Efforts to make specialist services in the health sector available to every Bhutanese continue despite the multiple challenges the country faces today.

Sowai Lyonpo (health minister) Dechen Wangmo said that the government was now pushing for specialist-services besides developing health infrastructure across the country.

Responding to the question raised by Jomotshangkha-Martshala PM Norbu Wangzom on upgrading gewog and dzongkhag hospitals at the National Assembly yesterday, Lyonpo, who joined the session virtually from the quarantine centre, said that the focus was now on the reaching the specialised services to the grassroots.

To improve the referral system in the country, Lyonpo said that a multi-disciplinary super-speciality hospital (MDSSH) was being set up at the national referral hospital’s (JDWNRH) campus in Thimphu.

“One of the major challenges we face today is in the referral system. Once completed, the MDSS hospital will be able to handle cancer, kidney, heart, and other transplant cases within the country,” the minister said.

For this, she said that doctors were already being trained in places like Thailand and a budget of Nu 5,600 million (M) was secured for infrastructural developments.

An infectious disease centre, estimated to cost around Nu 1,700M, is being considered in the wake of public health emergencies such as the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Lyonpo added. “Location and budget of about Nu 681M has also been identified and secured for an ENT hospital. A project worth over Nu 8,700M has never happened so far in the health sector.”

Besides mega infrastructure developments, Lyonpo said that to equip every dzongkhag hospital in the country with a set of specialists, including gynaecology, paediatrics, medicine and surgery, the government had increased the seats at the Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences of Bhutan by 100 percent.

Responding to Nanong-Shumar MP, Lungten Namgyel’s request to send a gynaecologist to Pemagatshel hospital, Lyonpo said that the country today had only 13 gynaecologists and that going by the current health standards, the country requires 25 gynaecologists at least.

“Knowing the importance, we would like to provide every gewog with a gynaecologist each but this is just not doable in our current capacity,” she said, adding that the ministry had employed every individual with medical know-how available in the market. “We have also recruited those doctors and health workers who had retired on contract. For now, we just don’t have enough human resources in the health sector.”

On upgrading the existing grade II Yoeseltse BHU to a 10-bed hospital (initially BHU Grade I), raised by Ugyentse-Yoeseltse MP Dinesh Kumar, the minister said that instead of upgrading the BHU, there was a better opportunity to expand and upgrade Samtse and Tashichholing hospitals.

Lyonpo said that this was because the two hospitals were easily accessible for the people of Yoeseltse and expanding the Sipsoo (Tashichholing) hospital would be more beneficial for the public. “Samtse hospital already has adequate specialists; it just requires some upgradation.”

She added that while promoting and upgrading every BHU in the country was important, a more calculated move by improving the strategic hospitals with additional doctors and equipment would be more practical and advantageous for the public.

By Younten Tshedup  

Edited by Tshering Palden