| Azaraimy HH |
This was stated by the Minister of Health YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Zulkarnain bin Haji Hanafi in his opening speech on the eighth day of the 13th Legislative Council (LegCo) session yesterday.
The minister expressed his gratitude to His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam for the allocation and His Majesty’s leadership which gives a high importance to matters concerning health.
Quoting from His Majesty’s titah, the minister said, “Health is the most important factor for all. If the body is healthy, all works can be carried out well. This is the secret or value of health.”
He added, “As it was said during the 12th LegCo session in 2016, the expenditure for the Ministry of Health during the 2015-2020 period is focused on three strategies: Inculcating the idea that health is everyone’s business; preventing and controlling non-communicable diseases; and providing excellent services through consolidation and realignment of healthcare services.
The minister said several efforts in line with these three priorities have been implemented including the consolidation of several health centres to provide services on a one-stop centre basis; amalgamation of EMAS (Emergency, Medical and Ambulance Service) with the Department of Fire and Rescue; reducing waiting time for several health services; and establishment of ‘Centre of Excellence’.
He also highlighted international standard recognitions such as ISO 17025 for lab services and the Joint Commission International (JCI) accreditation for Pengkalan Batu Health Centre, the first health centre in the country to get the accreditation.
Despite these achievements, the ministry is aware that much still needs to be done and challenges need to be overcome in order to fulfil the expectations of all the stakeholders, he added.
Customer-friendliness, long waiting time at the medicine counters, obtaining treatment at emergency departments as well as shortage of medicines are some of the issues that have been lamented over by the public, the minister said.
He pointed out that the recent meetings held in every district with internal and external stakeholders including members of the Legislative Council focused on seven themes – customer-friendliness, food safety, communication, health promotion, access to services and facilities, medicine retrieval and quality services including provision of appointment system.
Highlighting some of the health studies carried in the country, the minister said the integrated Health Screening 2007-2011 revealed that 70 per cent of the civil servants do not have adequate physical activity. The Global School Health Survey (GSHS) 2014 showed that about 87 per cent of children in the country do not have enough physical activity.
At the same time, the minister pointed out that the incidence of diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes are now occurring at a much younger age of around 20-30 years, adding that “this is an alarming situation”.
Furthermore, the Global Nutrition Report 2016 has placed Brunei Darussalam as having the highest obesity rate among adults in the region. Excessive weight can cause non-communicable diseases such as cancer, coronary ailments, diabetes and stroke – the main causes of death in the country, he noted.
The minister said that the health ministry allocation for 2017-2018 will be used effectively to reduce the high rate of obesity and incidence of non-communicable diseases in the country. Nearly $196 million, or 62 per cent, of the allocation is for secondary and tertiary treatments. This amount does not include the allocation for sending patients to The Brunei Cancer Centre (TBCC), Brunei Neuroscience, Stroke and Rehabilitation Centre (BNSRC) and the Heart Centre at the Gleneagles Jerudong Park Medical Centre (Gleneagles JPMC).
He said the allocation to finance preventive programmes including basic healthcare is only 14 per cent, which is less but it enough to give a big impact, adding that it would be better if we can focus more towards enhancing a healthy lifestyle, ensuring that people will stay healthy for a longer period.
On the other hand, the minister also highlighted that there has been an increase in the number of people who are health conscious and doing physical activities. The National Non-Communicable Diseases Steps Survey 2016 has proved this as it found that the percentage of adults in the country who are physically active has increased from 65 per cent in 2011 to 75 per cent in 2016.
Citing the Bandarku Ceria initiative, the minister said that it is a good example which has proved the efficacy of the whole of nation approach.
He said the government is only a facilitator, while individuals and groups are the drivers to ensure that Bandarku Ceria continues to be successful, promoting a healthy lifestyle.
He also highlighted that changing people’s food habits is the biggest challenge the country is currently facing. On this note, the minister welcomed the Ministry of Finance’s decision to raise excise duties on food products that have high sugar and monosodium glutamate (MSG) content.
The minister urged that all efforts should be taken in inculcating a healthy lifestyle among the people towards achieving Brunei Vision 2035.