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HEALTHY

LIVING

S P E C I A L F E AT U R E - J U N E 2 0 1 6

INSIDE:

An enemy called sugar
The best stress buster
Looking for that quick beauty fix

2

Health check: How much sugar is it OK to eat?
Kacie Dickinson

sugar, or almost half the daily limit.
Sugar added to foods and drink can have different names
depending on where it comes from. When reading labels,
alternative names for sugar include: sucrose, glucose, corn
syrup, maltose, dextrose, raw sugar, cane sugar, malt extract,
fruit juice concentrate and molasses.

Associate lecturer in nutrition and dietetics, Flinders University

Louisa Matwiejczyk
Lecturer, advanced accredited practising dietitian, Flinders University

C

onsuming too much energy – whether from fat or
carbohydrates, including sugar – will make you gain
weight. If left unchecked, this excess weight increases
your risk of lifestyle-related diseases such as diabetes, heart
disease and some cancers.
In recognition of this, the World Health Organization (WHO)
recommends adults and children limit their intake of “free
sugars” to less than 10 percent of their total energy intake.
Below 5pc is even better and carries additional health benefits.
Free sugars refer to monosaccharides (such as glucose) and
disaccharides (sucrose or table sugar) added to foods and
drinks by the manufacturer, cook or consumer. It also refers to
sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit
juice concentrates.
Free sugars are different from sugars found in whole fresh
fruits and vegetables. There is no scientific evidence that
consuming these sugars leads to health problems. So the
guidelines don’t apply to fresh fruit and vegetables.
If you’re an average-sized adult eating and drinking enough
to maintain a healthy body weight (roughly 8700 kilojoules per
day), 10pc of your total energy intake from free sugar roughly
translates to no more than 54 grams, or around 12 teaspoons,
per day.
But more than half of Australians (52pc), for example,
usually exceed the WHO recommendations.
Most sugar we eat (around 75pc) comes from processed and
pre-packaged foods and drinks. The rest we add to tea, coffee,
cereal and other foods we cook.
Sugary drinks account for the largest proportion of
Australians’ free sugar intake. A single can or 600ml bottle
of soft drink can easily exceed the WHO recommendation,
providing around 40-70g sugar. One teaspoon equates to 4.5g
of white sugar, so soft drinks range from 8.5 to 15.5 teaspoons.

A surprise for many is the added sugars in savoury foods
including sauces and condiments. Tomato and barbecue sauce,
salad dressing and sweet’n’sour stirfry sauces contain 1 to 2
teaspoons of sugar in each tablespoon (20ml).
Popular “health foods” and sugar-free recipes can be
particularly misleading as they can contain as much sugar as

The main ingredient is sugar if any of these are listed as the
first three ingredients.
Note that products with “no added sugar” nutrition claims
may still contain high levels of natural sugars, also considered
as free sugars. A good example of this is fruit juice: The sugar
content of 200ml of sweetened orange juice (21g) is 7g higher
than unsweetened juice (14g).
So how can you cut down on your added sugars?
First, eat fewer foods with free sugars. Reduce your intake
of sweets such as chocolate and lollies, cakes, biscuits, sugarsweetened soft drinks, cordials, fruit drinks, vitamin waters
and sports drinks.
Second, make some swaps. Swap your cereal for a lowersugar variety and limit the amount of sugar you add. Drink
plain tap water and swap brands for sugar-free or those with
lower added sugar. Swap fruit juices for whole fruits, which
also give you fibre and other health-promoting nutrients.
Finally, read the labels on packaged food and drink. If the
product has more than 15g of sugar per 100g, check to see if
sugar is one of the main ingredients. If it is, use the nutrient
information panel to compare and choose products containing
less sugar.
their sweet alternatives. Usually this is referring to “sucrosefree” (what we know as white sugar) and doesn’t exclude the
use of other sugar derivatives such as rice malt syrup, agave
or maple syrup, typical of popular sugar-free recipes. These
are still forms of sugar and contribute to energy intake and
unhealthy weight gain when consumed in excess.
We know treats such as chocolate, pastries and ice-cream
do contain sugar, but just how much might surprise you. A
chocolate-coated ice cream will contribute 5 teaspoons of

Staff writers
Aung Kyaw Nyunt, Shwe Yee Saw
Myint, Lae Phyu Pyar Myo Myint,
Chan Mya Htwe, Zay Yar Linn,
Myo Satt, Myint Kay Thi, Su Phyo
Win, Khin Wyne Phyu Phyu

Editors Myo Lwin, Hein Min Latt,
Clovis Santiago
Sub editors P Vijian, Mya Kay
Khine Soe

More insidious sources of sugar are drinks marketed as
“healthier” options, such as iced teas, coconut water, juices
and smoothies. Some medium-sized smoothies have up to 14
teaspoons of sugar (63.5g) in a 475ml drink.
Flavoured milks are also high in free sugars (11 teaspoons in
a 500ml carton) but can be a good source of calcium.
Other foods high in sugar are breakfast cereals. While some
sugar is derived from dried fruit, many popular granola mixes
add various forms of sugar. Sugar content for 1 cup of cereal
ranges from 12.5g for creamy honey quick oats to 20.5g for
granola. A cup of some types of cereal can contain 30pc to
50pc of your daily free sugar allowance.

Photography Kaung Htet, Aung
Htay Hlaing, Zarni Phyo, Thiri Lu,
Naing Wynn Htoon, Aung Myin Ye
Zaw, Aung Khant, Nyan Zay Htet

HEALTHY
LIVING
2016

Cover Photo
Staff

Art Director Tin Zaw Htway
Layout Designer Khin Zaw

For feedback and enquiries, please contact
c.santiago@mmtimes.com

3

Beauty is much more
than just great make-up
It’s a skin thing really and experts reveal here how a
woman can achieve and maintain that glow
Lae Phyu Pyar Myo Myint

I

t’s natural for a woman to wish to look
beautiful, but beauty’s secret is not
concealed in the cosmetic box. It takes
some serious effort to remain stunning, say
beauty experts. It all starts with the skin.
Grooming specialists say having a healthy
skin is as important as having a pretty face.
Unfortunately most women tend to neglect
caring for their skin and instead focus more
on cosmetic tricks.
Women would rather spend generously on
products like make-up, lipstick, eye shadow
and eye liner to look elegant, but penny-pinch
when buying skin treatment products, say
experts. They fail to realise that real beauty
lies in having glowing, wrinkle-free and natural
skin rather than wearing layers of make-up.
Skin specialist Dr Kyaw Kyaw said common
cosmetics include make-up, powder, lipstick or
any other product used to dollup the face, while
skincare includes toner, eye cream or moisturiser,
products mostly used to treat the skin.
“For your skin to be healthy, soft and
natural, it’s important to choose appropriately
from these two categories. There would be
a difference between the skin quality of
a person who uses skincare and one who
doesn’t,” he said.
For example, if someone wears make-up
daily, the person should use skincare without
fail. If not, once they reach the age of 30,
wrinkles start appearing around the eyes and
the cheeks.
To avoid this, women should wear
moisturiser or day cream under their makeup. When using make-up or skincare items,
one should choose products that suit one’s
skin because certain skin is over-sensitive and
prone to damage or thinning.
If products – body foam, lotion, make-up,
powder, eye liner, eye shadow or blush shade
– do not suit the skin, it would damage the
facial skin and it would be quite difficult to
cure the scars later. Dark-coloured patches or
acne could also start to appear.

