The placement of one female health worker in each grade II Basic Health Unit (BHU) by the end of this month is a challenge for the health ministry.

Health Secretary Dr Ugen Dophu, said the ministry is facing problems mobilising excess female health workers.

The ministry has identified some dzongkhags with excess female health workers and written to the respective dzongkhag’s Human Resource Committee (HRC) asking for a list of excess female health workers who would to be transferred to other BHUs where there are none.

“But instead, they justify why they should have the excess female health workers,” Dr Ugen Dophu said. “This is the main problem we are facing at the moment.”

The health ministry has to post 23 female health assistants to fulfill its annual performance agreement target to have at least one female health worker in all 184 BHU II by this month.

The decision to have at least a female health worker in all BHU II was made for female patients to feel more comfortable while visiting health centres.

Health minister Tandin Wangchuk, in an earlier interview with Kuensel, said the decision is made not because a male health assistant is not capable. “It is for the convenience of women and children.”

Dr Ugen Dophu said that those who have been posted in the dzongkhags for eight to ten years should also realise that it is time they get posted to different dzongkhags. “We want to be fair and so asked the HRC to submit the name list. If we wait for them then we will never be able to do it.”

Although it is a challenge for the ministry to mobilise excess female health workers, Dr Ugen Dophu said the ministry would meet the target by this month. “If we don’t have adequate female health workers then it is an issue. This is not the case so we will be able to meet the target.”

Of the 605 health assistants in the country, 232 are female.

“We have now decided to take a unilateral decision,” Dr Ugen Dophu said. “We have been lenient on transferring health workers considering the marital status and family situations. But we cannot leave the excess and we have to mobilise them to health centres where there are no female health workers.”

The ministry, through a committee, will handpick excess female health workers for transfer, based on the number of years the health worker has served in a certain dzongkhag.

Those who have been posted in the dzongkhag for a year or two will not be transferred.

He said major exercises like identifying dzongkhags having excess female health workers and collecting their details are complete. “Now what is left is to go through the list and pick from the excess and then have an official order issued.”

Some five dzongkhags have an excess of more than five female health assistants. Thimphu is one of them.

Dr Ugen Dophu said the national referral hospital has surrendered the name list of excess female health workers to the ministry.

“By the end of this month, all grade II BHUs will have a female health worker by any means,” he said. “It is the Prime Minister’s promise and we must fulfill it.”

Dechen Tshomo and  Tenzin Thinley