It really is Saturday in Bhutan and Lotay Tshering has just completed urinary bladder repair surgery on a patient at the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital.

But Tshering is no ordinary medical professional. Throughout the week, he also occurs to be prime minister in the Himalayan kingdom well-known for measuring citizens’ Gross National Happiness.

“For me it is a de-stresser,” mentioned Tshering, who was elected prime minister of the nation of 750,000 persons final year in only its third democratic election because the finish of absolute monarchy in 2008.

“Some persons play golf, some do archery, and I like to operate. I am just spending my weekends right here,” the 50-year-old told AFP.

No one particular at the hospital bats an eyelid as Tshering, wearing a faded lab coat and crocs, walks via the busy corridors. Nurses and hospital attendants continue with their jobs as standard.


Lotay Tshering treats a patient at the National Referral Hospital in Thimphu

A case apart

The Buddhist kingdom is in quite a few approaches a case apart, benchmarking itself on happiness alternatively of financial development.

One particular of the pillars of Gross National Happiness is conservation of the atmosphere. Bhutan is carbon adverse and its constitution mandates that 60 % of the nation remains forested. It is also huge on ecotourism and charges a everyday charge of $250 per visitor in higher season.

The capital Thimphu has no website traffic lights, the sale of tobacco is banned, and tv was only permitted in 1999.

Archery competitions, with liberal amounts of the neighborhood firewater, are a national craze. Phalluses painted on homes to ward off evil are also a frequent sight.

But the “Land of the Thunder Dragon” also has its troubles, amongst them corruption, rural poverty, youth unemployment and criminal gangs.

Tshering, who educated in Bangladesh, Japan, Australia and the United States, started his political profession in 2013, but his celebration failed to make headway in that year’s election.

Soon after losing, King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck commanded him to lead a group of physicians and travel with the monarch’s entourage to far-flung villages to present totally free healthcare therapy.

Now as prime minister, he spends Saturdays treating sufferers referred to him and Thursday mornings supplying healthcare tips to trainees and physicians. Sunday is family members time.

Back in the prime minister’s workplace, a lab coat hangs on the back of his chair.

This, he mentioned, serves as a reminder of his election pledge to concentrate on healthcare.

Individuals do not have to spend straight for healthcare in Bhutan, but Tshering says that a lot additional remains to be accomplished in spite of critical strides in healthcare therapy.

Although the nation has noticed main improvements in life expectancy, a reduction in infant mortality and the elimination of quite a few infectious ailments, the quantity of life-style ailments — such as alcoholism and diabetes — is on the rise.

“We have to now gradually place additional concentrate on secondary and tertiary healthcare,” Tshering mentioned.


Bhutan’s Prime Minister Lotay Tshering speaks with a patient as he does rounds at the National Referral Hospital

Beneath the PM’s knife

At the hospital, Tshering’s patient, a 40-year-old man named Bumthap who underwent a 5-hour bladder repair surgery, told AFP he was pleased with the outcomes.

“Now that I have been operated on by the prime minister, who is thought of one particular of the greatest physicians in the nation, I really feel additional relieved,” he mentioned.

Politics, the prime minister mentioned, is a lot like getting a medical professional.

“At the hospital I scan and treat sufferers. In the government, I scan the wellness of policies and attempt to make them far better,” he mentioned.

“I will continue carrying out this till I die and I miss not getting in a position to be right here each and every day,” he added.

And on the days when he drives his auto about the capital Thimphu — alternatively of employing his official chauffeur — an-all-as well familiar urge requires hold of him.

“Anytime I drive to perform on weekdays, I want I could turn left towards the hospital.”

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV employees and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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