“We see cosmetics and skincare products
entering our country through various
companies. It’s important that consumers
choose correctly from these many products.
Just because a product is expensive, it does
not mean it’s good. The effects would depend
on what you choose and how you use it. You
have to ponder upon what you need to use.
Your age, your skin requirement and weather
factors have to be considered. Also, it depends
on whether you can afford that product,” said
Dr Kyaw Kyaw.
He advised woman prone to having
skin rashes to select products labelled “for
sensitive skin”, “no allergy”, “chemical free”
or “no perfume”. Those likely to have acne
should choose products that say “oil free”,
“non-comedogenic” or “non-acnegenic.”
Women with oily skin should choose products
meant “for oily skin” and those with dry skin
should use items meant “for dry skin” only. If
consumers are not aware about a particular
product, they should consult the salesperson for
more details, said Dr Kyaw Kyaw.
Consumers should make it a point to read
the labels of any beauty product so they
are aware of where it was produced, the
ingredients that were used and the directions
to apply it. Cosmetics are now available from
various sources – supermarkets, direct selling
and online trading – and users also need to
verify whether they have been registered with
the Myanmar Food and Drug Administration,
he said.
“When someone suffers skin damage after
applying a product not suitable for their
skin, the damage should be treated early by
a doctor. Sometimes, damage would have
changed the colour of the skin into a lighter
or darker patch and doctors can”t do anything
about it. If some kind of complication arises
after using a new product, stop using it and
consult a doctor,” he added.
Another important tip from experts is to not
be swayed by a convincing advertisement that
promotes a certain beauty product. People are
attracted to new things in the market which

Balancing health and right make-up vital for good looks. Photo: Staff

they think could produce better results. In
the past, people were content wearing only
thanaka.
“Besides using cosmetics and skincare
products, I want to advise people to drink a
large amount of water, avoid staying under
direct sunlight, eat plenty of vegetables, have
a good sleep and do stress-releasing exercises
regularly,” Dr Kyaw Kyaw said.
“To be physically beautiful, one has to be
mentally beautiful as well. Physical beauty is
nothing if one doesn’t have a beautiful mind.
If you are worrying too much, you cannot
become beautiful. You need both cosmetics
and good health to remain beautiful,” Dr Kyaw
Kyaw said.
Make-up artist Ma Htet from Pop Soul
beauty salon said if women wear skincare
foundation before applying make-up, that can
help maintain a beautiful complexion but also
prevent side effects that could occur from
wearing make-up.
That’s why one should apply a suitable
foundation such as a toner, a whitening
essence or an essence gel. This will give
the skin a pure look and make-up will last
throughout the day.
“For those who apply make-up daily, choose
a type that would be suitable for your skin. For
oily skin, oil-free cream or liquid type would
be suitable. When you perspire, the make-up
won’t disappear together with the oil from
your skin. For dry skin, oil-based make-up
is suitable. This way, one’s face would look
pretty with a light layer of make-up. Mainly,
you should choose a cosmetic that suits your
skin,” Ma Htet said.
“When applying make-up, use powder puffs,
sponges or brushes rather than fingers so that
potential ageing lines would be less significant
and the make-up would last longer. After
wearing make-up the whole day, clean it with
a make-up remover at night. Eye liners should
be cleansed with relevant removers and with
a cotton bud. Then, wash your face with facial
foam and apply a night cream or an essence.”
Ma Pwint Phyu Phway, an experienced

manager who has worked in various
cosmetics companies, gave these tips on
choosing cosmetics and skincare products. “If
you wish to start using cosmetics, you should
first know your skin type. You need to know
if it is oily, dry or sensitive. For example,
people with dry skin should use a cream
type but those with oily skin should use
a liquid type. Cream and two-way cakes
depend on what you want to look like. You
can use loose powder if you want to apply
only a little make-up. You can use a two-way
cake if you want to cover your flaws more.
“You have to choose the toner and lotion
according to your skin. Those having a dry
skin should use a moist type and those
having an oily skin or acne should use a
light fresh type. For those having a sweat
pore problem, there are special skincare
products and there are also aging products
for wrinkles. It would be appropriate if you
choose the colour of lipstick, blush shade and
eyebrow stick according to your skin type.
“Make sure your face is totally clean when
applying make-up. There might be invisible
dust on it. Together with oil coming out
from the skin, it would create bulges on your
skin. Therefore, you should double-clean
your face at night with a cleaning cream,
gel, milk or lotion together with facial foam.
This way, dirt from sweat pores would be
cleansed and the skin will be treated by the
skincare product that would sink into the
dermal tissue.
“Teenagers, with their soft skin, should
use products that include more natural
ingredients. It’s good to use make-up and
skincare, but it would be wise not to overdo
it.
“We need to be careful about the quality
of the product and it is advisable to use
it only after consulting someone who is
knowledgeable, especially if the product has
any chemical in it,” Ma Pwint Phyu Phway
added.
Translation by Emoon,
Kyawt Darly Lin and San Layy

4

Hospitals invest in the latest medical technology to provide the best health care for patients. Photo: Thiri Lu

High-tech hospital race
As demand for quality medical care rises, medical institutions here are
scrambling to equip themselves with the latest equipment
Chan Mya Htwe

H

ospitals in Myanmar are seriously investing in
ultramodern medical equipment to provide the best
healthcare possible and establish themselves in this
growing market.
Keeping abreast of the fast-changing medical technologies
abroad, the healthcare sector is beginning to procure
sophisticated medical equipment and devices from developed
countries.
San San Yi, chair of Okkar Thiri Company, said there is
a high demand for equipment used in emergency rooms,
laboratories and surgery rooms, and for devices for diagnosis,
tests and treatment.
“Diseases can now be treated here with global-standard

equipment, which includes ultramodern instant cancer
diagnosing and therapy equipment. So there is no need to go
abroad for treatment.
“But patients still have to queue up to seek treatment at
hospitals because there is still not that much equipment
available,” San San Yi said.
The company, which has been importing hospital
equipment since 1998, imports 70 percent of its total from
Europe, 20pc from Japan and 10pc from the United States.
Surgical items are flown in from Germany, lab equipment
from France, X-ray apparatus from Japan, and testing devices
for oxygen from the US.
Ultramodern equipment is currently being used at Mahar
Myaing Hospital as well as at other private hospitals like Asia
Royal, Shwegondaing Specialist Centre, Pinlon and Victoria.

