Younten Tshedup 

The highly anticipated multi-disciplinary super-speciality hospital (MDSSH) will be constructed at the national referral hospital’s (JDWNRH) campus in Thimphu, sources confirmed.

Following a series of discussion and technical assessments, officials from the health ministry have completed designing the services that would be made available at the apex hospital.

To introduce a high-end tertiary health care system in the country, which is one of the major pledges of the government, the hospital would provide high-level services in oncology – medical-oncology, psycho-oncology and hospice care, among others.

In the field of medicine, services like enteroscopy, high-resolution manometry, fibroscan services, and breath test facilities would be made available. Urology including kidney transplant, neurosurgery, plastic and reconstructive surgery, joint replacement, spine surgery, and advance traumatology services would also be available at the super-speciality hospital.

Today, most of these cases are referred abroad by the government.

State of the art robotic core laboratory service with additional services like molecular lab, immunology, genetics, flow cytometry, microbiology, and cytology, among others would be made accessible with the MDSS hospital.

In the second phase of its operation, the hospital will provide liver and bone marrow transplants including geriatric medicine (elderly health care) services.

Besides providing these high-end tertiary health care services, health officials said that the hospital would strengthen and create a robust health referral system in the country.

Chief of policy and planning division of the health ministry, Tashi Penjor, said that today if a person suffers from a headache, he or she bypasses the referral system and can directly see a specialist through various means.

He said that in the South Asia region, Bhutan probably would have the highest rate in terms of accessing specialist services by an individual at any given time.

“So, once the super-speciality hospital comes up, there is a huge opportunity for us to strengthen our referral system. Only referral patients can go there and the system will ensure that he is accessible to the specialists by means of his diagnosis and not because of his or her personal relationships,” he said.

Today, health referrals are based on the three-tier system that begins from the primary level (basic health unit) to dzongkhag hospitals and then regional referral hospitals.

Tashi Penjor said that along with the super-speciality hospital, a district-level hospital for Thimphu would be constructed. The dzongkhag hospital would then handle all out-patient department (OPD) cases. Only those that need referrals would come to JDWNRH and if necessary, be referred to the MDSS hospital.

He said that a complete project package of the super-speciality hospital including the district-level hospital for Thimphu, and other associated service requirements would help in strengthening the overall health system of the country.

He added that the project would not only treat diseases but also improve human resource development. Besides the disease requirements, the MDSSH will have additional services like the advance stage of in-vitro fertilisation that targets the population policy of the country.

The ministry also plans to link the system to high-end institutions outside for knowledge sharing and other collaboration. 

Despite the disruptions caused by the pandemic, health ministry and its Indian counterparts have been constantly working on the project.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to the country in August last year said, “I would like to assure you that India will offer all possible help and support to fulfil Bhutan’s dream of having a multi-disciplinary super speciality hospital.”

The commitment made by the two heads of state is in an advanced stage from the Bhutanese side and a final report has been shared with the Indian Embassy.