The health ministry has revoked the transfer order for female health workers who were deputed to Basic Health Units that had none.

The move comes after they appealed to the Prime Minster to reconsider their transfer. Health workers had already resisted the move and had reportedly given the health ministry genuine reasons to retain them in their stations.

But the health ministry had remained adamant in deploying the female health workers, asserting that it would not consider martial grounds or their family situations in transferring female health workers. It claimed that it had to keep the prime minister’s promise to the villagers and so issued the transfers orders.

There is more to this deployment exercise. It starts with the prime minister’s state of the nation report in June 2017 when he announced that the government would ensure that every BHU has at last one nurse. The announcement became an APA target for the ministry and after missing two deadlines; the health workers were issued transfer orders. Only to be revoked.

Even if the intent to deploy female health workers were sincere, the way this saga was handled has made a mockery of the people in villages that requested for female health workers and of the institutions involved. The precedent that has been set by revoking the transfer is as unhealthy. In what appears to be an attempt to salvage the prime minister’s broken promise, the ministry has now initiated mobile gynaecological clinic in gewogs.

For when the prime minister met the health workers and urged them to take this transfer as an opportunity, he had also instructed the ministry to find an alterative. Then, the PMO’s post on social media stated nothing on the transfer. The post, however, now reads that the health ministry was also directed to recall the transfer order. Issuing and revoking transfer orders is not as simple as editing a post on the social media page of the prime minister’s office.

This is poor planning. It is poorer decision-making. The people were misinformed and their problems of accessing healthcare services from female health workers, trivialised. The health ministry, it appears, has institutionalised unprofessionalism in managing its human resources. After its debacle at retaining specialists, the ministry is now acknowledging the unavoidable unique personal problems of its health workers. Earlier, these same problems were not enough. For an organisation that suffers from chronic shortage of health workers and struggles to retain professionals, stances such as this could be detrimental to its mandate of delivering healthcare services.

Providing health care services to people across the country remains a challenge and initiatives to improve access must be taken. Botched plans are not a remedy.