Health care services in the country would undergo a paradigm shift as a top priority programme to benefit the people, especially the commoners and narrow the gap.

Health Minister Dechen Wangmo said this to Wamrong MP Karma Thinley who questioned the minister on the government’s stand on private sector participation, especially in outsourcing clinical and diagnostic services.

Karma Thinley said health services in the country need improvement, changes in providing health services and policy formulation in the health sector. “There should be some paradigm shift.”

Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo attempted to clarify the misconception that people have about privatisation of health care and private participation in providing health services. “It is important to differentiate between the two,” she said.

The minister said that privatisation of health care is when a patient is charged for all kinds of health services. Lyonpo said Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa wishes and prays that such situation would never arise in the country in the future.

Lyonpo said that similar discussions were also held during the 11th Plan by the previous government.

Meanwhile, she said policies to encourage private participation in providing selected health services was already in place.

The National Health Policy, 2011, has included public-private partnership in health, which includes private sector and foreign direct investments to be allowed to provide specialized medical diagnostic and treatments services in compliance with the national standards and laws.

Lyonpo said that the Economic Development Policy, 2017, allows private sectors to participate in providing high-end services. “The Constitution also states that the state shall provide free health care services to its people.”

Lyonpo said it was important that the government review, consolidate and improve the policies and make proper plans. “We are in the process of making elaborate plans.”

The first private diagnostic centre in the country opened in Thimphu in June 2012. There are 12 private diagnostic centres in the country today: two each in Gelephu, Samdrupjongkhar and Thimphu, and six in Phuentsholing.

Dechen Tshomo