Sole helicopter saves 20 lives in 4 months

when Helicopter services were first launched in Bhutan on 5th November, 2015 it was immediately put into medical service 12 days later on 17th November when an overdue pregnant woman in Laya BHU, with her fetus in a transverse position, was airlifted.

Both the mother and child survived due to this timely intervention.

The sole helicopter airlifted 26 medically serious patients so far of which six expired in the National Referral Hospital in Thimphu while the other 20 survived.

In November 2015 there were three rescues including the one above. The second rescue involved a six year old boy from Bumthang with severe meningitis and Steven Johnson syndrome but he expired in the hospital.  The third rescue of a 34 year old man from Mongar Regional Referral Hospital (MRRH)   suffering from stroke was successful.

December 2015 saw three airlifts of which all three survived. A 27 year old girl with Multi Drug Resistant Tuberculosis and a fall injury from MRRH was treated and she survived. A 51 year old woman from Khomsar BHU in Zhemgang was airlifted after she had a stroke and timely treatment saved her. A 45 year old man from Bumthang with severe diabetes, hypertension and pneumonia was also airlifted and saved after treatment.

January 2016 saw the maximum cases with 11 airlifts of which five died in the hospital. Of the five who did not make it were a 41 year old female from Bumthang and a man from Zhemgang both of whom had been hit by stroke. The rest three were babies with one from MRRH expiring due to trachea esophageal fistula, a five month old from Samtse hospital expiring due to acute respiratory distress syndrome and a third baby in a triplet case from Gelephu.

Of the six who were saved was a 60 year old man from Bumthang with a fractured femur, a 47 year old from MRRH with upper gastro intestinal bleeding, a pregnant woman from Lunana and a 50 year old woman from Trongsa who underwent a brain tumor operation. There was also a 36 year old woman from Mongar with unstable pelvic fracture requiring surgery and a woman from Tsirang requiring surgery for retained placenta.

February 2016 saw five airlifts of which all five survived in the hospital. One was an 83 year old man from Phuntsholing with a heart condition while another was a 97 year old woman from Mongar with bed sores and arthritis. There was a 27 year old woman from Bumthang with pulmonary embolism and a 36 year old woman from Haa requiring stomach surgery. The air-lift  rescue also involved a 10 year old girl from Gelephu with a head injury.

In March 2016 there were four airlifts and so far all of them have survived. They are a 31 year old female from Lunana with pregnancy complications, a 34 year old man from Trongsa with traumatic brain injury, an 18 year old with kidney failure and a 75 year old woman with acute respiratory distress syndrome.

Till February 2016 Nu 4.017 mn has been spent at an average cost of Nu 417,000 per patient of the Nu 6.480 mn approved by the Ministry of Finance.

The Ministry of Health has requested an additional Nu 4.81 mn for the payment of pending bills of the Royal Bhutan Helicopter Services Limited.

The maximum airlifts so far are from the two Dzongkhags of Mongar and Bumthang followed by others like Gasa, Sarpang, Samtse, Haa, Chukha and Zhemgang.

To rationalize the airlifting of patients the Department of Medical Services will be sensitizing all health facilities for strict adherence to helicopter service guidelines while requesting for air evacuation of patients.  The Department will also ensure a monthly report on the status and outcome of airlifted patients by the Help Health Center.

Health Minister Lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk said that the Helicopter airlift services have been of tremendous help in saving lives. He said the helicopter service is now akin also an emergency ambulance service.

The minister said that any BHU or hospital in the country can check a patient’s condition and request a helicopter airlift if the need be so by a simple telephone call.

Lyonpo said that the helicopter service guideline will further ensure uniformity and better service for medical airlifts.

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