The key indicators to ensure free quality health care for all Bhutanese 

WHO: To ensure free quality healthcare for all Bhutanese, officials from various organisations met yesterday to discuss key indicators in the monitoring progress in terms of transformative education and retention of health workers.

Organised with technical and financial support from World Health Organisation (WHO), the one-day workshop saw participants from health ministry, Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences, Medical Council and WHO regional and country office.

The participants reviewed the achievements, identified the gaps and proposed the way forward for 2017-18, including the technical support required from WHO over the next two years. They also discussed the key indicators required to monitor progress and to ensure that quality healthcare will continue to be provided free to all Bhutanese.

Retention of health workforce in places where they are most needed, and scaling up and transformation of health professional education among physicians and nurses/midwives were found essential to ensure free quality healthcare for all Bhutanese, according to WHO.

According to Bhutan’s Human Resources for Health (HRH) country profile in 2014, although the density of physicians, nurses, and midwives per 1,000 population has doubled from 2002 to 2014, the number of health workforce is still below the benchmark set by WHO of 2.28 doctors, nurses, and midwives per 1,000 population. In addition, retaining frontline health workers, particularly women in basic health units in the most difficult districts, is an issue for the health ministry.

Officials said that WHO recognised the challenges posed by providing a sufficient number of competent health providers to ensure free quality health care and achieving universal health coverage more than a decade ago.

The issue, according to WHO officials, is prominent in all countries in the world independently according to their level of development.

“Ensuring production, deployment and retention of a sufficient number of skilled health workers is the key to sustain free healthcare in Bhutan and achieve the sustainable development goal for health (SDG3) targets,” WHO’s resident representative Dr Ornella Lincetto said.

To address these challenges, HRH strengthening is one of the flagship initiatives of the WHO Regional Office for South East Asia, according to WHO. The South East Asia Regional (SEAR) committee in 2014 endorsed the resolution on strengthening health workforce education and training in the region.

The resolution requested for the regional director’s support to member states in their implementation of the regional strategy on strengthening health workforce education and training in the SEAR (2014–2019) and to report progress on the implementation of health workforce development every two years starting 2016 until the next decade.

Meanwhile, three international experts from International Health Policy Program (IHPP) Thailand facilitated the workshop. Dr Travis, Dr Viroi Tangcharoensathien and Dr Walaiporn Patcharanarumol are in the country to set up the Health System in Transition review that will be conducted by a national team with technical assistance from WHO and IHPP.

The review is expected to provide good data and recommendations for strengthening health system in the 12th Plan.

Kinga Dema