Six doctors are supposed to work in Dagana. When we visited this southern Bhutanese district in August 2019, we met a lone doctor in the little hospital in the district town. Unfortunately, he was also about to leave to be deployed in Thimphu. Doctors are a “scarce species“ not only in Dagana. Nationwide, there are currently only three doctors per 10 000 citizens. (12th Five Year Plan, S.85f).
Dagapela District Hospital
We did not meet a doctor in the larger district hospital in Dagapela, but we had the chance to talk to highly professional and motivated nurses. Mr. Prem Neopanay and Ms.Tshering Dema presented a well organised and relatively well-equipped hospital regarding human and technical resources.
Of course, there is still room for improvement. The dental X-ray is not functioning properly and the baby scale, hanging on a knitted rope, did not make the impression to be very safe. An electronic scale would not only allow to show the exact weight but would also reduce the risk of babies to fall.
There is also no possibility for premature babies to be treated in this hospital. They have to be transferred to the next regional referral hospital which is some hours’ drive away. An incubator is not available.
The waiting area was crowded. People were waiting for results from the laboratory, but the manually operated analyser machine can only deliver a small number of reports compared to a much desired automatic one.
We took back home some of these needs and wishes hoping that we will manage to find support for some of them at home. We will closely consult our plans with the Bhutanese health administration.
Training of specialists in Bhutan – the Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences
The biggest problem, however, remains the lack of doctors, particularly of specialists. The Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences was already established in 2013 in Thimphu. It consists of three faculties and one Medical Education Centre.
At present, general medical doctors are still educated abroad. The postgraduate education, however, is provided in the JDWNR Hospital in Thimphu. Currently, 48 specialists are trained among others in orthopaedics, paediatrics, gynaecology and surgery.
The university is looking for medical specialists who would like to share their knowledge in order to complement the local curriculum in two to three-week courses at the Khesar Gyalpo University. Even visiting internships of the prospective Bhutanese medical specialists in Austrian hospitals would be a huge benefit.
The cooperation with the Faculty of Postgraduate Medicine and its Dean, the neurosurgeon Dr. Tashi Tenzin, stood at the beginning of our activities as a Friendship Association. At present we are supporting the training by a medical doctor to improve and enlarge skills on neuronavigation at the JDWNR Hospital in November 2019.
Best health care for all Bhutanese Citizens
The new government of Bhutan, elected in 2018, puts special emphasis on improved health services. Free and equitable access to quality health care services is considered as one of the most important conditions for an inclusive and socially just development of the country.