CCOUC Experience Sharing Session - Bhutan: Health Actions in Disaster Response


CCOUC is delighted to have invited three professionals from Bhutan, Mr. Ugyen Tshering, Ms. Tshering Cheki and Mr. Tshering Dukpa, to share with the audience on the health actions in disaster response in Bhutan on 28 June 2017. They are CCOUC fellows who have attended this year’s summer workshops on Disaster and Humanitarian Crisis and Research Methodology for Disaster and Medical Humanitarian Response under the Hong Kong—Bhutan Humanitarian Medicine Training and Exchange Programme to acquire relevant knowledge that are beneficial to their home country.

To begin with, Mr. Ugyen Tshering, Program Officer of the Emergency Medical Service Division at the Department of Medical Services in Ministry of Health in Bhutan, shared with the audience their health emergency and disaster contingency plan. As a landlocked country in the Eastern Himalayas—one of the most seismically active zones in the world, Bhutan is vulnerable to natural disasters such as Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF), earthquakes, fires and landslides. The contingency plan aims to increase organizational readiness for disaster and emergency and protect public health. The plan not only outlines the disaster preparedness work, but also establishes coordination mechanism of stakeholders at different levels for emergency response.

Ms. Tshering Cheki, a clinical nurse working at Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital, which is operated under the auspices of the Ministry of Health, then introduced to the audience the seismic vulnerability assessment of the hospital. The assessment provides the hospital, Ministry of Health and World Health Organization with an overview of the seismic vulnerabilities of the hospital as well as recommends actions to improve hospital’s capacity in delivering medical care following major earthquakes. Following the recommendations, the hospital has strengthened its backup utility systems, such as the construction of emergency fuel tank, and developed long-term facilities improvement plan that aims to retrofit buildings that do not meet seismic performance goals.

Lastly, Mr. Tshering Dukpa, Deputy Dean of Faculty of Nursing and Public Health at Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences of Bhutan, shared the roles of the university in disaster preparedness and relief work in Bhutan. As the only medical school in Bhutan, the university served as a training institution for medical professionals and health workers. The university introduces emergency and disaster management curriculum in its programmes and provides refresher training for in-service health workers as well as emergency medical service training for community representatives and policemen. To enhance the role in disaster preparedness in the future, the university is planning to introduce medical emergency response program in diploma level and serve itself as an emergency operation centre in case of mass casualty. 

These three professionals have illustrated the roles of the government, hospitals and academia on disaster preparedness and response in Bhutan and demonstrated their collective efforts in safeguarding people’s lives. This inspiring sharing session has enhanced audience understanding of disaster management from a different cultural perspective.


Mr. Tshering Dukpa shared with the audience the roles of the university in disaster preparedness and relief work in Bhutan
Ms. Tshering Cheki shared with the audience the hospital’s seismic vulnerability assessment
Mr. Ugyen Tshering shared with the audience the health emergency and disaster contingency plan