Medicine shortage problem to be tackled

National 3 minutes, 1 second

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

THE shortage of medicines and other medical items from time to time is posing a problem in meeting the healthcare needs in the country where majority of the population depends public medical assistance.

During the second day of the State Legislative Council Meeting, Pehin Orang Kaya Indera Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Awang Suyoi Osman, Brunei's Health Minister cited several contributing factors to such shortages.

One difficulty in ensuring sufficient stocks was an inadequate inventory system. A big part of Brunei's medical pharmaceuticals is also brought in from overseas which in some cases causes the inconsistent arrivals of the medical drugs. This is also the case for getting medical supplies via local medical packaging companies.

Tenders for medical purchasing for year 2005 was not carried out according to the Health Minister and that the negative results can be felt until today.

To address the problems, the ministry intends to enhance medical purchasing options such as through direct purchase of drugs especially in special medical cases.

The inventory system is also to be improved to ensure regularity as well as to prepare for the establishment of a bigger medical store.

Wastage advice to both patients and doctors is also to be undertaken. The minister said that the main challenge of overcoming these problems is the heavy dependence on overseas medical supplies.

A local government doctor in his eleventh year of service, told The Brunei Times that it all goes down to proper management to overcome such challenges.

"It involves around proper management ..," he said.

"Drugs for diseases like asthma, diabetic, cholesterol and high blood pressure drugs are not enough ... How can you let people who need it everyday be without proper medication," he added.

He stressed that he is not talking of "specialised drugs" but of everyday, basic, necessary medical supplies.

Medical shortages in both pharmaceuticals as well as supplies such as bandages and plaster has always been felt across the departments of the health ministry citing it as a known "chronic problem".

"It has been going on for years but probably it has become more pronounced in the last five years," he said.

However, he acknowledged that Brunei's list of drugs is expensive.

"You need good management and proper inventory system to deal with it," he said.

Though Brunei has plans to develop its own pharmaceutical industry, the local doctor could only say it can only happen through investments.

He also raised the issue of the feasibility of the industry to be developed, especially he says with a small population. However, public private partnership he says is also a way of improving the Brunei's medical sector.

He said that several of his colleagues also received a list of a number of unavailable drugs every month. A wastage research was amongst his suggestions to curb shortages of medical pharmaceuticals and supplies. As some patients take the medication but fail to consume it he says.

"I doubt a study has ever been done but by studying the level consumption we can see how we can tackle it," he said.

To some extent, the ministry is carrying out its duties well but the shortages among others has always been one of the major problems.

He advised the society that they too can have a role in lessening the burden by opting for a more healthy lifestyle.

"Most of the diseases in Brunei is due to lifestyle ... people should also share the burden, opt for a more healthy lifestyle as it does cost us millions of dollars," he said.

The Brunei Times