Specialization in medicine takes time hence no easy solution for shortage of medical specialists: PM

Responding to the query raised by Member of Parliament (MP) of Nganglam constituency Choida Jamtsho on the shortage of health specialists in all the dzongkhags – regional and others, during the question and answer session yesterday in the National Assembly, Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said there is not a easy way out as it takes at least nine to 12 years for one to become a specialist.

Additionally, the MP asked about the government’s plans and programs to deploy medical specialists in dzongkhag, regional and other hospitals. He said there are 13 specialists in gynaecology, 15 in medicine, 15 in surgery and 12 in childcare in the country.

“The government has been prioritizing health service and delivery, however, due to shortage of specialists, people are facing problems,” said the MP.

Lyonchhen said it is not the fault of the third elected government if there is shortage of specialists in the country as after completing MBBS, it takes at least five to six and a half years to become a medical specialist.

“After 10 to 12 years, if the country still faces shortage of specialists, then it is the fault of the third elected government, “said Lyonchhen.

Unlike in the past, Samtse dzongkhag has four specialists, seven in Phuentsholing hospital to cater to a population of 27,000, and Gelephu and Mongar regional hospitals have 21 specialists and doctors, and 27 specialists and doctors respectively, said Lyonchhen.

Moreover, four specialists are deployed at the Bajo project hospital and the government has been in discussion with the management about deploying specialists and procuring equipment for the Deothang hospital that would be completed by one to two months.

Additionally, Lyonchhen said Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) has started the specialist program.

“The country does not have shortage of MBBS doctors but health specialists,” Lyonchhen said adding that waiting for Bhutanese specialists would be self-defeating and support needs to be sought from the regional countries but due to COVID-19 the process is on halt.

Moreover, Lyonchhen said the government asked for specialists from Bangladesh who are already deployed in the country.

Currently, there are 99 specialists of which 61 are in the country and 38 abroad.

Lyonchhen said JDWNRH refers about 20 patients to India in a month for treatment and the government has started works on multidisciplinary hospital with a support of Nu 6bn from India.

Moreover, he said JDWNRH caters not only to referral cases but also general cases making it a national referral hospital. The government plans to build another 60-70 bedded separate general hospital in Thimphu.

Lyonchhen also said the government would upgrade the Gidakom hospital to a 100-bedded hospital for infectious disease and the blueprint and funds will be provided by Japan since there is not a single hospital in the country that caters service for infectious disease. “And COVID-19 is an infectious disease,” he said.

According to Lyonchhen, the government is planning the National Health Policy that would benefit the country for decades.

Thukten Zangpo from Thimphu