Chencho Dema

Punakha – Residents of the 11 gewogs and the thromde in Punakha voluntarily contributed Nu 612,071 towards the Bhutan Health Trust Fund.

The amount will be soon handed over to the Bhutan Health Trust Fund.

The chairman of Dzongkhag Tshogdu (DT) and gup of Kabjisa Gewog, Sonam Dorji proposed the idea to supplement the Health Trust Fund which saw overwhelming support from the gewogs and the thromde.

Sonam Dorji on a journey home from Kolkata earlier this year understood the substantial financial burden on the government from medical referrals to India.

He suggested establishing a health trust fund through voluntary contributions from the gewogs. The proposal was deliberated at the third Dzongkhag Tshogdu of the third local government.

Sonam Dorji began a tour of the 11 gewogs of Punakha from April 21 to May 6 to introduce himself as the thrizin of DT and discussed the health contributions.

Sonam Dorji said, “Civil servants contribute to the health fund, and everyone reaps the rewards. So why can’t we contribute to the government instead of always depending on the government.”

He shared concerns about the government’s escalating expenditure on medical referrals particularly on patients referred to India.

“After handing over the amount to the authority concerned, I will personally visit all the chiwogs and gewogs in Punakha to share the details of the amount collected for transparency,” he said.

Kabisa gewog contributed Nu 143,865, the largest contribution, followed by Toepisa with Nu 100,000. Goenshari contributed Nu 9,035, the least.

Goenshari Gup Wangchuk Dorji said that the residents of one of his chiwogs could not make the contributions because they were not informed about the initiative.

“Although my gewog has the least number of people residing I am happy that we were able to contribute some amount,” he said.

The collection is expected to be an annual event. Many were happy to be able to make voluntary contributions to the health trust fund. They said that they wanted to make additional annual contributions.

Bhutan spends billions annually on referral cases, primarily related to kidney transplant surgeries, cancer treatment, and other heart-related ailments.

In the 2016-17 fiscal year, recorded the highest number of referrals, with 1,478 cases costing the government Nu 198.23 million. In 2018, approximately 900 patients were referred, and in 2019-20, over 280 patients were sent to Vellore and Kolkata in India.