Although on track to achieve the millennium development goals’ (MDGs) health targets, Bhutan is challenged with low levels of skilled birth attendance.
“Bhutan’s skilled birth attendance, which is 56 percent, is a critical challenge,” said a WHO representative during the high-level consultation held in Ahmedabad, India, to accelerate progress towards achieving maternal and child health (MNCH) – goals 4 and 5 of the MDGs.
Accounting for more than 1,74,000 maternal and 1.3 million neo-natal deaths every year, about 250 participants from 11 member countries had a mid-term review of MDG goals 4 and 5 from October 14 to 17.
The delegates discussed and exchanged information on MNCH, focused mainly on the current situation, progress and barriers towards achieving MDGs 4 and 5, and came up with an accord on multi-sectoral actions for intensified efforts in improving MNCH in the SEAR countries.
The MDGs focal person for health ministry, Ugyen Tenzin, said that the ministry would garner unstinted political commitment for policy support and resource allocation from bilateral and multilateral partners, man all district hospitals with a gynaecologist and equip all district hospitals with a minimum of two functional ambulances to provide a better skilled birth attendance in the country.
“Low skilled birth attendance and limited access to emergency operation centre services have been a challenge to Bhutan, along with inadequate community, shortage of skilled health professionals and quality of care and poor supervision, monitoring and follow up,” he said.
However, Ugyen Tenzin said that health ministry had allocated 11 percent of the health sector’s budget in the 10th Plan to meet MDG goals, excluding overall health system expenses like human resource development and infrastructure.
The ministry would be spending on strengthening reproductive health, capacity and facilities at all levels of service delivery.
Meanwhile, health ministry’s officiating chief human resource officer, Chimi Rinzin, said that the ministry is in need of 20 gynaecologists and 10 pediatricians immediately. There are six gynaecologists and three pediatricians in the country today.
Chimi Rinzin said that the country would need 200 specialists, including gynaecologists and pediatricians, and over 1,000 nurses to make full use of the existing health facilities.
The delegates also recommended WHO to assist countries in developing a case for investments in maternal and child health in terms of social and economic outcomes, accessing resources from donors and partners, and building human resources, among others.
By Tashi Dema