MoH approves private diagnostic center in Samtse for medical screening

The moratorium will remain as status quo for the rest of other dzongkhags until the regulation frameworks are put in place

The Ministry of Health (MoH) has given approval for the establishment of a private diagnostic center in Samtse for medical screening of foreign workers.

The ministry has outsourced this to a private individual and it was given approval mainly for the screening of foreign workers entering Bhutan through the land point of entry and to provide diagnostic services (who are willing to use the services based on the advice of the health professionals from the government health facilities).

Meanwhile, before the COVID-19 pandemic, foreign workers for Samtse were directed to complete their medical screening from Phuentsholing as there are no private diagnostic centers in Samtse.

The foreign workers entering through Samtse had to undergo a mandatory quarantine at the quarantine facility with access to COVID-19 testing. It is also mandatory for all foreign workers to undergo medical screening before they go into quarantine.

Unlike in normal times, foreign workers entering through Samtse will not be allowed to come to Phuentsholing to complete their medical screening process as there will be risk of transmitting the COVID-19 infection to the local population.

An official from the MoH said that the diagnostic center was outsourced privately in the temporary quarantine facility to allow health screening like X-ray and laboratory tests of foreign workers.

The official said that initially the ministry received three proposals and only one could fulfill the criteria.

The diagnostic center has been operational since mid-October this year.

Samtse hospital, meanwhile, will not be able to provide medical screening for foreign workers due to the limited number of health workers as Samtse is already confronted with high caseloads against limited health care workers and it may compromise in the delivery of essential health care services.

Further, a huge investment will be required for the procurement and installation of diagnostic equipment like portable X-Ray, and laboratory equipment.

While the moratorium will remain as status quo for the rest of other dzongkhags until the regulation framework is put in place, a special approval is sought to establish a private diagnostic center in Samtse.

The MoH official said that the moratorium is not lifted so far and allowing medical screening of foreign workers is a temporary measure in the quarantine facility.

Dechen Dolkar from Thimphu