Plan to recruit specialists from Myanmar fails due to budget constraints

HRD in the health sector is one of the main areas of cooperation between Bhutan and Myanmar

The plan of the Ministry of Health (MoH) to recruit competent anesthesiologists and gynecologists with over three years of working experience from Myanmar on a contract basis due to the country’s urgent dearth of health specialists has been shelved for now because of funding constraints.

According to the Chief Human Resource Officer of MoH, Sangay Thinley, the ministry had already started the process of recruitment, but the plan must be scaled back as the domestic revenue is already falling short.

“It was decided that doctors will be recruited with a monthly payment package of USD 3,000 under the national referral hospital current special pay,” he said.

According to the Chief Human Resource Officer of the JDWNRH, Tshering Dorji, there are only five gynecologists (four regulars and one on special pay package contract), and seven anesthesiologists (two regulars, four [ex-pats] on contract employment, and one on special pay package contract).

He added that there are never enough specialists to cater to all the patients as the JDWNRH is the apex hospital in the country and most Bhutanese prefer to avail of clinical care and services from the JDWNRH.

Further, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the MoH, Bhutan, and the Ministry of Health, Indigenous Medical Services, Sri Lanka on the recruitment of medical specialists has been put on hold.

“Since 2019, the ministry has been planning to hire specialists from Sri Lanka. However, the plan has to be scrapped due to the Covid-19,” the MoH official said.

He added that due to the pandemic, the government is experiencing financial restrictions and is unable to implement the plan.

“Because of the Covid-19 outbreak and economic difficulties, the government prioritizes recurring initiatives that must be funded from domestic revenue,” the official said.

Meanwhile, Bhutan’s health care ratio is currently low in comparison to the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation of one doctor per 1,000 people.

“It will take several years to fulfill the WHO’s norms. The plan will be implemented in the future if the financial situation of the country improves and it will benefit all people availing of the services in the future,” the health official said.

Further, the chief HRO said the plan to hire specialists from Myanmar and other countries has been delayed for the time being as there will be many MBBS Bhutanese graduates shortly, who they would appoint and recruit, and help solve the country’s scarcity of specialists.

Meanwhile, diplomatic relations between Bhutan and the Republic of the Union of Myanmar were established on February 1, 2012. Human Resource Development in the health sector is one of the main areas of cooperation between the two countries.

About 71 medical specialists from Myanmar worked in Bhutan between 2004 and 2015. The last batch of doctors left Bhutan in August 2015. Currently, there are no medical specialists from Myanmar serving in Bhutan.

Tshering Pelden from Thimphu