The health ministry will receive seven medical equipment for the national and regional referral hospitals from Japan next year to improve their diagnostic capacity and services.

The JICA Chief Representative Koji Yamada and Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) secretary Thinley Namgyel signed an agreement to improve medical equipment at the national and regional referral hospitals yesterday.

The project will provide a CT  (computerised tomography) scan machine of 64 slice capacity and a mammography machine to the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) in Thimphu. Japan will provide a CT scan machine of 16 slice capacity each to the Gelephu Central Regional Referral Hospital and Mongar Eastern Regional Referral Hospital.

Mongar hospital will also receive a spirometer to measure the air capacity of lungs, and an Electrocardiogram (ECG) Holter System. Gelephu hospital will also get a general X-ray machine.

The equipment are worth Nu 319 million or Yen 551 million.

The GNHC secretary Thinley Namgyel said that the assistance will contribute towards enabling early diagnosis and treatment services for non-communicable diseases, injuries and others to be provided by the national and regional referral hospitals.

Once in place, the equipment are expected to reduce waiting and travel time, thereby improving access to medical services for the population, especially those living in the eastern and central regions of the country.

The grant aid project proposal was discussed with the government of Japan in 2015 during the 10th bilateral annual consultation.

This signing comes after Ambassador V Namgyel of Bhutan and Ambassador Kenji Hiramatsu of Japan signed the Exchange of Notes under the Japanese Grant Aid project on March 3 in New Delhi, India.

In a year, of the 1,600 patients treated at the JDWNR hospital, 60 percent came for MRI and CT scan services. A CT scan machine worth Nu 48 million was installed in JDWNRH in 2006.

The health ministry is attempting to reduce the number of days for which use of CT scan is suspended in JDWNRH from 15 days a year to none and increase the number of CT scan examinations in JDWNRH from 3,782 cases a year to 5,000 by 2021.

The machines will also help to increase the number of CT examinations in the Gelehpu Central Regional Referral hospital from zero cases today to 1,500 annually by 2021.

The government of Japan provided 55 ambulances to the health ministry so far contributing towards quality and accessibility of emergency medical services.

Diplomatic relations with Japan were established on March 28, 1986. Japan contributes the second most in development aid and remains a long-term development partner of Bhutan.

Tshering Palden