22 September 2007

Only 2 experts to serve state with most respiratory patients


KOTA KINABALU: Sabah has only two respiratory physicians to cater to the needs of the state, nearly the size of Peninsular Malaysia with a population of 2.7 million.

The situation is said to be caused by the reluctance of respiratory physicians or specialists from the peninsula to serve in the state.

Some claimed that the facilities were inadequate while others thought the state too remote, said Dr Jamalul Azizi Abdul Rahman, Department Head of Respiratory Medicine at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) here.

He is one of the two respiratory physicians in Sabah, who are both based at the QEH.

The need for more such physicians is compounded by the state having the highest number of cases of lung-related diseases, especially tuberculosis (TB).
About 4,000 TB cases are referred to hospitals in Sabah every year, also the highest in the country.

Illustrating the severity of the problem, Dr Jamalul said an average of 200 patients sought treatment at the QEH respiratory clinic every week and respiratory wards with a capacity of 40 beds were always full.

"This does not include cases referred from other hospitals," he said, adding that at least two more respiratory physicians were needed at the QEH.

Dr Jamalul also initiated the first National Interventional Bronchoscopy Course at the QEH recently with the objective of attracting more respiratory physicians to work in Sabah.

"The course was organised so that specialists from the peninsula would know what the hospitals in Sabah are capable of doing."

The course attracted 33 doctors, consisting of general physicians, respiratory physicians, university lecturers and cardiothoracic surgeons.

Two prominent international experts in intervention bronchoscopy - Dr Pyng Lee from Singapore and Dr Hidetoshi Honda from Japan - were invited to speak at the course.

Dr Jamalul also plans to initiate the formation of a Malaysian Association for Bronchology.

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