SONAM PENJOR | Thimphu
Realizing the goal of providing high quality and timely people-centered health services, the health sector transformation was officially launched on 9 January.
Through the initiative, a new agency named the National Medical Services (NMS) is being formed. The sole mandate of NMS is to provide a singular and renewed stewardship for clinical services management in the country.
The NMS is mandated to take charge of all clinical aspects of the country’s health system such as service delivery, streamlining patient referral pathways, human resource development and management, medical supplies procurement and distribution, and procurement and maintenance of medical equipment.
According to a press release from the Ministry of Health (MoH), the ministry will now only consist of the Department of Health Services and the Department of Public Health.
These departments will be responsible for the design and implementation of public health programs, setting health service standards and regulations, carrying out quality assurance works and providing overall strategic vision for the health sector.
Along with the two MoH departments, three regulatory organizations, including the Bhutan Food and Drug Authority (BFDA), Bhutan Narcotics Control Authority (BNCA), and Bhutan Drug Regulatory Authority (BDRA) are being combined into a single organization.
The authority will be mandated to regulate medical products, food, and controlled substances in the country.
The Royal Center for Disease Control will remain under the MoH to provide scientific and technical support to the ministry and other agencies as deemed relevant.
The overall aim of health sector transformation includes consolidation of clinical services in the country through integration, proper structures, clear responsibilities, and accountabilities to create an agile and evidence driven system which values and supports the health workers.
These reforms also aims to bring together, reorganize, and guide the limited and scarce clinical resources and professionals under a common framework and management system to derive maximum gains for better health of all Bhutanese.
It also envisions to streamline and strengthen coordination between the preventive, curative, and regulatory aspects of healthcare, adds the press release.
The health transformation has also been meticulously designed to accommodate possible reforms to the national health systems in the future.
Meanwhile, the emblem for the NMS that was conceptualized and designed by Health Minister Dasho Dechen Wangmo was also launched during the day.
Reflecting on the health sector transformation initiative, Health Minister Dasho Dechen Wangmo said, “It is one of the key mandates of the current government to streamline and strengthen healthcare services delivery in the country based on the fundamental principles of equity and quality and the initiative will help achieve these goals.”
Lyonpo added that, the transformation is also in line with the government’s vision of narrowing the gap as the revised service delivery approach will ensure that Bhutanese in the remote communities can also access quality care without needing to incur major financial costs.
Acting Health Secretary, Pemba Wangchuk, expressed that the health sector governance reform that has been aligned with the broader reforms in the public sector is expected to significantly enhance the delivery of clinical services in the country.
It is also expected to provide renewed stewardship in the areas of public health, health governance and healthcare services regulation.
Throughout the transformation process, Lyonpo said the ministry has always put the people we served at the heart of their discussions and consultations.
Lyonpo said, “The aim of the health transformation is not only to tackle the current challenges of our times but to make the health system fit for purpose to achieve the national goal of health security.”
Director of the newly formed BFDA, Wangdi Gyeltshen, said the merger of the three regulatory authorities is expected to enhance talent pool and operational efficiency resulting in single window provisions for quality public services.
With the launch of the health sector transformation, it is expected that a few more weeks will be needed to streamline operations and put the required logistical, human resource and administrative systems in place.
Meanwhile, Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering gave an illustration stating that the HA or the medical staff stationed in Thrimshing, Trashigang would complete a patient’s referral process for further examination in less than two minutes for gallstone cases.
He said after completing all procedures at Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital, the patient would just need to wait until their appointment to have a gallstone removed.