PM calls on WHO for clearer mandates

Lyonchhen Dasho Dr Lotay Tshering

TASHI PARYANG | Thimphu

To make progress toward universal health coverage (UHC), Prime Minister Dasho Dr. Lotay Tshering called on the World Health Organization (WHO) for clear mandates.

The Prime Minister said this in his keynote address on “Making the whole of Government approach for UHC Reality” at the WHO regional forum on UHC Day on 12 December.

Lyonchhen said there is a need to be very clear with the rules and mandates to pay as an individual, NGO, insurance companies and global agencies like WHO and of course, the state.

“We would be very happy if we can have WHO and other institutions sitting down with us, and clarifying on these roles so that we will know exactly what we should be doing and what we want to achieve,” he said.

Lyonchhen highlighted that Bhutan’s healthcare system is mandated by its constitution to ensure free and accessible basic healthcare services, both modern and traditional medicine, for every Bhutanese.

“Those are essential and integral components of achieving UHC,” he said.

“For us, we have not used the word UHC, but under the phase of basic health coverage, we wanted to ensure that both basic, as well as education, remains free-for-all Bhutanese at all times to come and that is our constitutional mandate,” Lyonchhen added.

Lyonchhen also shared his concerns over the million people whose routine healthcare system could not be covered up during the pandemic.  

“Many routine health check-ups and follow-ups could not be done resulting in many lives that are going to be hampered. I personally feel that this is timely for all of us and we are all excited to gather thoughts on this,” the PM said.

He said, Bhutan under the leadership of His Majesty the King, has adopted a whole-of-society and whole-of-government response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This approach has brought all agencies, organizations, and individuals together in the fight against Covid-19, which gave us a successful outcome,” Lyonchhen said.

In addition, he also emphasized taking care of the mental health of the people. He said that in Bhutan Her Majesty the Gyaltsuen is spearheading mental health initiatives, which received prominence during the pandemic.

“The Pema Center will provide professional counseling services, internationally acclaimed courses, and high-end rehabilitation facilities, and turn into a state-of-the-art institution in the region and beyond,” he said.

The Prime Minister also shared about the revision of our national health policy which will emphasize a greater focus on mother and child health care including 1,000 golden days.

The revised policy will cover counseling for parents, addressing micronutrient deficiencies, antenatal checkups, 100 percent institutional delivery, and strengthening our primary healthcare system for UHC.

To achieve the objective of UHC, Lyonchhen shared Bhutan’s commitment to eradicate three prominent cancers – cervical, breast, and stomach through the national health flagship program.

He said that Bhutan is on track to eradicate cervical cancer by 203.

Achieving UHC is one of the targets the nations of the world set when they adopted the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015.