BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, June 27 (NNN-BRUDIRECT) -- The sixth Bilateral Ministers of Health Meeting between Brunei Darussalam and Malaysia concluded Tuesday with the signing of a joint statement in new areas of cooperation relating to the strengthening of primary healthcare as a means to achieve universal health coverage for the betterment of health and well-being of the people.
Brunei's Minister of Health, Hj Adanan bin Hj Mohd Yusof signed the joint statement with Malaysian Minister of Health, Liow Tiong Lai.
In a joint press conference, joint work plans in two new areas of cooperation, namely health tourism and application of ICT in the health sectors, were highlighted.
This is in addition to the existing cooperation in seven other fields like communicable disease surveillance and control, food safety and quality control, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics control, non-communicable diseases prevention and control, human resource development, cross-border transfer of patients, traditional and complementary medicine.
Elaborating more on medical health tourism, Liow said both countries could actively explore medical tourism opportunities towards mutual benefits.
"As we have agreed in the 2010 Bilateral Health Ministers Meeting, I hope the proposal for harmonising patient referral mechanism will be materialised soon for Brunei patients to Malaysia.
"Malaysia's medical tourism has peaked very fast in the health tourism sector. After we introduced medical tourism as one of the national agendas, we have recorded more than 30 per cent growth in foreign patients every year for the last two years. The participation of private hospitals has also increased.
"We are here to ensure you the quality and safety of your patients and security of patients staying in Malaysia. I know there are some concerns on this and we will continue to improve the quality of service," the Malaysian Health Minister added.
Asked on the current haze affecting both countries and any health mechanism that was discussed. Hj Adanan said, "We have discussed formally. Besides (discussing) between the two health ministries, we will also bring this matter to the attention of the relevant agencies."
The Malaysian Minister of Health said it has become an issue that the two countries face every year. "We take this seriously as it is a cross-boundary problem and we have to handle it as it affects the health and the Ministry of Health has come up with proper advice to the people.
"Closer cooperation is crucial so that whatever we do in Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam also takes similar action in an effort to tackle the situation. During the dry season, there are lots of hotspots in our neighbouring country as well as within Malaysia and this is something we want to curb and prevent it from getting worse. It is important to work with other agencies," he added.
Hj Adanan in his speech earlier congratulated Malaysia for the recent election as member of WHO executive board. "We are very appreciative and thankful for the assistance that Malaysia has provided to us especially in the area of capacity building of our healthcare professionals."
The minister said, "Over the years, we have had a proportion of our doctors, nurses and allied health professionals undergoing postgraduate, specialist and diploma courses in various universities and medical institutions in Malaysia.
"Through the joint work plans under the bilateral cooperation and through established contacts, there have also been a number of working visits to your healthcare institutions," he added.
The minister acknowledged the excellent services of Malaysian doctors and allied healthcare professionals who serve Brunei Darussalam and in particular the Ministry of Health, whereby currently a total of 53 officers are working in various areas of Brunei's medical and health services.
The minister also proposed officials of both countries to explore further cooperation and exchange of best practices based on evidence in further strengthening and improving the quality of primary healthcare.
Meanwhile, Liow in his welcoming remarks said senior officials could also offer home-grown ICT products that have been used successfully not only in Malaysia but also in Brunei Darussalam. The Malaysian Minister of Health also supported Brunei's idea of not issuing tobacco licence to retail outlets within one kilometre of an educational institution.
The two ministries also agreed to strengthen their commitment to continue cooperation in health and always share latest information on health issues. -- NNN-BRUDIRECT/Borneo Bulletin