Brunei equipped to combat public health threats, says minister

James Kon

The Ministry of Health (MoH) is aware of the importance of protecting the public’s health and is taking serious steps to ensure preparedness in addressing threats such as outbreaks of infectious diseases, said Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar.

He said this during his opening address at a dialogue session with members of the Legislative Council (LegCo) yesterday.

“In 2018, the National Committee on the Implementation of World Health Organization (WHO)’s International Health Regulation (IHR) 2005 was established, with members comprising ministries and agencies.

“Recently, the WHO through an international team conducted an assessment which confirmed that Brunei Darussalam has the capacity for the prevention, detection and response to any public health threats that are biological inlcluding epidemic outbreaks as well as chemical and radiation emergencies.

“There are also a number of key improvements and actions that need to be taken, to enhance the country’s preparedness,” he added.

Regarding the ministry’s numerous infrastructure projects, the minister said, “The Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha (RIPAS) Hospital’s upgrading and renovation infrastructure project is a priority for the MoH. Projects are being implemented at all hospitals and health centres across the country to fulfil the requirements of service development as well as to ensure patient’s and public’s safety and comfort.

“A number of infrastructure projects are in the process of commencement, through the 11th National Development Plan. It includes the construction of the new health centre in the Pandan area in Kuala Belait, the construction of a new block at the Jubli Perak Sengkurong Health Centre, the construction of an emergency services building at the Suri Seri Begawan Hospital in Kuala Belait and the construction of a BSL3 certified Laboratory to support the establishment of the National TB Reference Laboratory and Virology Services.”

“By 2020, the Child Development Centre will begin to develop outside the confines of the RIPAS Hospital,” the minister said.

Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar during a the dialogue session with members of the Legislative Council (LegCo). PHOTO: JAMES KON

He also said, “We are blessed by the wise leadership and courage of 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. His Majesty’s concern and care for the health and well-being of the people are always given serious attention and the utmost importance.”

“In His Majesty’s birthday titah onJuly 15 last year, His Majesty said, ‘All countries, including Brunei, are faced with challenging times. These varying challenges need to be addressed with specific methods. The internal challenge for our country is to make sure that the well-being of the citizens can be achieved through programmes including the provision of a good services plan and the preparation of infrastructure that covers many areas including health, education, law, development, communications and others. All of this is hoped to ensure the quality of life.’

“The design for the healthcare system and services also needs to be responsive to such challenges as an increase of costs in healthcare and high public expectations for quality services. Public health issues from the threat of infectious diseases, as well as other important issues related to food safety and environmental health, also need proper attention.

“Alhamdulillah, in September, the ministry launched its Strategic Plan 2019-2023, which aims to give direction towards the strengthening of healthcare systems and services through the provision of more quality, effective, efficient, responsive, equitable services that are easily accessible, in accordance with the Universal Health Coverage concept.

“The responsibility of all parties is key towards ensuring the sustainability of our healthcare systems and services. The long-term investment is to strengthen the healthcare system across the public and private sectors, in forming strong partnerships with the involvement of all sectors of society, as well as continuing to establish the health agenda as a foundation for sustainable development and a movement for health implementation across all policies through a whole-of-nation approach.

“In 2019, a number of initiatives have been implemented to prevent and control of non-communicable diseases including the national health screening programmes to detect high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol levels,” said the minister.

He also listed the MoH’s other newly implemented initiatives of 2019 including the Talian Harapan 145, or Hope Line 145, the launching of the Nutrition and Physical Activity Guidelines for childcare centres, the implementation of health promotion programmes in the workplace and the expansion of the Mukim Sihat programme, and the appointments of health ambassadors.

“The ministry is committed to the global targets for non-communicable diseases, which are Global NCD targets within the next five years, whereby we will curb obesity and diabetes, reduce the rate of tobacco use by 30 per cent, reduce the rate of those suffering from high blood pressure by 25 per cent, reduce the rate of high-sugar drinks intake among children by 50 per cent, and reduce the rate of tooth decay in children,” he said.

“The ministry has also taken note of the image of health professionals, with changes being made to nursing uniforms this year. This initiative is intended to complement the professional look among nurses. The uniforms facilitate their day-to-day tasks by taking safety and comfort features into account.

“The MoH is also aware of the development needs of the healthcare systems and services, in line with current technological advances, especially in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The advent of new technologies will create opportunities and make a significant impact on healthcare delivery models, particularly in facilitating the early detection of disease; highlighting a more precise and timely treatment plan; and improving the connectivity between health professionals, patients and the public.

“Meanwhile, technological developments continue to be monitored and explored for use in the provision of health services, as well as the strengthening of health information systems, including the development of the existing Bru-HIMS system.”