Do what’s right

Nothing to sing about

After more than a year of chronic drug shortages, the prime minister has asked the health minister for a report on the problem. I’m surprised. Hospitals throughout the country have been facing a serious shortage of drugs for more than a year. The problem has been widely reported and analyzed by the media. The  opposition party questioned the government during the 7th session of the Parliament. And the National Council questioned the government during the 8th session.

So I’d have thought that the prime minister would be well aware of the problem. I’d have thought that would have discussed it thoroughly in the cabinet, and that he would, in fact, have already decided how to address the problem. It looks like I am wrong. The prime minister still does not seem to understand the extent of the drug shortage problem. That’s why he’s only now asked for a “comprehensive report”.

The pubic, however, has a fairly good idea about the extent of the drug shortage problem. That’s because most people, at one time or the other, and especially the poor, have suffered because of the shortage of drugs in our hospitals. That’s also because the media have done a remarkable job in keeping us informed about the problem. Here, as an example, are links to stories that just one of our newspapers, Kuensel, has published on the issue of drug shortages.

Yes, a heart patient has died. The health ministry has defended itself, claiming that the heart patient had died because of other complications. But her parents insist that she died because she didn’t have medicine. They insist that their daughter died because of the shortage of drugs.

The health minister has not accepted responsibility for the death of the heart patient. But, like it or not, he has to accept responsibility for the overall drug shortage. Like it or not, he has to accept responsibility for the suffering caused to countless patients throughout the country. Like it or not, he has to accept that he is unable to solve the drug shortage problem, a problem that emerged during his watch.

The prime minister should read the health ministry’s report that will, no doubt, blame ACC and RAA and DRA and suppliers and others for the perennial drug shortage. But he should also read what the media has reported, consistently and conscientiously, during the last year. And he should listen to the many stories of suffering that patients have had to endure.

And then he should do what’s right: ask the health minister to step down.


Facebook Comments:


  1. i agree..jigmi thinley should read more & be informed of our local problems & difficulties facing common people rather than globe trotting & preaching gnh..
    the common man suffers & live through such difficulties daily..but why should jigmi thinley, ministers & the privileged lot care..that’s because in bhutan, we have a 2 tier system of ex-country health referrals – ordinary citizens may be referred to india with great reluctance for basic & minimum health needs..the privileged will visit private health centres in the usa, europe & bangkok multiple times for extended periods..all at the cost of public & tax money..
    fact is .. health care in bhutan is not free..all salaried people compulsorily contribute 2% of their pay towards health, it’s highly subsidized, but certainly not free..and yes, it’s a significantly discriminatory system for citizens..
    as for zangley dukpa, he’s a neanderthal..perennial shortcomings in the health sector & he’s unable to solve them..fact is, he never will..
    given the cancer afflicting our health sector, perhaps it’s time for jigmi thinley, zangley dukpa in tow, to approach tata in india to adopt bhutan as the pm once remarked..

  2. Dear OL,

    i think it will be better on your past as the leader of Opposition party to say some mantra and prayers than to tell those arrogant, always failing bunch of DPT ministers to resign.

    I think they have become immune to your words like “take moral responsibility” and “step down”

    That is because they simply do not understand the meaning of moral responsibility. Therefore they will not admire what they do not understand. so i find it useless……………

  3. I honestly think it is time for jIgme Thinley and his group of old school people to back off the political scene. Haven’t they made enough money by now. My god. They have been ministers since my grandfather was a baby. These people are doing nothing for young people like myself. Young people are stabbing and going crazy not because they are crazy but because the government like this make situations crazy and frustrating. JIgme thinley and their government have done absolutely nothing for young people in Bhutan. I would doubt the EVM if DPT wins in the next elections.

  4. Pasang Dorji says

    SO,Aum Kuenzang or Ap Kuenzan, whoever you are and whatever you are, Opposition Leader is doing what he is required to do. I think he is doing a good thing for the country, and he is working really hard. May be because you are a fan of DPT. Yes, I am also fan of DPT, I voted for DPT, but I don’t think OL is wrong by saying “step down” or “take moral responsibility”. He is saying the right thing.
    Even though we have very weak Opposition Party in our country, they are really working hard and doing great job. I really appreciate it.

