Family accuses Nganglam doctor of negligence

The doctor has dismissed the allegations

Medical: A team of four officials in Pemagatshel are investigating an allegation against a doctor of the Nganglam Basic Health Unit (BHU) for negligence that led to the death of a farmer following a snake bike.

The team comprises of the Pemagatshel dzongkhag health officer, Noorbugang gup, chief medical officer and Nganglam dungpa.

While the findings of the investigation are yet to be finalised, family members of the 74-year-old farmer who died at Nganglam BHU last week said that the death occurred because of sheer negligence by the doctor on duty.

The victim’s son, Sonam Phuntsho said that on May 24 his father had gone to maintain their drinking water source in Noorbugang gewog’s Ningshingborang village. While there, he was bitten by a snake and was brought to the Noorbugang BHU immediately.

At around 3pm he was referred to the Nganglam BHU.

On arriving at the Nganglam BHU, the doctor conducted a blood test and told the patient and family members that there was nothing to worry about as no venom was detected in the blood, Sonam Phuntsho, who accompanied his father to the BHU, said.

For another two hours or so, he said, his father was alright, and even ate food and drank water. “But towards the evening, my father suffered breathing problems,” he said. “We called the doctor but he never turned up and the doctor arrived only after my father died,” he said.

His father died at around 6pm, Sonam Phuntsho said. However, he acknowledged that recording accurate timing was not possible as they were busy attending to the victim.

He claimed that while his father was struggling to breathe, a ward boy placed an oxygen mask on the victim which was not connected to an oxygen cylinder. “He was not even given an anti-venom injection,” he said. “Had doctors been little more attentive on time, my father would not have died.”

However the doctor at the Nganglam BHU who attended to the patient, Dr Yeshi Jamtsho, dismissed the allegations.

He said he received a call from the Noorbugang health assistant at around 3pm informing him about the patient referral. The patient arrived at the Nganglam BHU at 4.45pm.

Immediately all necessary tests were carried out. No venom was found in the patient’s blood, Dr Yeshi Jamtsho said. It was also found that all vital senses were normal.

“The patient was normal without any sign of venom content in his blood, his respiratory was also normal,” he said. “I was there the whole time attending to the patient.”

After 5pm, when the patient complained of breathing difficulties, he was put on anti-venom treatment, which was given through IV and not a syringe injection. When there were no further complaints, the doctor went home after 6pm to eat as he had not eaten since the morning, the doctor said.

Just after reaching home, he got a call from the ward informing him that the patient’s condition had turned serious, the doctor said.

“I rushed to the ward and by the time I reached he was already dead,” Dr Yeshi Jamtsho said.

He added that the patient could have died because of neurotoxicity, in which case poison enters through the brain. In neurotoxicity, he said it is difficult to diagnose through blood tests. Anti-venom would work only if it’s given within an hour after suffering a snake bite, he said.

The 70-year-old man was the seventh patient brought to Nganglam BHU between January and May this year. There were six before him and one after. All recovered according to the BHU.

The investigation team will submit their findings to the health ministry within a week.

Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang

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