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Doctors’ residency program begins this July

DSC_7939The head of gynaecology and obstetric department, Dr Phub Dorji, was appointed as the program director yesterday

The first dozen candidates will start their course at the postgraduate medical education centre from July 1

Medical: The first batch of 12 doctors will undergo their residency program at the postgraduate medical education centre (PGMEC) in Thimphu referral hospital from July 1.

The announcement came during the inaugural of the PGMEC yesterday.

The program offers a four-year specialisation course in six fields, in collaboration with the health ministry.  The fields are surgery, paediatrics, obstetrics-gynaecology, ophthalmology, anaesthesiology, and general practice.

Doctors will be provided stipend, as governed by the civil service rules, said health officials.  Through a selection process, 12 of the 14 doctors who’ve applied for the residency program will be chosen.

Health officials said, from now on, doctors (general medical officers) will go for specialisation in fields that are not covered by the centre.

There are about 20 general medical officers, who are yet to specialise.

The health ministry spends Nu 4-5M for postgraduate training of each doctor each year.  About three to four doctors are sent abroad for specialisation every year.

The initiation of the program, health officials said, would hopefully address the shortage of specialists, and improve and strengthen service delivery in tertiary healthcare.

Health minister Tandin Wangchuk, during the inaugural of the centre, said the University of Medical Sciences of Bhutan (UMSB) is solely dedicated for the provision of medical and health education.

“The launch of postgraduate program is expected to strengthen delivery of health care,” lyonpo said. “The centre is envisaged to develop into a full-fledged postgraduate institute of medical sciences in future.”

Lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk said, in the initial stage, teething issues are expected.  “We must come together to address it,” he said.

UMSB is spearheading the residency postgraduate program, as mandated by the University of Medical Sciences Act of Bhutan 2012.

UMSB registrar, Dr Pakila Dukpa, said the faculty would comprise three or four specialists from Thimphu referral hospital.

For now, UMSB is working on payment for faculty, who are taking up extra responsibility, in addition to their routine duties.

“We’ll provide practice-based, hands-on training to our doctors,” Dr Pakila Dukpa said.

At present, doctors are mostly sent to neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, India, and Sri Lanka for specialisation.  Health officials said, training duration and standards differ from country to country.

“With the start of the in-country PG program, we’ll have a standard practice in place,” Dr Pakila Dukpa said.

The centre, university officials said, will play a lead role in launching, ownership, and management of residency program.  The centre will be headed by a program director, accountable to the Thimphu referral hospital management.

A nine-member management board, which would include program director, will be responsible for the management and academic affairs of the program.

The head of gynaecology and obstetric department, Dr Phub Dorji, was appointed as the program director yesterday.

University officials said, the idea to initiate PG trainings cropped up in 2007 as part of the people’s project.

“It was revived in the last couple of years under the stewardship of UMSB,” interim president of the centre, Dr KP Tshering, said. “This is a huge step in taking medical education to another height.”

The construction of hostel for doctors attending residency program will begin soon.  Tender has already been floated.

By Kinga Dema

Search for the missing suspended

The body found in Bansbari, India was confirmed as one of those missing from the boat mishap 

Update: It has been confirmed that the body found in Bansbari, India on May 13 was of one of the men who had gone missing following the tragic boat mishap at Rendibi, Zhemgang.

The man was identified as Dawa, 39, from Langdurbi, Zhemgang.

Sources in Zhemgang said police and relatives had assumed the body was that of the man from Zangling, but just before cremation, gauging from clothes the man wore and the disabled right leg, they confirmed it was Dawa.

The father of two was a retired army.

Following his retirement, Dawa had begun gathering timber to build a house and that was when he injured his right leg.

His wife, who returned to the village, Langdurbi, two days walk from Zhemgang on May 13, could not come back to attend the funeral.

Meanwhile, search for the remaining missing five has been suspended.

Six men had gone missing after the wooden boat that had on board 18 men capsized in Mangdechu at Rendibi in Zhemgang, on the afternoon of May 10.

Home Minister Damcho Dorji, who was coordinating the search, returned to Thimphu yesterday.