    Kuenzang, if you are educated, by now you should be able to understand the real meaning of Democracy.

  5. Politicians in Bhutan are bunch of old goofs especially the DPT government. If you look at what kind of members DPT has its a bunch of cunning old men and young dumb people. Young dumb people that those old men like JIgme Thinley can control but still claim young people are involved.

  6. Dear OL,

    The caption you put under the picture says it all. Well done!

  7. ITs really frustrating and sad to know that our wise PM do not have detail understanding of drug shortage which is happening under his nose. By this time Health minister and our Goverment should have solved problem.

    MOH has Blamed ACC, RAA and DRA, in reality ministry has done less/ nothing to address the problem.

    Honerable OL, i appreciate for waking up the government and need to do more since they are in hibernation.

  8. Make the government systematic first…
    then perhaps Problems could be solved faster…

    Instead of marketing GNH in every aspect why dont they do something
    that would make a difference in ordinary peoples life.
    They always talk about change but in the process they forget that the change should begin from themselves….
    It takes more than a year to solve a particular problem.(must be kidding me )
    so unsystematic ,no wonder we are still developing ….

  9. The self minded DPT members and leaders would be busy working hard to make their own money and backing up their children for the good job which is why they forget to look into the matters of those underprivileged people, who die with curable disease.
    wai,,,,, every citizens have the right to work not just the ministers sons and daughter or relatives, better check in your ministry the number of your relatives or
    children employed there, before we survey.
    Dear Opposition Leader do something, or else
    these corrupted DPT would mislead. its really funny to see how DPT function,its member a school kids and their leader a school Headmaster.given a liberty they would discuss about increasing their salary
    and other benefits.
    we need a change.

  10. dungsamkota says

    There are reports about patients having very painful deaths in hospitals due to shortage of pain killers. It adds to the pain of the bereaved whose loved ones have died in great suffering and pain. I hope that the ill and the old can have a dignified death atleast in leaving this GNH country if not when they are alive.

  11. Just Asking says

    Put aside the DPT-PDP issue.

    I talked to some doctors. They all said it is a serious issue.

  12. Dear OL,

    It is a serious issue. The government ought to do something about it.

    The issue of drug shortage, access to affordable medicine and pharmaceuticals on HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis, among others, is one of the biggest international issues that confronts today. There are many reasons of this shortage that I see:

    1. The increasing prices of pharmaceutical drugs elsewhere.
    2. The restriction on both export and import countries on banning manufacture of generic drugs as a WTO obligation under intellectual property, thus preventing Bhutan to import generic drugs from countries other than India. Although under this obligation, there is a mechanism whereby LDC countries can request WTO to exempt and ask export country to manufacture drug predominately for a country who faces such drug shortage. This is only possible for WTO members.

    WTO non-members who request export country (WTO member) for manufacture of generic drug is under a violation WTO obligation and liable for sanction against that member. Unfortunately Bhutan is not a member of WTO and such mechanism is not applicable. The only other way of using such mechanism is WTO exemption for Regional Trade Association (RTA) members. Now, how effectively we use the SAARC for such mechanism is not at all transparent to the public.

    3. Lack of technical and manufacturing capacities on Pharmaceutical products of countries such as Bhutan

    So, what are the possible solution:

    a. accession to WTO to address access to medicine and public health issues, among others.
    b. Revitalization of our Traditional Medicine and therapy
    c. Transfer of Technology through FDI to enable manufacture of generic drugs in the country

  13. khengpai_olo says

    Your Excellency OL,

    Well done and keep the same spirit for the service of the TSA WA SUM.
    The following should take moral responsibility and step down:
    1. Health Minister for health ministry scam and irregularities and drug shortage.
    2. Finance Minister and Secretary for taxation, lottary scam, and now the ruppee problems.
    3. Foreign Minister and Secretary for diplomats special cases – No. 1 in irregularities and people at the highiest level (brussels kutsab) involved in such acts and yet no action taken (covering up).
    4. PM and RCSC Chairman for nominating his relative as home secretary despite huge irregularities in Bangkok Embassy.
    5. Secretary Land Commission for all the Land Scams.
    6. Chief of Armed Force for all modern day slavery-orderlies

  14. It’s so frustrating to see such things happening in GNH country and moreover when it’s unable to handle such issues by present government who is so much into advocating GNH values to outside world.What is MoH doing? MoH self defense explanation during press conference was all bull-shit.