She said 70pc of the medical equipment used in Yangon
General Hospital was imported through the company. Okkar
Thiri also has about 30 engineers to install and maintain the
equipment it sells.
Besides healthcare apparatus, more fitness equipment is
also being imported mainly because the younger generation
is becoming more involved in exercise. Not only is such
equipment found in hotels and gyms but in homes too.
Aung Htet Myat, director of Natray Wellness Co Ltd, which
imports US-made Life Fitness sports equipment, said most
of the fitness equipment in Myanmar comes from the US,
Taiwan and China.
“In the past, few people exercised, but now many are now
doing it for health or beauty reasons,” he said.
Translation by Emoon

5

Exercise: the best
stress buster
Some walk, others run or work out, and some even say that drinking
water regularly in the morning leads to good health. Here’s what
regular exercisers have to say

A daily dosage of exercise keeps disease away. Photo: Aung Khant

Gym-goers say exercises reduce stress. Photo: Aung Kyaw Nyunt

Aung Kyaw Nyunt

I

t is no secret that regular physical exercise helps keep people healthy.
Health-conscious people do some kind of exercise daily and many
would attest that it helps reduce stress, improve stamina and enhance
blood circulation.
Early-morning joggers even say they have stronger hearts and lungs due
to their rigid routine.
“I regularly walk every morning. I set my alarm clock so I can be up at a
fixed time. I’m already on the road at 5:30am. It feels good when you walk
early in the morning,” said middle-aged fitness buff Thein Tun Oo.
“I usually pick a location where I can get fresh air. From my point of
view, when walking, you have to move your legs and hands, which helps a
lot for your blood circulation.” He added that exercise prevents stress and
when there is less stress, there is less chance of a person suffering from
stroke.
Thiha from YGN Gym was of the same opinion. He said, “There are
people who go to gyms in the evenings with the aim of building strong and
athletic physiques. Lifting weights reduces stress. I regularly go to the gym.
Most people who go to gyms try to build attractive bodies. When I first
started, I had the same objective. But later I found that one by-product is
you have your stress level lowered.
“To prove this fact, I have a personal experience to share. One day I was
so busy and feeling stressed up at work. I was feeling like, “Can I make it
to the gym this evening?’ Finally, I decided to go, because I didn’t want
to waste the gym fees that I had already paid in advance for the day.
Once I started lifting weights, I felt the tension, worry and stress leaving
gradually. To put it in a lighter vein, all the tension from my body went
into the weights that I was lifting. I’ve now learnt a lesson – when you feel
stressed up, go and do some physical exercise.”
Htet Arkar, another YGN Gym member, said regular gym-goers felt
cheerless and downhearted even if they missed a single day at the gym.
“A person seems uplifted in spirit if they are going to the gym daily and
touching those weights.”
Khin Khin Htay, who is all for health and healthy habits, had more
to offer. According to her, the habit of drinking a big glass of water
immediately after a good night’s rest cleanses the gastro-intestinal tract
and helps prevent illnesses.
“Doing physical exercise to have good health is important. Likewise,
to cleanse and prevent your digestive system from being infected with
disease, you should drink water even before washing your face in the
morning. Food remnants still remain in your intestine in the morning.
If you don’t cleanse them by drinking water and instead have your
breakfast, your digestive system can become infected.
“So people need to drink water as soon as they get up from bed.
Drinking water also helps your bowel system and helps your restroom
experience,” she said.
Translation by Khant Lin Oo

6

Private healthcare needs healing touch
The sector is struggling to deliver quality medical care, forcing
many to seek better treatment abroad

While private hospitals are mushrooming, lack of healthcare specialists could stifle the sector’s growth. Photo: Thiri Lu

Zay Yar Linn

T

he shortage of skilled medical
professionals in Myanmar is hindering
private hospitals from offering quality
care to their patients and embracing modern
technologies to treat diseases. Besides the
lack of specialist doctors, the industry needs
professional medical staff, from paramedics to
nurses to medical laboratory technicians.
Dr Thura Kyaw Lin, director at Clinic
Inya, said, “Private hospitals and clinics are
trying to have the same technology as in
foreign hospitals. And yet while there are a
lot of expensive or moderately priced private
hospitals, their services are still poor. We are
facing difficulties finding skilled doctors and
medical staff.
“We do not have the time or financial
resources to develop our manpower. Local
staff would go abroad even if the pay is just
K200,000 more than what we pay here. We
have buildings and modern devices but we do
not have enough skilled people.”
This lack of professional healthcare
practitioners could stunt the growth of the
private medical sector in Myanmar as well as
that of public hospitals.
Private hospitals became popular when
previous governments were in power – the
State Peace and Development Council, and
then when former president Thein Sein’s
transitional government came to power in
2010 – and licences were issued to launch these
hospitals in Yangon, Mandalay and Taunggyi.
In Yangon, Myanmar’s main commercial
city, there are 42 fully licensed private
hospitals, yet more patients are going abroad
for medical treatment.
Dr Htin Paw, CEO of Sakura Hospital, said,
“The number of people going to foreign

countries for treatment will increase. In
Myanmar, everyone is supposed to be a
specialist and they are the ones managing
the private hospitals. These places do not
have separate wards or buildings like the
government hospitals and their services are
also poor, as they are not fully authentic
hospitals.”
The main reason patients go to Thailand,
for example, is because the treatment they
receive here is not satisfactory. Doctors in
private hospitals do not spend enough time
with their patients nor do they explain how
the treatment will be done, resulting in lack of
confidence in local doctors, he said.
“Once the patient registers at a foreign
hospital everything is meticulously planned,
like the doctor’s appointments or providing a
translator to help out with the language gap.
During post-treatment, the doctor and patient
are punctual with their appointments. Here,
most doctors or specialists do not come on
time and patients do not trust these doctors
any more,” Dr Htin Paw said.
Private hospitals now rely more on modern
diagnostic devices, but due to a lack of
skilled technicians to handle the equipment,
there are difficulties in diagnosing a disease
accurately.
In some private institutions, laboratory tests
results or X-rays are sent to local or foreign
specialists, in countries such as England or
the United States, to seek a second opinion.
However, some doctors here do not believe in
doing that.
“We call this “taking a second opinion’. We
have the local doctors examining the X-rays
or tests and, if needed, the reports are sent to
experienced doctors in countries like England
or Singapore. But most local doctors do not
accept the second opinion.

