MoH takes measure to address the rising attrition rates of medical staff

Bhutan has been facing attrition in all the sectors and the major impact is in the social sectors of health and education. Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) has witnessed the major brunt of the attrition among the health staff. Health Minister Dechen Wangmo, emphasized the critical importance of addressing the nation’s growing attrition crisis within the healthcare sector. Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo also stressed that it is a national issue that demands immediate attention and strategic planning.

According to Lyonpo, as of today, the attrition rate across the Ministry of Health (MoH) stands at approximately 7 to 8 percent. This increasing trend in the rate has prompted the MoH to implement a series of measures to ensure the uninterrupted delivery of healthcare services to the Bhutanese. Notably, the highest attrition rates are observed in JDWNRH, where attrition stands at a concerning 12 percent. Meanwhile, Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo said, “We have been keeping a close eye on the attrition rate.”

Lyonpo shared the measures that MoH is taking to address these issues. One of the primary strategies employed by the ministry is the recruitment of staff on contract, which provides flexibility and helps mitigate the impact of attrition. Additionally, MoH is working on remobilizing healthcare workers from within the country and across borders to ensure a stable workforce.

To prevent unforeseen disruptions in healthcare services, a new policy has been introduced.

Health workers are now required to submit their resignations at least six months in advance, beginning 8 September. This advance notice allows the ministry to plan for replacements, minimizing service disruptions. Lyonpo said, “The implementation of the six months’ prior notice was implemented so that we can plan the replacement, and to make sure that there is a minimal disruption in the services.”

However, the implementation of six months of prior notice was seen as a forceful attempt to prevent the system from collapse for the next six months by the nurses at JDWNRH.

Furthermore, if attrition rates surpass 10 percent then MoH is prepared to explore international recruitment options, a move currently being examined by the National Medical Services. For attrition rates below 10 percent, the ministry plans to address the gap through task shifting, a method that reallocates healthcare responsibilities among existing staff to ensure service continuity.

Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo reassured the public that, for the time being, healthcare services remain largely unaffected by attrition. She explained that the ministry has achieved a 100 percent absorption rate for new recruits, effectively replacing departing staff.

Looking towards the future, MoH recognizes the importance of building strong healthcare institutions to combat attrition in the long-term. Consequently, they have increased the intake of nursing students in both public and private colleges. Additionally, MoH has introduced the MBBS program within the country, aiming to reduce attrition rates in long term in the healthcare sector by producing more qualified local medical professionals.

The steps taken are expected to safeguard the nation’s healthcare services, ensuring their accessibility and quality for all citizens in the face of attrition challenges.

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