Mobile flu clinics to expedite healthcare

The newly introduced permanent mobile flu clinic service in Phuentsholing

The Ministry of Health has introduced permanent mobile flu clinics in Thimphu and Phuentsholing

Lhakpa Tshering

Providing uninterrupted health services with a well-functioning healthcare system during emergencies is increasingly recognized as a driver of bridging the health inequalities gap for the unserved area.

Accelerating the efforts, the Ministry of Health (MoH) is finding ways to ensure the delivery of essential healthcare services at the doorsteps during the Covid-19 pandemic including public health emergencies. 

One such convenient care service includes the establishment of permanent mobile flu clinics following significant progress from the walk-in flu clinics set up in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Expanding the areas for coverage, the ministry has mobilized three teams each with a new Toyota Hiace bus to cover 30 designated locations in the northern, southern, and central parts of Thimphu city for half day each in a week and one bus to Phuentsholing.

The Chief Program Officer of the communicable disease division with the health ministry, Rixin Jamtsho said it will enhance the coverage and accessibility of essential services for the unreached, unserved, and underserved populations living within the city.

He added that this will improve the accessibility and ensure coverage with flu clinic services for the people living at the outskirts of the city in Thimphu and Phuentsholing.

“This is to step up the Covid-19 surveillance system in the wake of the alarming increase in the number of Covid-19 cases and deaths in neighbouring states in India and the recent outbreak in Phuentsholing,” he said, adding it will minimize the movement of people between the zones during Covid-19 lockdown.

According to him, the recent simple assessment on the public views on benefits of the flu clinic’s services showed 95 percent satisfaction for people staying away from the health centers. “Due to the benefits associated with 54 walk-in flu clinics, it was recommended to increase the frequency and coverage,” he said.

It delivers essential prevention and treatment services for communicable diseases, including immunizations, screening for infectious and respiratory diseases like TB, Covid-19, and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Rixin Jamtsho said that the mobile flu clinic is also expected to benefit those people residing at the outskirts of the city, elders, and people without a vehicle for movement.

“Those willing to know the status of HIV and other STDs can also avail of the services,” he said, adding the public should avoid visiting the flu clinic unless they have signs and symptoms as there is a risk of transmission.

Public wishing to avail themselves of the services can call the number provided in the schedule to make an appointment or follow the time given in the schedule, which he said was available on the ministry’s website and social media.

Each team comprising two health staff and a desuup operates the flu clinic from 9-am to 5-pm for seven days a week during epidemics such as the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak and Monday to Friday or Saturday at other times.

RixinJamtsho said they are also working on the use of sound like a garbage truck to alert the public on arrival at the designated location.

The new Toyota Hiace buses funded by the government are well customized and furnished with steel made testing station, washbasin, drawers, and divan.

Also, he said that the service will be expanded to Gelephu in the next phase followed by SamdrupJongkhar and Samtse.

According to the ministry, the main rationale of deployment of flu clinic service is to avert morbidity and mortality because of communicable and non-communicable diseases and to prevent acute exacerbations of chronic conditions when services are disrupted.

Mobile flu clinic service during non-emergencies

During the non-emergency situations, the mobile flu clinic would function to bridge the gap and reach health services to populations in remote locations and inaccessible areas.

While service will be accessible for all the individuals for screening communicable and non-communicable diseases, preference will be given for the elderly population, people with chronic diseases and disability, pregnant women, and unreached populations such as automobile workers, roadside workers.

In the future, a medical officer, lab technician, or swab collector with a driver or support staff will be deployed with one Hiace bus equipped with necessary supplies and facilities for basic medical services, including in four mega-zones in Thimphu.

In a phase-wise manner, basic health services for communicable and non-communicable diseases, medicine refilling, and basic first aid services will be provided under the first phase on a pilot for the first three to six months.

The second phase will be initiated with improved and added medical care services including the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Service, among others.

It is expected to cater services related to reproductive health, including during pregnancy and childbirth, core services for vulnerable populations – infants and older adults, provision of medications, supplies, and support from health care workers for the ongoing management of chronic diseases, including mental health conditions.

Critical facility-based therapies, management of emergency health conditions and common acute presentations that require time-sensitive intervention, and auxiliary services – basic diagnostic imaging, laboratory, and blood bank services are also expected to be available at the mobile flu clinic.

JDWNRH will take ownership of the mobile services while MoH will ensure human resources required in operating the mobile medical services.