2014 a productive year for Healthcare services

National 5 minutes, 30 seconds


LOCAL medical care experienced significant boosts in 2014, with the Ministry of Health (MoH) announcing many groundbreaking achievements and improvements in various fields of health.

In this report, The Brunei Times takes a look at some of the country’s most memorable health-related accomplishments and advancements this year

1st Heart Device Implant in Brunei

In November, the Minister of Health Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Johan Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Hj Adanan Begawan Pehin Siraja Khatib Dato Seri Setia Hj Mohd Yusof announced that Brunei’s first left ventricular assist device (LVAD) was recently implanted in 51-year-old heart disease patient Mumtazali Mohd Abd Aziz.

The LVAD, named Heartmate II (which assists the heart to function) enables him to have a near-normal lifestyle after the surgery, significantly improving his quality of life as he was previously bedridden due to severe heart issues.

The implantation was handled by a surgical team led by consultant cardiothoracic surgeon cum JPMC executive director and medical director Dato Paduka Dr Hj Isham Hj Jaafar, who explained that Heartmate II is the most widely used LVAD with over 15,000 implants worldwide, adding that it is more cost-effective in the long run.

Consultant cardiologist Dr Sofian Johar said that there were plans to perform around three to six mechanical heart device implementations over the next year.

It is worth mentioning that the Cardiology Society of Brunei became a member of the ASEAN Federation of Cardiology (AFC) in April this year.

Officially registered in December 2013, Brunei’s cardiac society aims to advance cardiology locally and achieve international standards of best practice.

Improved Care for Hearing-Impaired Patients

Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha (RIPAS) Head of Otorhinolaryngology (ORL) Department Pg Hjh Norsuhazenah Pg Suhaili said four hearing-impaired patients have successfully undergone the Bone Anchored Hearing Aid (BAHA) programme in Brunei, following two successful phases of the programme in March and August.

The patients were a five-year-old child, a 17-year-old teenager, a 21-year-old student and a 45-year-old adult.

BAHA, which was introduced at government hospitals in March this year, differs from conventional hearing aids (usually worn behind the ear or on the ear) as they can be used by patients who may not have outer ears, have narrow or no ear canals, mild formed pinnas or no pinnas.

It can also be used by patients who experience chronic ear infections whereby their ears are continuously discharging, making them unable to wear conventional hearing aids optimally.

The Minister of Health also announced that universal hearing screening for all newborns would be available beginning next year, to help identify babies who have hearing loss or deafness.

The screening would allow measures to be taken at an earlier stage, preventing affected children from facing disadvantages in language development.

Second Kidney Transplant in RIPAS

October saw RIPAS Hospital successfully carrying out its second kidney transplant operation on 29-year-old kidney patient Abd Azim Hj Munawwar, who received the kidney from his father Hj Munawwar Hj Seryati.

According to the minister, the surgery was performed by RIPAS surgeons together with invited Australian and Malaysian experts

“The implementation of the kidney transplant programme is the best procedure for kidney patients who are suffering at the final stage (End Stage Renal Disease, ESRD).

“This is the best solution compared with undergoing therapy treatment such as haemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis,” he added.

The health minister also said that more kidney transplants have been scheduled for 2015, stressing that RIPAS is equipped with the necessary medical equipment and operating rooms as well as an intensive care unit of international standard.

One news report said that Bruneians were previously either sent to Singapore or Malaysia for the surgery, at an estimated cost of $100,000 per patient.

According to the MoH Renal Services Department, there are over 600 patients facing the last stage of chronic kidney disease, with over 500 of them under haemodialysis treatment.

Introduction of the Mental Health Order

The long-awaited Mental Health Order was introduced on November 1, replacing the 1929 Lunacy Act, of which the latter was described as “inadequate and inappropriate” by head of RIPAS Psychiatry Department Dr Hilda Ho.

Comprising a shift in mindset from “lunacy” to “mental health”, the new law brings in changes to mental healthcare in Brunei as comprehensive guidelines are in place to address treatment - which covers admission of patients to hospital, initial treatment and rehabilitation as well as integration into society.

Under the law, families or guardians no longer need to report patients to court for them to seek medical treatment.

Law enforcement and social workers are also granted power to apprehend any person suspected of mental illness and at risk of endangering themselves, others or property, prior to a routine assessment.

Consenting patients can also opt for voluntary admission to hospital to receive medical treatment.

It was also reported that an external body will be established and tasked to identify, inspect and monitor procedures and mental health services provided.

An 11.5 per cent increase in mental health cases in 2013 (14,821) compared to 2012 (13,294) was revealed by the health minister during a roadshow on the new Order.

Completion of RIPAS Women and Children’s Block

Successful completion of the $69 million Women and Children’s Block for RIPAS took place earlier this month.

The building, part of the Ninth National Development Plan, comprises of 11 floors with specialist facilities and services for women and children.

Among these are a paediatric clinic, obstetrics and gynaecology clinic, and a children specialist ward that includes a general paediatric ward, a neonatal intensive care unit, a special care baby unit, a paediatric intensive care unit and a children’s oncology ward.

The new block will also house 13 delivery rooms, two operation rooms, a postnatal ward, doctor’s rooms, seminar rooms, prayer rooms, a pharmacy, a parking area for staff and patients, and a cafeteria.

The Minister said in 2011 that the new block was needed to ease the high demand at the existing women and children wards in the hospital.

More river ambulances

In July, MoH launched two new river ambulances for paramedics to better attend and handle medical emergency cases involving patients residing in riverine villages, including those in Kg Ayer, Kg Putat and patients in the Temburong district.

The river ambulances - which are equipped with life-saving equipment and beds for paramedic purposes - would also be utilised in the cases of any drowning accidents and emergency injury cases on large ships which are unable to dock at Bruneian ports, as well as in providing medical attention during events such as motorboat racing.

The addition of the new river ambulances means that there are now four river ambulances operating under the health ministry.

The Brunei Times