Lhakpa Quendren   

Nurses have been going on leave using their leave accumulated by non-working days despite the absence of a clear guideline on whether their day off can be accumulated and used to take long-term leave.

To standardise the working time arrangement for nurses, the nursing administration and management of the national referral hospital (JDWNRH) drafted a guideline on their working hours and the weekly day off and submitted it to the health ministry.

This comes after the Samtse dzongkhag administration in February last year decided to restrict nurses in the dzongkhag from taking accumulated leave after working during government holidays and Sundays.

The guideline is expected to guide nursing in-charge in organising the weekly off day and government holiday to rationalize the accumulation of weekly off days.

JDWNRH’s deputy nursing superintendent Tshering Dema said that while the process of nursing service has been practised so far, there is no written guideline.

She said that the guideline specifically focuses on working hours and the weekly off days for the nurses. “We drafted it in consultation with the national head nurses during the pandemic.”

As it is a human resource-related issue, she said, it has to be submitted to the Royal Civil Service Commission for endorsement.

If the draft guideline is endorsed, a nurse will be allowed to accumulate five days a month from a weekly day off and government holidays. And all the accumulated dues should be cleared by month’s end.

Tshering Dema said while nurses’ dues for working during holidays will be considered taking leave, there will be accountability and transparency for verification and approval.

“The hospital’s in-charge will have to notify the regional or national referral hospitals when the total due weekly off-day accumulation exceeds 10 days for all individual nurses,” she said.

The draft guideline was developed after the health ministry asked the nursing superintendent of JDWNRH to prepare a report for a way forward.

The health ministry’s chief human resource officer, Sangay Thinley, said that the ministry could not discuss the issue due to the transformation exercise.

He, however, said that the new agency, National Medical Service, would look into the issue as part of the transformation. “Such issues will be resolved once the new agency is established.”

The health ministry has developed a Nursing Services Administrative Manual 2018 which allows weekly off days and government holidays. But it is silent on the leave accumulated from non-working days.

Nurses’ work schedule is quite different from other civil servants as they have to do night duty of 12-hour shifts twice a week and 6 hours of regular shifts – morning and evening – on other days with one day off in a week.