There is no decrease in the number of mothers and children visiting the Gyaltsuen Jetsun Pema Wangchuck Mother and Child Hospital in the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) for immunization, antenatal care, newborn and postnatal care, and other services.
The mother and child hospital (MCH) has been encouraging all including pregnant women to come for routine checkup and vaccinations. MCH receives more 250 patients a day on average. There are times when around 500 patients come to the MCH. Everyone working and visiting the MCH have to follow JDWNRH’s safety protocols in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since Bhutan is in the orange zone, MCH is currently promoting health education, good nutrition, social distancing, and hand washing. These are the four messages MCH has been imparting, said the Head of Community Health Department (CHD) of MCH.
She said the vaccinations and other services are given even during the COVID-19 pandemic. She said there are no indications of any scare among the patients visiting MCH. There is also no drop in the rate of immunization as the coverage is very high in the country.
CHD Head said those who require immunization will get immunization and those who need antenatal checkup will be attended to because if these services are ignored then there will be bigger problems ahead.
When the first case of COVID-19 was reported, there was a decrease in the number of people coming in and after that the numbers picked up again, she said. MCH has been putting in an extra effort apart from routine work, like cleaning and requesting the public to follow social distancing as most of the people have the tendency to stay close together.
CHD Head said if any person visiting MCH has flu like symptoms then the person will be directly sent to the COVID-19 observation ward. If they detect a high temperature then the person will be directed to the flu clinic. MCH will also install hand washing station and triage.
There is also a plan in place incase there is a lockdown due to local transmission. Some of the services are to be scaled down then, like the growth monitoring, weighing of the children, giving the vitamins and deworming tablets that can be given during the vaccination time.
Antenatal care (ANC) visits will be reduced from eight visits to four visits, postnatal care (PNC) is to be kept at just two visits. And also a temporal distancing plan, if there is local transmission, MCH will have few staff coming in for work on alternative weeks.
MCH also urges the visitors to avoid coming in a big group. CHD Head said it is not necessary for four to five persons to accompany a patient or a child on the hospital visit.
Since the number of patients visiting remains the same, therefore, controlling the crowds has been a challenge. MCH provides vaccinations to kids in the school population. As the schools are all closed, MCH is contacting the teachers to send the children for vaccinations. It is especially required for girls aged 12 to get the HVP vaccination to prevent cervical cancer later in their lives.
MCH has collected the phone numbers of the patients to remind them of any vaccination or checkup due, and to reassure the chronic patients that their medicines will be delivered to them at home. People in the outreach clinics are sensitized on preventative measures, and to use Druk Trace App, since there is no decrease in the people coming in for vaccination in the outreach clinics as well.
Meanwhile, all the MCH staffs are trained as backup to take care of COVID-19 patients.