“We need to get it [second opinion] if the
patient is in doubt of the result and, moreover,
it is important in building trust with patients.
Treating a patient is one thing, but trying to
diagnose a disease is difficult,” Dr Htin Paw
said.
According to the 2014 census, Yangon
Region’s population is 5.21 million and yet
only a little over 10,000 beds in government
and private hospitals are available in the city.
This clearly indicates there is a dire need
for more clinics and hospitals to fulfill the
healthcare needs of the public.
Although over 40,000 doctors have
graduated from local medical universities
since Myanmar’s independence, the number
of doctors in the country’s health services
is small because almost half of them are
pursuing other livelihoods or have taken up
jobs abroad.

Various steps have been taken to address
the shortage of doctors and skilled medical
staff in private health institutions, such as
stop-gap measures of recruiting Myanmar
doctors working abroad and hiring foreign
doctors. But hiring foreign doctors is a
cumbersome process. They would only
be issued a temporary licence and need a
recommendation letter from a local specialist
who has qualifications equivalent to those
of the foreigner. The stay period is only for
three months and they are allowed to work at
designated hospitals only, and need to pay a
fee of US$500 monthly to the medical council.
For the private medical sector to progress,
the government needs to develop a quality
healthcare workforce, introduce financing of
private medical care for patients, and reduce
the cost of medical devices, say experts.
Translation by Khine Thazin Han and San Layy

Public and private hospitals are competing to give quality service. Photo: Staff

7

The quick beauty
fix is here to stay
That re-engineered smile,
that nip and tuck, that
suddenly wrinkle-free face ‒
more people are spending on
cosmetic surgery to look good
Thanaka is a potent traditional skincare paste. Photo: Staff

Myo Satt

T

he beauty business is
flourishing in Myanmar.
Over the past five years
the cosmetic surgery segment has
seen rapid growth with both the
young and old seeking treatment to
improve their physical appearance,
say local experts.
“As popular South Korean movies
are influencing the way we think
about our looks, Myanmar people
are getting nose ridge operations
done. They also do procedures
known as nose lift, eyelid lift or
V-shaped face, which means a
slimmed and narrowed down face,”
Dr Ye Tun Thu, a skin, aesthetics and
anti-ageing practitioner said.
Minor operations are now
often done locally and some large
hospitals also perform major ones.
Dr Ye Tun Thu, CEO of Dr Face
Beauty Treatment, Rejuvenation
Therapy and Laser Center, said
cosmetic surgery also helps boost a
person’s self-esteem.
“An advantage of getting surgery
is you gain more self-confidence
that would be a winning factor
for you throughout your life. The
disadvantage is that some become
obsessed with beauty and want
to go through one surgery after
another. It’s a kind of addiction and
they should have more self-control.”
He said some people think they
have become beautiful just because
they have had cosmetic surgery,
which is a fallacy. “That’s a wrong
notion. You have to take care of your
lifestyle and hygiene and there are
some things you must avoid after the
surgery so that you would not get
any infection.” For instance, he said,
Myanmar cities can be dusty and such
an environment would not be good
especially immediately after a surgical
procedure. “We need to be careful … If
not, there could be side effects.”
The side effects would depend
on what sort of operation one has
undergone and even one’s lifestyle.
“You may not have many side
effects after minor surgery but it’s
a different story for major surgery
that requires general anaesthetic.”
Some even use cosmetic surgery
as a quick fix for obesity, which is
becoming more common here no
thanks to more sedentary lifestyles,
the growing fondness for fast food
and overeating.
“Among those who receive
liposuction, 80 percent are women

and the remaining 20pc are men.
They use the treatment to maintain
their beauty. It sucks the fat out
when belly and arms become
chubby,” aesthetics surgeon Dr
Saw Oo Tan, medical director of
Kembangan-UHC Hospital, said.
After sucking the fat out, the
loose skin has to be treated to
become taut. “Especially the belly
skin – some people use a tummy
tuck belt to tighten their belly. This
is suitable for young people. Where
skin is too loose and hanging, we
have to cut it off,” he said.
Liposuction is painless and has
very few side effects but a person
must undergo a thorough medical
check-up before the treatment.
“We have to check the whole body
… Their kidneys, liver and heart
must be good. And then, we have
to make sure they do not have any
kind of blood disease as it would be
quite dangerous if they over-bleed
when liposuction is done,” he said.
If a person habitually smokes and
drinks, they have to stop doing so
five days before the procedure, while
those on blood thinner medication
need to stop that a week before.
“Tumescent fluid and a kind of
fat-destroyer fluid will be injected
in the area about 50 minutes before
sucking out the fat. This makes
the area numb and the fat is also
destroyed. The hole is only the size
of your small fingertip,” Dr Saw Oo
Tan said.
There could be change in skin
colour to brownish black, numbness,
loose skin and an irregular surface in
the area where the procedure is done.
But these symptoms will disappear
within two weeks to three months.
“They have to follow our advice so
the skin area becomes taut after one
week from the surgery. We make
regular appointments with patients
once or twice a week. Some do not
come back, but some do,” he said.
A patient needs to follow strict
instructions for 24 hours after
liposuction – like drinking plenty
of water, avoid driving and taking
a day’s rest. They should slowly
resume their routine and avoid
high-cholesterol food.
“After sucking out the fat, the
best thing is to have a controlled
diet and do regular exercise. From
my experience, if a person does not
control the diet, they could gain
weight again after two years,” he said.
Some of the advantages of
liposuction are that the person feels

lighter, more alert and active, thus
improving overall health.
Some women even take the
opportunity during the procedure to
plant extra fat to their breasts and
hips to look more attractive. “This
is called fat graft or lipofilling. You
suck up the extra fat and add the
best part of the fat to other places
that you wish to. Some add silicon
material.
“We can get any amount of silicon
but, to be safe, it has to be of a very
good quality. Adding your own fat
to other parts would not cause any
problems, but there might not be
enough of it. Also, depending on a
person’s body resistance, tissue can
grow or sometimes decrease,” Dr
Saw Oo Tan added.
Dr Moe Thida Htwe, joint professor
at Dent Myanmar Dental Center,
said people visit the clinic for various
treatments. For instance, youths
come for tooth aesthetics and the
elderly to treat tooth problems.
“Tooth aesthetics means
whitening and fixing of unequal
or protruding teeth. There is laser
whitening and home bleaching.
For orthodontics, we have metal
tooth fixing of two kinds, fixed and
removable.
“Here, people go for the fixed kind
and it lasts for one to two years
depending on the condition of a
patient’s teeth. It has no side effects.
Treating irregular teeth will not be
successful if they do not come for
treatment regularly. Sometimes
a tooth has to be extracted if
required,” she said.
With all the talk about modern
methods to enhance beauty, the
traditional Myanmar thanaka
cannot be overlooked.
Dr Ye Tun Thu said, “If thanaka
is ground on a clean circular stone
with clean water and applied on the
face, the skin will feel cool and it
can protect the face from sunlight
perfectly.
“It acts like a natural sunblock
cream. But, people who have wide
sweat pores, oily skin or acne on the
face should not apply thanaka. This is
my experience. Thanaka can worsen
the condition of acne on the face.”
All in all, experts stressed,
a person’s beauty is not made
perfect just by spending money
on expensive surgery. In the end,
only good health can keep the body
beautiful for a long time.
Translation by Emoon
and Khine Thazin Han

