Nurses, technicians disgruntled as JDWNRH freezes EOL

The committee decided to freeze EOL because of the acute shortage of staffs in the hospital

The recent circular from the HR Management and Development Division of the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) dated 28th February on freezing of Extraordinary Leave (EOL) for technicians and nurses has not gone down well with these employees.

The circular mentioned that as per the 11th HRC meeting held on 15th February 2019, the committee had decided to freeze the availing of EOL owing to acute shortage of staffs in the JDWNH. It stated that the decision was taken in the interest of providing effective and efficient healthcare services to the public.

“Therefore, Human Resource Division will not entertain EOL for the staffs to manage Human Resource effectively and efficiently till future notice,” stated the circular signed by Director Tshering Yangden.

Speaking to Business Bhutan, some of the nurses, however, said the decision was unilateral and issued without having done any consultation with the affected parties. They say the news was a surprise to many of them working in the hospital, especially for nurses and technicians.

One of the nurses, seeking to remain anonymous, said the reason given for freezing the EOL was illogical.

“Research done in the country says that there isn’t any shortage of nurses, but according to this order the shortage still exists,” the nurse said.

 “There are still hundreds of nurses, who are unemployed and some working through MoLHR with some salary and some nurses still working without any benefit. Living in Thimphu is tough without a salary and those poor nurses are still motivated to keep working, hoping some day somebody will notice them. There is more or less crisis in management part,” the nurse added.

Some nurse even cited Bhutan Civil Service Rule 2018 (section 10.12.11), saying that a civil servant may be granted EOL for the following purposes: family/personal problem, professional enhancement, getting diverse experience and exposure and career break or sabbatical.

They also said that section of the BCSR mentions granting EOL to a civil servant up to a maximum period of 24 months including weekends and government holidays in total during the entire service period.

Talking to Business Bhutan, an official from the HR Division said the decision was just a temporary and a short term measure and they have not mentioned the time frame and that they, however, will look into the situation and consider EOL case by case.

 “The EOL for the two positions is only for a year or so but not for life time or on a permanent basis. We request them to bear with us till the shortage issue is solved as we are currently in the process of recruiting 110 staffs of which 87 are nurses while the rest comprises technicians and other recruitments. We are hopeful to complete the recruitment by mid of next month. Once the recruitment is completed then case by case EOL will be considered,” the official said.

The official added that the management is mindful about the welfare of their staffs and acknowledges the hard work of their staffs who have worked tirelessly for the welfare of the public.

According to the official, freezing of the EOL was the only immediate measure they could see as an option for the problem to the shortages of nurses and technicians and another option was to recruit such people on a contract basis which they are currently doing.

   According to the official, yearly 30 to 40 staffs of JDWNRH avail EOL of which nurses are the majority and out of which 90% do not come back. When their EOL is about to finish, they submit resignation. Experienced nurses go on EOL while contract nurses lack experience and there are no expert technicians in the market for direct employment. The hospital doesn’t have the luxury to recruit new technicians.

There are estimated to be around 430 nurses and about 270 to 300 technicians in JDWNRH. However, the figures fluctuate monthly due to issues like transfer, resignation and new recruitment.

Chencho Dema from Thimphu