The recent expression of deep concern by Health Minister Tandin Wangchuk regarding the escalating human resource attrition in the health sector raises critical alarms about the potential implosion of tertiary health facilities, notably the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) in Thimphu.

This issue, if left unaddressed, poses a significant threat to the country’s healthcare system and the well-being of its citizens. Urgent measures are imperative to prevent the looming crisis and ensure the resilience of Bhutan’s health infrastructure.

Lyonpo has rightly placed a spotlight on tackling the attrition problem within the health workforce. The gravity of the situation demands a comprehensive approach, and the emphasis on implementing a robust performance management system is a step in the right direction.

There is a need to initiate a thorough evaluation of the existing health workforce, identifying key areas contributing to attrition. This evaluation should encompass factors such as working conditions, job satisfaction, professional development opportunities, and the overall workplace environment.

We must also review and revise compensation packages for healthcare professionals to ensure they are competitive regionally and internationally. Competitive remuneration is crucial for attracting and retaining skilled professionals, preventing them from seeking opportunities elsewhere

Establishing and promoting robust professional development programmes to nurture the growth of healthcare professionals could be another area of focus. Opportunities for continuous learning, training, and skill enhancement not only contribute to job satisfaction but also enhance the quality of healthcare services.

Addressing concerns related to working conditions, ensuring that healthcare professionals have a conducive and supportive environment demand our attention, too. Adequate staffing levels, modern equipment, and a stress-free work environment are vital components in retaining a motivated and dedicated health workforce.

Going by the way things work, implementing incentive programmes that recognise and reward exceptional performance within the health sector is not a bad idea. This can boost morale and create a positive work culture in the sector.

It is vital that we establish strong support systems, including mental health resources and counselling services for healthcare professionals facing the stresses of their demanding roles. Prioritising the well-being of the workforce is essential for long-term retention.

In any workforce situation, fostering transparent communication channels between healthcare professionals and the relevant authorities is critically important. Addressing concerns and grievances in an open and supportive manner contributes to a sense of trust and commitment among the workforce.

Most important of all, as we look for options, there is a need to implement results-oriented strategies based on the findings of the workforce evaluation. Flexibility in adapting policies and strategies in response to changing dynamics is crucial for the success of retention initiatives.

The urgency of the situation demands swift and decisive action. Bhutan’s health sector, a cornerstone of the nation’s well-being, cannot afford to face an implosion of tertiary health facilities due to human resource attrition.

The government, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders, must prioritise the implementation of these suggestions to safeguard the future of the healthcare system and, ultimately, the health of the Bhutanese people.