Warns of legal action while patients feel the intervention is unfair

Health: For the last 15 years, Dechen Pelden hopped from one hospital to another both within and outside the country to correct her paralysed left hand.

She underwent an operation, but the problem persisted.  The 27-year-old found hope recently. She began treatment with a seasoned retired drungtshog in Hongtsho a month ago.

After 15 sessions of acupuncture she can now feel her skin and move a bit.

However, the treatment came to an abrupt end on Sunday. The drungtshog stopped entertaining patients following a letter from the Bhutan Medical and Health Council (BMHC).

The Council notified the drungtshog last month to immediately stop his practice at his residence.

The Council’s officiating registrar, Nima Sangay said it was illegal to treat patients at home.  “No doubt he is a drungtsho but the laws don’t allow such private practice,” the officiating registrar said.

In 2013, after a visit to the drungtshog’s residence where he treated patients and observing the procedures, the Council verbally asked him to stop.

The issue was deliberated at the Council’s executive committee, which instructed the Council to prohibit all drungtshogs from practicing at home.

“We observed that the needles were reused and sterilisation methods were inadequate to prevent cross infection,” Nima Sangay said.

Last year, the Council along with Drug Regulatory Authority officials stopped a woman from treating patients at her residence in private at Taba.  “We found that the person was unqualified and had no documents to prove her proficiency,” the deputy registrar said.

Bhutan Medical and Health Council Act 2002 states that ‘a person who is duly registered under this Act, depending on qualification and existing government policies.’

He said health policies do not allow private practice except for diagnostic centres.

“We have been only warning people against such practice but this year onwards we’ll be taking action,” Nima Sangay said.

The letter from the Council to the drungtshog warned of legal action in case he fails to abide by the order.

But it is patients rather than drungtshogs who are disappointed with the notification.

“What is the government’s problem?” said an elderly woman from Paro when the drungtshog, before treating her, announced that it would be his last day.

The success story has spread far and wide and people from as far as Samdrup Jongkhar had come to seek the help of the drungtshog in Hongtsho.  “If it benefits people, the government shouldn’t stop them from helping people,” said the woman who complained of pain in the neck, back, and thighs. It was her first day and she requested one more session.

Another patient, Nidup Zam heard about the drungtshog from a neighbour who recovered from a prolonged serious illness. “The service of the drungtshog should not be looked at as a business. It is different,” Nidup’s niece escorting her said. “Patients are requesting for treatment.”

The drungtshog however charges Nu 200 a patient a session, the proceeds he said is donated to lams and to those renovating lhakhangs across the country.  The drungtshog, who requested not to be named, said he welcome the notification. “In fact, I had been requesting them to stop people from seeing me,” the drungtshog who retired to a life of prayers said.

“The notification will help me devote my life to prayers and the patients will respect it (notification),” said the 80 -year-old drungtshog. “I don’t want to go to jail at this age.”

However, Dechen Pelden from Khaling, Trashigang wants to carry out the treatment with the retired drungtshog.

“I will seek an audience with the health minister and plead him to allow the treatment because this is the only effective treatment for me,” she said.

Tshering Palden