Neten Dorji 

“It is of no use of having a hospital if there are no doctors or specialists in it,” says Sonam Lhamo, 84, a resident of Wamrong, Trashigang. 

“A great physical structure alone does not serve the purpose,” she added, who had to travel to Mongar district when she fell sick. 

Many other villagers like Sonam Lhamo shared their frustration and are dissatisfaction with the health services.  

“Mongar is too far for emergency cases, thus we have no option but to visit nearby hospital and facilities,” said Zangmo, a resident of Khaling.

Reserbu hospital

The doctor of Khaling Hospital had left for studies in July 2023, leaving behind a clinical officer to attend to a queue of about 30 patients even to this day.  

A patient from Dawazor said that sometimes the medical officer prescribed medicines without much consultation. “Sometimes it appears the doctor conducts the check-ups in a hurry.”

She said that people would appreciate if the government could provide with specialists permanently, who could provide appropriate services. 

“Visiting the hospital time and again is expensive,” she said.

A civil servant said that people had been sharing grievances about not being able to access the services and check up thoroughly. He said that some people who visited the hospital only returned disappointed.

“Some do not even own phones. They were referred to go to the nearest hospital that is in Kanglung and Trashigang. It is unlikely that they would be able to visit those hospitals.”

Since the doctor left for studies, the hospital administration  was being looked after by the clinical officer. He consulted with specialists over the phone and referred patients to Trashigang and Mongar whenever necessary.

The hospital had put up a requisition to the ministry for the replacement of the a doctor who left for their studies. But there had been no replacement till date.

The government had also pledged to provide one doctor in each gewog during elections campaign. 

“We will ensure that all gewog health centres have one doctor and adequate health staff, including female health officers,” stated the manifesto.

Meanwhile, the Reserbu hospital was also without a doctor since the doctor left for studies two months ago. It was said the hospital was going to receive a doctor soon. 

A resident, Karma Wangchuk said that without a doctor they were forced to travel either to Dewathang or Trashigang for health services. “It is an extra burden for the people who are economically disadvantaged. Some cannot afford to go to Trashigang or Dewathang to get these services,” he said.

He said the government thinks that two doctors are not eligible for Reserbu, but it is required as the hospital is located at the centre of five gewogs.

Villagers explained that the shortage of staff had significantly hampered the community’s ability to access healthcare, especially for villagers.

“Every time the healthcare worker goes on leave or to attend a meeting, we are left without medical care. Some of our friends are visiting Mongar hospital without doctors,” said a villager, Sangay Wangmo.  

Staff at the hospital, however, say that although there are many patients at times, attending to all of them is not an issue, but the quality of service was compromised. 

The 20-bedded hospital in Reserbu had facilities like an ultrasound, dental, X-rays, laboratories, eye, ear, nose and throat (ENT) services. But no doctor. 

“We are receiving one doctor soon,” says a staff.