Younten Tshedup

The health ministry’s recent decision to recruit and subsequently regularise unemployed medical professionals has left a group of contract employees displeased.

To increase the human resource capacity and to ease the burden in the health sector due to Covid-19 pandemic, the health ministry recruited 126 unemployed medical professionals last month.

They include 25 general duty medical officers, nine clinical nurses, 68 staff nurses, 13 laboratory and 11 X-ray technicians.

Based on individual performance (individual work plan), the ministry is looking at regularising the health professionals early next year.

In an appeal letter to the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) and the health ministry, a group of employees currently recruited in a consolidation contract under the RCSC/MoH, requested for a similar adjustment for the group.

According to the letter, the decision was unfair to those contract employees who have been working for over three years in various hospitals.

The letter stated that it had neglected the employees who were on contract, some for the duration of more than five years, including those that were hired in the beginning of the year and after the advent of the pandemic in the country. “We had much involvement and contributed significantly to the nation’s response to Covid-19,” the letter stated.

The group highlighted that it would be difficult for them to continue working on contract as they could not apply for promotion and avail benefits enjoyed by regular civil servants. “Most of us have also exhausted all or majority of our opportunity in the Bhutan Civil Service Examinations.”

The letter further stated that the news of the new graduates being immediately recruited and regularised was ‘demoralising’ to those who had been serving the nation as contract employees without any special opportunities.

“We would like to request the ministry to look into our submission to regularise our services,” stated the letter. “We do not have any other sectors to use our skills after our contract tenure is over. We would be happy to serve the nation in our capacity of knowledge and skills we have gained so far.”

The group consists of general duty medical officers, clinical and staff nurses, technicians, dieticians and physiotherapies, among others.

Chief human resource officer with the health ministry, Sangay Thinley, said that the ministry received orders to recruit the unemployed health professionals to address the shortage during the pandemic.

“It was not the usual way of recruitment through the single window recruitment procedure. This was emergency recruitment in response to Covid-19,” he said.

Sangay Thinley said that regularising those who were already on contract did not solve the issue of shortage of health workers. “The decision was made in consultation with the RCSC.”

Some contract nurses who are currently engaged in flu clinics across the country also requested that the date for the upcoming Bhutan Civil Service Examinations be postponed.

A nurse from Phuentsholing said: “We are constantly engaged in the clinics attending patients, sometimes throughout the day. We have no time to prepare for the exams next month.”