The national referral hospital in Thimphu will roll out appointment system in three more departments by June this year.

Officiating chief programme officer with the hospital’s Quality Assurance and Standardisation Division, Jigme Choden, said the hospital was to start the appointment system in surgery, psychiatry and dermatology departments this month.

However, it couldn’t be introduced as planned because each department requires facilities like computers, good internet and telephone connectivity. “We will be able to roll out the system in the three departments by first week of June,” Jigme Choden said.

Medical superintendent, Dr Gosar Pemba, said there is space problem in some departments like psychiatry. “In the psychiatry department, a separate chamber has to be made for the receptionist with the facilities,” he said.

The hospital piloted an appointment system in the ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat), medical and Gynaecology/Obstetric departments in March this year.

Hospital officials said the appointment system was introduced to reduce patient waiting time and to provide quality consultation.

The ENT department saw more than 4,000 patients through appointments since the department introduced an appointment system on March 1, while the Medical and Gynaecology/Obstetric departments saw more than 2,000 patients since March 19 between 12:30pm to 3pm during weekdays.

Dr Gosar Pemba said in the ENT department, doctors see patients on appointment from 9am. “Only one chamber is kept for walk-in patients,” he said. “In other departments, we kept 9am to 12:30pm for walk-in patients until they get used to the new system.”

Hospital officials said that now more people are aware of the system and opt to consult a doctor through appointment.

Jigme Choden said the hospital has received positive feedback from patients on the appointment system in all three departments. “Gradually, we will roll out the appointment system in all the departments,” she said. “It is convenient because patients don’t have to wait in queue for a longer period of time. Each patient is given 10-minutes, which allows doctors to provide quality care,” she said.

A patient, Ngagye Wangchuk, 37, said appointment system is convenient. This is his third time visiting the ENT department. In the past, he said he had to come early to get a token and then wait in queue to see a doctor.

Kinley Dema, 28, who lives in Trongsa, came to the national referral hospital to consult an ENT specialist for her son’s ear problem. The receptionist at the hospital told her about the appointment system and gave her an appointment for 10:30am yesterday.

“Appointment system is convenient if you make it on time,” she said. “I went to collect a test report and got late for the appointment. Now, I have to wait until the doctor sees all the patients.”

Hospital officials said that if patients miss their appointments, they have to get a new appointment.

While a majority of patients visiting the hospital and availing the service favour the appointment system, Dr Gosar Pemba said there are few who are not happy with the new system. “It looks like everyone wants things at their own convenience,” he said. “We received a feedback from a patient saying the system without an appointment is better.”

But with the appointment system in place, Dr Gosar Pemba said that many complaints like patients cutting the queue and doctors seeing their patients first will be addressed.

“The hospital wanted to initiate the appointment system for a long time but was not sure if it would work,” he said.“We will now continue with it.”

Dechen Tshomo