Given the high attrition rate in the profession, there’s a need for an incentive

Nursing: To retain and make an enabling environment for nurses in the country, the government will explore possibilities of providing nurses with night duty allowances, the prime minister, Tshering Tobgay, said during the question hour session of the National Assembly yesterday.

Lyonchoen was responding to Panbang member of parliament (MP) Dorji Wangdi’s query on behalf of the health minister.

Dorji Wangdi said if the government could provide nurses with night duty allowance, it would help retain those, who were currently leaving for better opportunities.  There are less than 1,000 nurses in the country today, and their attrition rate is high.

“Nurses are the backbone of the health service, but their workload is way higher than the monetary benefits they receive,” he said. “Nurses work 12 hours on night duty, yet they don’t get any allowance.”

Presenting statistics on health workers, lyonchoen Tshering Tobgay said, there are a total of 181 Bhutanese doctors and 29 expatriates.  There are also 944 nurses in the country.

Between 2008 and 2014, he said, 17 doctors resigned under exceptional circumstances.  About 33 nurses also left their profession between 2007 and 2014.

“More and more health workers are leaving their profession and this is worrying,” the prime minister said. “Although health workers get professional allowance, it isn’t enough, compared to the workload they’re adhering to.”

Members raised concerns that there was no mention of night duty allowance for civil service, when the second pay commission report was discussed.

MP Dorji Wangdi also said there was a need to create a division to look after service and welfare of the nurses.  In response, lyonchoen said, before 2003, when the health and education ministries were together, there was a department looking after nurses.

Even today, the health ministry’s department of medical services looks after nurses.  Although the Royal Civil Service Commission’s (RCSC) recent organisation development exercise found the need for the creation of a division for nurses, lyonchoen said, if the RCSC did so, it was feared that other health workers, such as doctors and technicians, might demand separate divisions.  RCSC has submitted the concerns to health ministry.

There were also concerns raised regarding doctors having to appear the civil service examination, where all did not qualify.  But to meet the shortage of doctors, the government had to hire expatriates at a high cost.

Lyonchoen reminded the house that the government did not have the authority to recruit human resources into the civil service.

By Nirmala Pokhrel