…By the end of the 11th Plan 

Health: To address the shortage of female health workers in the country, 80 percent of Basic Health Unit (BHU) II will have female nurses by the end of the 11th Plan.

This is besides increasing the intake of female candidates at the Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences.

Health minister Tandin Wangchuk, at the question hour session on June 14, agreed that shortage of female health workers impeded service delivery to women and children, which is a concern.

Lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk also said that there were issues of rural posting for female health officials especially when they are married and have children. The transfer exercise 2017 that is currently underway is expected to address such issues.

“Shortage of female workers also hindered institutional delivery that we are working on,” Lyonpo said, responding to Nanong-Shumar representative Dechen Zangmo’s query on measures to address the shortage of female health workers.

Dechen Zangmo said that in far-flung rural areas, women and children have issues in availing health services in absence of female health workers.

National Assembly’s women, children and youth committee, while presenting their report also highlighted issues that women in rural areas face given the shortage of female health workers. The report stated that women were reluctant to use health facilities for which the committee recommended posting of at least a female health worker in the BHUs and adequate number of female health workers in hospitals.

Meanwhile, Lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk was also questioned on the shortage and frequent breakdown of basic health equipment like Ultrasound machines and X-rays that affects patients in availing services, besides the rising burden on scanning devices like Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Computerised Tomography (CT) machines.

In response to Kengkhar-Weringla representative Rinzin Jamtsho, Lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk said that the government has plans to have basic equipment in all 22 BHU Is by the end of the Plan period and that about Nu 239 million (M) has been allocated for maintenance and replacement of such equipment.

At present, there are ultrasound and X-ray services in 27 hospitals.

Rinzin Jamtsho asked when the government would be able to provide CT scans and MRIs in the Mongar and Gelephu regional hospitals.

Lyonpo said that CT and MRI at the Thimphu referral hospital started in 2006 with assistance from the Indian government. With about 40 percent of the patients referred from the regional hospitals to Thimphu for CT scans and MRIs, he said there is mounting pressure on machines in Thimphu that often leads to breakdowns.

In the absence of Bhutanese who can repair these machines, Lyonpo said engineers have to be hired from outside from where the machines are bought. “We are focusing on training Bhutanese but it will take a while,” he said.

Lyonpo also said that globally one CT scan and MRI machine caters to 1M patients but given Bhutan’s geographical terrain, accessibility was an issue. Therefore, the government is doing its best to have CT and MRI machines in the two regional hospitals so that the service is accessible for patients in these regions.

Kinga Dema