Advancements and Challenges in Bhutan's Healthcare System
The Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, known for its stunning landscapes and Gross National Happiness Index, has been making remarkable strides in its healthcare sector. With a focus on providing quality care to its citizens, Bhutan has been addressing healthcare challenges unique to its geographical location and socio-economic context. In this article, we delve into the healthcare scenario of Bhutan, exploring its achievements, innovations, and ongoing challenges.
Bhutan's healthcare system operates under the purview of the Ministry of Health (MoH). The government has been a key player in investing in hospital infrastructure, equipment, and supplies. However, several challenges persist, including the need for improved patient information systems and efficient medical record-keeping.
Geographical Distribution of Healthcare Facilities
Bhutan's healthcare facilities are geographically distributed, with the western region having a higher percentage of hospitals compared to the eastern and central regions. This distribution is essential to ensure that healthcare services are accessible to citizens across the country, including those residing in remote areas.
Growth of Hospital Beds
Over the years, Bhutan has witnessed an increase in the number of hospital beds, reflecting a commitment to improving healthcare accessibility. The number of hospital beds per 1000 population has risen, signifying progress in healthcare infrastructure.
Bhutan boasts a dedicated healthcare workforce, with 269 doctors and 1039 nurses serving the nation. These professionals play a pivotal role in delivering healthcare services across the country, including in the remote regions.
Health Information Technology
The penetration of mobile cellular services and the internet has significantly contributed to improving healthcare access in Bhutan. Mobile phone coverage has facilitated services like tracking pregnant mothers for antenatal and postnatal care, while the internet has enabled telemedicine consultations between primary healthcare workers and specialists. These technological advancements have bridged the gap in accessing healthcare services, especially in remote areas.
Patient Referral Abroad
For complex medical procedures that cannot be conducted within Bhutan, patients are referred to India. A referral committee at Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) determines the eligibility of cases for referral. The government covers all associated costs, including travel. Common referrals include cardiac and neurosurgeries, kidney transplants, and cancer treatments.
Major Changes in Recent Years
Recent developments in Bhutan's healthcare system include the establishment of the Health Help Centre (HHC), the introduction of helicopter services, the institution of Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) in ambulances, and the improved emergency department at JDWNRH. These changes have significantly enhanced emergency care and patient outcomes, although the cost of emergency evacuations has risen.
Bhutan faces a triple burden of disease, including communicable infectious diseases, non-communicable lifestyle-related diseases, and diseases related to injuries, nutrition, and maternal mortality. The country has made substantial progress in eradicating polio, with the last case reported in 1986.
Medical Colleges in Bhutan
The Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences of Bhutan is a significant institution responsible for imparting medical and health education and training. It includes faculties for nursing and public health, traditional medicine, health sciences, and postgraduate medicine.
Hospitals in Bhutan
Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH): Established in 1956 and renamed in 2000, JDWNRH is the largest hospital in Bhutan, providing primary, secondary, and tertiary services. It serves as the western regional referral hospital for six western Dzongkhags and the National Referral Hospital for the entire country.
Mongar Regional Referral Hospital: A 150-bed hospital equipped with various specialties, including medical, pediatrics, general surgery, orthopedics, gynecology, radiology, psychiatry, dentistry, anesthesiology, pathology, and ENT.
Paro General Hospital: A 40-bed hospital serving the healthcare needs of the region.
Tsirang General Hospital: A 60-bed hospital providing essential medical services.
Samtse General Hospital: Another 60-bed hospital contributing to healthcare in Bhutan.
Diagnostic Centers in Bhutan
Diagnostic centers like New Life Diagnostic Centre and Menjong Diagnostic Centre Pvt. Ltd. play a crucial role in providing diagnostic services to patients.
In conclusion, Bhutan's healthcare system has made significant advancements while grappling with unique challenges. The government's commitment to improving healthcare infrastructure, leveraging technology, and addressing disease burdens has resulted in better healthcare access for its citizens. However, ongoing efforts are needed to enhance patient information systems, ensure cost-effective referrals, and tackle emerging health challenges. Bhutan's journey in healthcare serves as an inspiration for other nations striving to provide quality healthcare services to their populations.