Kelzang Wangchuk

An earmould lab was launched at Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) in Thimphu yesterday. 

The first lab established through a hear, listen and speak programme would enhance the timely detection of preventable hearing difficulties in children below 14 years. Health officials have started screening newborn babies in the JDWNRH.

Health Minister, Dechen Wangmo, during the launch said in line with the government’s vision to narrow the gap, they targeted to address the two major disabilities- visual and hearing impairments when the government approved the national disability policy in 2019.

She said that they managed to screen 99.4 percent of children with visual impairment and provided the eyeglasses under the visual impairment programme. “It is a huge achievement for the disability programmes.”

Lyonpo said that it was estimated that 2.2 percent of the population has some form of hearing disorder.

She said the ministry also targets to have similar labs in the two regional hospitals as people may not have the resources to come to Thimphu to avail of services. “Together we must envision a Bhutan where no child shall endure hearing loss due to preventable causes.”

“We need to have in-house competency and capability when we talk about sustainability. Invest in our Bhutanese to build their competencies and capabilities so that our doctors and technicians should be able to fix any issues,” Lyonpo said.

The health ministry in collaboration with the UN Technology Bank, Medtronic Labs, GNResound, MEDEL, and the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) established the lab at JDWNRH.

The ministry’s officiating public health director, Rixin Jamtsho, said the disability programme in the past almost remained idle and stagnant due to lack of mentorship, inadequate budgetary support, and late identification of hearing issues due to the lack of screening technology and shortages of expertise.

He said 2.1 percent of the Bhutanese population live with some form of disability, and the overall prevalence of any disability in children aged two to nine years is 21.3 percent, that is one in every five children living with disability in the country.

Rixin Jamtsho said audiologists and specialists have been trained and the sustainability and continuity of the services were also discussed and the implementing partners and stakeholders are ready to support.

The earmold impression and hearing aids services for children will now be available at the JDWNRH.