Major reforms in health sector being considered

Health Secretary says that the ministry is also reviewing and revising the standard of health services

The Ministry of Health (MoH) is proposing to bring about major reforms in the country’s health sector.

Some of the reforms include providing specialist services in district hospitals, and revising and reviewing health policies and services.  

Health Secretary Dasho Dr Pandup Tshering said that the intention of the health sector reform is because of the epidemiological changes.

Epidemiological changes refer to the changing disease patterns, which is happening nowadays, such as more Non-Communicable Diseases.

He said that other reforms would be from an equity perspective. In terms of services provided the reforms will improve the health services delivery with equitable distribution of health services.

“For that we are trying to strengthen the specialized services in many of the district hospitals,” he said, adding that specialized services are not only in terms of equipment, but also human resources to basically reach specialized services to the people.

The secretary also mentioned that the other reforms include the health policies. The ministry is reviewing and revising the health policies, which are their main guidance.

He said that the ministry is also reviewing and revising the standard of health services. 

“We are seeing what services will be provided in the district hospital. When we review health services standards, it also gives us an opportunity to review our human resources standard, which will go parallel,” the secretary said.

He said other reforms include improving the clinical services governance. It means doctors giving treatment to the patients. “That also we are also looking at how we can improve the services by changing the governance structure.”

Other reforms also include upgrading satellite clinics in urban areas. Earlier satellite clinics were only providing preventive care like immunization for children and checking up pregnant mothers.

Now these satellite clinics will have doctors, diagnosing machines like X-ray, ultrasonic machines, blood testing equipment.

The secretary said that the patients waiting at the national referral hospital will be reduced and that the national referral hospital can focus on specialized services.

“During the COVID-19, it was found that people travelling from high-risk to low risk areas had to stay in quarantine facilities, and they found it difficult. So in the high-risk areas the services of the hospitals will be strengthened.”

Through the flagship programs, the ministry is also able to focus on cancers and carry out campaigns for the early detection of the cancers in the country. 

Through the digital Drukyul flagship program, an electronic information system for patients is being developed where patients’ information will be put in the system which will improve care and reduce resources.

Thimphu has also started on a pilot basis a satellite clinic for diabetic patients. They can give blood samples, get the result on the second day, and meet the doctor on the third day for checkup.

The secretary said that HR and service standards are being finalized in the ministry, but still they need to be discussed at the ministry level and with the RCSC.

“Similarly, policies have been almost finalized from the ministry’s side, but it needs to be put up to the GNHC cabinet. However, it is very difficult to say when it will be finalized,” the secretary said.

Dechen Dolkar from Thimphu