To ensure that transferred health professionals leave to their new workplace, the health ministry’s human resource committee had written to the medical superintendent of JDWNRH and the dzongkhags to stop payment of salary to health personnel who are not relieved with immediate effect.

The  April 11 letter stated that as mandated by section 14.7.5 of the Bhutan Civil Service Rules 2018, civil servants who are transferred should be relieved within 30 days from the date issue of the transfer order. Health professionals are civil servants.

A health ministry official said that the letter was issued after the Cabinet did not agree to the appeals made by 12 officials.

Of that, four were doctors including two specialists. The two specialists worked with the JDWNRH on attachment.

Kuensel learnt that the transfer of a pediatrician to Mongar regional referral hospital was earlier revoked. This has reignited the issue of placement of specialists at hospitals that are not well- equipped for them to practice their skills.

Bangladesh is expected to send 20 specialists and four sub-specialists once the cabinet approves their pay packages.

They would be placed at the JDWNRH, Mongar Regional Referral Hospital, Gelephu Central Regional Referral Hospital (GCRRH) and some district hospitals. The government has proposed a salary of about Nu 345,000 for specialist and about Nu 311,000 for the sub-specialists who would be on contract.

While the arrival of specialists would ease the burden on doctors at home, there are concerns that the hospitals are not yet ready to receive specialists in terms of infrastructure.

The government during the campaign period said that facilities at district hospitals and basic health units are deficient and have not been improved and upgraded for decades.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that his government would strengthen the facilities and services of the dzongkhag hospitals to the level of the national referral hospital to reduce patient waiting time and ensure quality health care.

The decision has come under criticism with some questioning the logic of sending specialist to hospitals without facilities.

“The specialists in the dzongkhags would be showing the direction to solutions in Thimphu rather than finding the solution,” a doctor said.  “That’ll only result in wastage of the expertise and resources.”

Kuensel learnt that the health ministry has already circulated a letter to all hospitals asking them to list the requirements in equipment and facilities should specialists be placed there.

Health Minister Dechen Wangmo said that the equipment and facilities would be in place before the specialists arrive.

“Procurement of equipment is already in pipeline through the flagship programme and facilities would be made available as pledged,” the minister said.

She said that equipment such as X-ray, ultrasound, complete blood count machines would be procured and sent to the hospitals.

Once the regional and district hospitals are furbished with the equipment, most of the cases would be taken care, the minister said.

“The bigger machines like MRI could take little longer, as we need a contract with the supplier, then find technicians, but for other machines it would be fairly efficient,” she said.

She said that the ministry would place dialysis machines in Wangdue hospital to cater to patients from Gasa, Punakha, and other neighbouring dzongkhags.

The minister said that in the case of cancer clinic, equipment are in place and waiting for specialists.

Tshering Palden