Lhakpa Quendren

The undergraduate medical course, MBBS will start next year at the Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences of Bhutan (KGUMSB) should everything go as planned.

KGUMSB’s President, Dr Kinzang P Tshering, said that the MBBS project secretariat had received the Cabinet directive to start the programme by mid-2023.

He said that efforts are underway to introduce the programme next year.

“Nothing is finalised as of now but it should be in place soon. We are in the process of developing the curriculum and infrastructure,” he said.

“It will be started as an interim programme at the KGUMSB and the works will continue for a permanent structure. We will have to see the advantages and disadvantages,” said Dr Kinzang P Tshering.

To meet the human resource requirement in teaching MBBS students, he said that there will be a faculty exchange programme and hiring international faculty from partner institutes.

For the hands-on clinical science training, he said, cadavers can be procured. “Now they don’t even do it on the dead body, instead, they will have a computer,” he said.

Thimphu is identified as the most feasible and suitable location for the immediate start of the MBBS programme. This is to optimize the utilization of faculty members and specialists, laboratories, and other hospital resources.

It has all the required departments with the national referral hospital (JDWNRH) as a teaching hospital including the availability of specialists and residents for tutoring and teaching support.

JDWNRH has 381 beds capacity with all required faculties, caseloads, departments, facilities, and infrastructures for MBBS.  

A teaching hospital for a 50-student intake requires a minimum bed capacity of 250 to 300.

This six-year course, including a year-long internship programme after the exit exam, will initially enrol 25 local students for three years following which it will take 25 international students.

The project secretariat also explored options such as starting the programme from Thimphu for a few years and subsequently moving it to a better place in case Thimphu is not suitable in the long run.

The college once completed will be equipped with world-class facilities and high education standards. The internationalization of campus will be taken up gradually and in a more graded manner, according to the project secretariat.

The programme will further strengthen the ratio of doctors per 1,000 population in the country which is still lower than the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation of one doctor per 1,000 population.

Bhutan currently has 4.6 doctors per 10,000 population short by 5.4 doctors per 10,000 population. This is one of the lowest in the region.

Going by the human resource development (HRD) plan of the health ministry, there is a need to fill the gap of 195 General Duty Medical Officers (GDMO) by 2026.

Introducing the in-country MBBS program is one of the principal activities for the KGUMSB outlined in the 12th Plan, which was approved with an estimated outlay of Nu 100 million in budget.