During the 51st Meet the Press on 27th October 2023 Health Minister, Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo, shared that attrition is not only a concern of the ministry but a national concern. Nonetheless, the Minister said that the Ministry of Health (MoH) has come up with several strategies to ensure that service delivery is not affected. The Minister further informed that the current attrition in the health ministry hovers between 7-8%, with a significantly higher attrition rate of 12% at the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH), Thimphu.
Taking into consideration the issue of attrition, the Health Minister said that attrition is being closely monitored. She further said that the MoH has implemented various strategies, including the mobilization of former staff members and the recruitment of staff on a contract basis from the country.
Another strategy is the need for health personnel to submit their resignation letters six months in advance. “Since September 8, 2023, the MoH has notified the staff to submit their resignation letters six months earlier, aiming to facilitate smooth replacements without disrupting critical health services,” the minister said.
The minister also said, “If attrition falls above 10%, then we are considering recruitment from outside, which is currently being explored by the National Medical Services (MVS). The Minister said that internationally if attrition is below 10%, it indicates that gaps can be filled by task shifting.
The cabinet had recently approved the term ‘Buy Time, Buy Back’, which has also been adopted and implemented. With this, the ministry is dedicated to addressing attrition concerns and maintaining the quality of healthcare services across the nation.
“Notably, there have been no reported disruptions or adverse effects on service delivery despite the ongoing attrition challenges.”
In a forward-looking move, the MoH has increased the intake of nurses in both the government and the private sector. The intake has increased almost by 170% in private medical institutions. “Additionally, the introduction of MBBS programs within the country is poised to address the persistent issue of attrition, ensuring a stable healthcare workforce for the future,” the minister said.
Additionally, the Prime Minister (PM), Dasho Dr. Lotay Tshering, said that the issue has erupted as a program like the MBBS program now initiated was not done in the past. “If it was done, we would not be facing such problems. With the beginning of the first MBBS course now, Bhutan will not face the issue after few years,” the PM said.
Meanwhile, recent data from the Royal Civil service Commission (RCSC) shows that there are about 330 professionals from the Medical and Health Services Group have resigned between January and October 2023. While there were 333 who submitted their resignations, three withdrew.
From the 330, 312 resigned voluntarily, and nine superannuated. Five of them had to resign after the completion of the contract, while one was under compulsory retirement. Three attrition cases were cases of death.
From this, about 20 health professionals from Jigme Dorji Wangchuk National Referral Hospital have applied for voluntary resignation, while 12 of them have applied for EOL.
In 2021, a total of 46 nurses tendered their resignations from JDWNRH. The resignations and EOL figures for 2022 so far are equally alarming, with 22 nurses already having resigned and 10 more planning on quitting. Additionally, 18 have taken EOL, making the numbers much higher compared to past years.
Apart from the nurses, two doctors resigned from their posts in 2021 and 2022, while five doctors took EOL. Further, other clinical and non-clinical professionals and support staff have also opted to resign from their positions in the hospital during the past two years.
Meanwhile, about 3,900 civil servants have resigned from January to October 2023. More than 3,130 civil servants have resigned voluntarily to date. Of the total number of resigned civil servants, 445 have been delinked, 148 resigned on contract completion, and 109 were superannuated. 27 are death cases, while 11 were terminated. 10 civil servants were made to resign under compulsory retirement and two by order.
Nidup Lhamo from Thimphu