

“In Sabah, such day care has been set up at Queen Elizabeth Hospital and Tawau Hospital which seem to run smoothly as one way to cut high hospitalisation costs. This is a major challenge and transformation that we are taking up to further improve the whole healthcare system in the country,” he said.

To a question, Subramaniam said there is limited funding to build new hospitals under the 11MP. However, several proposals have been received to upgrade quality medical services in district hospitals.

In a related development, he said his ministry has a plan to upgrade clinic facilities in Kota Marudu to enable the clinic to carry out more efficient and effective treatment.

He said this upgrading will include providing facilities like in hospitals such as dialysis and x-ray.

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Agenda on advance medical directives

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

Muslim scholars take the view that there is a limit to a patient’s autonomy in choosing the forms of treatment and care, as a doctor’s professional advice should also be considered.

FROM the perspective of the medical practitioner, an advance medical directive (AMD) is a proactive measure by an individual to help family members and next-of-kin decide the forms of treatment that must be provided when the individual has lost the ability to make his/her own decisions.

However, in Malaysia, there are no standardised guidelines on AMD to ensure that the care and management of patients who have lost their decision-making ability is ethically done, unlike some countries such as the United States, Australia, Holland, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Canada, England and Wales in Britain, and Singapore.

In the Malaysian and Muslim contexts, discussions on AMD among community members outside the medical fraternity are still in their infancy. Because of this, public awareness on AMD is poor and consequently discussions on AMD from the Islamic perspective are very limited.

Even medical practitioners may not agree on the definition of an AMD. However, in simple terms, AMD includes aspects of care, treatment and disclosure of patient’s wishes after death. This may help the next-of-kin to make the decision when the time comes.

Modern medicine has enabled physicians to perform intervention in order to prolong one’s life, for example, by using a ventilator to mechanically assist or take over a patient’s breathing process.


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New trend of ops using alternative procedure to conventional anaesthesia

Saturday, August 29th, 2015

Expansion plan: Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam at the new building construction project site while visiting Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainun in Ipoh. — Bernama

Expansion plan: Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam at the new building construction project site while visiting Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainun in Ipoh. — Bernama

IPOH: The Health Ministry will ex­­pand the usage of acupuncture-assisted anaesthesia (AAA) to other hospitals after its successful introduction at the Raja Permaisuri Bai­­nun Hospital here.

Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Su­­bramaniam said the method, known also as AAA, would not re­­place conventional anaesthetics but would be introduced at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital, Putrajaya Hos­pital and Selayang Hospital.

He said AAA was first practised at the hospital here after a visit by ministry director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah to the Shu­­gang University in Shanghai in 2012.

“There have been 22 surgeries performed here where the doctors used AAA.

“We have also trained doctors on AAA procedures,” he told journalists after visiting the hospital yesterday.

“It’s another alternative to the conventional method and one that we will be promoting to patients,” he added.

Dr Subramaniam said AAA had its advantages over conventional methods.

“It is cost-efficient.

“Patients would be awake and alert during surgery but the pain sensation is blunted and motor functions are preserved with less drugs being used,” he said.

“Patients can also go home after surgery, lessening the need to stay at the hospital,” he added.

Dr Subramaniam said hospitals would not force patients to use AAA.

“There will be counselling first to see whether the patient can accept it,” he said.

The first thyroid surgery using AAA was performed by Dr Noor Hisham here, assisted by consultant surgeon Dr Yan Yang Wai, while the acupuncture was performed by the hospital’s anaesthetic department head Dr Kavita M. Bhojwani.

Dr Kavita said AAA could be applied to only certain types of procedures.

“The method is suitable for neurosurgery cases like craniotomy and cranioplasty and general surgery like removing breast lumps, lipomas, chemoports and inguinal hernia,” she said.


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Study: Sleeping posture can affect brain health

Friday, August 7th, 2015

SLEEPING on your side rather than your back or stomach may play a role in helping reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases, according to a new study.

Side sleeping opens a passage in the brain called the glymphatic pathway that dispels waste and other chemicals, say the researchers from Stony Brook University in the US.

“It is interesting that the lateral sleep position is already the most popular in human and most animals – even in the wild – and it appears that we have adapted the lateral sleep position to most efficiently clear our brain of the metabolic waste products that built up while we are awake,” says Dr Maiken Nedergaard of the University of Rochester.

The team’s research began years ago when they used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology to observe the glymphatic pathway in rodents.

They learned that the waste-clearing process – bathing the brain with cleansing cerebrospinal fluids (CSF) and interstitial fluid (ISF) – is most efficient during sleep.

What gets flushed out the glymphatic pathway are amyloid beta; and tau proteins that are unhealthy in the brain if they build up.

In the study, lead author Dr Helene Benveniste and her team used MRI technology and kinetic modelling to measure the exchange rates of the fluids CSF and ISF in rodents who had been given anesthesia as they slept on their sides, backs and stomachs.

Technologies called fluorescence microscopy and radioactive tracing that gave the team a view of the glymphatic pathway revealed increased efficiency when the rodents slept on their sides.

Dr Nedergaard says the results of the study serve as further proof that sleep serves a waste-eliminating function.


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‘Medicine prices will increase with TPPA’

Sunday, July 26th, 2015

KUALA LUMPUR: The price of me­­di­­­cines – from antibiotics to cancer treatments – some of which went up due to the Goods and Services Tax (GST) will go up even more under the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPPA), a doctors’ association says.

The Muslim Doctors Association of Malaysia (Perdim) said GST plus the TPPA equalled a “double whammy” and that many consumers might not be able to cope with it.

Association president Datuk Dr Ahmad Shukri Ismail urged the Government to not agree to the TPPA, which is currently under negotiation.

Ahmad Shukri, the Barisan Nasional state assemblyman for Pulau Tawar, Pahang, said at a press conference: “We have to speak out about this because consumers are already bearing the brunt of so many price increases.”

The association will hold its first annual general meeting on Aug 1 and has 955 members comprising Muslim general practitioners who work in private clinics and private hospitals.

Association deputy president Dr Mior Mohd Yusuf Adnan said about 80% of medicines sold in Malaysia were generics, which meant prices would likely rise sharply under the TPPA.

The trade agreement would create strict curbs on the sale of gene­ric medicines as Western pharmaceutical companies seek to streng­then protection of their patents and intellectual property rights.

“It will be harder to obtain gene­ric medicines because under the TPPA, most of the medicine that will be sold will be ‘genuine medicine’.

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