Press Summary from the 7th Friday Meet held on 15th February 2019

Bhutan working towards eliminating Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer ranks as the top-most common cancer among women in Bhutan. In an effort to address this, the Ministry of Health is working towards eliminating this cancer.

Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo who is the member of the Executive Board (EB) of the World Health Organisation (WHO) representing South East Asia region, led Bhutan’s delegation to the 144thsession of WHO EB in Geneva, Switzerland from 24th January to 1st February this year. Apart from many other important discussions, one of the major interventions made by Lyonpo and her delegation was on strategizing to eliminate cervical cancer in Bhutan.

Bhutan pronounced on the disparity existing within the countries in its approach to address/manage cervical cancer with majority of death occurring in low- and middle-income countries. Plans to improve the early detection and prompt treatment as an effective strategy to accelerate cervical cancer management was presented. Our initiative as a LDC to introduce nationwide Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine in 2010 was highlighted. The support of the Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation was also acknowledged.

Lyonchhen said that cervical cancer is easily preventable, easily detectable, and easily treatable, if vaccine and tests are carried out on time. To this effect, the government is strategising plans and programs so that our woman do not have to succumb to cervical cancer.  Lyonchhen also said that cervical cancer is not just the problem of a woman. If a woman doesn’t have intercourse she will not get it, hence the virus is transmitted from men. Vaccinating men will help reduce cervical cancer in woman, Lyonchhen added.

Lyonchhen and the Health Minister called upon the media to empower the general public with information about cervical cancer so that early detection is made possible and lives are saved. 

 

Responding to questions on the loan component of Japan’s Earn and Learn program, Ministry of Labor and Human Resource’s visit to Japan and taking administrative action recommend by ACC, Lyonchhen said that the concerned Ministry is in dialogue with the National Pension and Provident Fund (NPPF) and Bhutan Development Bank Limited (BDBL). The Labor Minister had two meetings with the CEO of BDBL already. It was clarified to the media members that there are differences in interest rate and that as the government there is no legal basis to act since the students’ who are in Japan are the signatory on the loan documents taken from these two financial institutes. Nevertheless, the Ministry is working on ways to resolve this issue. Lyonchhen clarified that the government has deferred the travel to Japan. “ There is no need for the officials to visit Japan right now since there is no value addition,” Lyonchhen said. The government is already aware of the problems and we are trying to address it from Thimphu. By doing so, we are saving huge cost on the travel, which alternatively may be utilised to pay off some of the debts, Lyonchhen said. It is also not courteous on our part toward the Japanese Government, he added. On taking administrative action, Lyonchhen said that given the context the concerned officials of MoLHR were working, the government as of date has not felt the need to take any administrative action against the official. The Office of the Attorney General has been asked to look into the matter. “It is difficult to finger point an individual or an agency, and we are looking towards solving the issue in the best possible manner, lets be professional and if there is enough evidence the government will not hesitate to take action”, Lyonchhen said.

 

On question about taxing pensioners, Lyonchhen shared that there has already been couple of discussion on the possible way forward with the concerned agency. “With government’s vision to narrow the gap, we want to ensure that a support staff has enough to eat while they are working and enough to take home after retirement”, Lyonchhen said. The government has also asked the 4thPay Commission to dwell into the framework of pension for all. Lyonchhen said that after receiving the report of the Pay Commission, the government would accordingly review the pension scheme considering our exchequer.

 

Responding to the question on plans, site and budget for the tertiary hospital as pledged by the government, Health Minister Dechen Wangmo said that the 1stconcept note is ready and that it will be implemented phase wise. “We know what will be there in different phases”, she said. Lyonpo shared that the Ministry is studying accessibility, water supply and others at the erstwhile location of the Education City project for the hospital. “We are in the process of ironing out many things, conducting research and studying the different types of referrals”, Lyonpo added. Lyonpo Dechen ensured that mobilizing resource is the job of the government and that we will do it.

Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo also responded to the question of addressing shortage of beds in the emergency ward of JDWNRH. “We are working with JDWNRH on ways to improve the efficiency”, Lyonpo said.

 

Lyonpo Loknath Sharma was questioned on the effect of recent slide on the work progress of Punatsangchhu-I. Lyonpo thanked the media for the question and raising the concern. “I too am very concerned and I am following the work progress very closely. Hydropower being the corner stone of our development, we must all be concerned”, he said and shared that the recent slide was part of the slide that happened before. Most of the hydropower related works are civil works and working with nature is always a surprise. The Authority meeting that recently took place also tabled the issue and discussion on holistic long-term solution and not the short term. The Technical committee meeting, which will be held in New Delhi, will discuss on the way forward – how to holistically approach the problems. “Currently, it is safe and there are no threats”, Lyonpo reported.

 

On being asked about the status of the 4thPay Commission, Lyonchhen said that by Constitution the Commission is autonomous and that the government has no idea about the status of the work of the Commission. The government has given the ‘Terms of Reference’ with clear instruction that there should be a ‘wow’ factor – something unique that will encourage performer. Lyonchhen said that the Commission must address ways to narrow the gap between the haves and haves not and also come up with good package for the skilled personnels. The Commission is also expected to hold adequate stakeholder consolations. “Unofficially, I have heard that they are consulting different groups of people”, Lyonchhen shared. Once the report is ready and submitted to the government, appropriate action will be taken by the government.

 

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