…MoH awaits response from Australian authorities on application to certify more doctors

Nima Wangdi

People vying to go abroad for studies and work said that the health examination for the overseas visa at the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital in Thimphu is delaying their applications. For now, applicants have to wait for more than a month to get the health examination done.

A corporate employee said she has to report to the college on January 3 and her appointment for a health examination is on January 7. People who have not received confirmation of enrolment (COE) letters from colleges are queued up already.

She requested the hospital to make adjustments so that she could make it to the college on time. “I won’t be able to make it if I have to follow the appointment I am given.”

Those who have not even received COE from colleges abroad have booked appointments and people who have received can’t get an appointment.

An official from a consultancy firm in Thimphu said that the problem could be resolved if the hospital asked for COE while giving appointments.

He said the hospital needs to prioritise the people with COE and appointments for those without may be given later. “Those without COE are demanding the service causing a delay for others.” 

A man, who lives in Gelephu said that he is worried about not being able to make it on time to his college due to a medical examination appointment. He said that he was still requesting the hospital to shift his appointment earlier than he is given.

“For the smooth functioning of the hospital and convenience of the applicants, the hospital should ask for COE,” he said. First-come-first-serve will not work here and those who have received documents from the colleges should be prioritised.

For now, the JDWNRH is the only hospital recognised to perform health examinations for overseas visa purposes leading to a large backlog.

“This is the maximum capacity the hospital can facilitate. With the current arrangement that is 48 on working days, 64 on Saturdays, and 96 on Sundays, we can provide services to 400 clients in a week,” according to the health ministry.

There are seven clinicians working mostly beyond 7.30pm since February this year to meet the huge surge in applications seeking the service.

“Public must understand that e-medical services can only be provided by clinicians that are certified by the Australian government,” a health official said.

Health Minister Dechen Wangmo said that the hospital is providing this e-medical service as one of the off-hours services without disrupting the regular patient services. Most clinical assessments are carried out after 3pm during working days, 2pm on Saturdays and whole day on Sundays from 9am.

There are about 2,000 clients registered with appointments and the delay is inevitable according to health ministry officials.

Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo said that, for any hospital to start providing medical examinations to process overseas visas for Australia, the hospitals along with its physicians have to be empanelled by the Australian government.

“Recognising the increasing number of Bhutanese opting for overseas employment and for higher education, and the long queue, the ministry with guidance from the Prime Minister’s office has initiated for empanelment of two regional referral hospitals (RRH) Mongar and Gelephu in addition to JDWNRH,” Lyonpo said.

She said in-person meeting with the Australian High Commission delegation was held on July 25 this year and discussed the process of empanelment of the two RRHs.

The clinical assessment and panel physician forms have been submitted to the Ministry of Home Affairs Australia, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is working on expediting the process according to the minister.