Jigmi Wangdi  

The country’s first catheterisation laboratory inaugurated yesterday at the JDWNRH is expected to save the government expenditure and enable timely treatment of heart patients.

To date, 90 percent of the medical cases related to heart diseases were referred out of the country.   

The inauguration also marked the launch of the Heart Centre which comes at a time when cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of morbidity and death in the country. The rising burden of cardiac-related mortality and morbidity in the country highlights the pressing need for better access to diagnostic and interventional services and facilities for CVDs.

The lab is equipped with the latest cardiac imaging and intervention tools to enable our doctors to perform minimally invasive procedures and accurately diagnose various heart ailments.

The lab is used for tests and procedures such as angiogram, angioplasty and the implantation of pacemakers, among others. The cardiac catheterisation is a vital procedure for diagnosing and treating numerous cardiovascular conditions, including coronary artery disease, heart attacks, and structural heart defects.

Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo said, “The opening of the Heart Center with the cardiac catheterization and cardiac care service marks a significant advancement in Bhutan’s tertiary-level health services, which were previously inaccessible to patients within the country.”

JDWNRH’s interventional cardiologist, Dr Mahesh Gurung said that the number of referrals for heart conditions had increased between 2016-2023. “Approximately more than 100 patients are sent for referrals per year.”

He said that more than 80 percent of these cases require cath lab services.

Dr Mahesh Gurung said that the cath lab can now provide timely interventions for patients. “Until now we were managing and referring and, in the process, treatments were delayed. There were cases in the past where we lost patients because of not having the cath lab services.”

The services provided by the lab can help the patients and their families financially as they can now receive the services in the country, the doctor said. “Patients would be referred to India in the past and it would cost a lot of money, including the logistics and for the treatment. Many patients also had to deal with the emotional burden.”

He said that the cath lab is cost-effective because a large amount of money can be saved from the referral budgets.

The government spends around Nu 300-700 million every year for overseas patient referrals and around 4 percent of the expenditure is towards treating cardiovascular diseases.

Mahesh Gurung said that the main anticipated challenge of operating the cath lab will be manpower. “We do not have an adequate team as many nurses and staff are leaving.”

Health Minister Dechen Wangmo along with health officials and medical specialists inaugurated the lab which cost around Nu 70 million.