Dr M concerned with growing obesity as nation prospers

Mahathir (centre) today expressed concern over Malaysians’ eating habits. — Picture by Azneal Ishak
Mahathir (centre) today expressed concern over Malaysians’ eating habits. — Picture by Azneal Ishak

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 16 — Malaysia’s prosperity is encouraging some to overindulge to the point of obesity, said Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Noting the link to heart ailments, the medical doctor by training expressed concern over the implications to Malaysians’ health as well as to healthcare in the country.

“We don’t have anyone dying because of no food in this country except one incident in Baling some time back. But I see a lot of obesity and the health treatment industry is going to have a problem.

“Malaysians, just love to eat and that is a problem — never ending — and that’s going to strain their heart,” he said today at the launch of country’s first RM270 million private cardiac and vascular hospital Cardiac Vascular Sentral (CVS) here.

While congratulating CVS, Dr Mahathir said the hospital's launch comes at the right time as cases of Malaysians with heart complications are on the rise.

He said this was a step forward for the health treatment sector. 

Malaysia has one of the highest mortality rates for cardiovascular diseases in the world but the number of cardiologists in the country ranks among the lowest.

In his speech to a hall full of medical doctors and health experts, Dr Mahathir said he hoped the country's tourism industry will benefit from CVS and at the same time help Malaysia's current debt situation.

“We need to solve our financial problems. I’m quite sure you (hospital) can help us if the centre becomes well known in the tourism industry... when foreigners come here stay for long treatments, the country will benefit from them,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dr Mahathir also shared a light moment with the audience when he joked that his heart was responsible for the launch of CVS.

“I would like to claim my heart is responsible for this, as I had a heart attack sometime ago and now the medical facilities have improved to world class standard.

 He was referring to his bypass surgery in 1989 when the founder of CVS and former head and medical director of the National Heart Institute (IJN), Tan Sri Dr Yahya Awang performed the surgery on Dr Mahathir at the Kuala Lumpur hospital.

At that time, there was a shortage of heart specialists and a long waiting list that resulted in many deaths of patients with heart problems while waiting for surgery.

Dr Yahya at that time  worked with the Health Ministry on a proposal for IJN and they took it to Dr Mahathir.

Dr Yahya described Dr Mahathir as a brave person when he decided to have his surgeries in Malaysia even after understanding the limits IJN had then.

CVS is located in KL Sentral. The centre is the brainchild of Dr Yahya and was co-founded together with TE Asia Healthcare Partners (a TPG Capital company).

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