At a time when the high attrition of health professionals, including specialists across the spectrum, undermines the quality of health service delivery in the country, the addition of 14 specialists to the health workforce has come as a huge relief.

The 14 specialists – two gynecologists, two emergency physicians, three ophthalmologists, two pediatricians, two medical specialists, one ear, nose, and throat surgeon, one orthopedic surgeon, and a general practitioner – graduated from the Faculty of Postgraduate Medicine of the Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences of Bhutan (KGUMSB) on June 28.

This is the seventh batch of specialists graduating from the university. From 2014, the Faculty of Postgraduate Medicine has produced 77 medical specialists in different disciplines. Currently, 44 doctors are undergoing various specialisation programmes at the Faculty.

Despite this progress, however, serious problems continue to plague our health sector and centres. The Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital in Thimphu, for example, is grappling with a critical issue that threatens to undermine the efficiency of the hospital’s intensive care service.

Our ICUs are in need of intensive care. This is a serious problem that needs to be addressed.

As of June this year, the country had a shortage of 69 specialists, 103 doctors, and 824 nurses. This shortage poses a significant challenge to our healthcare system.

The trend suggests that this shortage is likely to grow. No matter how many graduates we produce, we may never have enough health professionals to meet the increasing demands. The question arises: Why are our health professionals resigning?

The primary reason cited by doctors and other health professionals is low pay, especially when compared to salaries offered to expatriate doctors. This disparity in remuneration is driving many of our health professionals to seek opportunities elsewhere.

The strategy of letting go of our health professionals and bringing in expatriates to fill the gap is not sustainable in the long run.

Time has come to deal seriously with the retention of our health professionals. We need to significantly improve the pay and working conditions of our health workers; we must create an environment where our health professionals feel valued and adequately compensated for their hard work and dedication.

The government and relevant authorities must develop and implement comprehensive policies that address the root causes of this attrition. Investing in continuous professional development, offering competitive salaries, and providing adequate support systems are essential steps in retaining our health workforce.

The health of our nation is intrinsically linked to the well-being of our health professionals. As we celebrate the addition of new specialists to our workforce, we must also confront the pressing challenges that threaten the stability of our healthcare system.