What is in a name?

When the health ministry’s first emergency high-level committee meeting changed the names of health facilities in the country a year ago, it came with many promises.

It aimed at being innovative to encourage service delivery in a more efficient and people-centred approach. The change in names of facilities was expected to address the changing dynamics in healthcare service. It was also meant to keep up with the new healthcare governance instruments that are being continuously formulated, revised and improved, such as human resource and service standard.

For a country striving to provide equitable distribution of health services, many, especially those in rural pockets of the country welcomed the news. They expected improvement in health service delivery.

But a year after the change in the nomenclature, nothing changed for the residents of Jigmecholing in Sarpang. They, in fact, lost one health staff to Chuzergang gewog, where the name of the basic health unit grade I changed to a 10-bedded hospital.

With one health assistant engaged in official meetings and public health awareness programmes, only one health assistant provides services to people of Jigmecholing.

While the shortage of health staff has always been a challenge, we have a government that raised concerns on the inequity of healthcare and the quality of services and promised equal healthcare and services to all. People expected the government headed by a doctor to bring change in the health system.  It is time for the government to live up to the expectation.

In Jigmecholing, people are desperate. Gewog officials have raised the issue in dzongkhag tshogdu, but officials reasoned staffing pattern guidelines do not allow the grade II BHU, which was changed to a public health centre (PHC), to have more than two health staff although the population and case loads are higher than some hospitals.

Health is an integral part of happiness and access to health facilities should not be concentrated in urban areas. Shortage of health staff should not hamper service delivery in remote areas.

Surveys have already shown that despite free health care, there are wide disparities in access to health care. If people in remote areas cannot avail proper services due to shortage of staff, we are not taking health service to the doorstep. We already have the poverty analysis report that indicates poor people use fewer specialised services.

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