Health Minister raises concern over high surge in Covid-19 cases

The minister says they have been able to contain Covid-19 cases only due to the country’s high vaccination rate

While answering questions from the people through Facebook yesterday, Health Minister Dechen Wangmo said that the country’s health system will collapse if there is a high surge in cases with severe Omicron and a high rate of hospitalization.

The minister reasoned that Bhutan has a very limited number of health workers on the ground and in some districts, the doctor-to-population ratio is extremely low, with only one doctor per 4,000 people.

“The density of the total health workforce is estimated to be one doctor per 1,000 people population as per the World Health Organization, but we are 50% below,” Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo said.

The minister added that they have been able to contain Covid-19 cases only due to the country’s high vaccination rate.

“Given the great transmissibility of the Omicron, we might have run out of hospital beds and health workers if we hadn’t vaccinated our community,” the minister said, adding that with hundreds of comorbid patients in the country, health care resources will be stretched if comorbid patients are detect Covid-19 positive at a high rate.

One of the reasons for the restrictions and lockdown, according to the minister, is to better prepare the health workers and make a cautious decision to serve the Covid positive patients.

“We don’t want to see a spike in cases across the country; therefore we’re trying to limit the number of cases so that the surge is minimized rather than compromising the health services.”

As a result, the minister divulged that public health interventions such as movement restrictions and lockdowns are said to be one strategy to reduce the spike of cases.

“People should realize that the widespread of Covid-19 will affect all other health services; from treating patients from the ordinary flu to cancer, diabetes, heart attack and other diseases.”

The minister also highlighted the Omicron’s rapid spread and informed that the number of positive cases is at an all-time high since the pandemic began in the country in March 2020.

“We are highly concerned that the Omicron, being more transmissible, will lead to a high surge in positive cases, which will continue to put immense pressure on the health system and health workers,” Lyonpo added.

Further, the minister emphasized the need for booster shots and vaccinations for children, stating that booster shots for children aged 12 to 17 will be made accessible starting today.

“The severity and hospitalization rates would be much lower with the booster doses,” the minister said.

Lyonpo also mentioned that four Covid hospitals have been established, with the primary purpose of treating Covid positive patients with underlying illnesses.

Covid hospitals are located at Taba in Thimphu, Gelephu, Mongar, and Phuentsholing.

The Covid hospital will have services such as a dialysis facility, an operation theater, an intensive care unit, and delivery services. The Ministry of Health is also intending to build a Covid hospital in Trashigang, in the east, to expand the capacity of the present Covid centers as soon as possible. 

Tshering Pelden from Thimphu