Health ministry achieves 97% of APA

The Ministry of Health has achieved 97.85% of the Annual Performance Agreement (APA) for the fiscal year 2016-17.

This was revealed during the signing of the APA 2017-18 for the health sector between the Prime Minister, Dasho Tshering Tobgay and health minister Tandin Wangchuk.

At the signing ceremony, Lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk said the health ministry is committed to improve the development of health workers to strengthen diagnostic, curative and palliative health care services.

“We also commit to enhance national response to NCDs, strengthen communicable diseases prevention and control and expand the reach of traditional medicine services,” said the health minister, adding that the health ministry will also promote good governance and financially sustainable health care.

Highlighting some of the major achievements by the health sector during the current five year plan, Lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk said the overarching goal of the 11th Five Year Plan is to achieve universal health coverage by focusing on providing improved and equitable access to quality health care services. “This goal is well supported by the primary health care approach practiced in Bhutan,” Lyonpo added.

Some of the major achievements in the health sector include Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital being granted autonomy to facilitate dynamism and better management of health resources, new hospitals being built across the country, establishment of Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences of Bhutan and construction of the 150-bedded Gyaltsuen Jetsun Pema Mother and Child Hospital in Thimphu. Extension of three-month maternity leave to six months, the launching of National Health Promotion Plan and Strategy and the National Policy, a National Suicide Prevention Action Plan and Strategic Framework to reduce harmful use of alcohol are others.

The government has also finalized the Nutrition and Food Strategy along with an Action Plan to address nutritional issues in the country.

Some achievements in the international scene include Bhutan signing the “Call for Action to end TB in the South East Asia Region by 2030,” receiving the 2017 World No-Tobacco Day Award, targeting to receive WHO Malaria free-certification by 2020 and Bhutan becoming one of the first two countries to eliminate measles in the WHO South East Asia Region before the regional target of 2020.

However, Lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk also said that despite the achievements, Bhutan is facing some health challenges.

“While communicable diseases remain a substantial burden to the people and the health system, non-communicable diseases are increasing rapidly,” said Lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk.

Lyonpo said that sustaining the framework of free healthcare delivery has become a challenge due to rising costs, increased expectations and demand for quality health services and declining partner resources for health, including the shortage of human resources.

“Among the different categories of health workers, the urgency is most for bridging the gap of specialists and female community health workers. Nevertheless, considering the positive impact on service delivery, we will ensure that every BHU II has at least one female Health Assistant by January 2018 to improve the maternal and child health,” said Lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk.

Lucky Wangmo from Thimphu