The Ministry of Health (MoH) has developed a contingency plan to provide essential healthcare services to the public across the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
A health official said that the ministry ensured that essential health services were provided without any disruptions and the local governments and authorities played an important role in this.
The health ministry has emphasized on the involvement of local government machineries, which includes soliciting support of Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs on appointment of one Tshogpa as the COVID-19 Safety Focal Person in every gewog.
‘We also developed guidelines to provide essential health services during the pandemic,” said the official.
Further, to ensure smooth implementation of the plan, each hospital has been asked to establish a separate unit for provision of essential healthcare services and COVID-19 response; identify a separate head for each essential healthcare service unit and COVID-19 response and each unit prepared a separate micro-plan with clear roles and duty roster.
The plan includes workforce involved in essential healthcare services and hotlines in each district to facilitate consultation and referral or transportation of patients based on the situation.
Health facilities also have a health staff deployment plan to minimize exposure and to prevent exhaustion of health workers and reinforce regular testing of hospital staff.
The official also said that most of the essential medicines and equipment are in stock to provide continuous supply of health services.
“We also have in place a mechanism to mobilize medicines to address stock out within the health facilities,” added the official.
However, he said that as drugs and supplies come with short expiry dates, it was difficult to obtain it from the markets due to a sudden halt in flights and transportation.
“The shipments and transportation of drugs and medical equipment depend on the frequency of air flights and operation of roads and more time is required to reach the medical consignments during the pandemic.”
Under special arrangements, the ministry has been able to address most of these issues with facilitation from development partners and bilateral cooperation.
Further, health infrastructure development was also affected as entry of foreign workers and supply of equipment from outside the country was stopped.
According to the ministry for the FY 2020-21 the health sector is allocated a total of Nu 6,437.958mn accounting for about 9% of the total allocation.
Of the total, Nu 3,549.940mn is provisioned under the ministry and includes Nu 1,376.085mn for procurement of drugs and non-drugs and medical equipment under MoH and JDWNRH to ensure adequate medical supplies to all the hospitals and BHUs in the country.
Other major capital activities include the construction of 150-bedded Gyaltsuen Jetsun Pema Mother and Child Hospital, 40-bedded hospitals in Dewathang, Nganglam, Tashicholing, and construction of additional hospital wing at JDWNRH.
Further, Nu 689.400mn is provisioned for implementation of the health flagship programs such as gastric cancer, cervical cancer and breast cancer programs.
The official also mentioned that introducing vaccines for prevention and treatment of COVID-19 will be a major cost driver. “However, we have already estimated its cost and it is under negotiation with development partners and the manufacturing companies.”
“We are also ready with all the necessary measures to introduce vaccines for COVID-19 in Bhutan.”
Dechen Dolker from Thimphu