Six-week-old baby dies after hours of ambulance wait at Largyab BHU

Headline Health

A six-week-old baby died at the Largyab Basic Health Unit (BHU II) in Dagana on Monday evening after almost hours of waiting for ambulance from Tsirang hospital to reach to the BHU. The baby girl was brought to the BHU in between 11 to 11:30am and breathed her last at around 6pm.

The incident was first posted on Facebook by the bereaved father on Thursday after it went viral on social media. 

According to the father’s post, it stated that he and his wife lost their first child. They had taken their daughter to the BHU and she was referred to be taken to Damphu hospital. An ambulance from Drukjeygang hospital was called to take her to Damphu hospital but the ambulance was out of fuel.

“Nothing could be done by any one – HA, BHU, me nor my wife to save her. When sick people from fartherest 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? I console to myself that I live in largyab (la means mountain and gyab means behind) in dagana. See, my village itself is behind the mountains so how can I expect an ambulance to reach my village on time with full fuel tank. How I wish I lived in Thimphu : my baby would have lived with me,” states the post.

Talking to Business Bhutan, the Health Assistant, who treated the baby girl at Largyab BHU-II, Rinchen Dhendup, said the baby was in a critical condition by the time she was brought by her parents.

“The lips and the face of the baby had turned bluish. The baby looked lethargic and was suffering from diarrhea too. The baby was not feeding and was brought unconscious. The baby was critically serious. Immediately, we started treating the baby,” he said.

According to the HA, upon checking the baby’s oxygen level it was 76% and her body temperature was normal.

However, he also shared that he could hear abnormal sound from the baby’s chest (left upper zone). “After one hour the level of consciousness of the baby had gained and was able to feed a bit,” he added.

Then after consultation with one of the pediatricians at the Thimphu referral hospital, HA Rinchen Dhendup said he was advised to refer the baby to Tsirang hospital. When the HA called the Drukjeygang BHU to mobilize the ambulance, the ambulance driver called back to the HA saying that the ambulance was stranded without fuel in it. Accordingly, ambulance from Tsirang hospital was requested. The distance between Tsirang hospital and Largyab BHU is about 70 kilometers.

However, by the time the ambulance reached Kompa, which is about 23 kilometers away from the BHU, the baby was pronounced dead.

“As a last option the baby was given chest compression but it was not successful. By then the respiratory and the heartbeat of the baby had stopped. We could not rule out the cause of the death or could diagnose the baby’s disease. I feel that the child was brought late and I think if she had been brought early we would have able been able to save her,” the HA said.

Meanwhile, Business Bhutan tried to contact the parents of the deceased, but could not as they had gone to a nearby forest.

However, the grandfather of the baby girl that Business Bhutan talked to, Sonam Phuntsho, 55, who was also present at the BHU when the baby was being treated, shared about the incident and said they were neglected.

“People get airlifted but we could not even avail the service of an ambulance just because it ran out of fuel. We thought of reserving a vehicle and taking the baby to Tsirang, but we were told that private vehicles do not have the facilities of oxygen which the baby needed. So we had to drop the idea,” he said.

“What could be a biggest tragedy for parents to see their child die in front of their eyes? Who do we blame?” the grandfather added.

Talking to Business Bhutan, the Dzongkhag Health Officer (DHO) of Dagana, Dorji Wangchuk, said there was no fuel in the ambulance. Because of the delay in the release of fuel budget of July after the implementation of the electronic Public Expenditure Management System (e-PEMS), the DHO added that they were not able to refuel the ambulance.

Chencho Dema from Thimphu

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