Lhakpa Quendren 

As Bhutan expands health services and establishes specialised health centres in the country, it is expected to create demand for more nurses including other health professionals in the next three years.

Going by the human resource development (HRD) plan of the health ministry, Bhutan will need 1,595 nurses and 195 General Duty Medical Officers (GDMO) by 2026.

To reach the minimum desired level of health professionals to population ratio, which is a standard norm of any medically-sound nation, there have to be 3,107 nurses for the 52 hospitals by 2026.

Currently, there are 1512 nurses – 336 in the eastern, 320 in the central, and 856 in the western – working in 45 hospitals across the country.

There are 1,267 nurses working in the inpatient departments and 174 nurses have been redeployed during the pandemic across 45 hospitals.

The health ministry’s intake for this year was only 54 nurses, 24 health assistants, and 72 technicians.

Health ministry’s chief human resource officer Sangay Thinley in an earlier interview said that the government is gradually working to meet the target.

“The health ministry is also planning to recruit those health professionals not selected through RCSC exams on contract,” he said, adding Bhutan will take a few years to meet the World Health Organisation (WHO) standard.

JDWNR’s chief human resource officer, Tshering Dorji said that the set requirement is to improve and meet the clinical service standard. “However, it is not necessary to have this number by 2026.”

“While it is an individual’s right to choose where to work in the end, our system also needs workers depending on the situation. If there are service expansion and establishment of additional centres, we have to plan accordingly,” he added.

JDWNRH has a nurse-bed ratio of 1:6 while the internationally accepted standard of nurse-bed ratio is about 1:3 in teaching hospitals and 1:5 in general hospitals.

Bhutan currently has one of the lowest in the region with 4.6 doctors and 20.9 nurses per 10,000 population. It is still lower than the WHO recommendation of one doctor per 1,000 population.

The global sustainable development goal index threshold for universal health coverage shows the minimum need of 4.5 doctors, nurses, and midwives per 1,000 population.

The demand for nursing services has increased drastically within the last few years with the change in the healthcare system, trends of disease patterns, service delivery approaches, and also with the development of the nursing profession in the country.

The upcoming new specialized health centres include a 500-bedded multi-disciplinary super-speciality hospital, 150-bed Mother and Child Care Hospital, and Royal Center for Infectious Disease at Gidakom, among others.

According to the WHO, over 55 percent of member states have less than 40 nursing and midwifery personnel per 10,000 populations, and about 23 percent have less than 10.