Aviation: The two patients airlifted from Laya in Gasa on November 17 are in stable condition.

Tashi Namgay, 75, was medically evacuated after being diagnosed with life threatening symptoms of a heart failure including swollen legs, breathlessness, and a blood pressure of 160/120, according to information posted on the health ministry’s Facebook page.

The second patient was Kinley Wangmo, 30, who was overdue to deliver her baby by a month. According to the health ministry, the woman’s baby was also not in the correct position, which would have required surgery and could have posed life threatening risks to both mother and baby.

This is the first time the government’s helicopter has performed a medical evacuation.

Medical services department director general, Dr Ugyen Dophu said that Tashi Namgay’s hypertension was under control. He said that the patient would be provided with advice and medication and would travel back to Gasa in a few days.

An ultrasound was performed on Kinley Wangmo and a decision will be made whether she would require a caesarean following the findings of the ultrasound, Dr Ugyen Dophu said.

A procedure to airlift patients has been submitted to the cabinet for approval.

The proposed procedure, which should take around 30 minutes, involves the medical contact centre or hotline 112 being notified, a form is then filled and sent to the nearest referral hospital. A medical specialist would then contact and speak with the medical personnel at the concerned Basic Health Unit to determine if an airlift is required. If it is found that a helicopter is required, the contact centre would then inform the Royal Bhutan Helicopter Services to dispatch a chopper.

In the past, the system for an airlift could take hours or even days. Once it is determined that a helicopter is required, the health minister is informed, who then has to notify the Prime Minister. The Prime Minster then requests the RBA to inform the Indian army which has helicopters based in Hashimara. Subject to weather and other factors, two helicopters are then dispatched.

Dr Ugyen Dophu said that the two patients airlifted from Laya were not emergency cases but that it was deemed too risky for the two to walk to Gasa. He said even for healthy persons the walk to Gasa is not easy.

He explained that with the helicopter now available, an alternative, faster and higher quality service is available to the medical system to bring such patients to a referral hospital.

The helicopter was also dispatched to participate in a search and rescue for a student who went missing in Ura in Bumthang on November 16. However, by the time the helicopter reached Bumthang the boy was located by search parties on the ground.

Gyalsten K Dorji