Photo Courtesy: Ministry of Health

Health Ministry looking into baby death and ambulance fuel issues from all Dzongkhags

The death of a month and 14 days old baby girl in Dagana as her family waited for an out of fuel ambulance shocked the nation last week.

The baby lost her life in Lajab BHU-I as an ambulance in nearby Drujeygang BHU-I was out of fuel and could not rescue her.

An investigation is underway on the death of the infant in Lajab BHU-I.

The Chief Planning Officer, MoH, Tashi Penjor said all the information has been collected, adding, “We are also asking an independent health regulatory body to review the case and we are waiting for it to be done.”

As for the fuel and maintenance budget for an ambulance, he said it depends on the utilization capacity in past year, which will show how much exactly is needed in the coming year.

Some local health officials insist that the budget for fuel and maintenance of an ambulance is not sufficient, especially in the gewog-level where they have to cover other gewogs as well.

The Dzongkhag Health Official (DHO) of Dagana, Dorji Wangchuk said the health ministry is now compiling issues related to resources and other issues from all the dzongkhags.

He, clarified that the Lajab BHU incident was not due to shortage of budget as the fuel budget was issued in August 2019, but due to the ambulance not having enough fuel at that point of time to make an up and down trip.

He, however. said the budget for fuel and maintenance of an ambulance is not enough for the entire year in the dzongkhag.

The budget for fuel and maintenance is based on the vehicle model, whereby the older the vehicle, the more the budget. The usual fuel and maintenance budget ranges from Nu 190,000 to Nu 200,000.

According to the DHO, the relevant agency had been informed in every possible meeting that the budget is not sufficient for the maintenance of an ambulance for an entire year.

He said an ambulance has to ply on rough roads to reach every corner of the gewog and its chiwogs. Therefore, this causes wear and tear of the ambulance that requires frequent maintenance. The distance has increased which means more fuel requirement.

Tashi who is the Health Assistant (HA) of Dorokha BHU-I under Samtse Dzongkhag said that whenever there is a shortage of fuel then they immediately adjust or manage from the other budget heads. There is only one ambulance and it has to cover three gewogs and also lower parts of Haa, like Sombeykha and Gakiling.

Dorokha, with its large area and huge population as compared to other dzongkhags, finds it quite difficult to work with the current fuel and maintenance budget of around Nu 200,000. Last year’s budget was Nu 300,000.

“The budget we received is not really enough, and Dorokha has rough roads and maintenance costs add up. It is difficult to sustain on the available budget for the entire year,” said the HA.

DHO of Trashigang Gang Dorji said the dzongkhag has not encountered any ambulance-related problems as such.

“So far, we have not received any problem, and whenever there are such issues related to fuel or other maintenance of the ambulance, we report to the relevant agency and they immediately take care of the matter,” the DHO said.

Sometimes the fuel is not enough and sometimes it is excessive, but it all depends on the distance covered by the ambulance, he said, adding further that such issues do not hamper the ambulance service.

“When we request for the supplementary budget, the relevant ministry provides us with whenever is needed,” he said.

The budget released is dependent on the number of ambulances. The budget for fuel and maintenance of an ambulance is around Nu 300,000 to Nu 400,000, he said.

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