High global demand leads to shortage of medicine

National 2 minutes, 51 seconds


HIGH demand for medicine, shortage of staff and the rising cost of health services were among the explanations to various queries put forth by Council Members to the Ministry of Health during yesterday's session of the State Legislative Council (LegCo) Meeting.

In response to a question posed by Temburong representative Hj Sulaiman Hj Ahad, concerning the recent shortages in legal drugs, Health Minister Pehin Orang Kaya Indera Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Hj Suyoi Hj Osman said that drug shortages occur from time to time, mainly because of problems with the delivery of the pharmaceuticals.

The minister said that the process of importing medicine was difficult because of the high global demand.

Since Brunei is a small market in relation to other countries, these suppliers might not give priority to the Sultanate, the minister said.

He also explained that the demand for drugs in Brunei was quite high, with the National Standard Drug List (NSDL) surpassing that of Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, thus another reason for the shortage in stock.

Pehin Dato Hj Suyoi said one of the solutions would be to buy directly from regional distributors which can be facilitated through the e-health programme once it is operational in two years' time.

Appointed Council Member Pehin Kapitan Lela Diraja Dato Paduka Goh King Chin raised the issue of how the budget allocation for the purchase of medicine has increased.

He said that the budget has increased by $10 million this year, from $30 to $40 million.

"This means the number of people falling ill has increased," he said, reminding the council that a healthy population is the nation's asset.

To reduce the government's expenditure in the area of health, Pehin Dato Goh suggested that an insurance scheme for foreign workers should be introduced, as well as stressing the need for more health promotion activities. The scheme, known as Medi-Care, will not only benefit the people, but also insurance companies.

Council Members also voiced out their concerns over lack of doctors, nurses and other medical staff at health centres around the country. Pehin Dato Hj Suyoi noted their concerns, but explained that there were not enough staff for all these centres, although he said the ministry would look into the matter to find a solution.

Another issue discussed was regarding the insufficient number of parking spaces at the Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha (Ripas) Hospital.

The minister said that the hospital had the capacity to accommodate 1,500 cars.

However, due to the growing number of patients, the car parks are usually full, he said. To reduce this congestion, the minister said that the ministry is looking over the feasibility of introducing a parking building near the hospital.

Appointed Council Member Dato Paduka Hj Yunos Mohd Noh asked the minister whether the proposed Women and Child block at the Ripas hospital would serve patients better if it were to be located at a different site, other than the hospital since the area is quite congested.

The minister in response to the question raised that this would hinder accessibility to staff and facilities from Ripas Hospital.

"If the block is a stand-alone building, the doctors and staff would have to be replicated," he said, adding once more, that there is just not enough medical staff to do that.

The debate took place yesterday during the sixth day of the fifth session of the State Legislative Council Meeting.

The Brunei Times