Health ministry has to post at least 65 female health assistants to Basic Health Unit (BHU) grade II in four months to fulfil its target to have at least one female health worker in all 184 BHU II by January next year.

To achieve this target, Health Minister Tandin Wangchuk said the ministry will reshuffle from the existing pool of health assistants according to transfer exercise and excess staff record.

BHU II in Ura, Bumthang; Chongaykha and Rinchentshe in Chukha; Ngatshena in Haa; and Soe and Lingzhi in Thimphu are among the health facilities in the country that do not have a female health assistant.

“We have enough female health assistants for all 184 BHU II’s but rural posting for female health officials, especially when they are married and have children, is the main challenge,” said health minister.

Of the 605 health assistants in the country, 232 are female.

Some of the female health assistants could not be posted in rural areas because of reasons like marital and medical problems. Many have already served in the gewogs.

“We will be posting the female health assistants who have not gone for rural posting since they joined their service. I have already issued an executive order,” health minister said. “There will be complaints and grievances from those affected but we will have to do it for the benefit of the people, especially women and children in rural areas.”

Health minister pointed out that the need for a female health assistant was one of the common requests from the gewogs.

“It is not because a male health assistant is not capable. It’s for the convenience of the women and children,” minister said.

Women who are pregnant for the first time are mostly hesitant to avail of the health services when the health assistant is a male.

Besides encouraging institutional deliveries and helping women to avail of health services related to women and children, to encourage and sensitise on pap smear, especially in rural areas, is one of the main reasons for the commitment.

Pap smear is a method of cervical screening used to detect potentially pre-cancerous and cancerous processes in the cervix.

Minister said cervical cancer is one of the leading causes of death among Bhutanese women.

Health secretary, Dr Ugen Dophu, said that 70 percent of the role of a health assistant is disease prevention and health promotion. “In the process, they will treat some minor illnesses like common cold and diarrhoea.”

As per the health service standard, BHU II’s in the country should have three health assistants.

Dechen Tshomo