Liposuction helps remove fat from the body. Photos: Supplied

8

Quicker health tests here and now
More private medical labs are increasingly better equipped to
handle growing demand, say industry insiders

Private diagnostic labs are popular because of their efficiency in producing reliable results. Photo: Aung Myin Ye Zaw

Myint Kay Thi

T

he medical diagnostic and laboratory
services sector is flourishing thanks
to rising consumerism and a more
health-conscious public which now relies on
these labs for quick medical tests.
Even healthy folks, especially urbanites,
are seeking regular medical advice to prevent
lifestyle diseases – such as diabetes, heartrelated ailments or hypertension – linked
to unhealthy eating habits and a changing
lifestyle.
Besides that, hospitals are also outsourcing
specialised tests to private laboratories to cut
costs, thus making diagnostic labs an integral
part of the healthcare system.
Pathlab Diagnostic Centre manager Phang
Chee Yong said an increasing number of
people come in for routine check-ups.
“There are also pre-hired company
employees, some company staff doing their
annual health checks and some are referred
to us by other hospitals or clinics.”
The figures say it all. On average, Pathlab
conducts 2500 to 3000 check-ups every month.
Phang said the quality of labs, including
medical equipment, has been improving due
to rising foreign companies investing in the
medical sector.
The sector’s growth is also fuelled by
changing healthcare trends plus the growing
purchasing power of locals who desire quality

medical care.
Diagnostic labs like Pathlab and Ni Ni
Laboratory are profiting from it and offer
health packages of comprehensive lab tests to
the public.
For those who can afford it, the agony of
long waits for test results, especially in public
hospitals, is over, staff say, because wellequipped labs, backed by trained employees,
are able to produce results within a short
time.
Pathlab physician Dr Thet Su Wai said, “It’s
not necessary any more for patients to wait
long for their test results as there are many
private labs now. I would however suggest
these labs reassess the quality of equipment
they use, like for blood tests, so results would
be as accurate as possible.”
Dr Thein Myint, assistant secretary of the
Myanmar Diabetes Association, said accurate
lab results are necessary for a patient, so
it’s important to control and maintain the
quality of labs to produce reliable results.
“There are many labs now and it is
essential that results are accurate. There
are organisations that control the quality
of labs and they determine which ones are
efficient or not. Those labs that have secured
certificates of recognition can be basically
designated as qualified,” he said.
He said in the past it was difficult to carry
out tests for some diseases, while rare diseases
could not be diagnosed at all, but now private

hospitals here are able to detect them.
“These private institutions can do some tests
that cannot be done at government hospitals.
It would seem you are paying a high price to
do these tests, but prices are reasonable if
compared to tests done abroad,” he said.
A director at Ni Ni Laboratory said it is
necessary for diagnostic labs to use effective
technology and modern apparatus to carry
out any medical test.
Dr Khin Pyone Kyi said, “Labs should
always be learning from others. Every year
we update ourselves by using new technology
and equipment. These include devices that
can produce results for lungs, blood and stool
within an hour.”
She said it is important for a person to
have regular physical check-ups, regardless
of whether he or she is suffering from any
ailment. If they are above the age of 40, they
are more prone to high blood pressure, heart
ailments or diabetes.
“We had an example of a normal person
coming in for a regular check-up thinking he
was free from any disease. But then, the results
showed he had liver cancer. If you know in
advance what disease you are suffering from, it
would be easier to treat,” she said.
Dr Khin Pyone Kyi said people who do their
check-ups regularly or come through referrals
from hospitals and physicians can also consult
the specialists at the lab.
“Once you have the results, you can receive

free consultations. If the test has diagnosed
a disease, you can go ahead and consult
the relevant specialist, and if the disease is
considered contagious the patient would
be referred to the relevant physicians or
departments elsewhere,” she said.
A 40-year-old woman who did not wish to
be named, suffering from uterus cancer, said,
“If you are an in-patient at a government
hospital, you could do your blood check for
free at the hospital lab. Blood tests must be
done before the due date for chemotherapy.
“If you are an out-patient at a government
hospital you have to use the private labs
for your blood and other medical tests. The
prices are not the same in these labs and
may vary from K10,000 to K20,000.”
Consultations at private diagnostic labs
do not come cheap and prices for tests
can range from K10,000 to over K100,000,
depending on the illness. Yet, demand for
these services continues to rise, including
from companies. For instance, a company
may require new staff to have simple
checks involving blood, stool or urine tests,
while others may require even more tests,
for instance any sexually transmitted
disease, HIV, tuberculosis, and heart or liver
ailments.
Workers going abroad also go for
medical tests at these labs on the advice of
physicians, according to a staff member at a
private lab in Yangon.

9

Taking chances with your medicine
Despite stringent rules, officials don’t really know how much illegal and fake medication is in the market – they suspect it’s a lot
Shwe Yee Saw Myint, Su Phyo Win

M

edicine and drugs from abroad
clearly dominate this market but
what is certainly not clear is how
much of it is illegally imported or even fake,
the latter being of even greater concern to
people in need of treatment.
Most foreign-made drugs are imported
from India, followed by Bangladesh and
Pakistan. And there has been a gradual
increase in drugs imported from Vietnam
as well.
Myanmar Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) director Dr Khin Saw Hla said two
types of illegal drugs are available in the local
market: genuine drugs not registered with the
FDA, and fakes.
She said it’s hard to estimate the quantity
of illegal drugs sold here, but suspects it could
be a large amount. She warned that some
unscrupulous dealers have even been known

to stock and sell drugs that have passed their
expiration dates.
“By consuming fake drugs, a sick person
will not be able to become better and a critical
patient will become worse, and may even die.
The genuine illegal drug will not be dangerous
for the patient,” she said.
Commenting on the same issue, Police
Colonel Aung Htay Myint of the Myanmar
Police Force Transnational Crime Department
was quoted in the state media last week as
saying, “Illegal, fake and non-standard drugs
affect a person’s hereditary genes. The World
Health Organization, in its 2010 report, said
some preventive drugs used to treat malaria
can affect the mental abilities up to even the
third generation.”
Importing drugs into Myanmar is not an
easy process as the government has set strict
conditions. Any new medicine to be marketed
has to be registered with the FDA and it could
take 18 months to two years to be approved

and listed as permissible.
“It costs nearly US$800 to register at the
FDA,” U Kyaw Kyaw Myint, from a local
medicine company, said.
The sale of illegal medicine is widespread
and these usually enter the country at areas
bordering India, China and Thailand. They are
cheap, but since they are not registered they
cannot be considered safe, simply because
buyers cannot be sure whether they are
genuine.
“Some medicines are not imported legally
but they are already here. They are very
effective and you could get well soon using
them. They are not registered as it would take
a long time to do so and some physicians
might recommend them. This is exceptional
and it would be a very rare happening,” U
Kyaw Kyaw Myint added.
Currently, hundreds of companies are
involved in importing drugs and there are
over 7000 pharmacies around the country,

uccessive governments in
Myanmar failed to address
the healthcare needs of the
public. Now, people are interested
to see how the National League for
Democracy-led government will
resolve this issue. Here are some
views from the ground:

What do people
want from public
healthcare
services?

