If the first year under the new government was hectic, the health minister Dechen Wangmo said it would only get busier.
While the ministry needed close to Nu 13 billion (B) in the 12th Plan, it was allocated only Nu 3.5B. It was a year to get the paperwork done and identify the sources of funds for pledges in the health sector.
“But, I am happy that we are able to mobilise resources,” Lyonpo said. The ministry has mobilised at least 70 percent of the required budget.
Lyonpo said the past year has been gratifying with support of health staff, and the developmental partners. The ministry has implemented the sprinkles project, pneumococcal and flu vaccines and some components of the 1,000 golden days.
Starting February this year, the Mother and Child Health clinics screened every child that visit the clinics for a disability. “We have put a hearing aid on a two-month-old baby, without which the child cannot learn to speak,” Lyonpo said. The hearing aid costs around USD 10,000.
“We hope that as our system picks up, we should be able to continue providing services,” she said. “Health will see a major shift in how it does business. We are already seeing the difference.”
Quality of services at the national referral hospital has been improved and in the past year, 12 international plastic and reconstructive surgery camps and 71 national (Eye, ENT, Gynecology) camps were held. The ministry expects to screen and get everyone on board within one year.
Lyonpo said that for health, the approach has always been tackling it holistically. “If we fail at the conception then we fail.”
Lyonpo said if the health services can be made based on the Buddhist wisdom of Kye-gha-Nah-chi dungyel loosely translating into four stages of life.
“The 1,000 golden days would take care of the birth of the child beginning from the time when the mother conceives till the child is two years old,” Lyonpo said.
For the sick, the health ministry has piloted PEN (Package of essential Non-Communicable Diseases) interventions in Punakha and Tsirang, where health workers visit patients in the community at their homes and provide them with health care services.
“We have good findings from these pilots and we are taking the lessons from there. So, now we want to scale it up nationally,” Lyonpo said. She said a team of doctors would go to the communities and provide specialised services giving everyone access to quality health care at minimal cost.
The ministry is revamping the generic programme, which is old-age programme, and giving preferences for elderly people to access health services early.
Instead of patients suffering chronic illnesses visiting health centres to refill their medicines, health workers will visit them and provide the medicines and necessary healthcare services.
“This is the core of what we are trying to do, which is to provide people-centric care,” Lyonpo said, adding that people are also advocated on health issues.
Lyonpo said at present those with terminal illnesses are sent home. But those patients don’t die peacefully. “People go through so much pain,” said the Lyonpo, who has been an advocate of instituting palliative care in the country. To help address this suffering, palliative care will begin in hospitals.
“We are going to collaborate with the Zhung Dratshang on the counselling aspect and for psychosocial wellbeing our counsellors would to the family.”
Stressing on the importance of getting the conception right, Lyonpo said if a child is not taken care from the day he or she is conceived and born when the child turns into a drug addict, the child cannot be blamed. “Because we have not provided him with the opportunity to thrive.
“Everything is interconnected, so we must take a holistic approach, only then we’ll excel in our health indicators and that is what we want. It’s a very ambitious journey.”