Bandar Seri Begawan - Although Brunei Darussalam is known for its virtually free healthcare which has undoubtedly benefitted the country's people for decades, international perception of the current healthcare system indicates that more can still be done to further heighten the quality of medical services.
The visiting Deputy Director General, Ministry of Health Vietnam, Associate Professor Dr Tran Thi Ngoc in an interview said that Vietnam is keen to work with health officials here towards improving workers' health and welfare for those who are more at risk to work-related illnesses.
"I see that there are a number of periodical health examinations and indicators of workers' health but there is no indicator for occupational health diseases in Brunei," she explained during a visit to the country's Health Promotion Centre (HPC) in Berakas.
Occupational health diseases, she explained, refer to the types of-illnesses brought on by work that subject individuals to health-related problems such as the inhalation of dust infused with silica that may result in lung fibrosis, which is the most common cause of occupational disease in Vietnam.
"We have a list of diseases related to occupations in Vietnam totalling to more than 30 and, thus far, we have recorded 27,000 cases of those contracting occupational diseases who have been compensated by their employers," she said, adding that it is "a worker's right" to hold their employers financially liable, should their health become compromised in the line of duty.
During the delegation's visit to include study tours to a few locations in the country as well as a number of presentations on the work currently being carried out and the milestones that have been achieved, Dr Ngoc pointed that, although local authorities did not share the types of occupational diseases that can be found in Brunei, "I think they actually exist but is in need of being identified, how to prevent them and how to develop a healthier human resource."
Stating that "we have a very good occupational health network" in Vietnam, the office of the Deputy Director General in charge of this particular topic of interest that borders human and workers rights, conducts risks assessments of a work environment from a health perspective, and carries out surveillance and follow-ups "for the protection of the worker" while at the same time introducing regulations and diagnosis.
Impressed with the current health promotion activities run by the Ministry of Health, Dr Ngoc commented that the activities carried out by the HPC "is very clear", unlike the structure in Vietnam's own similar establishment.
"I've learnt a lot from Brunei," she said, adding that the six-member team chose Brunei as a learning experience, considering that authorities here pay close attention to the health protection of "the people in general and workers in particular", complementing that "Brunei has a good programme".
During their tour of the HPC, the delegation was received by the Acting Head of HPC, Dr James M K Lee, who also delivered a presentation on Brunei's General Health Check Programme, as well as Health Promotion for Public Service Officers in the country.
The possibility of an official collaboration between the two institutions, meanwhile, will be explored.
--Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin