| Hakim Hayat |
THE Ministry of Health (MoH) yesterday tabled a budget of B$345.18 million for the financial year 2018-2019, marking a seven per cent increase from the B$323.88 million it was allocated in the previous fiscal.
In his motion on the MoH’s proposed budget allocation at the ongoing 14th Legislative Council session yesterday, Minister of Health YB Dato Paduka Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Jaafar reasoned that increased costs on staff salaries, purchase of medical supplies, building and medical equipment maintenance and new projects under the 11th National Development Plan (RKN) are the main factors contributing to the increased expenditure.
Outlining some of the new projects under the 11th RKN, he said that for the 2018-2019 financial year, B$845,000 has been allocated for the establishment of, among others, new National Tuberculosis Reference and Virology Services laboratories and the construction of an emergency service complex for the Suri Seri Begawan Hospital in the Belait District.
Other projects in the pipeline under the 11th RKN for the next few financial years include the enhancement of the Brunei Darussalam Healthcare Information and Management System (Bru-HIMS), the construction of a new block for the Jubli Perak Health Centre in Sengkurong and the construction of a new health centre in Kampong Pandan, the minister said.
YB Dato Paduka Dr Haji Mohd Isham said MoH’s proposed budget for the 2018-2019 financial year is in line with its long-term plan as outlined in the Brunei Healthcare System and Infrastructure Masterplan 2035.
In his motion, he outlined five main priorities of the ministry’s 2018-2019 budget which include the enhancement the effectiveness of health management and policy to improve service quality, increasing productivity of healthcare services through innovation and improving the professionalism of its staff to deliver the best service.
He also highlighted the ministry’s priority in protecting public health by using methods and best-practices such as the strengthening of the implementation of ‘Health in Policies’ to prevent and control communicable and non-communicable diseases as well as to enhance the surveillance and vigilance on the threats of diseases.
Basic healthcare is also given priority towards offering a holistic service to the community in the aspect of screening, treatment, recovery as well as prevention of diseases, and this also includes healthcare of mothers and children.
Another focus, the minister said, is on secondary and tertiary healthcare and it aims at enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of services in hospitals and medical centres to deliver quality service that follows international standards, with the utilisation of medical and information technology in conducive and customer-friendly infrastructures.
Also in its priority, the minister said, is basic assistance service that is specialised to strengthen pharmaceutical services, national scientific and clinical laboratory services as well as to ensure that medical equipment and infrastructures are always in good condition, functional and safe to use.
The minister said that his ministry is aware of the importance of increasing promotional and health education efforts through appropriate means, including through mass media and social media.
He also shared that the MoH is still facing challenges in managing chronic non-communicable diseases, which is the main cause of death in the country. Inducing factors include obesity, smoking, distribution of unhealthy medicines and cosmetics and lack of physical activity.
“These challenges are worrying because they affect not only adults but also children,” the minister added.
In managing the epidemic, the MoH has been following a whole-of-government and nation approach whereby a multi-sectoral task force on health was established with the function to give all children a good start in life; improving the food environment; supporting an active lifestyle and reducing the use tobacco products.
“Through the task-force, a number of policies and initiatives are being implemented,” he said, noting several initiatives including early health education at schools and the appointment of health ambassadors at grassroots levels.
In ensuring the safety and welfare of the people, MoH’s mandate in enforcing rules and regulations, including the Tobacco Act 2005, Public Health (Food) Act Chapter 182, Poisons Act Chapter 114 and the Medicines Act 2007 continues to be actively enforced, on top of other regulations that support the implementation of clinical work for the safety of patients as well as laws that monitor the professionalism of medical professionals, the minister shared.
He noted that there has been a positive year-on-year growth of health professionals in the country, but said further improvements must be made because in comparison with developed countries, Brunei still has shortage of health professionals, citing the ratio of one doctor for 150 to 300 people in developed countries compared to one doctor for 637 people in Brunei.
“The shortage is also seen in the ratio of other health professionals such as dentists, nurses and pharmacists,” he added, while stressing that the MoH has taken proactive steps in managing the situation.