Officials in Panbang said the search was suspended because they did not find any bodies during the last four days of the search and that it could be resumed on weekends if there were possibilities of finding the bodies.

Among the search team, Bardo gup Kunzang Jurmi said they were giving up the search. He said the relatives of the missing people had also given up and were returning to their villages.

Panbang dungpa Therchung Kencho said search team scoured the river from Changyarzam to the border side in Mathanguri.

“We asked the Indian security personnel, Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) to comb from Mathanguri to Bansbari,” he said. “SSB reported they did not find any bodies as of yesterday evening.”

Home Minister Damcho Dorji, on May 13 said talks were held with counterparts in India to allow Bhutanese people to comb their area and search for the missing people. But that could not be done yesterday, which officials say was because of the risks and sensitivities involved.

The suspension of the search left many relatives unhappy.

One relative of a missing person said they received immense help from authorities and local people and could not expect them to continue the search when efforts are proving to be futile.

“But as farmers and Buddhists, we believe the dead should be given proper cremation,” he said. “It would be very satisfying if we could at least perform the last funeral rites.”

By Tashi Dema

Body found in Assam

10371722_279712598875740_1290248971848447972_nOne location to another: River guides of Panbang and desuups carry the search boat (Picture courtesy: Kinley Dorji, Panbang)

It is yet to be confirmed if that was one of the people that went missing following the tragic boat incident of May 10 

Boat Mishap: Three days after the tragic boat mishap in Zhemgang, a body has reportedly been found in Bansbari, 21km away from Manas towards Assam.

Whether that was one among the six people that went missing on May 10 is yet to be confirmed.

Police officials and relatives who lost their men in the accident were sent to Manas to confirm.

Home minister Damcho Dorji, who is in Panbang, coordinating the search, said they were going to focus their search in India today.

“Possibilities are that the swollen river on May 12 washed the bodies away towards India,” he said.

He also said talks were being held with counterparts in Assam to conduct the search in their area.

The rope that was supposed to anchor the wooden boat on which were boarded 18 men from Bardo and Shingkhar gewogs of Zhemgang on the afternoon of May 10 snapped as swollen river currents swept it away.

Some men jumped off the boat before it capsized.

Kinley, 45, from Langdurbi was one of the men who were on the boat.

Kinley said he managed to hold on to a boulder when he reached near the suspension bridge that connected his gewog with the rest.

He clung to the boulder and prayed that someone walk over the bridge and spot him.

His prayer was answered.

A shopkeeper in Rendibi, who saw the boat capsize rushed towards the bridge.

Kinley remembered shouting for help and the shopkeeper running towards him asking him to hold on to the boulder a little longer.

Before the shopkeeper reached Kinley to help him, the strong river currents brought washing another friend Rinchen Dorji, whom Kinley grabbed with one of his hands, the other firmly clasped on the boulder.

The shop owner pulled the two men to safety using a rope.

Three other friends Ugyen Tshering, Karma Dorji and Sangay Dorji also managed to save themselves.

Ugyen Tshering, a retired army could swim. He pulled the other two friends to safety.

Sources in Zhemgang said the boatman from Phangkhar also swam to safety.

Of the 18 men, who were on board that fateful day, they were the only six that live to narrate the incident.

Six men, four from Langdurbi and two from Shingkhar, who were found dead, sources said had suffered head injuries.

The victims from Langdurbi, Pelzang, 58, was a father of four and so was Karma Dendup, 49. Rinchen Dorji, 30, has two children and Leki Dorji, 19, was a student, going to study in Taktse.

The deceased from Shingkhar, Samten Lhendup, 24, was a former monk. He was from Nimshong village. Tshering, 38, from Zangling village has four children.

Of the six still missing, five are from Langdurbi – Chedup, 32, is the Langdurbi tshogpa and he has five children, Dawa, 39, has two children, Rinchen Lethro, 27, is also a father of two, Rinchen Khandu, 38, has three children and Dorji, 24, is a father of one. One of the missing from Zangling, Leki Dorji, 21, was married two months ago.

The four men from Shingkhar gewog had gone to Langdurbi to work with the 13 men from the locality as wage earners for the school maintenance work.

