Sultan's surprise visit to RIPAS Hospital
By Azlan Othman

The Government of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam will soon extend maternity leave and the issue is will be discussed with appropriate ministries.

Also, a scheme in the form of an incentive of encouragement has also been introduced for doctors whereby the doctors' salaries could be as high as $18,000.

These were revealed by the Minister of Health Pehin Orang Kaya Johan Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Awg Hj Adanan to the media at the end of His Majesty's visit to RIPAS Hospital and a closed-door session at the Ministry of Health yesterday.

The minister added that local doctors are being encouraged to become specialists in various fields.

"Healthcare, welfare, training of locals, medicare facilities for the people and encouraging more local doctors to work with the ministry have been the concerns of the benevolent ruler."

Accompanying His Majesty during the visit were His Royal Highness Prince Hj Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office, HRH Prince Hj 'Abdul 'Azim and HRH Prince 'Abdul Malik.

His Majesty was greeted upon arrival at the RIPAS Hospital by the Minister of Health, Pehin Orang Kaya Johan Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Awg Hj Adanan bin Begawan Pehin Siraja Khatib Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Mohd Yusof, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry, Dato Paduka Hj Abdul Salam bin Abd Momin and other senior officers, doctors, nurses and staff of the hospital.

The visit to RIPAS Hospital brought the ruler and other members of the royal family to various sections including the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), Cardiac Care Unit (CCU), medical ICU, physicians, eye, cardiology, diabetes where the monarch mingled with the patients and their families, doctors, nurses and other hospital staff.

Also coming under royal scrutiny were the Dispensary Section, Specialist Clinics block including the Division of Respiratory Medicine (DORM) and Ear, Nose and Throat Clinic. The monarch also took a closer look at the parking situation from the second floor of the hospital.

"His Majesty asked how is the condition of my 19-year-old son," said Norlela bte Hj Bungsu, 86, who was waiting outside the operation room.

"The monarch asked what had happened to me," said Hj Mohd Sapar, 67, from Belait who is bedridden at Ward 9.

"The ruler asked to take good care of my daughter," said Awg Embran bin Hj Yaakub whose daughter is hospitalised at Ward 19.

The monarch was also seen asking the hospital staff about the years of service and posed for group photos. At the Dispensary Section, the ruler asked one of the patients taking the medicines whether he knows the procedure to take them.

The hospital has reached its capacity. There has been an increase in average outpatient attendance per day as last year alone (2009), it surged to 1,151 compared to 819 five years ago (in 2004).

The average number of inpatients per day has also increased to 398 in 2009 compared to 351 in 2004. However, the average duration of stay has reduced to 4.8 days in 2009 compared to 4.9 in 2004 due to better facilities and support services that lead to quicker and effective treatment.

Total manpower at RIPAS Hospital currently stands at 2,569 consisting of specialists and highly qualified medical officers of various disciplines, allied health professionals and its affiliates, trained nurses and many other support staff. Out of 316 doctors, only 112 are locals, which is about 35 per cent.

This shows that the government still needs to employ a sizeable number of expatriates on contract. Expatriate doctors are currently from India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Myanmar, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Australia, UK and Pakistan. - Borneo Bulletin (21st October 2010)