  15. OL will only realise the ground reality when and if he ever heads a ministry. Right now, he has nothing to do, but only to find the loopholes of the government.

  16. Dear Pelden Drukpa,

    You are absolutely right, but, does that in any way impedes the government in taking decisions in time, more so, we understand that running a government is a difficult task and that’s the reason we empower our leaders to rule ourselves giving them immense privileges and of course comforts…

    Just a thought…

  17. Oh my god the problem was there from 2010 and still is not solved…. they (the ministers) might not have felt because they would get from outside Bhutan. By calling up the embassy personals … i work and i know how the systems.

    Some of the ministers (current and Ex) are sent for treatment to BKK and USA for a long time i don’t know what is happening …. May be it is high time that Bhutanese people come out on the street.

    I felt very sad watching the BBS news were the father was interview after his daughter who has three children died due to lack of medicine.

    I would like to thank OL for providing a forum where we can discuss this kind of issues….

    Mr Zanglay if you have any shame please step down …

  18. I hate DPT for failing to fulfill some of our expectations.
    I am just thankful PDP didn’t win. Otherwise, the country would have been sold two years ago. As a Health Minister and Agriculture Minister, you might be knowing that Sangay Ngedup would exhaust whole year’s budget by the middle of the year. All for pleasing the people that can’t be satiated.

    The drug problems have seized the country like cancer. For that DPT is to be blamed. For failing ask sensible questions, PDP are to be blamed.

  19. This is heights and the government is doing nothing but sitting on their asses.
    drug issues and rupee crunch and scams etc etc
    If it wasn’t for our monarch the public would be in the streets demanding these people’s resignation.

    There is a saturation point for everything and if these continue i would not be surprised to see people in the streets soooonnnnn.

  20. Haha.. I can’t stop but laugh when ppl say OL is doing a good job. Yeah good job in opposing every move of the goverment. He must realize that most things are easier said than done.

  21. i believe in what pelden drukpa and defoz had mentioned.that is it.

  22. PM is only globetrotting and promoting himself through GHN lectures while he is clueless about the grave problems afflicting the poorer people right under his nose. Imagine the PM asking the health minister for a report when this national health crisis has been prevalent for over a year with people dying because of shortage of medicine.
    GNH….seems to be really Gross National Hypocrisy rampantly practiced by the clueless PM.

  23. Dear readers,

    Do not blame the government for everything. You put yourselves in their shoes and think it over. You could be even worse I feel. I is easier said than done. If you feel that this government is not doing enough, lets vote for another party next time and I am sure the problems will be the same if not worst. We all can wait and watch as the election is coming closer. Palden Drukpa Gyalo.

  24. I think there is a serious gap between the health minister and his counterparts at hospitals. What the minister talks are in contradiction to activities in hospitals. Minister just talking boldly is not enough and he has not solved some of the major issues given only one term in office.

  25. In fact it should been the health minister to take moral responsibility and resign from the post. I believe dasho secretary was forced to resign. What a strategy of the DPT.

    If i were a minister (health) and if patients died due to drugs shortage, health workers mishaps and malfunction of health equipment, it would be ashamed to hold post and would have resign immediately for retreat in one of the gongpas for reciting prayers and do geywas.

  26. Health Minister Zangley is seen with toothy grin most of the time and failing to solve chronic drug shortages. He will not accept his weaknesses and try to blame ACC and DRA. He even went to the extent by blaming medical professionals for irrational prescription of drugs which he himself has zero knowledge on drugs and its usage. Drug shortage problem in the country will not go away unless he step down and go away. Till such time, patients will continue to miss their daily dose of injections and other medications and utimately die. It is time people sue the minister for creating monster of problems.