The 17 men went to fetch construction materials from Rendibi that day. The contractor paid the men Nu 350 a day each.

Bardo-Trong Parliament member Lekey Dorji said a detailed investigation was being carried out on the incident and that he hoped the investigation would be made public.

Zhemgang dzongda Karma Dukpa said hundreds of people were engaged in the search.

They have two rubber boats from Royal Body Guards, one boat from river guides of Panbang and two boats from Royal Manas national park.

By Tashi Dema

DHI chairman slashes own salary

Wages: While civil servants expecting an upward revision in their salaries, the new chairman of Druk Holding and Investments, Dasho Sangay Khandu, slashed his salary by 33 percent.

The chairman said, yesterday, that he has decided to cut down his total financial package by 33 percent.

“While I won’t be forcing my employees to follow suit, I’m setting an example as the chairman,” Dasho Sangay Khandu said. But I expect some of them to follow my lead, the chairman added.

While the chairman declined to share how much he earned in salary and perks, he said the decision was made to limit the amount of criticism the institution (DHI) has faced over the last few years.  Most of the criticism, the chairman said, was on the remuneration employees of DHI enjoyed.

“There’s a huge gap between the salaries of civil servants and DHI employees, and my idea is to narrow the gap,” he said.

“We don’t want people to criticise and resist us, we want them to support and encourage us in our attempt to fulfill the mandate that we’ve been given, which is to protect, manage and generate more resources for the country.”

He added that it became difficult to work when being criticised from all corners.

The chairman said he also expected the employees of DHI subsidiary companies to follow his example.

Some of the employees of DHI interviewed said, while they have not yet decided whether to slash their salaries, they did not expect any upward revision.

Salaries of some of the critical employees must however be protected, the chairman said.  Should we lose our employees to other companies, it becomes difficult for us to recruit new employees, because there aren’t any in the local market, and hiring professionals from the international market was expensive.

The chairman was referring to several employees of Druk Air, including pilots and flight attendants, who left to join Tashi Air recently.

“There must be a certain level of flexibility, when it came to retaining critical employees,” he said.  However, DHI was overdoing this in the last few years, he added.

When I joined, some of the criticisms that DHI had were valid, he said.  The chairman said, he however did not expect salaries of the support staff to be reduced.

Also, some of the employees had taken loans from commercial banks, based on their present salary structure.

“So I leave it to them and it’s not compulsory for everyone to follow suit,” he said.

Reducing the salaries, the chairman said, might also affect performance of the employees.  It might be demoralising for some, and could lead to negative impact on their performance, he said.

My intention is to narrow down the gap between the salaries of civil servants and DHI employees, but civil servants should not expect their salaries to be at par with that of DHI, the chairman said.

By Nidup Gyeltshen 

Two Indians busted in gold case

Smuggling: Two more Indian men were detained at Paro international airport for attempting to smuggle Nu 1.4M worth of gold, some even hidden in their underwear, into the country, yesterday.

This comes one day after another Indian was apprehended for attempting to smuggle Nu 2.9M of gold, disguised as components within stereo speakers, past Paro airport authorities.

Customs officials found a combined 490g of gold on the two men after receiving a tip-off.

Both of them had arrived from Bangkok wearing gold jewellery, and with one of them even carrying some in his underwear, according to airport sources. Some of the gold was also found hidden under one of the men’s shirt, said sources.

This is the third gold smuggling incident to have occurred at Paro airport this year.

Seven Indian men were arrested for smuggling gold through Paro airport in February. The racket was busted after customs officers apprehended four of them attempting to smuggle eight kilograms of gold into Bhutan. The four of them were found to be carrying two kilograms each in their underwear. The total value of the gold was Nu 24.4M.

The central bank permits only 50g of gold to be imported into the country. Anymore requires the bank’s approval.

The current price of a gram of gold is Nu 2,870.8 according to rates available on the website of the Royal Monetary Authority.

By Gyalsten K Dorji

Detainee escapes

Crime: The 47-year-old man, who was detained for allegedly vandalizing the agriculture minister’s car on April 13, has escaped from detention.

The detainee escaped on May 8, while he was escorted to toilet around 6:30 am.

