Neten Dorji

Trashiyangtse- Six years ago, Jangphutse village in Trashiyangtse lost its lone female health assistant (HA) in a sub-post health centre, leaving its residents, especially women, facing a growing struggle to access vital healthcare services.

For the past half-decade, villagers in Jangphutse have grappled with the absence of a female nurse in their outlying health post, making women particularly uncomfortable when seeking medical assistance.

Damchoe Dolma, a 43-year-old villager, says that the shortage of staff has significantly hampered the community’s ability to access healthcare, especially for women.

“Every time the healthcare worker is on leave or absent from the office, we are left without medical care. Some of our friends are reluctant to visit the healthcare center since the staff is male,” she says.

Dolma explained that women have had to endure a gruelling six-hour walk to the gewog centre to access critical services such as pap smears.

Journeying to the dzongkhag hospital and referral facilities poses further challenges, making it an arduous task for the villagers.

Another resident, Kezang Lhamo, echoes these sentiments, stating that male health workers at Jangphutse primary healthcare centre don’t provide the comfort and reassurance needed for female patients.

“We have a male health worker, but it is not convenient for female patients. Having a female nurse in the health outpost would greatly benefit women,” Kezang Lhamo, a concerned mother, said pointing out that there are more females than males in the Jangphutse community.

Toetsho Gup, Dechen Wangdi, has persistently raised the urgent need for female nurses with the dzongkhag and health ministry, but no one has been deployed yet.

He says that many women in the community feel uncomfortable seeking health services from male health assistants, which could lead to potential health complications in the future.

Dechen Wangdi questions why the ministry and dzongkhag have not sent a female nurse, emphasising the importance of having one, especially with the village’s proximity to the international border.

“They are the ones in charge of border security,” he says.

The village tshogpa, Tawpo, acknowledges that while some women can travel to the gewog Basic Health Unit (BHU) and dzongkhag hospital for medical care, many cannot do so due to the long journeys and financial constraints.

“It would immensely benefit our women if a female nurse is deployed as soon as possible. Currently, females avoid visiting the BHU when they have women-related issues,” he says.

Local leaders have emphasised that the demand for a female health assistant is a common request from the villagers. They clarify that it is not about questioning the capabilities of male health assistants but about providing convenience and comfort to women and children.

“First-time pregnant women are often hesitant to seek healthcare when the health assistant is male,” they noted.

Trashiyangtse dzongkhag health officials have tried to address the issue by mobilising nurses from the gewog BHU during pap smear campaigns to ensure that women are not deprived of medical care.

However, they acknowledge that women feel uncomfortable with male nurses at the outpost. According to the official standards, an additional female nurse is not currently eligible for the health outpost.

Discussions about the need for a female health assistant have taken place in the gewog tshogdu, prompting the dzongkhag health sector to explore possibilities of deploying female nurses.

Despite the challenges, the people of Jangphutse remain hopeful that a female nurse will soon be stationed in their health outpost, providing the comfort and convenience that every woman in the community deserves when seeking essential healthcare services.