Need to review country’s health system, says WHO Representative

The best experts in the world cannot tell the COVID-19 would end in a day, a month or even one year; the fight is still going on, says Dr Rui

There is an immediate need to review thoroughly the health system in the country by taking lessons learnt from the COVID-19, according to World Health Organisation (WHO) Representative to Bhutan, Dr Rui Paulo de Jesus.

Additionally, he said the WHO would continue to support the government to enforce preventive measures and collect the lessons learnt and work to build a more resilient health system in the country.

“We still need to continue to fight the pandemic and I am really worried that after vaccination, people started to feel that they are protected,” said Dr Rui Paulo de Jesus, adding that people become complacent and lax about COVID-19 protocols.

“Even the best experts in the world cannot tell the COVID-19 would end in a day, a month or even one year; the fight is still going on,” he added.

Moreover, he said the year 2020 was challenging, and WHO strategic plan was in response to COVID-19 and other to ensure minimal disruption to essential services.

Having a strong leadership and partnership between the government and health ministry, the country was able to minimize the disruption, said Dr Rui Paulo de Jesus.

Additionally, he said although WHO is not a funding agency but a technical agency in response and to ensure minimal disruption to essential services, the WHO was able to mobilize USD 4mn that includes timely arrival of PPEs essential for the health workers in 2020.

Dr Rui Paulo de Jesus added that the WHO also contributed in terms of technical support – in preparing SOPs, technical guidelines for clinical management and surveillance among others.

“Of the countries affected by the COVID-19, Bhutan is one of the very few countries which has zero infection among health workers,” he said, adding that it is successful because of the collective efforts.

The WHO representative said the leadership of Bhutan is amazing and he appreciates and honours the leader of His Majesty The King for guidance provided to all to fight against the exceptional.

Additionally, he said the government, Prime Minster, Health Minister, other ministers, and community participation was a key to success in this fight.  Other components was the health workers working tirelessly day and night.

Talking about Bhutan’s readiness for the graduation from the category of least developed countries, Dr Rui Paulo de Jesus said the key to graduation is strengthening health system that should be resilient enough to be able to respond to any public health event in the country including further strengthening emergency preparedness and response of lessons learnt from COVID-19 response. 

“We must apply this for our future health system in the country,” he said.

Moreover, all developing partners should invest in the area for preparedness and look at health financing and human resources in the country, Dr Rui Paulo de Jesus said, adding that the WHO has done some assessments and he is hopeful that it would fit into future human resources health policy in the country.

He added that the COVAX facility has committed to donate more than 5,000 doses of Pfizer, and more than 100,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines, however, there are some administrative issue that needs to be handled by the government to sort out the process. “WHO is also reviewing the experience of first dose vaccination campaign in Bhutan and so it could be learnt and apply the lessons in second dose campaign,” the WHO representative said.

Thukten Zangpo from Thimphu