Phub Dem | Sombaykha

Parts of the ceilings have fallen off, and the walls have cracks all over. Water seeps through the ground and cracks the foundation.

The Primary Health Centre (PHC), earlier known as Basic Health Unit, in Sombaykha, Haa, is in poor condition.

For remote settlements like Sombaykha, residents said that the PHC is everything they have got during emergencies as the roads connecting the place to Haa and Samtse remain blocked or in poor condition during peak monsoon and winter.

A resident, Gem Tshering, said that the health officials usually refer them to the dzongkhag hospital in Haa, which becomes inconvenient and expensive for those who do not have a vehicle, relatives in the town. “We only have a nurse and a health assistant. When they go for workshops and training, we are deprived of the services.”

He said that the condition of PHC was worrisome.

Another villager, Kezang Om said that villagers could not cross Tergola during winter during emergencies. She said that the concerns over the condition of the PHC were raised at numerous meetings.“We are hoping for a complete renovation.”

According to locals, the PHC is more than 25 years old. The PHC caters to villagers in three chiwogs that are sparsely populated.

According to Sombaykha Gup Thinley, it was difficult for the gewog administration to carry out the repairs as it requires a substantial budget.

The issue is more about the services the PHC cannot provide than its condition, villagers said.

There are two PHCs in Sombaykha drungkhag. However, people are hoping for a bigger centre considering the population and distance of the drungkhag from the dzongkhag.

Kezang Om said that none gave birth in the gewog PHC, adding that it was difficult for locals when they had to stay at Haa for a month before they delivered the baby. “Some have to hire boleros and rent rooms at Haa town while going for health checkups.”

The locals said that it would be convenient if the BHU could be upgraded.

While there was no plan to renovate the centre in the 12th Plan, dzongkhag health officer Samten said that the office was ready to reprioritise the budget to renovate the PHC immediately.

He said that the plan was delayed due to the discussion on the construction of a bigger PHC (BHU grade I) in the drungkhag. “The PHC at the gewog would be closed if a bigger one is constructed in the drungkhag.”

Haa dzongkhag tshogdu members agreed on having a bigger PHC (BHU-I) in the drungkhag earlier this year. During the discussion, the health officer said that the sub-post at drungkhag has the infrastructure to house health staff if it is upgraded to a 10-bed PHC (BHU-I).

He said that there was a need for a bigger health centre in the two southern gewogs of the dzongkhags as emergency patients have to cross Tergola to reach Haa hospital. “We’re incurring huge expenses in ambulance services.”

Haa dzongkhag administration has informed the Gross National Happiness Commission about the proposal to reprioritise the gewog’s budget to upgrade the sub-post to BHU-I during the 12th Plan’s midterm review.

Samten said that it was impossible to propose a BHU-I in the drungkhag if other health facilities in the gewogs were not downgraded. “Because the gewogs do not have the population and catchment, a requirement to construct a BHU-I.”

Sources said that there was disagreement between two gewogs, Gakiling and Sombaykha, to construct the BHU-I at their respective gewogs, which is why it was left hanging.

Edited by Tshering Palden