The health ministry has come up with two proposals to ensure that the women in the gewogs that do not have female health assistant have access to female health assistants.

Health secretary Dr Ugen Dophu said the mobile gynaecological clinic is one alternate to take services of female health assistants to the rural areas where there is none. Female health assistants in dzongkhags will occasionally visit the villages and gewogs where there is no female health assistant for about five to six days.

“We will inform the date of the visit beforehand so that the women in the villages plan accordingly to avail of specific services for women like the pap smear and copper-T,” Dr Ugen Dophu said.

The other proposal, he said, was to recruit about 50 female General Nursing and Midwifery (GNM) graduates available in the market and train them for a month or two to provide health services like Pap smear test and copper-T, among others. They will then be posted to BHUs in gewogs that do not have female health assistant.

“This looks difficult, but we are ready with a detailed proposal, including the cost to recruit them. We have to write to Royal Civil Service Commission to recruit them on contract for a few years,” Dr Ugen Dophu said.

The ministry is yet to decide on which option to consider.

Dr Ugen Dophu recommends mobile clinic because that would not require training new female health assistants. “We just have to give them daily allowance. As a result, cost implication will be less.”

The estimated cost to send the female health assistants to the gewogs is about Nu 1.2M a year, while it could cost about Nu 5.5M to recruit and train about 50 GNMs.

“Additionally, we have to give them salary,” he added.

Dr Ugen Dophu said many think that nurses and health assistants are same. “They are not.” Nurse is bedside care, which involves only patient care. Health assistant involves community care where they go to villages, houses, outreach clinics or run a BHU.

“We will have a meeting with the ministry officials    this week and decide on which proposal to adopt,” he said. The ministry’s annual performance agreement (APA) target to have at least one female health assistant in all 184 BHU II will also be discussed at the meeting.

“If we can take the services to the women in rural areas, then it is like the target is achieved. The main objective of posting female health assistant is to  take the services specific to women in rural areas,” he said. “However, we will discuss with the  PPD and then the PPD will discuss with the Government Performance Management Division on the APA target and see what can be done.”

The decision to have at least a female health worker in all BHU II was to make female patients feel comfortable while visiting health centres.

Dechen Tshomo