Khaing Soe Aung
Wants to see free medical
care in remote areas

Wutt Yee Cho Aye
Hopes for nationwide disease
prevention services

We know government hospitals
are treating patients free of charge.
I wish all the hospitals in remote
townships would have the same
service. At present, this free service
is only available in city hospitals.
Remote hospitals should follow
suit. Instead of focusing all the
resources in a few places, I think
healthcare services should be evenly
distributed to remote places as well.
Moreover, it is good to know that aid
organisations are not only supporting the healthcare sector but also
helping the government’s needs.
Non-governmental organisations
do the same kind of work around
the world, meeting the needs where
governments have missed out. If full
healthcare services were given to
all hospitals, patients from remote
areas need not depend on other
organisations much and should be
able to get treatment in their own
localities.

It’s good to know Yangon General
Hospital is giving services free
of charge. It would mean a lot
to people who do not have the
financial resources for healthcare.
These people are known to use folk
medicine and it wouldn’t matter
if the medicine was the right
one. Now that the services are
free at Yangon General Hospital,
patients who cannot afford to pay
can seek treatment directly from
the respective specialists. The
hospital is not only offering free
treatment but also giving out free
drugs. I wish such services could
be extended to all the hospitals
nationwide. I want to suggest that
services related to preventing
contagious diseases be provided
nationwide. For example, hepatitis
B vaccinations should be carried
out across the country. Prevention
can drastically reduce the disease
outbreak.

Aung Kyaw Nyunt

S

Wah Wah Khaing Minn
Wants more ambulances in hospitals
I heard that the government hospitals are now treating patients free
of charge. I’m not sure whether this
means that an in-patient does not
have to pay for the room or for the
treatment. I still see some patients
having to pay for their medicine. I
know that even in developed countries, like the United States, Japan
or Singapore, you won’t get free
healthcare. Only if a person has paid
their monthly dues for health, then
they pay only 30 percent of the total
medical costs. I would not hope for
free healthcare service here, but
I earnestly hope that a sufficient
amount of regular medicine is given
free, so patients would not have to
buy them. Another issue is that I
hope hospitals have enough ambulances for emergencies. If there
is only one ambulance at a hospital and there is an urgent need to
transport a patient, what happens if
another emergency case happens at
the same time, which also needs the
service of an ambulance?

according to an expert on pharmaceutical
companies.
These companies first introduce their
products to doctors, who in turn prescribe it to
patients, if suitable. These patients then buy
the medicine from the pharmacy.
Medicine imported legally is usually shipped
from abroad. Imports from India would take
two to three weeks to reach the ports. There is
no difficulty, as these procurements have been
going on for many years.
Customers mostly buy medicine from
trusted drug stores and those selling it at fair
prices.
“I buy my medicine from a drug store in
Tarmwe township. This shop introduces
new medicine to us and explains its positive
effects. We buy medicine from trusted shops
that we know of. We spend around K150,000
on medicine a month,” said Tin Tin Win, a
housewife from Kandawgalay.
Translation by Khine Thazin Han

Noe Noe Aung
Calls for sufficient free medicine
I think it is good that patients
who cannot afford it be given free
medicine. This way, people do not
have to give up hope, just because
they can’t buy lifesaving drugs. For
example, the vaccine for rabies is
worth thousands of kyats. There
have been a lot of incidents where
people bitten by dogs could not get
the vaccination. I heard Yangon
General Hospital is now giving it
out free. It would be good too if
they have sufficient stock. Patients
who cannot afford to buy their
medication have to depend on free
medicine. If the free supply runs
out, I think officials should give
an explanation. It is important to
have enough supplies and free services at hospitals in remote towns.

10

What people in their 90s really think about death
Jane Fleming
Senior research associate, University of Cambridge

A

cross the developed world more people are living longer,
which of course means more get to be extremely old by
the time they die. Nearly half of all deaths in the United
Kingdom are people aged 85 or older, up from only one in five just
25 years ago.
Dying at an older age can mean a different sort of death, such as
becoming gradually frailer in both body and mind and developing
numerous health problems over many years. Where years after
retirement were previously considered just old age, a longer
life-span means the later years now include variation reflected in
labels such as “younger old” and “older old.”
Our previous research showed people who are over 90 when
they die need more support with daily life in their last year than
even those who die in their late 80s. In the United Kingdom,
around 85 percent of those dying aged 90 or older were so disabled
as to need assistance in basic self-care activities. Only 59pc of those
between 85 and 89 at death had this level of disability.
This knowledge has implications for planning support for life
and death in different care settings. But what do we know about
what the older old (95-plus) people actually want when it comes to
decisions about their care as they approach the end of their lives?
How the older old feel about dying
The oldest and frailest in our society are becoming less visible as
many who need the most support, such as those with dementia,
are either in care homes or less able to get out and about. But
their voices are crucial to shaping end-of-life care services.
In our latest research, we had conversations about care
experiences and preferences with 33 women and men aged at

least 95, some over 100, and 39 of their relatives or carers. Of
these, 88pc were women, 86pc were widowed and 42pc lived in
care homes.
Death was part of life for many of the older people who often
said they were taking each day as it comes and not worrying too
much about tomorrow. “It is only day-from-day when you get
to 97,” said one woman. Most felt ready to die and some even
welcomed it: “I just say I’m the lady-in-waiting, waiting to go,”
said one.
Others were more desperate in their desire to reach the end. “I
wish I could snuff it. I’m only in the way,” was a typical sentiment
in those who felt they were a nuisance. Others begged not to
be left to live until they were 100, saying there was no point to
keeping them alive.
Most were concerned about the impact on those left behind:
“The only thing I’m worried about is my sister. I hope that she’ll
be not sad and be able to come to terms with it.”
The dying process itself was the cause of most worries.
A peaceful and painless death, preferably during sleep, was
a common ideal. Interviewees mainly preferred to be made
comfortable rather than have treatment, wishing to avoid going
into hospital.
We found families’ understanding of their relative’s preferences
only occasionally incorrect (just twice). For instance, one person
said they wanted to have treatment for as long as they could, while
their family member believed they would prefer palliative care.
This highlights the importance of trying to talk options through
with the older person rather than assuming their family knows
their views.
We found most discussed end-of-life preferences willingly and
many mentioned previous talk about death was uncommon,
often only alluded to or couched in humour. A minority weren’t

