36 healthcare centers damaged

Multiple cracks on the wall of Darla PHC in Chhukha ( Photo : Chhukha DHO)

The strong 6.4-magnitude earthquake of April affected 28 healthcare centers with minor to moderate damage and eight healthcare centers with major damage

Lhakpa Tshering

After a powerful 6.4-magnitude earthquake of April, Darla primary healthcare centers (PHC) in Chhukha and Barshong PHC in Thimphu suffered severe damage to the structures that required immediate relocation and major restoration.

In addition, at least 36 healthcare center damages have been reported from 12 dzongkhags after strong earthquake tremors felt in the country and neighboring countries on 28 April this year.

The earthquake has left severe damage to the structures of eight health centers and minor to moderate cracks mostly on the walls of the main building of 26 PHC, Namergang sub-post in Zhemgang, and Dagapela hospital in Dagana.

The aftermath saw a majority of damages reported in Trashigang, with six major damages on the walls of the main building including Rangjung hospital, and four minor damages including the staff quarter of Radhi PHC.

Trashigang Dzongkhag health office (DHO) Gang Dorji said the reports have been submitted to the dzongkhag disaster focal that has been further submitted to the Department of Disaster Management at the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs for further actions.

“It would deteriorate the condition further in the event of the recurrent earthquake,” he added. “But the health care operations have not been interrupted by the earthquake, and services are being provided from the current centers.”

Darla PHC in Chhukha had suffered severe damage to the structure, pushing the health center for major restoration or immediate relocation given its poor quality of structures aggravated by the earthquake.

Chhukha Dzongkhag’s deputy chief DHO, Gopal Hingmang, said while the health services are being provided from the current location, it would pose serious threats to the safety of both patients and health workers.

“We are thinking of temporary closure till we complete major maintenance work and services to be provided from Rinchentse PHC which is about 5-km away,” he said, adding the dzongkhag will conduct a consultation meeting with the public for the temporary relocation of PHC.

After the assessment, he said, the dzongkhag engineer said that it requires immediate relocation. “It is one of the oldest healthcare centers in Chhukha and there has been no major maintenance since its establishment in 1982,” he added.

The severe structural damage on Barshong PHC in Naro Gewog, Thimphu which is on the verge of collapse caused force closure and health services to move in panic into the staff quarter till the completion of renovation works.

It has been reported that funds for the renovation of the PHC have been approved and major restoration works will be carried out soon.

While most PHCs with moderate to minor cracks have reported it does not pose immediate risks, the recurrent earthquakes would lead to further deterioration and damage or collapse of the buildings.

Most healthcare centers that reported earthquake damages have plans for a major renovation including the staff quarters in the current financial year but financial constraints are a challenge.

Meanwhile, eight dzongkhags – Trashi Yangtse, Mongar, Trongsa, Wangdue Phodrang, Gasa, Tsirang, Samtse, and Paro – did not report earthquake damage to the healthcare centers.