Younten Tshedup  

Should everything work out as planned, Bhutan will have its first MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery) programme by the end of the 12th Five Year Plan.

The Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences of Bhutan (KGUMSB) is currently in an advanced stage of planning phase to introduce the programme.

KGUMSB’s President, Dr Kinzang P Tshering, said that one of the main activities outlined in the 12th Plan for the university was starting a MBBS programme in the country. Following the proposal to introduce the programme, the university’s governing council had asked KGUMSB to prepare a detailed project report (DPR).

Dr Kinzang P Tshering said that works are ongoing and the DPR is expected to be ready by the end of the year. He said that the government was also supportive of the idea and the planning activities were in an advance stage. “There is a need for a MBBS programme in Bhutan and the Covid-19 pandemic has vividly highlighted the importance of having an adequate number of doctors in the country.”

According to the annual health bulletin 2021, there are 140 doctors as medical superintendent, chief medical officers, medical officers, and general duties medical officers in the country today. There are also 122 medical specialists.

Although the number of doctors per 1,000 population has slightly increased from 0.43 in 2019 to 0.46 in 2020, the overall doctor-population ratio is still lower than the ratio recommended by the World Health Organsiation (WHO).

The WHO recommends a doctor-population ratio to be 1:1,000, meaning that for every 1,000 people, there should be one doctor. Going by this, Bhutan requires about 700 doctors.

Annually, about 50 Class XII students receive government scholarships to pursue MBBS programme in countries like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. There are also a few students who pursue the course privately and through other scholarships.

However, due to the pandemic, some of the MBBS scholarship recipients of 2020, could leave only this year. Another 15 MBBS students bound for Bangladesh have been waiting since last year. Officials from the education ministry said that the admission process was underway and that the students could likely leave by the end of the month.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that Bhutan needed a MBBS programme not because the students couldn’t go out, but because there was a genuine need for the programme within the country.

Also, Lyonchhen said that despite the pandemic, students were still going abroad for studies. Colleges in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka were in full swing, including some colleges in India where Bhutanese students were sent, he added.

Lyonchhen said: “The government definitely has a plan to introduce an MBBS programme in the country. We’ve asked KGUMSB to work on  it and they would soon come up with plans as to where, how, and when the programme could begin.”

The Prime Minister added that in terms of human resources management including lecturers, it would be much easier for KGUMSB to introduce the MBBS programme as the university already has a postgraduate residency programme running for more than six years now.

Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen formally launched the Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences of Bhutan in February 2015.

Edited by Jigme Wangchuk