Thimphu, 4 June 2021: 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 today. 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.
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.
The partnership will help bolster the Ministry of Health’s efforts to scale up eHealth solutions in the face of growing uncertainty.
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.
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.
The mobile cardiotocography is expected to benefit 5,000 expectant women out of the 10,000 pregnancies reported in a year.
“e-Health solutions have never been timelier and more relevant than now. 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,” said Dr.Pandup Tshering, Secretary, Ministry of Health.
“Leaving no one behind is central to UNDP’s work. 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," said Ms. Azusa Kubota, Resident Representative of UNDP Bhutan.
"However, the hard work starts here – we must ensure that the iCTGs are fully utilized to benefit pregnant women. I hope this signals the start of a much broader partnership for reaching the unreached using digital solutions.”
“During COVID-19, this equipment has proven to be effective in Japan for the continuity of maternal health services, as pregnant women, who are hesitant to go to hospitals due to fear of infection, can receive advice from doctors remotely. I am really pleased to introduce this telemedicine system that has dramatically reduced the once high maternal mortality rate in Kagawa Prefecture, which has many remote islands, located in Shikoku Island of Japan," said Mr. Kozo Watanabe, Chief Representative of JICA Bhutan Office.
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.