But the hospital is facing a shortage of specialists and general duty medical officers 

Health: After the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH), the Gelephu regional referral hospital sees the most patients in Bhutan.

Already short of health workers, Gelephu hospital’s patient case load has been rising sharply annually.

At an annual rate of about 10 percent, the out-patient case load increased to 124,555 in 2014 from 111,727 in 2013.

Gelephu hospital saw 131,370 patients, last year. These patients were seen by a medical specialist, a gynecologist, a pediatrician, a surgical specialist and an ophthalmologist.

Another two general duty medical officers (GDMO), a dental surgeon, two clinical officers and five health assistants, support the five specialists.

Deputy chief of medical records, Palden Lepcha pointed out that despite the hospital being housed in the same building constructed in the late 1960s which results in shortage of space, the hospital still has an adequate number of nurses, technicians and support staff.  “But specialists and GDMOs are the foremost requirement if we have to provide efficient service as a central regional hospitals,” he said.

Among the cases, GDMOs, health assistants and clinical officers saw the maximum number of patients at 52,999, followed by medical specialists at 12,865. The casualty chamber treated 12,424 patients.

Palden Lepcha said that although the health ministry has a policy of phasing out clinical officers and heath assistants from hospitals, especially from the regional ones, they play a vital role at the Gelephu hospital.

The increase in patients is the result of an increase in referral cases from at least six neighbouring dzongkhags like Samdrupjongkhar and Pemagatshel. In 2013, at least 503 patients were referred from Sarpang, Zhemgang and Tsirang combined. Referrals increased to 557 in 2014 and another 559 patients were referred last year from the three hospitals.

Almost 200 patients with complications related to their pregnancy were referred to Gelephu in 2013. This was followed by patients injured during motor vehicle accidents at 66 and other injuries at 45. Another 227 patients with pregnancy complications were referred in 2014. Last year patients with pregnancy complications increased to 232.

Palden Lepcha said the maximum number of cases being referred from hospitals in the region are for the gynecology chamber, over burdening Gelephu’s lone gynecologist. However, he said that the number of out-patients for the gynecology chamber is low.

While Gelephu receives an increasing number of patients referred from other hospitals, the number of patients referred to the JDWNRH has also been increasing. From 393 patients in 2013, the number increased to 415 in 2014, which further increased to 443 last year. Most of the patients referred out were for services such as CT and MRI scans, the Intensive Care Unit, dialysis and head injuries.

However, health workers in Gelephu are of the view that although additional human resources might be required, referral and out-patients cases will ease once the on-going 150-bed hospital is complete.

The 150-bed  hospital, for which construction has been delayed by three months is expected to be completed by October 2017.

Nirmala Pokhrel