Jigmi Wangdi

The government is investing  Nu 7 billion in the health sector, an indication that the health of the people is a priority.

The health ministry is allocated Nu 1,17 billion, Bhutan Food and Drug Authority (Nu 207.661 million), The Pema Secretariat (Nu 168.060 million), KGUMSB (Nu 376.790 million) and the National Medical Services (Nu 5,085.4 billion).

The 13th Plan report stated that while Bhutan is battling communicable diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, zoonotic diseases, and the rising threat of antimicrobial resistance, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is posing an increasing burden on the health system accounting for more than 73 percent of all deaths in the country.

In less than 20 years, the NCD proportion of the national disease burden has risen significantly from 35 percent to 62 percent, the report highlighted.

Similarly, mental health issues are also on the rise with anxiety, depression, and mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol and substance abuse being most common. Anxiety and depression problems were most prevalent among those aged 15-19 years old (16.2 percent).

Another major challenge the health sector currently face is the attrition of the health workforce. The overall attrition rate was recorded to be 11.25 percent in January this year. The current ratio of doctors and nurses per 10,000 population is 3.3 and 14.1 respectively, which according to the report is far below the required levels.

The report highlighted that the sustainability of the health system has become a major concern amidst rising healthcare costs, advancing health technologies, increasing public expectations, and the rapid rise in NCDs and an ageing population.

“The health governance system and the management of healthcare facilities and service delivery all require a reformed approach to ensure timely, high-quality interventions with a focus on early detection and prevention,” the report stated.


Focus on prevention?

To tackle the growing concern on NCDs, cost of health care and to improve services provided in the health sector, the government will work on achieving seven deliverables.

The primary objective shared in the proposed plan is to ensure that Bhutanese practise a healthier lifestyle to minimise NCD risk factors through tobacco use, harmful consumption of alcohol and areca nut, physical inactivity, and unhealthy diet. These require behavioural change among the population.

The government also aims to eliminate or control priority diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, zoonotic diseases, neglected tropical diseases and emerging infectious diseases.

There is also a focus on strengthening the monitoring and regulatory systems by ensuring that medicines, vaccines, biological and medical devices meet high standards and are safe, and that food products are safe for consumption.

Other areas of focus for the deliverables include improved access to quality health and health-related services and products, adequate and competent health workforce, a sustainable health financing system and innovative governance and harnessing information and technology to enhance health system efficiency.