Does Brunei Need Private Healthcare Providers?

Posted on  27/09/2012  |  Media Centre

Written by Jimi-Ha on 27 September 2012.

Bandar Seri Begawan – Would the introduction of a private healthcare system in Brunei prove to be more beneficial for the country in the long run?

This was a question raised by one of the attendees at the Asia Inc Forum and the US Embassy’s Health Forum at the Radisson Hotel yesterday, during a dialogue session themed, ‘Management and Innovation in Healthcare Services’.

The point put forward by the attendee suggested that it is time for Brunei to move towards a private healthcare system, which affluent individuals would pay a higher proportion for, and in turn, help those who are not as privileged and fall in the lower economic bracket, to have better healthcare.

This suggested private healthcare system would increase the quality of overall care as the people would be paying for it, which would mean that they could then question their doctor about treatments they receive, in addition to it not being run by private companies, but by a government agency.

The suggestion made was that it is time to think about private healthcare so that the more affluent in society will be able to subsidise those who do not earn as much and are less fortunate.

In response, Dr Hajah Rahmah Haji Md Said, as the Director-General of Medical Services at the Ministry of Health (MoH) and one of the panellists in the dialogue, said, “The master plan will look into the framework of how we deliver our care, what other options are available and how we integrate private healthcare within the whole framework of the system.

“The master plan is not just about private healthcare,” she continued. “It’s about national healthcare delivery systems as well as infrastructure for the whole country so that is something that is to come.”

She stressed that health belongs to everybody.

The forum moderator, Delwin Keasberry, Programme Manager for Asia Inc Forum, then turned to Dr Harry Harris, asking him how long it would be before the country could see realistic change in this regard.

To this, Dr Harris said, “It depends on how much opposition you have. You all know that trying to make a change in any enterprise, organisation or even family is very difficult. Trying to make a change to the status quo will have everybody coming out of the woodwork.”

Speaking on the possibility of a private healthcare system in Brunei, Dr Harris said, “Particularly in the states, we have a private healthcare system that is out of control. On bringing in the private healthcare system into your country, before you introduce anything like that, you should take a very, very hard look.

“I think your current programme is what you should focus on. Do not make any changes,” he said. “Just because it’s a private healthcare system doesn’t make it a cheaper way of doing things.

“I can certainly tell you that in the United States our private health system is actually dependent on a lot of public dollars. As a result, there’s that oversight, and then people get involved and the insurance companies get involved,” he explained.

He said that hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on lobbying, saying, “When you’re dealing with hundreds of millions and billions of dollars, people kill, figuratively, to get that money in, and there’s no panacea, in terms of having a private health system.

“When you have something good, then try to improve it incrementally, and don’t make a massive change. I can tell you that if you make any major change here in your nation, in your country, you better think about it long and hard before you make any changes, because you’re going to have resistance from a lot of people.”

Over the course of the dialogue, the panellists entertained a number of questions, one of which asked exactly how healthy Brunei’s healthcare system is, to which Dr Hjh Rahmah responded, “I think Brunei is very privileged as a nation. It’s very good in the region, with a very high quality of living.”

Asked by Mr Keasberry for a score out of 10, she said, “I would say that we are at a seven or maybe even an eight out of 10.”

Dr Harris then continued on cost containment, which he said means, “You need to take a look at current costs and evaluate what each dollar you’re spending on healthcare does.

“You need to decide how much healthcare is needed in Brunei. With cost containment, you contain the cost so that it doesn’t get out of hand.”

A statement was also made calling for a synergistic approach from the government and private healthcare providers, and asked for what the MoH’s stance is on this issue. Dr Hjh Rahmah said, “We are looking at three components or pillars in the strategic framework, and it is in these pillars where such a thing will be considered.”

Asked how far technology and innovation in healthcare will go and if it will make humans redundant, Dr Hajah Rahmah said, “Of course technology plays a big role in healthcare, but it cannot do the thinking part of things. That’s where human doctors come in. Doctors are needed for critical assessment.”

Dr Harris then offered another point of view, saying that he believes in the need for the existence of a human touch in healthcare, but added that he wants his physicians and doctors to have the latest technology.

Yesterday’s Health Forum saw the attendance of 80 stakeholders from healthcare services and industry from both the public and private sectors in Brunei.

–Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin