Country short of over 170 doctors and specialists, over 800 nurses

The government’s plans to hire foreign health workers paying higher salaries drew criticism from the public. In the National Assembly’s question hour session today, the health minister was asked if the ministry has thought about how this pay disparity would affect the morale of the existing health staff in the country.

Member of Parliament, Dr Tek Bahadur Rai of Shompangkha constituency in Sarpang expressed worries that hiring foreign specialists and nurses paying comparatively higher salaries could demoralize Bhutanese health workers.

In an earlier interview with BBS, Dr Kuenzang Wangdi, the Director of the National Medical Services said foreign nurses will be recruited for two years and will be paid between USD 800 and 1000 based on seniority.

“There is a significant difference in the salary for national and hired international health workers. I am worried that this might demoralize the national health workers and might lead to more health workers resigning from the profession,” said Dr Tek Bahadur Rai, Shompangkha MP.

Health Minister Tandin Wangchuk admitted that foreign specialists and nurses are paid more than the national workers. According to the minister, the health specialists will be paid between USD 4,000 to 5,000 based on their qualification and experience.

However, the minister clarified that foreign specialists will be hired on a temporary basis to bridge the gap until the country has enough health workers.

“When we hire foreign specialists in the country, we have to pay them more than the Bhutanese specialists. But they are here temporarily, for just a year or two. When we have enough workers, our workers will fill the shortage and these foreign specialists will go back.”

The minister reported to the house that there is a shortage of 172 general doctors and specialists and 824 nurses in the country as of now.

To address this, he said the ministry also plans to extend working hours of the health professionals. The ministry will be paying them between Nu 1,000 to 1,500 based on experience. This initiative is expected to address around 30 per cent of the shortage.

“There is a shortage of health workers in our hospitals. In response to this, we are working to have medical workers work additional six hours. And based on their experience, they will be paid between Nu 1,000 to 1,500. We are hoping to fill around 30 per cent of the worker shortage with this idea,” said the minister.

The minister expressed optimism about addressing health worker shortage through various initiatives.

One of the initiatives includes increasing annual intake for specialist training outside Bhutan by 25 students.

Moreover, he said that the number of Bhutanese students pursuing MBBS in Bangladesh which has risen from 21 to 30 in recent years will also help address the shortage.

In addition, 55 students are set to graduate from the Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences of Bhutan in 2027.

The minister also said that efforts are also underway to improve professional development and career pathways for medical workers in the country.

Karma Samten Wangda

Edited by Phub Gyem 

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