The intention to explore corporatising Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral (JDWNRH) Hospital is to provide a platform to address the current issue of specialist retention and improve the overall quality of health services, according to the health ministry.

In a press release the ministry issued following concerns on the government’s move to corporatise the national referral hospital, it states that opinions are skewed owing to the short sighted conclusions derived from limited understanding on the issue and the declarations made by the opposition party.

While the government is aware that corporatisation involves exposure to market pressures and forces, the press release states that the initiative in no way intends to pave way for privatisation of the public health facilities and services.

“Specifically, it is not meant to encourage commercialisation of services or to levy charges to patients directly for the basic public health services,” the ministry stated.

The government’s proposal to transform JDWNRH into a corporate entity, it states, was conceptualised to provide an alternative management system to encourage innovative means to sustain the pool of specialists besides enhancing the quality of services and improving financial benefits of the hospital workforce.

“The ultimate aim is to bring about better accountability, efficiency and effectiveness in the delivery of health services, which are the key elements of a robust health system,” it stated. “The current proposal is an alternative mechanism, which is for review before considering actual implementation, considering that similar health facilities are also impacted by this proposal.”

On August 25, the Opposition, in a press statement demanded the government to stop its vested interests and hypocritical move to corporatise and privatise public health services.

“The government’s move to make JDWNRH a corporation is against the several principles of State Policy enshrined in the Constitution. By the same token, it is a flagrant violation of the Constitution,” the opposition stated.

The health ministry states that the principle of health system in Bhutan is based on the provision of free access to basic public health services in both traditional and modern medicines as a state policy mandated by the Constitution under Article 9(21).

“The government stands fully guided by the sacred provisions enshrined in the Constitution with regard to fulfilling the mandates of the health sector, at all times. The government holds the Constitution sacrosanct and ensures that all decisions respectfully comply with the sacred state policies and that the rule of law is always respected.”

However, it states that given the changing landscape of health service delivery and emerging needs, it is imperative for the health system to adapt and proactively manage these transitions.

“The government recognises that the existing measures are inadequate and does not provide flexibility to the management of the JDWNRH to innovate means to improve performance and address issues relating to human resources,” it states. “This, consequently, should not be interpreted as inefficiencies on the part of the Royal Civil Service Commission and the Pay Commission.”

The opposition had claimed that corporatisation is not the right approach to retain specialists nor is it right for the government to blame the Royal Civil Service Commission and the Pay Commission as being hindrances to enhancing the pay and allowances of the specialists. “The ultimate authority with regard to salary and allowances lies with the Parliament,” it had stated.

The opposition had also stated that this move by the government would affect equitable access to public health services, widen the gap between the rich and the poor and jeopardise the good quality of life of the people.

JDWNRH, the health ministry stated will continue to function as an organisation with a predominant social mandate under the management of an independent Board.

“The government considers the well-being of the citizens and will ensure that citizens are not deprived of availing free basic public health services and that no patients will have to bear the burden of needing to pay the cost for availing basic public health services,” it stated. “In fact, JDWNRH will continue to provide free medical services to all citizens based on the principles of equity and fairness.”

Staff Reporter