  27. I think a comprehensive report is required before one acts. Otherwise, actions taken will not have the desired effect and after wasting scarce resources like manpower, funds etc. we may even be faced with a worse problem.

    The drugs supply has a long and complex history and if not handled right will compound the problem even more.

    Right now, it looks like you are forcing the govt to act hastily and thereby compound the problems so that you can have more to attack the rgob with. If the govt errs in how it tackle the problem, DPT maybe be out but it is the Bhutanese people who will suffer long term.

    So, please think about the people and the country first and be selective about what and how you attack the govt so that everybody’s energies are channeled in the right direction for the ultimate benefit of the people of Bhutan.

  28. I like the caption of the picture which says”nothing to sing about”. This shows how crook and cunning these politician are. When I saw them on tv I was shocked and for me they look not more than a “achara”

  29. As a spectator here reading the comments by the fellow Bhutanese I felt interested to shed some of my views here.
    First, let me begin with the prayer in solace to the lady who lost her life.My Condolence to her family and May her soul rest in peace.
    The shortage of drug was a story that existed long before Dungsam kota’s tenure. Though I didn’t like his comment on our hard working physicians on “irrational use of drugs resulting in its shortage” without much background on it, I would not blame him for having not done his job. That chair was hot, hotter than the red hot iron, and unfortunately Dungsam kota with his ill luck sat on it with backing from Dungsampas and am surprised he could hold on it for four years (that was too long a history in democracy). I agree, he was not fit to be the Sowa Lyonpo, nor his counterparts. Let us not blame him for being there guiding us our health in the 21st Century. And I know it isn’t that easy to clear all the hurdles that are there in the procurement division, and everything within the Ministry of Health. He is doing his best. Best to nothing.

    Best to nothing! The shortage of drugs was beyond his control due to the loopholes within the people working in Health Ministry and it was to happen sooner or later. But, he couldn’t stretch his arms to streamline the system which he could have done in his tenure of five years. Haven’t you guys seen how our Technicians appealed in kol on their promotion? I guess they deserve it and it was a genuine cry from our people who wished to serve the mankind. And where on earth a doctor is led by a paramedical worker, designated as DHO? I giggle often recollecting my doctor friend telling me that story. The “world will laugh at us.”

    The life of Bhutanese citizens is at stake. We are just a few lakhs and losing even one mean a lot to the country and dying young due to non-availability of drug is beyond the acceptance in man-kind in the 21st century. The shortage of drugs needs to be sorted out at the earliest possible. This problem has an impact on all the sectors. As a short term measures, all the departments and ministries must work together with MoH.OL has his role here. One fine example in working together is helping in transportation of drugs from the drug depot to the destined location. The Royal Audit Authority and MoF may do away with the financial rules on procurement pertaining to the purchase of drugs. The stringent rules of Drug Regulatory Authority may be relaxed till such time the Ministry of Health is in position to refill its drugs. The media must also respect the MoH and offer them some time before being blown away(though I agree that people being informed). Of late MoH has become attacked mercilessly by the media.

    For the long term, the Ministry of Health must work in close co-ordination with the Head of departments at the National Referral Hospital in procurements of the drugs and vaccines. The possibilities of outsourcing of the purchase capacities in the Hospitals must be looked for. Besides, the Ministry of Health must,at urgency, recruit a few National Health Professionals from various fields ( doctors, Nurses, Technicians etc) to plan, to develop and modify the existing system like G2C to address the shortfalls. May Health prevail in the kingdom of Gross National Happiness.

  30. Constitution says

    Your job is to bark and so is the appreciators who is barking not knowing the reality. So have a reality check.

    Barking dog will never bite…

  31. We the Bhutanese people deserve the best and Minister Zangley and the likes of him should continue to reign. We make choices and we should learn to live with it.

  32. gachibewmo says

    Can’t solve the drug problem and still talking about a medical university.. Can you imagine this happening?

  33. Kunzang! My Dear,

    Remember; “OL is worth 1000 DPTs”. You need to flush your brain full of cow dung with a monkey brand soap and water.

Leave a Reply