Medical air lifting services are used in emergencies to evacuate patients who are far away from hospitals and in need of immediate medical attention. Such air lifts are also used during disasters, such as fire incidences.
However, the air lifting services could not be provided to the one month and 14 days old baby girl who died at Lajab BHU in Dagana on 26 August. The only ambulance nearest to the BHU was also out of fuel. The baby girl needed an immediate medical care but due to lack of communications no such emergency service was available.
Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said that normally air lifting services should have been very easy and doable to fetch the patient in emergency cases. He said right after a call, the chopper should fly and evacuate the patient. However, that was not done because there are too many calls and requests have to be channeled for the airlift service.
Somebody might just ask for the lift, almost qualifying that to be a very serious disease, he added. That is why, the affected family member must report to a health provider, whereby they will have to call 112 (health help center) and direct the question to the concern specialist, he said.
If qualified, then the patient will be air lifted. He said in this particular case, the communication between the local health care provider, 112 and health specialist advisory had no clarity.
Lyonchhen said, “There are no steps to qualify for the air lifting services, it solely depends upon the communication between the local health service provider and the receiving specialist, many time 112 will decide as there will be a specialist, and immediately the chopper at Paro will receive the call.”
“I, personally, feel that air lifting was only the surest way of saving the baby’s life. In case of ambulance, with my medical experience, I do not the baby’s survival,” he said.
Meanwhile, Lyonchhen said that he is not justifying any death and that he still feels sorry for the family and for the life lost. “I have not taken any scientifically proven evidence to say that the baby would have survived. Baby died before the ambulance from Tsirang reach Lajab BHU,” he added.
He said ambulance was at Drujaygang BHU and to reach the baby to Tsirang hospital after picking up the baby from Lajab BHU would take 4 to 5 hours. “Even if the baby was evacuated to Tsirang hospital on time, though they have a doctor, they do not have the life saving equipment, like ventilator and this baby actually needed ventilation, an artificial respiration,” the PM added.
He said, “They would have done whatever measures to do but having to send the baby to Thimphu (via ambulance) was almost impossible as it would be difficult to reach Thimphu where we have life saving equipment in place.”
He said, that even if the ambulance at Drujaygang had a fuel, the baby would have died after driving the baby towards Tsirang which is around four to five hours.
“The baby was having severe pneumonia where the baby needed to be on antibiotic and the baby needed to be put to deep sleep and then connected to a respirator. That was only the way to save the life of the baby,” Lyonchhen said.
“Therefore, it would have been very difficult in any ways to save the life of the baby, and if all the dots are connected then people would agree to it,” said the PM.
He also said that they are not blaming anyone here; everyone performed their jobs, and an ambulance was not kept without the fuel. Probably, money was on its way but somewhere it was getting entangled.
“Yet I haven’t drawn any conclusion and the studies are going on,” Lyonchhen said.