Baby dies as Ambulance is ‘out of fuel’

Picture of the baby when she was still alive. She passed away later. (Picture used after consent of the family) 

A baby girl, aged one month and 14 days old, was brought to Lajab BHU in Dagana in a critical condition on Tuesday, 26 August. And the next day, towards the evening time, at around 6 pm, the baby girl died.

According to baby’s grandfather Gembo, 55, his only granddaughter was not feeling well on 25 August night and they took her to the Lajab BHU the next day in the morning. The grandfather said the baby had labored breathing, as if in pain.

The child was born in Gelephu hospital on 2 July in good health except for some minor jaundice.

The Health Assistant (HA) in Lajab BHU said that the baby was brought in a serious condition. The baby’s family requested the BHU to refer the sick baby to Tsirang hospital or to Thimphu hospital.

It was then that the HA of Lajab BHU immediately called Drujeygang BHU-ll for an ambulance service to move the baby to the hospital, but what they were told that the ambulance was out of fuel. When they called the Tsirang hospital for an ambulance service, they were told the hospital did not receive the HA’s call.

According to the grandfather, HA had assured them that the baby will be alright.

“We were really surprised when Drujeygang BHU-ll said that the ambulance is out of fuel. We were out of words when an ambulance that belongs to government said so. We could do nothing but cry,” said the grandfather.

The grandfather told The Bhutanese that the Tsirang ambulance did not even reach to Lajab BHU when his granddaughter died. He said the Tsirang ambulance was on the way (Kompa), in between Tsirang and Lajab BHU, 23 km away from Lajab BHU.

“Maybe because we are poor, or maybe we are just a villagers, that is why we could not get the facility that we are supposed to get,” said the grandfather.
He said the health staff did not say anything on the cause of the baby’s death. “I heard the cause of death was Pneumonia, but I believe this will not cause my granddaughter to die,” the grandfather said.

The young parents, Sonam Phuntsho, 23, and Ugyen Zangmo,27, lost their first child, and the father posted a note on The Bhutanese newspaper Facebook page where he said, “Today me and my wife lost our first child ; a baby girl (one month and 14 days old). Nobody can ever feel the pain we are going through at this time…When sick people from farthest corners can be airlifted and saved, my little baby couldn’t be saved because the ambulance was out of FUEL. Does this happen only to humble people like me? Or is it because my village is far from the dzongkhag centre?…Lastly I pray that every citizens of this country be treated the same as individuals no matter where they live and whatever
background they come from.” This post went viral.

“We know the purpose of life, and we know we cannot stop death but when my granddaughter died, I felt I was not given an equal opportunity in the government services. It breaks my heart to have this on my mind and heart- that I lost my only granddaughter, and this moment can never be forgotten,” said the grandfather.

The Bhutanese got in touch with the Health Assistant (HA) of Lajab BHU, Rinchen Dhendup, over the phone. The HA said the 6-week-old baby girl was brought to hospital in a critical condition. He said the baby’s lips and face had turned bluish. She was breathing very less. The baby was found to be lethargic and also suffering from diarrhea. She was also not feeding well. The oxygen level was very low.

The HA said the baby gained consciousness when the baby was given oxygen. There was an improvement in the baby’s health as the baby was able to breastfeed.

Rinchen Dhendup said it was then decided with the parents to refer baby to the Tsirang hospital. He called the doctor-on-call of Tsirang hospital ahead, and as advised by the doctor, he called 112 for the ambulance service from Drujaygang BHU-ll. “But then, they said the ambulance is out of fuel and I also called the ambulance driver, the driver said the same thing,” said Rinchen Dhendup.

He tried calling the next relevant person for help, but he could not reach anyone, and so he had no other choice then to call Thimphu emergency. He was asked to contact in the pediatric department, and finally, he could get in touch with one of pediatricians, and he explained the child’s condition to the doctor and was then advised a required treatment, which was to give IV glucose to the baby.

HA said he again made a call to Tsirang hospital asking them to deploy an ambulance as the child’s health condition was critical. Around 3pm to 4 pm, Tsirang hospital deployed an ambulance.

In the meantime, as advised by the medical specialist, the HA tried start the IV, but he said the child’s parents said they wanted to perform a ritual before administering the IV glucose. “So the baby was just with the oxygen,” said the HA. During the process of performing the ritual, the child’s condition worsened and the child fell unconscious again.

The child’s heart rate dropped, and was then given chest compression, but the child could not be saved and the cause of death is unknown, said the HA.

The grandfather admitted that he had asked for the HA to wait for five minutes as the Gewog Lam was on his way to do a little blessing for the baby.
However, given the already critical state of the baby in the BHU there is no way of knowing if this delay in inserting the IV glucose was a factor at all.

The District Health Officer (DHO) of Dagana said there was miscommunication between the two BHUs.

According to DHO, Drujeygang BHU-ll, did not directly say that they were out of fuel, instead they
said the fuel may not be enough for a round trip and they suggested to ask ambulance service from Tsirang hospital. The suggestion was to fuel up the ambulance, as the gas station is 45 km away from Drujeygang.

He said the budget for ambulance fuel is not enough because of the increase in the cost of maintenance and the distance.

This is the first such case reported in Dagana dzongkhag, said the DHO. Dagana has five ambulance vehicles in total, and Drujeygang BHU-ll is the nearest one to the BHU in Lajab.

About Usha Drukpa

One comment

  1. Whatever was the reason the innocent child lost life
    . Om mani padme hum

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