BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The Ministry of Health (MoH) tabled $386.8 million budget for the 2019/2020 fiscal year, a 12 percent increase from last year.

As the number of qualified local health professionals increases, the minister of health said that staff salaries take the bulk of the budget at $225.8 million, while $160.9 million has been allocated for recurring expenses.

Speaking during the Legislative Council meeting on Wednesday, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Isham Jaafar said the number of local health professionals has increased to 50 percent for doctors and 92.8 percent for nurses and midwives.

“The number of local doctors with specialist qualifications have also increased to 113 which is more than 70 percent of the total number of experts or consultants under the ministry,” he said, adding that 101 positions for doctors have also been approved from the 2018/2019 fiscal budget.

Additionally, under the 11th National Development Plan, $11.6 million has been earmarked for five projects: the Pandan Kuala Belait Health Centre, Sengkurong Silver Jubilee Health Centre, Suri Seri Begawan Hospital in the Belait district emergency service building, and the establishment of a Certified BSL3 Laboratories to support the establishment of the National TB Reference Laboratory and Virology services.

Improvements to the Bru-HIMS system will also be made and extended to facilities outside the ministry, said YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham.

To provide better customer service, MoH’s Que-Up app, will allow users to book appointments at the Vaccination Centre and Foreign Worker Health Screening Service at the Berakas Health Centre.

Additionally, the app will inform patients of the cost of medical expenses and medicine through SMS and implement a tele-health initiative.

The initiative will enable communication between the Labi Health Clinic with the Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha (RIPAS) hospital, the Suri Seri Begawan Hospital and Sungai Liang Health Centre using the telemedicine concept.

“This new development is hoped to be expanded to rural areas to allow nurses to get advice from doctors, for doctors to seek advice from specialists or the public trained in first aid to communicate with doctors or medical professionals,” said YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham.

The Que-Up app would also enable efficient payment through the QuickPay system.

The minister said a few projects are currently underway through a public-private partnership such as to introduce a trial medicine delivery service to residences with a minimum fee of $3 to $5.

He also outlined that one of the main priorities of the ministry is mental health care.

“Mental health services have been expanded to provide access to those who are in need of walk-in services at the psychology clinic.”

He said the availability of this service has seen a significant increase of cases from 2846 in 2017 to 3324 in 2018. “The statistics show that there are more facing this issue, who have begun to seek expert advice.”

To provide crisis support, the ministry also launched Talian Harapan 145 in February this year.

Meanwhile, another $14.6 million has been allocated for medical supplies and services and $10.8 million for the maintenance of assets.