Health: Regional hospitals in Mongar and Gelephu will have to wait until the end of this Plan to have a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Computerised Tomography (CT) scan equipment.

Health minister Tandin Wangchuk in his response to a query during the question hour at the National Assembly yesterday said the ministry was already in talks with the Japan government to grant three sets of the equipment to Bhutan.

“Even the one in JDWNR hospital is too old and needs replacement, so we hope to install the equipment in all three referral hospitals by the end of this Plan,” the minister said.

The absence of these machines, Kengkhar-Weringla Member of Parliament Rinzin Jamtsho said impeded the hospitals from delivering effective services to the people.

“Given the poor condition of the highway between Mongar and Thimphu, patients have to suffer a great deal during referrals,” Rinzin Jamtsho said.

Opposition members said instead of buying a second helicopter, the government should invest in the machines for these hospitals.

Opposition Leader (Dr) Pema Gyamtsho said, “There is no need to bring in the second helicopter and instead the government could train doctors and invest in procuring medical equipment.”

Bartsham Shongphu MP Wangdi Norbu said the problem was a result of the government turning the priorities upside down.

“While there are such urgent needs, we are investing so much on the helicopters,” he said.

Lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk said the government has got its priorities right and continue to follow the financial norms and system by the previous government.

“Even if the ministry is given threefold of its present budget, it won’t be adequate to address all its needs,” the minister said. “So we’re doing whatever is possible within the budget and exploring other options to meet the requirements.”

Of the 1,600 patients treated at the JDWNR hospital last year, 60 percent came for MRI and CT Scan services. The CT Scan in the JDWNRH worth Nu 48 million was installed in 2006.

MPs also quizzed the minister on the autonomous status of the national referral hospital.

“While the hospital has been given autonomy last year, most of its financial and administrative authority still rests with the health ministry,” Nanong Shumar MP Dechen Zangmo said.

Lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk who is also the chairperson of the hospital’s board, said certain legislation such as the Public Finance Act, Royal Civil Service Commission Act and related rules prevented the JDWNR hospital from exercising complete autonomy.

“However, we have taken the first step and would work towards helping the hospital in providing the services in the best way possible,” the minister said.

As desired by the hospital, and as pledged by the government, the country’s apex hospital for tertiary care has now been granted autonomy, officials from the health ministry and the hospital confirmed.

Tshering Palden