20-bed Nganglam hospital construction remains uncertain

MP Tshering Chhoden and Health Minister Dasho Dechen Wangmo

LHAKPA TSHERING

Thimphu

Following the government’s re-prioritization exercise for the current 12th Five-Year-Plan activities during the Covid-19 pandemic, the construction of a 20-bedded hospital in Nganglam, Pema Gatshel has remained uncertain.

Despite activities returning slightly quicker to full activity than initially expected post-lockdown, there is no sign that the outlook is getting clearer for hospital construction.

In response to the Khar-Yurung constituency’s Member of Parliament (MP) Tshering Chhoden on dropping the Nganglam hospital construction from the prioritized activities, health minister Dasho Dechen Wangmo said the plan was not dropped but was deprioritized.

The current picture is more positive as Lyonpo said that the Ministry of Health (MoH) has completed design and drawing works, and cost estimations to begin the construction works. “From the health ministry side, the requirement is most suitable, and we expected the construction to happen within this plan,” she said.

There are, of course, exceptions, as the pandemic has created enormous upheavals. Like many sectors, construction experienced pandemic-related turmoil in the last two years.

Lyonpo said the labor shortage was a big problem where the commencement of the construction had been impeded. “If we were to start construction, we had to bring the laborers from outside the country, which was not possible due to travel restrictions and border closure,” she added.

The government had also earmarked a budget of Nu 125-million for the construction of this hospital in the current plan, but Lyonpo said they diverted the budget to other essential activities as they had to re-prioritize the national activities.

MP Tshering Chhoden, who believes villages are being deprived of treatment facilities, said the construction will benefit the people as they won’t have to travel to Monggar Regional Referral Hospital.

“The people of Pema Gatshel were excited and welcomed the news as they have to travel to Mongar hospital for medical treatment and surgery services where the commuters face the frequent roadblocks during summer on Gyalpozhing-Nganglam highway,” she said.

Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) during the bye-election campaign in the Nanglam constituency also pledged to construct a 50-bedded hospital at Nanglam based on the socio-demographic features and being a commercial hub for the eastern region.

Commenting on the pledges, Tshering Chhoden said, while it made people even more excited, the government has, instead, deprioritized the plan of its initial plan to construct a 20-bedded hospital from the prioritized list.

Whether the plan has been deprioritized or dropped, the people of Nganglam have been waiting for the hospital construction.

A businessman in Nganglam town said the people are hopeful that their waiting won’t come to an end as going to the hospitals in Mongar and Gelephu is a challenging task.

“Initially, we were saddened that the government had dropped the plan to construct the hospital. Later we came to know it was deprioritized. So we hope that the government would start the construction during their tenure as it was a major pledge during the bye-election campaign.”

A woman from Norbugang thinks that the construction should happen within the current plan. “Such pledges during the bye-election made us happy especially the senior citizens, thus we have also supported the government,” she continued, adding their hopes are pinned on the government.