Some 22 lives have been saved by the medical emergency helicopter service since the current government took office in 2013, according to the Ministry of Health. During the monthly meet-the-press held on July 3rd, the Health Minister, Lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk, thanked His Majesty the King for Kidu as the RBA had contacted the Indian Army under His Majesty the King’s command.
The Minister pointed if the government wanted to hire normal commercial helicopters it would take around 48 hours from Nepal which couldn’t be helpful at all for those who are in need of urgent medical service. The Minister also mentioned that the emergency helicopter service was essential as it takes days to reach some places in a mountainous country like Bhutan. “It’d take eight days to go to Lunana by foot. In eight days a person would not be survive,” he said.
He also said “hiring helicopters needs certain procedures like getting an authorization from the related parties and perhaps requires permission from the government. If a helicopter is hired from India, it takes around 24 to 30 hours to reach here because all the formalities are to be carried out,” Minister also pointed that due to cloudy weather conditions flying helicopters up to Bhutan was still a challenge. Another problem is a helicopter pilot is sometimes not willing to land on the landing grounds of Bhutan because of safety measures. He stressed that so far it was only due to His Majesty that helicopters could be made available in a much shorter time of even an hour at times. The minister said that Bhutan having its own choppers would greatly benefit the people especially for medical emergencies.
Meanwhile the Prime Minister, Tshering Tobgay, said “Starting of helicopter service would be helpful in manifolds. We can extend the service to natural disasters, carrying out business activities, tourism and even helping in improving the rural livelihoods.” He also mentioned there were people hit by khuru (dart) or arrow and they died because emergency service wasn’t available. “This sort of death shouldn’t be happen in the future”’ he said.
Lyonchhen also pointed as there were only two domestic airports in the country, helicopters would really be useful for medical emergency such as a complications during a pregnancy. He said it is also the only way to overcome incidents caused by natural disasters. Even an investor who wants to start business or set up factory in remote areas can reach the site and monitor the ongoing process of the business from time to time, he added. Other possibilities included that remote rural communities can be opened to the tourism industry.
Bhutan is going to purchase two H130 helicopters from Airbus at a cost of Nu. 459.9 mn. The first helicopter’s launch will be on November 11 this year, to commemorate the 60th birthday of His Majesty, the fourth Druk Gyalpo. The second is planned to be the early next year.