This is would be one of the major initiatives to celebrate and mark the 50 years of diplomatic ties between the two nations
When Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay met the visiting Indian Foreign Secretary on 3rd October to discuss, among others things, the celebrations over 50 years of diplomatic ties, the Prime Minister had an important proposal to be conveyed to the Indian government.
The proposal specifically was for the construction of Bhutan’s first cancer hospital in Thimphu as one of the major programs to mark the 50 years of diplomatic ties between the two nations in 2018.
Though the discussions are at an early stage the indications are positive with the Indian side asking for more details on the issue which in turn is being prepared by the Health Ministry in the form of a concept paper.
The Prime Minister Lyonchhen Dasho Tshering Tobgay said, “India-Bhutan friendship has grown from strength to strength in the last fifty years. Bhutan has also grown immeasurably in terms of sovereignty, socio economic development, health, education and more with Indian support. While we are all aware of this friendship we still needed something tangible to commemorate the 50 years of diplomatic ties and so the Cancer hospital is one of them.”
Lyonchhen said that almost every Bhutanese family or household has been affected in some way or the other by cancer.
“While we have primary and secondary healthcare in Bhutan this is something that is missing,” said the PM.
Lyonchhen said that starting from next year the plan is to start constructing the GoI supported Cancer Hospital. He said that the RGoB will in the meantime start provision for cancer treatment within the existing infrastructure at the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH).
Lyonchhen said that this would be one of the main tangible programs apart from the many other activities, song and dance programs to celebrate the 50 years of diplomatic ties between the two nations.
Lyonchhen said, “I am really excited as this is timely and a fitting tribute to the successful partnership and friendship between the two countries.”
The Health Minister Lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk said that his ministry officials and doctors were already working on the concept paper for the cancer hospital. The minister said that the Bhutanese government has discussed and decided that a Cancer Hospital is needed in Bhutan.
The minister said that the plan of the cancer hospital is to have holistic care in Bhutan. Currently only diagnosis and some level of chemotherapy is done. The minister said that Bhutan would soon introduce radiotherapy as well.
The minister said that in a way the larger number of cancer diagnosis shows that people are aware and healthcare penetration is better compared to the past as people then may have been dying without knowing it was cancer.
Cancer is a growing and major healthcare issue in Bhutan with many numbers falling prey to it. It also consumes a significant part of the healthcare and referral budgets since there is no holistic cancer care in Bhutan.
The health minister said that cancer is rampant in Bhutan and almost every family knows of a cancer afflicted patient or person.
Meanwhile, an Indian official that the paper talked to, on the condition of anonymity, said, “Whenever, Bhutan has made some request the government of India has always done it.”
The official pointed out that India was already involved in Bhutan’s healthcare sector which included the construction of the JDWNRH hospital, Mongar and Gelephu referral hospitals, 150 bedded Mother and Child hospital in Thimphu, primary and secondary health care facilities and other medical infrastructure.
The Indian official, who is in the know, said that the cancer hospital proposal is a doable project and would be received positively by the Indian government.
The official said what is awaited is the details and on the what model the project is to be done.
Bhutan opened a cancer registry last year given the lack of comprehensive and adequate data on the number of cancer patients and also the different types of cancers. The registry is also in the process of collecting a more comprehensive data though past reports and studies have shown a high prevalence in Bhutan that by anecdotal evidence only seems to be going up.
The top ten cancers in Bhutan are stomach, cervix, colorectal cancer, head and neck, oesophagus, liver, gall bladder, ovary, skin, penis and breast.
From 211 known cancer cases in 2008 it increased to 639 to 2014 according to figures with the health ministry. The latest figures which are being compiled in a more in-depth manner are expected to significantly shoot up.