Transfer of 21 female health assistants who appealed to reconsider the ministry’s decision was revoked after prime minister asked the ministry to do so, confirmed the health secretary.
Of the 21, the ministry had initially revoked the transfer of five female health assistants who appealed based on medical grounds and in the interest of the public. Those who appealed based on marital grounds and family situations were not considered.
This came after the Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay met with the female health assistants.
In the Facebook post, ‘PMO Bhutan’, on February 27, it was stated that the prime minister met with a group of female nurses and urged them to serve in the rural areas.
The post also stated that the prime minister directed the ministry to explore alternatives to take services of female health workers to the rural areas.
The same post now reads, “…Dasho directed the Ministry of Health to recall the transfer order and to explore alternate means to take the services of female health workers to the rural areas.” It was learnt that the post was edited on March 2.
According to the PMO Bhutan’s post, 51 BHUs in the country do not have female nurses.
During the Meet the Press session on March 2, prime minister said that the health ministry would come up with mobile gynaecological clinic in gewogs that do not have female health assistant. This is to ensure that women in the gewogs that do not have female health assistant have occasional access to female health assistants, nurses, and doctors.
Prime minister said that he personally spoke with all the health assistants, health minister, and the human resource officers with the ministry and decided that all appeals must be entertained because the announcement came suddenly.
Health secretary, Dr Ugen Dophu, said the ministry had to cancel the transfers of all those who appealed because they said they could not go. “All those who appealed had unavoidable and unique personal problems,” he said.
Dr Ugen Dophu said the ministry is discussing on the mobile gynecological clinic. “This may be a solution for a time being.”
He said that next year 14 female health assistants would graduate from the Faculty of Nursing and Public Health. “We will post them to the BHUs that do not have female health assistant. May be in two or three years, we will have at least a female health assistant in all BHUs.”
The ministry is also exploring alternatives to take the services of female health workers to the rural areas that have none.
He said there are enough General Nursing and Midwifery (GNM) graduates in the market and that the ministry could recruit and train them to provide health services like Pap smear test and copper-T, among others.
Dr Ugen Dophu said that GNM graduates already have medical knowledge and so could be trained to do the work of female health assistants.
“We have a meeting with the Bhutan Medical and Health Council tomorrow. If the council agrees, then we will seek permission from the Royal Civil Service Commission to recruit female GNM graduates on contract for few years,” Dr Ugen Dophu said.
He added that the idea is that if this works, then all BHUs that do not have female health assistant will have female nurses by this year.