About 509 patients had consulted the Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) department at the national referral hospital in Thimphu through appointments since the department started an appointment system on March 1.

Medical superintendent at Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital, Dr Gosar Pemba, said the system was introduced to reduce patient waiting time.

The Royal Audit Authority’s performance audit of the hospital’s out-patient department (OPD) services report on December 5 last year revealed that the average waiting time for patients at the hospital’s medical OPD was observed at 1 hour 38 minutes and general OPD at 45 minutes against the target of 30 minutes.

Dr Gosar Pemba said the RAA interviewed many people visiting the hospital and an appointment system was recommended. “There is a patient waiting time in every country and we cannot reduce the OPD patient waiting time unless you increase the number of OPD chambers and doctors in the hospital.”

“With appointment system in place, patients can come to the hospital about five to ten minutes before their appointment. They don’t have to come at 9am and wait for their turn as it is happening now,” Dr Gosar Pemba said.

The appointment timings are from 9:30am to 3pm on weekdays and until 1pm on Saturdays. People can contact 77764041 to make an appointment for ENT consultation.

According to hospital officials, the appointment system was also introduced to provide quality consultation. The receptionist schedules 10-minutes for each appointment.

Dr Gosar Pemba said currently, about 50 to 60 patients wait in queue in front of a chamber and the doctor has to see all the patients because of which it is not possible to give more time to each patient. “That way the quality of care is quite poor.”

Dr Gosar Pemba said the system is expected to improve the services provided. “If time is followed strictly, a doctor will be allotted about 40 patients in a day.”

Dorji Tshering, 49, escorted his wife who has a hearing problem to the hospital yesterday. He wanted to consult an ENT specialist.

A receptionist at the hospital, Leki Dema, who makes the appointments, tell the couple that the doctor they want to consult is available only on Mondays. They get an appointment for11:40am.

Leki Dema explains about the appointment system to the patients who come to consult an ENT doctor, especially those patients come for a review.

Dorji Tshering said if the doctors and patients follow the timing strictly, the appointment system is convenient to patients. “The time we spend waiting at the hospital can now be utilised doing some productive work.”

Dr Gosar Pemba said the hospital wanted to initiate the appointment system for a long time but was not sure if it would work. “Our people are not good at keeping timing. If they miss their appointment, they need to get a new appointment.”

The Medical and Gynaecology/Obstetric departments will begin the appointment system from March 19 between 12:30pm to 3pm during weekdays and until 1pm on Saturdays. From 9:30am to noon, walk-in-patients will be seen as usual. “This is to let people get used to the appointment system,” Dr Gosar Pemba said.

Residents can call 77764042 to make Gynaecology/Obstetric appointment and 77764045 for a medical appointment.

The service in the three departments are on pilot basis. If proven successful, the system will be rolled out to other OPDs.

Dechen Tshomo