MoH’s objectives need to be reached, says His Majesty

Rokiah Mahmud

“The Ministry of Health (MoH) launched its strategic plan in September 2019, with a focus on five objectives – excellence in healthcare services, the prevention and control of infectious diseases, public protection through effective policies and regulations, immunity through the use of optimum and innovative resources, and a transparent and proactive administration.

“All of these objectives are impressive, but we have yet to see them being reached. The MoH was provided with a huge budget of almost BND400 million, and is expected to deliver excellent services for citizens and residents.

“The services are being supplied by four government hospitals. Given this, there is no reason why good and quality services cannot be provided.”

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 said this during an unscheduled visit to the ministry.

“But these are all determined by the quality of the management and administration – if both are good, then the results will be good.

“Being provided with a huge budget and sufficient equipment is just a standard process in achieving goals. The most essential component is human resources.

His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam during the visit to Department of Scientific Services. PHOTO: MUIZ MATDANI

“There have been cases where the achievements were outstanding, despite a small budget allocation and modest equipment.

“Within the Ministry of Health, there are various levels of officers and staff from the highest to the lower ranks. All of them are required to carry out their respective duties well and perfectly,” said His Majesty.

Nevertheless, the monarch complimented the MoH for its success in managing the COVID-19 pandemic with the integrated cooperation of various parties.

“This is a remarkable fact which is worthy of our gratitude,” said His Majesty.

His Majesty said, “On the other hand, there are reports of MoH employees violating standard operating procedures (SOPs), such as one health centre instructing the cleaning staff to clean the equipment for storing swab samples such as glass tubes and refrigerators.

“In accordance with the SOPs, the cleaning process should have been performed by a nurse, instead of a cleaner who was not trained to conduct the procedures.

“In a similar manner, there were violations in the delivery of swab samples, by failing to isolate the samples and even putting them in the same vehicle for conveying blood and urine test samples. In keeping with the SOPs, the delivery should have been made with a different vehicle.

“Such incidents indicate the deficiencies of the management and the administration.”

The monarch also said, “Another ongoing issue is that of overdue or delayed coronavirus allowances for some frontliners, such as ambulance drivers and nurses.

“Apart from that, there has been some confusion regarding payment. Several nurses complained that they should have received five payments, but instead collected only three.

“Then there is the issue of medicine shortage and depleted stocks in hospitals and health centres, especially in the three districts beyond Brunei-Muara. Patients are sometimes forced to go to Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha (RIPAS) Hospital to get their medicine which is burdensome, especially for the elderly.

“In recent years, there have been persistent reports of changes in medicine brands, which raises the question : Why? Were these changes made in order to get cheaper prices? We also need to ask whether the MoH has ever based its selection process from visiting pharmaceutical companies, in order to ensure medicine quality and consumer safety.

“It must be acknowledged that the MoH is trying to provide proper health services, but there are still obvious weaknesses in certain areas, such as patients being made to wait for long periods to see a doctor, which inevitably results in resentment and annoyance.

“More serious still is patients having to wait for hours in order to receive treatment at the Accident and Emergency Department, due to a continual lack of doctors. As a rule, there shouldn’t be such a deficiency in this department, but it still happens. Why?

“Is the administration aware of this matter. And if so, what has been done or what action has been taken to address it? If any action has been taken, then why is it still ongoing?

“In my view, those in charge of the administration should conduct a firsthand investigation of the situation. It is not enough to just read or receive reports, particularly if there had never been any reports at all.

“What is the meaning of the Accident and Emergency Department? It is a place to wait for hours?

“Then there are weaknesses related to the management of the ministry’s own staff, such as the service scheme, which has not been updated. This has led to many qualified officers within the ministry receiving a Higher National Diploma (HND) salary scale, which is believed to have originated from their Scheme Allied Health Professional (AHP) services not being renewed.

“Similarly, a number of paramedics are reportedly engaged in nurse’s positions because the paperwork for the provision of paramedics has not been completed by the administration.

“There is also a tendency for government nurses to move to private hospitals. Why is this happening? The MoH needs to do a study on it.

“Also worth examining are equipment and mechanisms, such as how many ambulances are required for each district and how many drivers are needed?

“There are also reports of paramedics occasionally taking over as ambulance drivers, despite the fact these paramedics not having been given training on how to drive an ambulance.

“These are not trivial matters; they are crucial in ensuring efficiency and safety,” said His Majesty, concluding the titah.

His Majesty’s arrival was greeted by Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar.

Before delivering the titah at the MoH’s Al-’Afiah Hall, His Majesty toured the departments and sections under the ministry.

The monarch visited the first floor which houses several units and sections, including Medical Superintendent Community Health, Community Health Services, Administration and Finance and Operational Unit.

Moving on to the third floor, His Majesty took a closer look at the Permanent and Deputy Permanent Secretaries’ offices before proceeding to the Minister of Health’s Office.

His Majesty then continued his unscheduled visit to the Department of Scientific Services (DSS), which bears the responsibility of providing laboratory services through comprehensive scientific analysis and calibration, to support public health and law enforcement agencies.

His Majesty also visited the Toxicology Section, the Food Chemistry Section, the Environment Section, the Illicit Drugs Section, the Physical Evidence Section, and the Forensic Biology and DNA Section.

Before concluding the visit, His Majesty signed on the royal parchment.

Also present during the visit was Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah, as well as the permanent and deputy permanent secretaries of the PMO and MoH.

With the vision ‘Together towards a Healthy Nation’, the MoH has formulated its five year strategic plan aimed at strengthening the healthcare system through the provision of services that are of better quality, efficient, effective, responsive, equal and easily accessible in line with the Universal Health Coverage concept.