RCDC to be delinked from MoH

Royal Centre for Disease Control in Thimphu (Photo: RCDC)

Lhakpa Tshering

To facilitate independence in operation and decision-making, the Royal Centre for Disease Control (RCDC) will be disassociated from the Ministry of Health (MoH) as an autonomous National Technical Center.

The decision comes on the proposed recommendation of the Royal Civil Service Commission’s (RCSC) organizational development exercise (ODE) report in 2019, wherein the cabinet directed it to work with the health and finance ministries for a detailed report.

With the completion of an independent committee working on the delinking process, the committee submitted its report to MoH and presented it to RCSC following which the RCSC will submit their report to Lhengye Zhungtshog for the endorsement.

Health Minister Dasho Dechen Wangmo said that the independent committee has submitted a report including financial, governance, and structural implications. “As of now, we are waiting for RCSC to submit the recommendations to the Lhengye Zhungtshog,” she said.

Lyonpo added the delinking decision is part of a major restructuring and strengthening approach of the government in the health sector. “We realized we need to have an independent disease surveillance system in place,” she said.

As an independent institution, Lyonpo said, the center can build capacity and competency in terms of research and learning. “For us, it is an opportunity to build the capacity and competency of our own people,” said Lyonpo.

Given the pandemic situation the world is in, Lyonpo said, the government realized the need to consolidate “our resources and expertise” while also looking at the consolidation of laboratory services in the country. “We had meetings with all the stakeholders and took the agenda forward,” she said.

In addition, Lyonpo said that the decision is geared towards having a national system and institution for preparedness, disease surveillance, and also the government’s agenda on the elimination of malaria, HIV infections from mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) because of vertical transmission and cervical cancer.

Prime Minister Dasho Dr Lotay Tshering said it would be entirely appropriate to disassociate from the politically elected government for vibrant and ensure accountability and transparency. “I don’t think any politically elected government will be willing to delink an institution like RCDC,” he said.

The decision of delinking an institution such as RCDC Lyonchhen said was very difficult both from the decision-making and implementation. “We actually have taken a bite that I really doubt if we can chew but yet we want to try,” Lyonchhen said, adding it’s a huge mandate yet they want to give the best.

Lyonchhen is in the view that such an institution running under the politically elected government would hamper operation. “For example, we might like to declare that Bhutan is cervical cancer-free tomorrow and RCDC will listen to us because people working there are directly controlled by RCSC and MoH as a politically elected government,” he said.

However, with RCDC going autonomous, Lyonchhen said, the center will have its own data to independently and formally declare Bhutan has no cervical cancer.

“Cervical cancer being one example and it will be a very difficult task yet we want to go towards that. Even if we don’t achieve it, that’s perfectly fine,” added Lyonchhen.

For instance, if Bhutan wants to achieve the elimination of a few diseases that were taken forward, the institution needs capacity building. “We don’t even have an infectious disease specialist,” said Lyonchhen.