interested in these discussions.
We need to talk with the older old
It’s rare to hear from people in their 10th or 11th decade but there
are some studies that have explored the views of the younger old.
Most often these have concentrated on care home residents and
occasionally on those living at home.
A literature review conducted in Sweden in 2013 found a total of
33 studies across the world that explored views of death and dying
among older people, although very few of these sought the views
of the older old.
A 2002 study found older people in Ghana looked forward to
death, seeing it as a welcome visitor that would bring peace and
rest after a strenuous life. And a 2013 study in the Netherlands
showed many people changed their preferences on how they
wanted to die as their care needs changed.
A recent review examined older people’s attitudes toward
advance care plans and preferences for when to start such
discussions. It identified 24 studies, mainly from the United States
and with younger old age ranges. The results showed that while
a minority shirked from end-of-life care discussions, most would
welcome them but were rarely given the opportunity.
These studies support our findings on older people’s willingness
to discuss often-taboo topics, their acceptance of impending death
and their concerns around what the dying process would bring:
increasing dependence, being a burden and the impact of their
own death on those left behind.
To plan services to best support rising numbers of people
dying at increasingly older ages in different settings, we need to
understand their priorities as they near the end of life.

How the aged in Myanmar view death
Clovis Santiago

S

ister Lucy, a coordinator at the Little Sisters Home for the Aged in Yangon, has been an endof-life caregiver for the aged for some years and knows the pain they go through. She and the
staff engage directly with them to understand their needs and provide the best comfort they
can. Sister Lucy said they have witnessed older people die suddenly, but more peacefully than those
younger to them. The Myanmar Times spent some time with the elderly in the home to see how they
cope with the feeling of isolation and how they perceive mortality, the inevitable part of life.

U Win Kyaw, 83
Former upper division clerk,
Myanmar Petroleum Products
Enterprise, a Kayin-Chinese
Buddhist

U Shwe Paing, 85
Owned durian plantation in
Mawlamyaing, worked as a car
and real estate broker, a BamarChinese Buddhist
I have been here for five years
and I am well looked after. I
used to stay with my brother
who died of heart disease
when he was 81. When I was
left alone, his grandchild
brought me to this home.
I do my meditation
regularly, especially at
bedtime. I have no sickness
whatsoever, except that I am
quite hard of hearing. I feel
like I am ready to die when
death comes calling because I
am keeping myself peaceful.

I have been here for the past
seven years. I used to stay on
my own after my 26-year-old
daughter passed away 20
years ago. The house rent at
that time was K70,000 per
month, but when it rose to
K150,000 I couldn’t afford it
any more.
I started reading religious
books when I was over 40. I
used to stay at Mogok Yarthet
Pan Meditation Centre in
Okpho township. Now that
I’m here, I study and practise
Mogok Vipassana meditation.
I am now suffering from
glaucoma and taking treatment
from an eye specialist. If you
have a physical existence, you
have to undergo suffering.
This impermanent physical
existence should cease and
then it would lead you to attain
Nirvana.

U Maung Kwa, 96
Worked as a peasant,
missionary and a church
assistant, a Kayin Christian
My wife passed away at the
age of 60. I was brought
here from the hilly regions
by one of my daughters
who was already living
in Yangon. It’s been 20
years since I came here
and I even have another
daughter who is staying in
this home.
I am now praying and
sharing my loving kindness
on a regular basis every
day. I pray nine or 10 times
a day for my benefactors,
for the donors and
sponsors of this place, for
my family members and for
me. There would be more
understanding of what
death means if there were
more discussions on this
topic. I think about death
often and I am ready to die
at any time, as I am well
prepared to go to heaven.

Daw Daisy Sein (Daw Hlaing
San Aye), 86
Was an active member in the
Burma Socialist Programme
Party Headquarters Youth
Organizing Central Committee, a
Bamar Buddhist
I graduated with a BA
(Philosophy). I have travelled
to Thailand, Singapore,
Malaysia and Hong Kong. I
have been staying here for
nine years now and this is
a good place where you can
improve spiritually. I was
trained by my parents to be
religious at the age of 12.
They made me understand
the prayers that I was
reciting.
I think discussions on
death should be initiated
at a young age, so that kids
would start understanding
what death is. Death can
come at any age, too. All is
impermanent in this life. I
believe that God made me
live this long to be used for
His purpose and to serve
His cause. I regularly say my
beads and do my meditation.
It gives me peace and keeps
me focused. I am ready to die
at any time.

Patricia White (Patsy), 87
Worked at the Bank of India for
five years and resigned when
the bank was moved to Minbu
township, also worked for five
years as a kindergarten teacher
at Seven Dolours Convent School
in Thingangyun township;
father was Irish, mother EnglishPortuguese, a Catholic
During the Japanese
occupation in 1942, we had to
flee from Yangon to a British
evacuee camp in Coimbatore,
India. As a 12 year old, I was
so happy at that time to take
this steamer trip to India. We
came back to Yangon in 1947.
I had two sisters and both
were singers at the Burma
Broadcasting Service.
I have been in this home
since 2009. My grandma
and all my uncles and aunts
passed away in this same
home. I only started to think
about old age and death
recently. I would rather not
think about death. I think
I’m prepared for death, as I
regularly do my confessions.
I guess we shouldn’t discuss
death and let it come to
us as naturally as possible.
But it has to be mentioned
sometimes, so that we can get
prepared for it.

Daw Hnin Sein, 96
Stayed as a boarder at a convent
in Thonze, Bago township, a
Bamar-Kayin Catholic
I have been here for two years
now. I find that young people
these days think they know
more than the elderly people,
especially if we try to share
spiritual things with them.
When we were young, we
would respect our elders and
obey them, but nowadays,
most of the youngsters are
not like that any more. Maybe
because they think they are
more educated now.
All of my four children
have passed away. God will
call me at the appointed time.
It’s more important to try
to go to heaven rather than
think about old age or death
all the time. I always ask for
forgiveness from God, as we
are prone to temptations
with our earthly bodies.
Satan even tried to tempt
Jesus when He came to this
world. Death can come to
us anytime, so we must not
forget God at all times.

11

Medical tourism made easy
Some foreign medical centres take care of everything, from first
free consultation right up to accommodation, visa and even a
chartered flight if needed

Some Myanmar patients are willing to spend more these days to seek better healthcare. Photo: Supplied

Khin Wyne Phyu Phyu

M

ore Myanmar patients are seeking medical
treatment abroad because better healthcare
facilities, highly skilled doctors and affordable pricing
are a better option for those who can afford it.
The favoured destinations are neighbouring Thailand,
Malaysia, India and Singapore, all known for medical
tourism.
Bangkok Hospital’s local official who links patients with
well-known hospitals in Thailand said people can decide
where they wish to have their treatment, and consultations are
free even if they eventually decide not to go ahead.
“People can bring their medical tests and discuss with us
for free the ways and means of seeking medical treatment.
We send their data to relevant specialists at hospitals of their
choice. Then, we inform them of the specialists’ opinions,
regardless of whether they decide to proceed with our plans or
not,” he said.
Established foreign hospitals have made it easier for
patients to travel abroad for treatment by providing total care
management, and they hard sell their top-notch healthcare
facilities at competitive prices.
They have set up representative offices in Myanmar to
aid would-be patients. If it’s a group of patients, physicians
from the chosen hospital are known to fly in to assist them,
according to healthcare agents. The local office even provides
chartered flights to transport patients in emergency cases, he
added.

