Work to change the status of Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) into a corporation has begun, health minister Tandin Wangchuk said at the meet the press session yesterday.
Responding to a question on the status of the specialist retention strategy that the health ministry submitted to the cabinet, lyonpo said that making the hospital a corporate entity is the best solution, for now, to raise allowances for health workers especially the specialists.
Lyonpo said that once the hospital becomes a corporation, it could raise the financial benefits of its staff according to their service rules without having to follow the Royal Civil Service Commission rules
“The government will give them the budget per patient every year,” he said. “Depending on their efficiency, they can provide allowances to the health workers according to their entitlement.”
A committee comprising specialists from the national referral hospital and human resource officials from the health ministry prepared a specialist retention proposal and submitted to the cabinet for endorsement.
Lyonpo said that the prime minister during one of his visits to the hospital observed that besides other health workers, specialists are critical to provide specialised medical services to the patients. “Lyonchhen asked the hospital and the ministry to see the possibility of providing financial benefits to our specialists as given to those abroad and to work on a strategy to retain them.”
Not all specialists leave the service because of financial reasons, the minster said. He said they also leave because of work pressure while some quit because it’s time for them to superannuate. “There are not many specialists who retire to go and work abroad.”
In the proposal, besides the 40 percent specialist allowance, the committee proposed 20 percent sub-specialist allowance, MD (Doctor of Medicine) and MS (Master of Science) allowance of Nu 25,000 and on-call allowance of about Nu 800 an hour for specialists currently in service, Lyonpo added.
For those specialists who have resigned, the proposal recommends that they should be allowed to join the service again and be paid the same amount the expatriate specialists are paid.
Lyonpo said the proposal was discussed in the cabinet and has the support of the health ministry and the cabinet. “It is important to retain the specialists but we can only raise their allowances without changing their basic salary because they are civil servants. Moreover, the specialists are already getting 40 percent allowance.”
However, the second pay commission pointed out that the government cannot raise allowance for the specialist category alone. If the government raised the allowance for the specialists, then it has to do the same for other health workers.
“So we have recommended the proposal to be put to the next pay commission whenever it is to be held,” Lyonpo said.
He said it was not feasible to endorse the proposal immediately and other options to retain health workers were explored.
“We had a meeting and the only solution we could have for now is to make the national referral hospital a corporation,” Lyonpo said. “We feel the specialists should be given more allowances according to their entitlement as the number of specialist in the country is not many.”
Currently, the health system has 67 specialists and 10 super specialists. The minister acknowledged that specialists in the country might not be happy because compared to specialists abroad, they are paid less and given the limited number, the workload is more.
Lyonpo said the other way to retain specialists is to send more general duty medical officers for specialisation in different fields. “We have started a postgraduate residency course in the country and the first batch will graduate next year.”
Starting next year, there will be at least 18 specialists graduating every year, Lyonpo said.