Shortage of female health workers has been a long-standing problem, particularly in the rural parts of the country. Considering human resource management and staffing patterns in the headquarters, the shortage ought not be really big. What has given rise to the dearth of female health workers in the remote BHUs so should be understood in the right perspective. We are feeling the scarcity because of the many attractions that naturally come with living in the urban or the country’s more developed towns. Factors like modern amenities, children’s education and training opportunities have been significant determinants. Ultimately, what this imbalance has contributed to is excess of professionals in certain offices while others have none at all.
The voice from the gewog centres has been that women are reluctant to avail of health services when faced with male health workers. The problem is genuine. More than 50 BHUs in the country lack female nurses. What we must consider is the consequences that this reality can bring us to. There will be serious implications on the lives of women and the quality of healthcare in the rural areas. This probably explains why some of our critical health targets are at risk today.
Recently, 21 female health assistants appealed to the health ministry to reconsider their transfer from some of the dzongkhag. Adjustments had to be made for some of them with genuine reasons like health and service delivery requirements at the centres they are working with. Others had to go. Much of the problem of human resource shortage, not just in the health sector, stems from turning a blind eye to the regulations and guidelines. In a society like ours where every one knows almost every one, arrangements are made. At other times, conflicting guideline bring a set of fresh complexity.
Not so long ago, when teachers in the capital were asked to volunteer to go to remote schools as part of education ministry’s strategy to address teacher shortage in some of the schools, only a few came forward. Some even held the ministry to ransom by threatening to resign if compelled to leave. In many of the schools far away from the major urban centres so, we continue to face the problem of teacher shortage. The problem is one of distribution of human resource, not the lack of it. The ministry cannot relent against such threats.
In the face of the many problems related to human resource the ministry is currently grappling with, the news of plans for mobile gynaecological clinic is welcome. This will go a long way in providing women-specific services in the BHUs that do not have a female health assistant. But this is just a short-term arrangement.
What is more important is to look and to prepare for the future. Issues related to policy and transfer guidelines will have to be ironed out and put into practice so that we do not face the shortage of human resource even as we have enough professionals.
Ensuring that every BHU has at least one female health assistant, therefore, cannot fail.