Nima Wangdi  

The Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Bhutan signed a 2.994 billion Yen grant agreement to construct the Royal Centre for Infectious Diseases (RCID) at Gidakom Hospital yesterday.

The project, including the procurement of medical equipment for the centre, is worth about Ngultrum 1.7 billion.

The note on the project was exchanged between the Royal Bhutanese Embassy and the Embassy of Japan in New Delhi and was signed between the two ambassadors on September 22.

The centre will be a Centre for Excellence for providing high-quality services focused on preventing and managing infectious diseases, emerging infectious diseases, and unforeseen pandemics like Covid-19. It is an initiative of Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo.

According to the joint press release from JICA Bhutan office and health ministry, the centre is named as Royal Centre for Infectious Diseases, a testament to blessings and commitment from the highest level to uphold the health and safety of every Bhutanese in the country.

The centre will have state-of-the-art facilities and comprehensive clinical and public health capabilities in infectious diseases prevention, control, and management. 

“It is envisaged to play a lead role nationally and regionally in protecting the health of Bhutanese and beyond,” the press release stated.

Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo, during the signing, said that the Covid-19 pandemic claimed millions of lives, disrupted societies, devastated economies, and taught everyone a lesson. “The spread of infectious diseases from animals to humans is inevitable and building resilient and sustainable health systems that can withstand public health disasters of any magnitude in the future is our utmost responsibility,” lyonpo said.

Chief Representative JICA Bhutan, Tomoyuki Yamada, said that the centre’s strategic importance is not only establishing a centre for providing high-quality treatment services, but also serving as a human resource development base with knowledge of infectious disease control.

“Bhutan already has other capable key institutions such as RCDC and KGUMSB and establishment of this centre means Bhutan’s health system will become remarkably resilient against future pandemics,” he said.

Tomoyuki Yamada also said that JICA, and Japan are very proud of and pleased for having an opportunity to work with the health ministry on such a historic and flagship project in Bhutan.

A team of Japanese experts visited Bhutan in November 2021 to conduct preparatory surveys for the construction. Several virtual meetings were conducted between the officials from the health ministry, JICA headquarters and Japanese experts.

Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo, in an earlier interview, said the centre would have outpatient and in-patient departments along with an infectious disease laboratory and research components with negative pressure rooms. “There will be three structures built at the present Gidakom hospital premises. Each will be three-storeyed.”

The Royal Centre for Infectious Disease (RCID) will be ready in the 13th Plan.