File Photo: Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital

If attrition among health workers becomes worse, the remaining health workers may suffer burnout

Burnout was a major factor among the health workers battling against the COVID-19 pandemic. Just when health workers were coming back into form, another dire situation has hit them, with a high attrition rate among the health workers. It is likely to add to the stress and burnout if it becomes worse.

The Officiating Medical Superintendent (MS) of the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) shared that a lot of health workers, especially in the district hospitals have been affected by the heavy COVID-19 cases burnout.

Some health workers have just recovered from the silent burnout of COVID-19, and with the attrition rate, they might experience burnout due to a shortage of human resources (HR) in every department in JDWNRH.

There was a HR standard developed by the Ministry of Health (MoH). For instance, in the laboratory department, there is a certain number of staff requirements, and similarly in other departments as well. But the HR standards have remained stagnant, like in the lab. They may do 10 test parameters in the lab, or increase the number of tests by multiple folds, but the staff have remained the same, and it has never compensated with an equal increment in staff that is required. So, it is natural that the staff will feel the pressure.

And now the laboratory department is also losing staff and some have resigned, said the officiating MS.

The workload may not be the same in all the departments; some may be comfortable while some are not. The official said usually health workers are required during the morning shift because during this shift, doctors do ward rounds and anything to do with the discharge and admission of patients is done. Therefore, more health workers are placed on the morning shift as compared to the evening shift because it is lighter.

The staff shortage has always been there even without people leaving, and now it will only become worse.

“The fact is, whether there is attrition or not, we have still not met the WHO standard of doctor-to-patient ratio or doctor-to-nurse ratio. That has always been there, not considering the attrition or recent resignation,” said the officiating MS.

Despite a shortage of health workers, the hospital has been managing and they will manage, said the officiating MS.

Talking about the impacts, the officiating shared that there will be impacts, but they will come slowly in terms of burnout of the health workers. At an individual level, for instance, a nurse who used to work a comfortable 9 am to 3 pm duty and was always nice to her patients and is suddenly forced to do all three shifts. Then she starts feeling overburdened and the goodness in her will come to a limit.

Attrition among health workers is one of the pressing issues right now, but another issue is about the earned leave of health workers. The official shared that there have been talks going on that starting this July, all the leave balance will be nullified, which means one cannot encash their earned leave.

There are a lot of worries going on among the health workers in the hospital. And a lot of staff want to use their leave, but the hospital cannot grant them leave although they are entitled to leave because the hospital needs the staff on duty. And there will be an issue if everybody wants to utilize the earned leaves altogether.

Some health workers have not used their earned leave except for one or two days.

Meanwhile, the crowd of patients in the JDWNRH has reduced compared to other months, probably because during the winter seasons, there are fewer patients since most of the people move to the south.  

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