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Dental Department at Taba faces acute shortage of health workers

YK Poudel

Thimphu’s Taba dental department is grappling with a severe shortage of health workers, causing frustration among patients who queue long only to be able to secure a limited number of tokens for treatment and reports each day. 

Over the past year, more than ten employees, including retirees, resignees, and transferees, have left the department, yet minimal replacements have been hired.

Patients begin queuing at as early as 7 am to obtain tokens, but due to the scarcity of staff, the dental department can only issue barely 150 tokens per day. Disappointed individuals are often forced to return home without receiving dental care.

Nima Zangmo, a dental patient said that it is challenging to stand in queue for hours just to collect tokens or collect reports. “Many patients come early in the morning from 6 to 7 am to be among the first ones to receive tokens and early care – line up under scorching sun until 9 am when the door opens. The Doctor just did mild treatment and gave an appointment – However, they have not called back yet even after a month has passed.”

“Each day, the doctors are assigned with a certain number of patients. They provide basic treatment to all the token recipients and provide an appointment. Yet, the delay is long because of shortage of staff, and the existing ones are facing the pressure.”

Singay Dema – a 33-year old dental patient said that dental treatment at Taba has become costly with the patients having to reserve a taxi till the hospital. “People have to book taxi and come till here, and when the hospital is out of token, or provides appointment schedule and delays, the effective health service delivery is hampered.”

She said, “It is evident that there is a shortage of health staff. However, that should not be at the cost of the patient’s health. If the dental department recruits additional staff, it would greatly enhance efficiency and enable patients to receive prompt services.”

According to the dental department’s records, the current staff consists of 14 dentists, including dental surgeons and specialists, 15 dental hygienists, and 16 dental technicians. 

Medical Superintendent, Dr Tshokey acknowledged that the hospital is facing shortage of medical staff. “However, after the shift of dental department to Taba, the treatment process and space has become better.”

He said, “Since the shift, more patients have been treated with separated department focussed for dental care. The National Medical Service plans to recruit additional medical professionals to alleviate the staffing shortage. Till then, the available ones have to face the pressure of the number of patients coming to avail the medical treatment.”

The dental department at Taba is striving to address the challenges posed by the shortage of health workers, and the recruitment of new staff members is expected to alleviate the strain and improve service delivery to patients in the future.

Currently, it provides consultation, tooth extraction, and filling up of cavities as well as oral medicines.

The government approved a total revised budget of Nu 188.971M (million) for the acquisition of the national Covid-19 hospital at Taba, which was a private property with the payment of additional items amounting to Nu 14.924M.