“No one should have a horrible death like my wife,” says husband who lost his wife in an isolation hotel in Thimphu and blames health authorities

A grief-stricken 43-year-old man, Krishna Gurung, who lost his 34-year-old wife, Sostika Gurung, in an isolation hotel on 27 January in Thimphu, said his wife would have been alive, if only the health team had responded to his SOS calls.

Sostika Gurung was a kidney patient who was undergoing dialysis in Phuentsholing until she contracted the coronavirus, after which, she was referred to Thimphu for dialysis, with her husband accompanying her as the caregiver.

Krishna said his wife tested COVID-19 positive on 27 January while he had tested negative. Upon testing positive, the health official in Phuentsholing informed them that they were discussing on what to do next. They were asked to get ready to leave for Thimphu since Phuentsholing did not have a dialysis machine in the isolation ward.

The couple was picked up by an ambulance at around 11:30 am on 27 January and reached Thimphu around 3:30 pm to 4 pm. Krishna said no nurses or health staff escorted them except for the ambulance driver.

Instead of being admitted in an isolation ward where Sostika Gurung can undergo dialysis, they were put up in an isolation hotel, and received by a person who looked like a hospital staff, as the person was dressed in a white gown. There were also two other people, who asked them whether they had WhatsApp or not. They were asked to take garbage bags and the rules and regulation flyers, and their contact number was also taken.

Once inside the room, they waited for a person to call her for dialysis. Instead, they received a call from a person asking whether they had a Messenger App or not, and at that time, Krishna gave his wife’s details to add on Messenger. He saved the number when he got a call. After waiting for dialysis, Krishna did not have any other contact number except for the one he received a call earlier. So he called that number and asked about the dialysis, but the person-on- duty said her dialysis will be done the following morning.

The isolation hotel room had two beds with just a thin blanket and no pillows. The room heater was also almost nonfunctional as it was damaged. Krishna then requested for one more blanket and pillow.

After dinner, both of them were resting after the long journey. During the time, Sostika Gurung started feeling sick, and her health quickly deteriorated after midnight. Krishna did not have any particular contact numbers of the health officials, and therefore, he started calling the same person who brought them the blanket and pillow from 4:30 am, only to find out that she was not a nurse, but a person-on-duty in the isolation hotel.

She forwarded him the number of a nurse-on-duty, and then he started calling the nurse, repeatedly, but there was no response to his calls. He also called the 112 emergency number, and explained to them that his wife was seriously ill and to send the ambulance.

He was told by the health official from 112 that the ambulance will be sent. After which, he again tried calling the nurse and she was still not responding. As the ambulance was taking too long to come to their rescue, Krishna had again called the ambulance, and was told that they were sending an ambulance.

There was no ambulance or nurse to rescue Sostika Gurung, and she died around 6 am in the morning of 28 January.

Only after the death of his wife, the nurse received the call, unaware about the dire situation. Around 7 am in the morning, the same nurse came to check on the deceased.

Krishna said his wife’s dialysis appointment was scheduled on 27 January, but she tested positive for COVID-19 and was referred to Thimphu, where he was told she would receive her dialysis in the isolation ward with a dialysis machine.

Krishna Gurung said if only she was given dialysis, if only the nurse-on-duty picked his calls, if only the ambulance had come on time then his wife would not be dying inside a cold room. The last hours of her life was spent in anguish and pain, he said.

He said that the death of his wife is due to the carelessness of the health staff. He did not even have a chance to perform the last rites for his wife.

He said he is making the experience of his wife’s death public so that no person should die like how his wife died in a cold room. “No person should suffer,” he said.

Krishna’s brother, Rajan Gurung, said although he was not present at the time of his sister-in-law’s death, however, she must have had died due to respiratory distress, as she was turning blue in the face, evident from the photos he was shown. 

He remembers his sister-in-law as a capable and the most active person in the family. “We were all surprised and shocked when we heard about her unexpected demise,” said Rajan.

Currently, Krishna Gurung is in the isolation center in Phuentsholing with his two daughters who have also tested COVID-19 positive.

Krishna gave his consent to name himself and his late wife.

The Bhutanese called and messaged Technical Advisory Group member, Dr Tshokey, about the story to get a response but there was no response. The paper also called TAG member Dr Sonam Wangchuk who also did not respond.

The Ministry of Health (MoH) media focal person also did not respond to calls and a message outlining the topic saying she was in a meeting. She instead said the details of the response are in another paper, however, this paper cannot take details from another paper’s story as it would constitute plagiarism.

The paper also called the JDWNRH but again received no response.

This is in line with a recent and increasingly media shy nature right from the Health Minister and TAG team downwards, where they deliberately are not responding to multiple calls and even messages from this paper for stories on the pandemic.

The Health Team instead prefers to give one way live briefs on BBS where follow up questions are not possible.

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  1. I am thankful and happy finally media in Bhutan is opening up.

  2. It was disheartening to know that she had a painful death and I’m not blaming here anyone but sorry to say government has failed this time ! I know everyone’s is having hard time and handling too much patient is not easy but what about this poor woman who was suffering from the kidney disease and also she got covid and only if she was taken to the dialysis hospital she would have been alive !!!

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