Health Minister says even if corporatization happens ordinary citizens don’t have to pay for medical services at all
An executive order was issued on 18th September by the Health Minister Lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk on the directions of the Prime Minister for the formation of an ‘independent and third party’ multi-sectoral committee to study the possibility of corporatizing JDWNRH and also to see where it can improve.
The committee will consist of members from the Ministry of Finance, Gross National Happiness Commission, Royal Civil Service Commission, Bhutan Medical and Health Council (BMHC), Drug Regulatory Authority, Druk Holdings and Investments and one member deemed as necessary.
As per the order the committee will review the existing functioning of JDWNRH as an autonomous institution to determine areas for improvement.
It will study and assess the possibility of corporatizing JDWNRH. The committee will measure provide in-depth analysis considering policy, legal, management and financial implications of corporatizing JDWNRH vis-à-vis maintaining the status quo.
The GNHC will function as the lead on the committee and ensure that the study is completed by 31st December 2017.
The new group has been constituted as it was felt the earlier constituted group of MoH, JDWNRH, BMHC and Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences of Bhutan would lead to a conflict of interest on the issue with each organization protecting their own interests.
Meanwhile, the Heath Minister clarified that there had been some attempt by certain quarters to create the impression that corporatization of health care would mean patients paying for health care.
The Opposition party has opposed the Corporatization proposal saying it would lead to privatization of medical services.
Lyonpo said that under no circumstances would people have to pay from their own pockets.
The minister said what would happen at the most is that to ensure better medical service and accountability the patients would verify the medical bills which would be paid by the Health Ministry to the JDWNRH instead of current system of block grants.
So the hospital in effect would be paid only if it rendered services and it was up to the patients to verify it.
The minister said that the main aim was improving the efficiency of services and while doing so also taking care of the medical staff, doctors and specialists.
Lyonpo said that the money earned from the MoH for the services would enable the JDWNRH to adequately pay its medical staff, doctors and specialists. Adequate pay for them considering the workload would motivate them and also further improve service.
The minister said that the health budget while having allocations already does not have fixed ceilings. Giving the example of overseas referral the minister said that while the budget may be Nu 220 mn it goes up to Nu 260 to 270 mn since the government cannot say the budget is over when a human life is at stake. He said in this light there was scope for JDWNRH to both improve its services and also ensure that its staff is motivated.
The minister said not even a chetrum would go from the patients pocket. “Free medical care is a Kidu that has been given by the Throne a long time ago and it will never be withdrawn.”
Lyonpo also said that the Constitution also made it clear that the state should provide free medical services.
The minister clarified that this idea of corporatization in fact came from the time of the former government when consultants had been hired to improve services and one major idea had been to corporatize the system with a billing system for services rendered that would be paid by the government.