Jigmi Wangdi

The dental services at JDWNRH in Taba are facing problems. There are too many patients, not enough medical staff, and people can’t get appointments easily since the hospital opened.

The dental services started offering appointments outside of regular hours to help, but patients still have to wait at least a week to get treatment even after signing up.

These problems affect the quality of healthcare provided by the National Medical Services (NMS). Earlier this year, NMS gave some suggestions to the Prime Minister to improve services at JDWNRH. These suggestions also proposed starting private dental services in the country to enhance the quality of care.

Currently, many patients go to the dental hospital in Taba, but some also choose to visit the Dantak and Imtrat dental clinics. Others opt for private treatment at dental clinics in Jaigaon.

Kuensel found that there is support for privatising clinics as a way to enhance dental services in the country.

Patients and people shared that the privatisation of dental hospitals that privatising dental hospitals could help lessen the load on JDWNRH, ultimately leading to better-quality services for people.

“I tried to get an appointment at the Taba dental hospital last year, but I couldn’t. When I called to register for an off-hour appointment, nobody answered. So, I ended up going to Jaigaon for treatment,” said a patient.

Another patient mentioned that he believed the off-hour appointment system would save him time and effort, as he wouldn’t have to wait in line for a token. “I was mistaken. I learned upon registration that I would still have to wait at least a week, if not longer, for an appointment.”

A patient who recently visited the dental hospital twice said  that off-hour appointments could be costly for many patients.

“During my two visits to the dental hospital, I spent approximately Nu 7,000. Just getting an x-ray cost me Nu 1,500,” the patient added. “I would prefer to pay the same amount and receive immediate treatment rather than waiting for weeks after registering for an appointment, only to pay the same amount again.”

A mother living in Taba, who couldn’t afford off-hour appointments, shared that she had to go to the dental hospital as early as 6am in the cold winter mornings. Her aim was to secure a token to ensure her son could get an appointment for treatment.

Dr Samdrup R Wangchuk, who practices dentistry privately in Jaigaon, said that the privatisation of dental services is necessary in Bhutan.

“It’s a win-win situation for both the government and private clinics,” he said.  “Those who can afford it can visit private clinics, reducing the strain on general hospitals.”

He also added that concerns about privatising the health sector often stem from fears that health workers may leave their positions at general hospitals to work in private clinics.

“This scenario is unlikely to occur,” Dr Samdrup R Wangchuk said. “I believe it’s necessary as long as we keep our health workers. Additionally, privatisation will foster competition, leading to improved service standards as both private and government hospitals strive to excel.”

A patient said that the token system in dental services undermines service quality. The system typically allocates about 30 minutes for each patient, which may not be sufficient given the individual conditions and severity of cases.

However, due to the high number of patients, dental staff are compelled to see as many patients as possible, leading to rushed appointments.