Doctors into politics condemn BMHC’s notification

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The recent notification issued by the Bhutan Medical and Health Council (BMHC) asking professional doctors aspiring to join politics to deregister from the BMHC has not gone well with doctors who have had already joined politics.

There are five doctors as of now who have joined political parties to contest in the upcoming elections – two in the Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT), one each in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party (BKP) and the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT).

Talking to Business Bhutan, Dr. Lotay Tshering, a consultant urologist and the DNT president said the unilateral decision is unlawful.

“One should know their mandate and responsibilities. BMHC’s job is to monitor unethical medical practices. BMHC should not worry about the election period. It is not their mandate. It is the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB),” he said.

“Suspending my license, I have not done anything unethical. I don’t understand and I don’t agree with the notification either. Suspending my right is a huge offence. I am a professional and I know how to abide by the rules. If ECB tells me not to practice then I will not. The notification issued is all about not trusting me. During the 90 days of election period, I know I will not practice,” he added.

Dr. Lotay Tshering further said the notification is not clear and does not state about ‘in emergency situation’ where doctors can treat patients.

“With this, I can’t do anything to save the life of patients or treat them despite being a doctor. If they want me to save the lives of patients during emergency, they should issue me a personal notification,” he added.

Similarly, Dr. Tandi Dorji, a pediatrician/health consultant and DNT’s aspiring candidate from Lingmukha-Toedwang constituency in Punakha said the notification issued by the BMHC was a hasty one.

He added, “It’s not properly thought out and most importantly there was no consultation with the doctors who had joined politics. The council should not involve itself in politics and restrict itself to its mandate. There are many aspects to this unilateral decision and long term impact on health regulation. Has the council considered events such as emergency medical conditions such as accidents – which I have had to attend in the past?”

Dr. Tandin Dorji also questioned why a doctor cannot provide medical check and advice when those who are in politics such as lawyers can provide legal advice, engineers and architects help make drawing plans, and businessmen help with business plans and loans.

He added that nowhere in the act of the BMHC there is a provision that one cannot practice medicine just because you are in politics.

“BMHC cannot just deregister us without any valid reason and without any breach of BMHC regulation. If there is an accident and the victim is in critical condition, should we just ignore it just because we have temporarily de-registered ourselves from BMCC?” he asked.

Doctor Lobzang Dorji, the PDP’s candidate for Jomotshangkha-Martshala consituency in Samdrup Jongkhar who was a medical doctor for 12 years with the government before resigning to join politics, said it is like taking their basic right away.

“I spoke about the issue with the health minister and said that the notification was not fair and it is not right on BMHC’s part. It is like taking our basic right away. I recently renewed my license,” he added.

Meanwhile, Dr. Samdrup, the DPT’s candidate for Kanglung-Udzorung-Samkar constituency in Trashigang with more than 24 years of experience in the medical field, said BMHC should have at least waited for the election results.

“It’s too early for the notification to be announced. We should be given the right to practice,” he added.

Talking to Business Bhutan, BMHC’s Registrar Sonam Dorji said the notification was issued based on the provisions of the ECB.

“Quite a number of doctors had resigned to join politics and also after receiving complains that doctors were treating people door to door, then BMHC wrote to the ECB if it was fair for the doctors to treat people and if there are any provisions,” he added.

Sonam Dorji, however, said, “In case of emergency, doctors can treat patients, especially in a life saving situation. It is the nobility of the profession.”

He added if the notification was issued after consulting with the doctors who joined politics, there was no need of the notification.

“It is fair and square, they cannot capitalize on their profession. It’s also not to undermine them. The notification is flexible. If they want to return back to their profession then they can go to the ECB after they have deregistered themselves from the political parties, get a letter from the ECB and revoke the suspension. It is not a life-long ban,” Sonam Dorji added.

According to the notification to be read in line with clause 11.34 of Political Party Rules of the Kingdom of Bhutan, 2015, all the medical and health professionals registered with BMHC aspiring to contest for election that your registration shall be suspended till the end of the election period and are not allowed for any professional practice. To practice, medical and health professionals, who have contested in the election, should get clearance from the ECB to revoke their suspension.

Meanwhile, the clause 11.34 of Political Party Rules of the Kingdom of Bhutan states a political party, candidate, any individual or organization during an election period shall not serve meals, entertain or make donations or carry out activity of any kind which may benefit or damage the electoral prospects of any party or candidate or may be construed as coercion or inducement or a prohibited electoral practice under the laws.

Chencho Dema from Punakha