The health ministry is yet to hear from the Cabinet on the specialist retention strategy it proposed through the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) earlier this year.

A committee comprising specialists from the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital and human resource officials from the health ministry prepared the proposal and submitted to the cabinet.

“The strategy was developed because many specialists are leaving, ” health secretary Dr Ugen Dophu said.

The specialist retention strategy is not only for the medical sector but also for other specialists.

A health official with the national referral hospital in Thimphu said the main aim of the proposal was to retain highly qualified specialists in the health system.

“In the past years, many specialist doctors had resigned after completing their service bonds while those in service are in process of filing in their resignation,” the official said. “It is important that we retain the specialists because if those currently in service resign, the health sector will be seriously affected.”

About five specialists resigned in the last five years and one superannuated. There are currently 85 specialists in the health sector.

The official said doctors resign and go work to abroad in places such as the Maldives, African countries, Singapore, and Australia mainly because of financial reasons.

One of the highlights of the proposal is to give on-call allowance to specialists and sub-specialist allowance.

Currently, all specialists get 40 percent allowance irrespective of their working hours.

The official said that it is not fair to those specialists who are regularly required to be accessible and available at all times to provide continuous care to patients during emergencies.

“Some specialists have to work only from 9am to 3pm while others have to work the whole night after 3pm.”

The committee proposed an on-call allowance of about Nu 400 to Nu 500 an hour to specialists who are required to be available any time of the day with some ceiling and mechanism to monitor by hospital administration.

Currently there is not much difference between the specialists and junior doctors. The committee also proposed an allowance within a range of Nu 25,000 to be given to doctors once they become a specialist subject to discontinue once the required number of specialist is reached.

The proposal also highlights the allowance for super specialists who have studied for more than two years after becoming a specialist.

Dr Tashi Tenzin (Neuro-surgeon), Dr Tashi Dendup Wangdi (Onco-surgeon), Dr Ugen Tshomo (gyneoncologist), Dr Phurb Dorji (Maternal Fetal Medicine) and Dr Phub Tshering (ENT Head and Neck Surgeon), are the only super-specialists in the country today.

The official said that currently, Dr Tashi Tenzin is the only neuro surgeon in JDWNRH. “If he resigns then there is no one who can take his place immediately.”

Similarly, if any of the super specialists resign then there is no one to replace them so it is important to retain the super-specialists.  “Having specialists and sub-specialists in the country would reduce referral cost of about Nu 200 million every year,” the official said.

Dechen Tshomo