To combat the alarming attrition rate plaguing the National Medical Services (NMS), a recent Human Resource Committee (HRC) meeting held on 8 September 2023, has brought in a significant policy change. The meeting saw an inflow of over 50 resignation letters, prompting NMS to take decisive action following the Bhutan Civil Service Rules (BCSR) 2018. The move aims to address the challenges posed by sudden employee departures and ensure a more seamless transition process.
The HRC, realising the importance of proper planning and recruitment in maintaining health service delivery, turned to BCSR 2018 for guidance. Clause 126.96.36.199 empowers the HRC to withhold voluntary resignations for up to six months from the notified date, “in the interest of the public.” Additionally, clause 5.10.2 specifies a minimum one-month notice for parties intending to terminate their contracts.
After thorough deliberation, the HRC introduced the following changes to the resignation notice periods; for clinical employees, including those working across health facilities nationwide, the resignation notice period will be extended to six months. This change will apply except when an employee’s contract is naturally expiring.
The non-clinical staff, equally vital to the health sector’s smooth functioning, will now be required to provide a three-month resignation notice, except for contract expiry.
Meanwhile, a minimum one-month voluntary resignation notice period will be enforced for the General Service Personnel (GSP) and Elementary Service Personnel (ESP)
While the NMS’s extension of the resignation notice period is seen as a necessary step to prevent a potential collapse of the healthcare system, some healthcare workers view it with apprehension. They express concerns that it may discourage employees and hinder their effectiveness during the extended notice period.
One of the nurses from Monggar Hospital shared her view, describing the move as “a desperate and forceful attempt to prevent the system from collapsing for the next six months.” She shared that this extended period without productivity may worsen the issue, as the government will continue to pay the salaries of non-productive employees, who will be demotivated to provide any quality service delivery.
She also shared that it would not be fair enough for those who went with the prior notice of one month, and for those having to resign now need to wait for the entire half year.
Health staff from one of the regional hospitals acknowledged the fairness concerning the nature of the job and situation of the country, but pointed out the unique challenges of their profession. He said, “Nurses often face inadequate privileges and comparatively lower pay, despite recent pay hikes.” He further shared that better pay abroad with better facilities has sparked the attention of the existing healthcare workers in the country.
A nurse from JDWNRH shared, “During this time, employees will not be eligible for any training, travel, or other opportunities, potentially leading to demotivation and reduced functionality.” She shared that the restriction for any productive capacity-building training and the need to wait for the entire six months is demotivating, which can also hamper the service delivery to the patients.
While opinions are divided on the NMS’s new resignation notice periods, the goal is clear: Safeguarding the continuity of health service delivery and ensuring the stability of the healthcare system in the face of high attrition rates.