Taking into account the annual increase in staff salaries, the Ministry of Health (MoH) has proposed a seven percent hike for its 2018/19 fiscal year budget, amounting to $345 million.

To ensure healthcare comes first, several “high-priority positions” have been added, the Health Minister YB Dato Paduka Dr Hj Md Isham Jaafar (pictured above) said during the Legislative Council meeting on Saturday.

The ministry’s main focus for the upcoming year is strengthening basic healthcare in terms of screening, treatment, recovery and prevention of disease, as well as ensuring facilities and infrastructure are in good condition.

YB Dato Dr Hj Md Isham said Brunei has been able to reduce premature deaths from non-communicable disease from 17% in 2009 to 14% in 2016.

Citizens’ lifetime expectancy has also increased from 78.1 years in 2012 to 80.7 years in 2016.

As with most ministries, the bulk of MoH’s budget will go towards paying staff — $215 million or 62 per cent.

For the 2018/2019 budget, the ministry has allocated an additional $12 million towards purchasing drugs and medicine, while $7.2 million is allocated for medical supplies and services. For the repair of hospitals, health centres and medical equipment, $4 millions has been allocated.

During his address to the Legislative Council, the minister outlined three projects that will be implemented under the 11th National Development Plan: $5 million to improve BruHIMS, the electronic patient record system; $3.4 million for the construction of a new block for the Sengkurong Silver Jubilee Health Centre; and $8.6 million for the construction of the new Pandan Kuala Belait Health Centre.

Under the NDP, the health ministry will also establish Certified BSL3 Laboratories with Supporting BSL2 Labs for an Accredited National TB Reference Laboratory (NTRL) and virology services.

Another $300,000 is earmarked for the construction of an emergency services building at Suri Seri Begawan Hospital in Kuala Belait. The remaining $245,000 will be used to pay off the balance of the ministry’s projects under the previous NDP.