The health ministry missed its deadline to place female health workers in Basic Health Units that had none.

Despite the good intent and assertion that the target would be met, the ministry faced challenges deputing health workers. About 23 health workers were required but three cases had to be reconsidered on medical grounds and in public interest. The remaining 20 appealed the ministry to reconsider their transfer.

The state of healthcare providers determines the service they deliver. Deputing an unwilling disgruntled health worker to a BHU may meet the target but not the goal of enhancing health care services to women patients.

Missing the target must not be an issue, not in this case.

For this target came about after the PM announced in his state of the nation report in June last year that the government will ensure that every BHU has at least one female nurse.  The request for nurses to tend to their health issues was made during the PM’s gewog visits. The ministry gave itself six months to deploy female health assistants, not nurses, to BHU II, not all BHUs. After missing the first deadline last December, it has now missed its second. It now plans to meet the requirement by mid this year when a fresh batch of health assistants graduate.

Managing human resources in the health sector is a complex process. Their management becomes critically important because it determines the quality of health care delivered to the public. Decision makers have to weigh the impacts available health services can have on the public’s health as well as assess the services’ ability to satisfy patients’ expectations. And this depends on the health worker in the field.

But managing human resources remains a challenge for the health ministry. Compound this with poor planning and shortages and we have problems like this recent phenomenon. As a sector that has the constitutional mandate to provide basic health care to the people, it can ill afford to falter in meeting this requirement. But be it in handling issues with the specialists or a basic health worker, the ministry appears to be ailing in managing its personnel.

This could to an extent explain why some of its critical health targets are at risk. Last week, six western dzongkhags reported that reducing infant mortality and suicide cases was a challenge.

After the issue received much attention, statuses such as these are concerning. What has the country achieved when it is unable to save the lives of infants? What does it mean for a country that pursues happiness but is helpless in persuading people against taking their own lives?

But here we are, struggling to depute female health workers in BHUs, let alone save the lives of women and children.