A bigger (and better?) hospital

In the fall of 1974 the brand new 60-bed Thimphu Referral Hospital was inaugurated to commemorate the coronation of His Majesty the Fourth King. The hospital has served Thimphu and all of Bhutan faithfully for the last 34 years.

Yesterday, Her Majesty the Queen Mother, Ashi Tshering Pem Wangchuck inaugurated the brand new 350-bed Jigme Dorji Wanchuck National Referral Hospital to commemorate the coronation of His Majesty the King and 100 years of monarchy. Our new hospital comes equipped with central heating and cooling, 8 OTs, 64 ICUs, central oxygen supply, 48 cabins, ward cubicles, digital x-ray, telemedicine facilities and satellite links to the best hospitals in India. State-of-the-art stuff priced at almost Nu 1 billion and financed mainly through GOI assistance.

The aim is to develop the JDWNRH into a tertiary hospital capable of providing high-end diagnostic and curative services for all Bhutanese. This makes good sense considering the number of Bhutanese traveling to India and Thailand for medical treatment. There’s even talk of medical tourism!

To achieve this lofty aim, however, the hospital will first have to be staffed with enough doctors, nurses and technicians. This will be difficult and expensive, especially since we already have a severe shortage of health professionals. Many foreign doctors will have to be recruited, and his is okay both as a stop gap measure and means to promote transfer to knowledge.

But don’t forget our existing health professionals – too many of them are unsatisfied, many are contemplating resignation, and some have already submitted their resignations. We cannot afford this. If we want the new JDWNR Hospital to serve Bhutan as faithfully as the old General Hospital, we need to take care, first and foremost, of our own health professionals, especially doctors. So, the inauguration of our new hospital may be a good time to review and overhaul their service conditions and their career prospects. Otherwise we’ll end up with a bigger hospital that’s not necessarily better.

And what will become of the old hospital? It will be razed to make way for the new medical college. Excellent!

By the way, the Thimphu Menkha, located in Langjophakha, served as Thimphu’s hospital from the early 1960’s till it was relocated in 1974. That hospital had only two doctors – the Late Lyonpo (Dr) Tobgyel and Dasho (Dr) Samdrup. Those medical poineers worked with no internal plubming, no electricity, and no telephones. By all accounts they did a good job.

And the Thimphu Menkha in Langjophakha? It’s now used as family quarters for the Tashichodzong police.


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  1. lyonpo you could perhaps have also reflected on the health minister’s total lack of understanding of the region.Since when did Bhutan become a part of South East Asia which he mentioned in his speech.

  2. ….and in one breath the hon’ble helth minister thanked India and the development partners.Does India rank in the same leaguse as “all develoment partners” or it mens more than that to the government and all bhutanese nationals?

  3. let’s hope that the new building and surrounding facilities will be provided with necessary disable access! It always takes my breath away driving past the main entrance of the stairs that a sick person has to climb before they can join the queue for treatment!!

  4. I am glad to see the progress in health sector in Bhutan but to some certain extent i don’t want to convince myself and count on the current service that Bhutanese medical centers provides. We have a lot of loop holes in our current medical system, most of our medical staffs either posses inadequate skills or lack proper education. Most of our current practitioners provide age old service without proper monitoring. A medical law has to be drafted in order to create a system where we not only have the best professionals but also provide the best service.
    I recently looked into the current Health status of Bhutan, and we were ranked amongst the highest in child mortality, (WHO)its a big shame that there is no monitoring agency that ensures a proper health delivery. There is not a single health agency that monitors all the service and we lack research in service delivery.
    I have been observing the Health sector for a few years and now I find it disappointing to notice all this ambiguity in our Health Ministry.
    I hope if your excellency could intervene and propose a system which constitutes proper refining of medical staff, a medical law in place, ethics for all health professionals, monitoring agency, a transparent health system, a health care system that comprises of primary, secondary and tertiary contracting unit linking all the districts of Bhutan.
    Thank you

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