Lhuentse police detained the man, from Tshenkhar gewog, on April 15 for allegedly vandalising agriculture minister’s car while the minister was visiting the dzongkhag.

The man allegedly broke the left door glass of the Toyota Prado SUV when the vehicle was parked at the road head in Brawa village.

The driver and security personnel had left to Brawa village for dinner when the incident happened. The suspect had used a stone to break the wind shield of the vehicle and took away a Zhabshey phob (cup), a bag belonging to the minister’s personal secretary, which contained two ghos, socks and a hand set battery, charger and an adapter.

However, all the stolen items were recovered on April 15 when the man was arrested with the help of local people.

Kuensel learnt that Police is conducting massive hunt for the escapee.

By Dechen Tshering, Mongar

Anthrax suspected in death of seven cows

IMG_3543Seven cows died in one hour

Outbreak: Seven cows belonging to one owner in Pam village, Narang gewog, Mongar, died within one hour from what livestock officials suspect as an outbreak of anthrax, a   disease of herbivorous animals.

However, officials are waiting for lab report sent to the Regional Livestock Development Centre (RLDC), Kanglung in Trashigang, to confirm if anthrax killed the animals.

Veterinary officials had sent blood smear samples from the dead animals on May 11 for laboratory examination.

The owner of the cows, Rinchen Dorji said his cow died one after another on May 9 without showing any signs of illness.  He said the cows were feeding on maize shoot.

Mongar veterinary doctor, Jigme Wangchuk who investigated the case said chances of anthrax were high and that they buried all the carcasses of the animals as it could risk human health.

“We have put surveillance in place and sensitised people although we are yet to confirmed the cause of the death.”

Anthrax is primarily a disease of herbivores like cattle, sheep, and goats. It can also affect other species such as pigs, horses, dogs, cat and other vertebrates.

Mongar district livestock officer Tenzin Dorji said people were advised to report any symptoms in cattle and human.

Narang gup Sonam Jamtsho said the health team yesterday conducted an awareness meeting and farmer was briefed on the risk of anthrax.

By Dechen Tshering, Mongar

Education tops govt. priority list

The minister tells people of S/J that the sector may acquire budget of others, if need be

Visit: To ensure the quality of education, the government will slash budget from other ministries and add to the ministry’s budget, if need be, education minister Mingbo Dukpa told the people of Samdrupjongkhar throm during his recent visit to the dzongkhag.

At a meeting with the people on May 11, Lyonpo Mingbo Dukpa said the government would provide free stationery and school uniform, and guarantee better nutrition in schools.

“We’re willing to forego a few projects under other ministries for the sake of better education,” said Lyonpo, adding that the government was concerned about the problems plaguing the education system.

There was a critical need for a very strategic approach to address these issues, so that children of poorer families will be benefited, he said.

“Percentage of people living below poverty line is the highest in Samdrupjongkhar. Therefore, our focus is orientated towards helping the poor,” said Lyonpo. “If we put in our best efforts, we achieve our objectives. So why should we not give it a go?”

Observing that academic performance of students in the remote schools has been deteriorating over time, Lyonpo said: “We have less experienced teachers teaching major subjects like mathematics and science. If they aren’t qualified enough to impart good education, our children will be at the receiving end.”

An autonomous body called National Teachers’ Council (NTC) will be established that will issue teaching license, accredit and certify teachers.

“NTC will not be a regulatory body, neither will it be Royal Civil Service Commission. The council will facilitate capacity building of our teachers,” said Lyonpo.  The council is expected to be functional by December.

Lyonpo said that the shortage of teachers in the country will come down, and the money and infrastructure saved from downsizing the number of schools from 564 to can be invested on free education and facilities.

Currently, there are about 175,000 students and 9,000 teachers in the country.  However, distribution of teachers has not been fair or systematic.

“While some remote schools have only one teacher catering to about 46 students, some urban schools have one teacher for every 5 students,” said Lyonpo, adding that numerous meetings were held in the past to improve education, and that other ministries have agreed to support the education ministry in its mission.

By Tshering Wangdi, Samdrupjongkhar

A stitch in time

Our health officials know lifestyle diseases leave a deep dent on the government’s coffers because in absence of expertise within the country, patients have to be referred abroad.

