Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital in Thimphu will build a mortuary, a canteen and a gym for staff at the basement of the hospital.

The basement is currently used as parking space.

Medical superintendent of the hospital, Dr Gosar Pemba, said that part of the parking space was never used by the people, especially at the rear side of the area.  “We will only convert that part of the space.”

The space is filled with cigarette butts and reeks of urine.

“People make the place dirty and then they complain that the hospital is dirty,” Dr Gosar Pemba said.

The space at the rear side of the area, which has a door to the hospital, will be converted into a mortuary. There is also a plan for a small altar there.

Except for a few bodies that are not claimed by anyone, Dr Gosar Pemba said Bhutanese normally do not keep the body in a mortuary overnight.

“Our people keep the body in the hospital only for a few hours until they have arranged for the funeral,” he said.

With the mortuary built, people can take the body there and they can call a Lam and conduct necessary rituals there instead of in the wards.

The hospital has tendered the work to build the mortuary.

Dr Gosar Pemba said that because there was space available, the hospital would convert it into a canteen and a gym for its staff. “Outsiders will not be allowed, of course.”

He added: “We have people working in the hospital for 24 hours and the canteen will only be for the hospital staff where they will get the food at a subsidised rate.”

Meanwhile, some people took to the social media when the hospital closed the parking at the basement for public vehicles and the news of the hospital’s decision to convert the basement for commercial purpose surfaced. Issues like traffic congestion at the tri-junction near the hospital and parking space problem became the themes of the debate.

Dr Gosar Pemba said that the space is not being converted to use for commercial purpose but for the hospital staff. “Roofing and flooring are already there so the work will not take long as we just have to build walls.”

In terms of parking space, he said the hospital has three areas excluding the basement. “The hospital cannot give parking space to everyone.”

Dr Gosar Pemba said that when the Department of Community Health moves to the new location, which is being constructed, the psychiatric department would move in.

“Then the space above the hospital gate will be converted to parking space. Considering we have budget, there is a plan to build a multi-storey parking space. We are not reducing parking spaces, in fact, we are trying to increase it.”

Dechen Tshomo