The recommended ratio in the sustainable development goals (SDGs) for nurses is 83 nurses per 10,000 population.
Brunei Darussalam has a ratio of 71 nurses per 10,000 population, indicating a critical shortage that could impact the quality of medical and health services in the Sultanate.
This was shared by Minister of Health Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar during the fifth day of the 18th Legislative Council (LegCo) meeting yesterday.
The minister noted that the number of doctors and nurses serving the Ministry of Health (MoH) has increased over the past five years, with 630 doctors for the financial year 2017/2018 to 772 doctors in 2021/2022, 397 of which (51 per cent) are locals.
He added that there is an increase in the number of doctors in the private sector, further contributing to the increase in the doctor-population ratio at 19 doctors per 10,000 population in 2017 to 25 doctors per 10,000 population in 2021. The number of nurses have also increased during the same period, from 2,413 to 2,683.
“However, the production of the required number of professionals with specialised expertise takes a long time, which is not in line with the growth of the Brunei population,” said the minister, adding that the country’s demographic trend, which shows an increase in the number of senior citizens by 2050, is among the highest in the ASEAN region, raising concerns on the provision of human resources at a stable turnover rate in the long run.
Earlier, the minister said the involvement of the private sector in jointly delivering services to the public has led to collaborative relationships between public and private sectors, including employment opportunities and the development of professional and technical manpower.
The minister said resource sharing initiatives, especially for health professionals, have shown encouraging progress, such as the placement of professionals assisted by private medical personnel, especially from Pantai Jerudong Specialist Centre (PJSC), Jerudong Park Medical Centre (JPMC), Gleneagles JPMC and Panaga Health Centre in government medical facilities, which has greatly aided the country in essential human resource management during the handling of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham shared that the MoH continues to further strengthen its role as one of the key agencies in generating high-quality health professionals, such as the recent signing of a tripartite memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the MoH, JPMC and the Philippines Far Eastern University for the establishment of a private nursing school in the Sultanate, intended to increase the number of nurses.
The availability of professional manpower resources will also influence the development of health infrastructure, said the minister, where the plans carried out by the MoH will be able to be realised with the presence of professionals and staff who carry out service operations.
Among the progress projects shared by the minister are the improvement of the National Virology Reference Laboratory Building, Jalan Sumbiling, which is a national reference laboratory recognised by the World Health Organization (WHO) for specialised laboratory studies and tests to prevent infectious diseases, and the construction of a health centre for catchment areas that require basic healthcare services at the community level.
“The lack of adequate professional manpower and infrastructure will make it difficult for the MoH to provide comprehensive services, affecting the public’s accessibility to essential health services provided by the government,” said the minister.
The minister also noted the outsourcing projects carried out by the MoH to open up space for close cooperation with private parties in the delivery of innovative services such as tele-consultations, consolidation of services, introduction of new online services, and patient self-management such as access to laboratory test results through digital medical records and appointment bookings for certain services such as vaccinations, with the latest initiative seeing the outsourcing of swabbing services to allow private medical authorities and certain companies to provide such services under the MoH’s supervision.
On digital developments, Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham said the MoH is increasingly active in upgrading health information technology systems and infrastructure, and strives to cultivate the Sultanate’s health data ecosystem. The work to upgrade the BruHIMS system is still in the planning phase and will be completed in 2024, while various upgrade projects have been made, including the network infrastructure at the MoH building and the core infrastructure of the BruHIMS system at Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha (RIPAS) Hospital, which is expected to complete by the end of April. Meanwhile, the establishment of a disaster recovery centre infrastructure system for the BruHealth system was completed last month.
“In the near future, the BruHealth system will be upgraded to version 3.0 and will be launched with additional features such as health management and updates and improvements to the existing features,” said the minister. He also noted that the MoH has worked with Brunei Cyber Security to ensure the BruHealth security system is always in optimal condition.