In the last two years, the CT and MRI scanners broke down six and eight times respectively 

Health: The burden on costly scanning devices, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computerised tomography (CT) machines at the Jigme Dorji Wangchuk National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) is mounting.

As of yesterday, there are 184 patients waiting until November 8 this year for MRI and 78 patients awaiting CT scan until October 8.

Health minister Tandin Wangchuk said while only specialists were allowed to recommend these scans, patients were unsatisfied if they were not made to undergo these tests.

The same issue, he said was there since the ultra sound machine came in the country, where patients were not satisfied with X-ray. “But people should also be aware that one CT scan exposure is equal to 100 times of X-ray exposure,” he said.

The MRI machines cost the government USD 1.3M and USD 800,000 for the CT scanner and these machines are more than 10 years old. Lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk said every year Nu 2.5M and Nu 2.8M for the maintenance of CT and MRI respectively were allocated.

In the last two years, the CT scanner broke down six and MRI eight times. He said the machines were repaired at the shortest possible time except when the parts have to be replaced.

Since the maintenance of these machines involves complex technicalities, maintenance contract were signed with the principal company. Lyonpo said because of the economy of scale, there are some issues on getting engineers.

“We have only one machine each unlike other countries,” he said.

Lyonpo also highlighted on the operational issues. There are only three radiologists operating the MRI, CT and ultrasound in JDWNRH.

However, he said a provision in the 11th Plan has been made to procure a CT scanner and a request has also been made for Japanese grant. Five more radiologists would also be recruited in this Plan period.

In India, he said, the cost per CT scan is about Rs 7,000 and between Rs 8,000-10,000 per MRI scan. In Thailand it works out to TBH 12,000 for MRI and TBH 9,000 for CT.

Whereas, in Bhutan the minister said costing is calculated based on the cost of consumables like films. This, he said works out to Nu 1,500-2,500 for CT and Nu 3,500-Nu 4,500 for MRI. This is only charged for special consultation services but provided free to patients during normal hospital hours.

Meanwhile, 12 regular, five emergency and three special consultations of CT scanning is conducted a day at JDWNRH.  On an average, 12 regular and three special consultations MRI scan are done a day.

The average waiting time for CT scan works out between 7 and 10 hours while the waiting time for MRI works to less than a month.

Tshering Dorji