The queues to get tokens and medical reports at Jigme Dorji Wangchuk National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) is raising concerns for the patients and attendants, as they have to stand in line for hours. The line often extends to the footpath connecting the old hospital. The token issuing time in the morning is 8:40 am, however, people are seen lining up as early as 6:30 am.
JDWNRH has fallen short in streamlining the process of issuing tokens and dispatching medical reports. Patients, many of whom are already in fragile health conditions, find themselves waiting for hours in queues, causing physical discomfort and mental distress.
“It’s incredibly challenging to stand in line for hours, just to get a token and report,” shared Sangay Dema, a-38-year-old patient from Thimphu who was in a queue. “The hospital staff are doing their best, but the current system is causing unnecessary trouble for the patients who are already dealing with health issues.”
Many people are seen visiting the token counter even after 2:30 pm, unaware of the token issuing timing.
One of the DeSuup on-duty shared, “Some people show their frustrations at us when they are informed about the tokens being finished for the day.” She acknowledged that people who stand on the token queue, in the early morning hours, are disappointed when the tokens run out.
The number of tokens issued depends on the availability of the doctors in the chambers. Each doctor is designated a certain number of patients to look after per day. The doctors do not entertain any extra patients after their patient quota for the day is over.
Bishnu Maya, 29, said that she failed to get a token three times in a row. However, she managed to get a token on her fourth try by lining up at 7:30 am.
A 35-year-old man from Wangduephodrang, Karma, is on a mission to get a token for his mother. He first came looking for a token at 2:30 pm, as we was not aware of the token timing. He has failed twice to get a token eventhough he lined up early in the morning.
“While we come for the second day to line up in the same queue, just to know that tokens ran out,” he shared, and suggested that some kind of priority should be given to those standing in queue.
Manju Rai, 49, who came all the way from Dagana shared her views regarding the queue for token. She managed to get a token on her first try after waiting more than half an hour on the queue. She said standing up for more than half an hour was challenging. “Besides my back pain, I am also a migraine patient. Waiting in the queue for a long time triggers the sickness even more,” she added.
The tokens are often finished by 9:00 am, and the queue for the report dispatch section is seen till the afternoon. The staff in the old chronic case token counter shared that an average of 150 tokens are given in a day, depending on the availability of the doctors in the chambers.
She said, “The token systems are introduced as it is more user friendly than the appointment system.” She shared that most people visiting are either from the villages or aged people who are not well aware of the appointment system and what kinds of doctors to see. The overall aim of introducing the token system is to make it easier and service friendly for the people visiting, especially those patients visiting from the villages.
Each doctor is appointed with 30 tokens a day and 10 appointments. The staff shared that the number of tokens is 30 per day as the doctor takes at least 10 minutes for each patient. Each doctor gets 40 patients a day including the 10 appointments which are done in the afternoon.
She shared that besides issuing 150 tokens a day, more than 100 patients return without getting one standing in the queue. “A lot of people show us their frustrations, as we are seen as an immediate staff responsible, but we do what we are assigned, with the token quota per day.” She also shared her concern regarding issuing any extra token would lead them into trouble and it is hard to deal with people who are frustrated at not getting the tokens.
Meanwhile, people above the age of 65 and persons with disabilities are given priority in the queue, and are guided by the DeSuups on-duty.
A civil servant accompanying his 64-year-old father who came from Samtse faced a similar hurdle. He shared that he had to stand on the queue as early as 7:30 am for two days to get a token. Getting the report the next day meant standing in queue for more than one hour. He said a patient will fall more sick visiting the hospital if such is the situation.
He suggested that the token and medical report can be issued online, for which people do not have to physically wait for hours and return without getting the token for the day. He also pointed out if the long waiting lines are due to inefficiency in service delivery.
The token system was introduced to bring convenience, however, it is seen as a challenge and hurdle to many of the patients visiting the hospital. Apart from it, most of the patients visiting the hospital are unaware of the timings of the tokens being issued.