03 July 2012
KUALA LUMPUR: In a move to improve the lives of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) sufferers, the health ministry plans to engage Bank Negara to enable insurance reimbursement for sleep-related investigation, surgery and crucial rehabilitation.
The minister, Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, said sleep disorders were currently not covered by insurance companies in the country.
"The health ministry views seriously the critical danger that sleep disorders pose to the people, and is committed to improving the lives of many sufferers of OSA and other sleep disorders," he told reporters after opening the Joint Fourth Malaysian International PRL-HNS Congress and Inagural Sleep Congress here today.
He said the ministry also planned to conduct screening for OSA among drivers of public transport vehicle, and renewal of their licenses would depend on their adherence to the treatment.
"Current drivers who are found to have OSA will be treated before they are allowed to continue driving," he said, adding that those with moderate-to-severe OSA were seven times more likely to have multiple accidents.
He said in psychological and social health, OSA had been found to detrimentally affect memory, attention and motor skills, and depression rates were higher in those with sleep disorders.
Liow said, currently these public vehicle drivers only had to undergo health examination which included blood, urine and drug tests, but not sleep test, and thus, the ministry would propose the new test to the transport ministry.
He said this was in view of the increasing traffic accidents at an average rate of 9.7 per cent per annum over the last three decades, and also the number of fatalities involving public transport vehicles.
Liow said the ministry also planned to set up sleep centres in every state, consisting of state-of-the-art sleep study facilities and sleep-trained specialists and paramedics.
He said the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention of the United States had emphasised that sleep was increasingly recognised as important to public health, with sleep insufficiently linked to motor vehicle crashes, industrial disasters and medical and other occupational errors.
OSA was strongly associated with obesity and it was present in 80 per cent of those who were obese, he said.
Meanwhile, at another function, Liow said there was a need for hospitals to be more environmentally-friendly, as well as more efficient with energy usage by utilising green technology .
"Thus, health facilities trying to green should focus on two areas, that is reducing waste and reducing the consumption of water and electricity," he said when opening the Eighth World Congress On Design and Health 2012 here today.
He said the World Health Organisation had also cited other measures such as improving hospital design, reducing and sustainably managing waste, using safer chemicals and purchasing environmentally-friendly products.
Later, speaking to reporters, he said the upgrading of two wards and lobby at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital (KLH) had been completed. The upgrade of another 58 wards and the path leading to the Accident & Emergency Department and other facilities will be done this year.
"A multi-level parking bay will be built, too...we are now in the midst of tendering the projects, and it would take two years to complete, he said, adding that the wards would be showcased and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak invited to launch it.
KLH was allocated RM300 million in the 2012 Budget for major improvements and to upgrade its facilities. -- BERNAMA
This article was published in www.nst.com.my on 28 June 2012.