A health specialist noted that despite having many good
doctors, Myanmar’s medical sector has weaknesses, namely
the shortage of medical equipment, the lack of latest medical
technology and the unavailability of drugs.
Yi Yi Kyaw from Pazundaung township said she chose a
reputable hospital in Bangkok to treat her husband who is
suffering from cancer.
“We decided to travel abroad for my husband’s treatment as
we trust a foreign hospital will have proper treatment facilities.
He was also scared to have his operation. We calculated the
expenditure and found that there wasn’t a big difference.
“And then, it’s visa-free between Myanmar and Thailand.
We didn’t have to worry about our lodging. They arranged
everything for us. An interpreter was also provided, so we
didn’t have to worry about the language barrier,” she said.
Myanmar patients prefer health institutions in the region
and costs vary according to the treatment of the disease, she
said.
“Everything is different there and even a medical check-up
is better. They check everything in your body, even your teeth.
Every little detail is known. Here we can’t do that. But the cost
is about K500,000,” Yi Yi Kyaw said.
Singapore-based medical institutions have representatives
here as well to promote their services.
Many Myanmar patients are more familiar with treatment
in Singapore than Thailand, though the latter is cheaper.
They also reckon the standard of medical treatment in both
countries is almost of the same quality.
Dr Tin Zar Win, a coordinator at the Enquiry Ulink Myanmar,

said Singapore is a popular destination, second only to
Thailand.
Singapore, however, is viewed as the top Asian country
for medical tourism because of the reputation it has gained.
Myanmar citizens generally travel to the island state to seek
treatment for cancer, liver, heart, bone and nerve problems.
It’s also a popular destination for women who have difficulty
bearing children.
“We connect patients with suitable hospitals depending on
their condition. If they wish to go to the Singapore government
hospital, we connect them with it, but they need to wait for a
while.”
One advantage in Singapore is that the cost of treatment
is very transparent, so it is easy for patients to budget for
it. The representative companies in Myanmar also organise
transportation and accommodation, hire interpreters if
necessary, and arrange visas and air tickets at reasonable
prices, said Dr Tin Zar Win.
Not everyone is in favour of this growing trend in medical
tourism, however. An expert cautioned it could affect the
growth of Myanmar’s healthcare sector. He pointed out
the cost of treatment at special medical centres here and
abroad is not too different, but did concede that “Myanmar
people choose hospitals abroad for better treatment and
services”.
“We all need to find a solution to solve this problem. It
does not only concern doctors. The healthcare sector will
develop only if everyone gives a hand,” he added.
Translation by Thiri Min Htun

12

Yangon
General
Hospital
upgrade

New departments, 500 more beds,
additional services … but the
pressure’s still on as patients keep
flooding in

Some 3000 patients seek treatment daily at YGH. Photo: Aung Htay Hlaing

Shwe Yee Saw Myint

Y

angon General Hospital, which now
handles over 3000 patients daily, is
undergoing a major facelift to improve
its services and deliver quality medical care.
It has been upgraded to a 2000-bed hospital
from 1500 beds. The hospital, established in
1899, has also added four new departments
– health, hand reconstructive microsurgery,
endocrinology and geriatric medicare units – to
its existing ones since work began on January 1.
Dr Aye Ko Ko, medical superintendent of
the hospital, said new diagnostic equipment
for cancer patients will be in place this
month and a new building for their
treatment is over 60 percent completed.
It is to be completed within the hospital’s
current financial year.
“There are over 300 emergency patients
every day. Old and new patients coming
in for their appointments with specialists
number over 700 daily. And there are over
1800 in-patients getting their treatment at
the hospital,” he added. Around 2000 staff
work around the clock to serve the long list of

patients.
Under the government’s 100-day plan,
authorities are trying to make the hospital
more patient-friendly. For instance,
information sections will be set up to assist
patients and visitors with their queries.
Preparations are also under way to increase
the number of doctors.
“There would be one information section
at the emergency department, another at the
five-storey building and the last one at the
neurology department. We might even have
these information sections at five locations.
And if we have enough staff, we have plans
to have more at the outside structure and at
main locations,” Dr Aye Ko Ko said.
To upgrade the landmark hospital, a team
led by State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
formed a committee to tackle the tasks. When
asked about plans regarding foreign-based
funds, Dr Aye Ko Ko said they continue to
receive assistance.
Except for childbirth and female ailments,
all diseases and sicknesses can be treated at
the hospital now. This is the only hospital in
the country where all general diseases can

be treated using the necessary equipment
and technology. Cases related to liver, kidney,
stomach and intestine would be transferred to
the hospital’s extended 500-bed section.
Currently, although treatment is not
free, special diseases are being treated at
reasonable prices.
Dr Aye Ko Ko said, “Even if patients come
to the emergency department without any
money, we try to treat them as much as we
can. We give free treatment to patients who
cannot afford it and to those recommended by
respective ward doctors or senior nurses.
“With the cancer diagnostic equipment that
we will be installing, patients will spend only
K500,000 compared to K2 million at private
hospitals for testing and using the machine.”
Besides upgrading the facilities, the
management is trying to enhance the staff’s
soft skills to ensure patients are treated
well. In the past, the hospital suffered a bad
reputation because staff failed to interact with
the patients in a friendly manner, Dr Aye Ko
Ko said.
To change staff behaviour, phone numbers
are now posted at the hospital so that patients

dissatisfied with their services can lodge a
complaint to the management, he added.
The main challenge facing the hospital
is that the employees are unable to cope
with the large number of patients seeking
treatment daily.
Ma Naw from Hpa-an, Kayin State, who was
queuing up outside the cancer ward building
with her sister who had come for radiotherapy
treatment, said the services have improved a
lot and charges have also been reduced.
“I was here in 2007 when one of my elder
sisters suffered an ailment. At that time, we
met people who were asking for money and
we had to buy all the necessary medicines
ourselves,” she said.
But she lamented there was a long waiting
time to consult the doctor because there
were many patients but few doctors. And she
was also carrying her own collapsible bed,
since there were insufficient beds, she said.
“I understand there are a lot of patients.
But I don’t want to wait for such a long
time. The cancer ward building for patients
should also be expanded,” Ma Naw said.
Translation by Khine Thazin Han