Referrals have also increased over the years, an indication of more and more Bhutanese suffering from various lifestyle diseases.

What development has brought with it is change in Bhutanese lifestyle, in that less manual work is required of them compared with what they were required to do some decades ago.

What has not changed, however, is the food that people consume.

It is indeed unfortunate that a majority of the people learns of having acquired one form of lifestyle disease of another only after they have been admitted to the hospital following a serious illness.

By then it is late to consider remedial measures. The hospital has no options but to refer them outside the country at a huge cost. That is also when patients begin changing their habits in terms of the food they eat and engaging in rigorous physical activities thereafter.

Why can’t it be that health officials caution people of the risks of lifestyle diseases much before than later, which in turn could set people in motion.

Not every Bhutanese undergo regular medical check ups, but a few who do so either on their own expense abroad or through connections in the hospitals are often seen hitting the few gyms, or going for walks.

There is also some moderation in the vices they indulge in – alcohol, rich food and other such staples that aid in increasing cholesterol levels.

Similarly, our health officials need to consider more preventive and proactive measures.

Not that initiatives have not been taken, but more needs to be done.

The feedback from people visiting hospitals is that, perhaps overworked, medical practitioners often refuse a simple check up as a person’s blood pressure.

Encouraging people to have themselves checked up regularly could be one of the ways for early detection of any potential disease people might be at risk of suffering later.

While that might seem like an onerous task today and it might cost the government some money to begin such a proactive effort, but the long-term gain is huge.

There will be less patients, a majority of whom are linked with lifestyle diseases, to cater to and there will be better savings in health budget, considering there will be fewer referrals.

Push for state-funded campaign expenses

Unlike parliamentary elections, contestants at the local level have to pay their own way

LG Elections: With about two years left for serving local leaders to complete their five-year term, some feel that the government should provide state funding for campaigning during the second local government (LG) elections in 2016.

At present, there is no campaign fund for candidates contesting LG elections.  As per rules, LG elections contestants for the post of gup and mangmi have to self-finance their campaigning within the budget ceiling of Nu 50,000.

As per the Election Act, contestants can only spend Nu 50,000 for electoral expenses like renting campaign offices, utility bills, hiring office equipment, stationary, communication expenses, and for travel.

LG candidates file their returns with the national observer and micro observer as mandated under the public election fund regulations.  No refunds are made despite filing their return.

State funding, serving local leaders and those contemplating contesting the second LG election feel, would provide a level playing field for all.

“It would also attract more competent candidates,” a former LG contestant from Sakteng, Sangay Dorji, said. “It’ll also enable people from all financial background to contest.”

Without state funding, Phongmey gup, Palden Dorji, said only people, who had money, could contest for now.

Besides, contesting the LG election is also seen as a financial liability, with candidates having to produce numerous documents like tax clearance, court clearance, and medical certificate, among others.

“People without money can’t even think of contesting without state-funded campaign fund,” Palden Dorji said.

Palden Dorji said, during the LG election in 2010, candidates also had to bear the expense of keeping a representative each in all polling stations.

Hiring vehicles for campaigning, according to local leaders, also incurs heavy expenses, which amounts to Nu 3,000 a day, for places like Phongmey.

“Travelling expenses cost a lot once campaigning begins,” a former gup aspirant from Phongmey, Tshering Gyeltshen, said.

Palden Dorji said that state funding would especially help candidates, who lost the elections, to recover expenses incurred in the process, to a certain extent.

Shongphu mangmi, Nidup Tshewang, said campaign fund for LG elections must be state funded for larger public and national interest.

“State funding would offer better choices for voters as well,” Nidup Tshewang said.

Samkhar gup, Sonam Dorji, said the issue has also been raised during the annual gups’ conference.

“We’re not asking for an amount as high as that paid for Parliamentary elections, but about Nu 50,000 to help us cover the huge expenses,” Sonam Dorji said.

The National Council and assembly contestants are provided Nu 130,000 as campaign fund.

“LG contestants aren’t even refunded electoral expenses for contesting an equally important elections,” Sonam Dorji said.

By Tempa Wangdi