Improving mother and child health

By Chimi Wangmo

The Ministry of Health (MoH) in partnership with UNDP and JICA, and fund support from the Government of Japan, launched mobile cardiotocography devices, or iCTG this week.

The introduction of mobile iCTG is a part of the Health Ministry’s initiative, “Reaching every pregnant woman with quality gynaecological and obstetric services”, which is a gift and blessing from Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen.

UNDP Bhutan said the partnership will help bolster the Ministry of Health’s efforts to scale up eHealth solutions in the face of growing uncertainty. The mobile cardiotocography is also expected to benefit 5,000 expectant women out of the 10,000 pregnancies reported in a year. 

According to UNDP Bhutan, the 10-bedded Tsangpo hospital in Thrimshing Gewog, Trashigang is one of the 55 health facilities that will be provided with mobile iCTG devices.

“It will enable the remote hospital to provide appropriate care services during emergencies involving high-risk pregnancies and associated complications. The initiative is expected to help reduce referrals, out-of-pocket expenditure mainly on transportation for pregnant women and their families and minimize their exposure to COVID-19,” UNDP sources said.

The 55 hospitals were selected based primarily on their remoteness and number of births. UNDP’s support to the project initiative, complemented by JICA, is a part of the COVID-19 response and recovery project funded by the Government of Japan.

 Dr. Pandup Tshering, the Secretary, Ministry of Health earlier told media that e-Health solutions have never been timelier and more relevant than now.

He added that as we continue to navigate uncertainties and challenges posed by the pandemic, e-Health will help in enhancing access to quality health services and to adapt to the new normal. The introduction of iCTG is part of that solution.

It will ensure that our women are not deprived of quality gynaecological and obstetric services especially in such emergency situations Dr Pandup said.

The Resident Representative of UNDP Bhutan, Ms. Azusa Kubota, said the iCTGs will contribute to enhancing access to maternal healthcare for the rural communities, as well as reduce hidden costs and time associated with making visits to the regional referral hospitals.

Bhutan continues to accord high importance to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In particular, the ministry strives to achieve SDG 3 “Good Health and Wellbeing”, which is to reduce the global maternal mortality ratio, to less than 70 per 100,000 live births by 2030. The MoH-UNDP-JICA partnership will help accelerate the health outcomes of all mothers and children and contribute towards the achievement of this target.

iCTG is a mobile innovative form of the conventional CTG based on Internet of Things (IoT) technology. It allows remote monitoring of fetal heart rate and uterine contraction of pregnant women and will help detect high-risk pregnancies for timely referral and care. The technology will enhance health and wellbeing of pregnant women in the remote parts of Bhutan where access to gynaecological and obstetric services remain a challenge. 

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