… four months after the woman died

Nima Wangdi

A professional and ethical sub-committee formed to look into the investigation carried out by the independent inquiry committee on the fourth Covid-19 death in the country will soon present their recommendations to the health ministry and the Bhutan Health and Medical Council. (BHMC).

Health Minister Dechen Wangmo said that an independent inquiry committee, formed on February 17, presented its findings to the professional and ethical sub-committee on April 21.

The independent inquiry committee consists of members from Civil Society Organisations, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital and Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences of Bhutan.

Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo said the ministry came to know about the case only two weeks after the incident. They then formed an inquiry committee. “As we had lockdowns in between, the committee could not complete the investigation.”

She also said that the husband of the deceased had lodged the complaint officially only a week ago.

Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said it was the government’s responsibility to find out the gross lapse, if there was any, so that it doesn’t happen again. “The grievance was with the medical team, hotel management, and the hotel’s social services and facilities.”

He said that media had reported as if the patient died of cold in winter. “The hotel management had sent me pictures of the hotel room the very next day capturing all the facilities that a three-star hotel should have; which includes mattress, quilt, pillow, panel heater and water boiler. There was also an extra quilt in the wardrobe in the photograph.”

According to the Prime Minister, BHMC is already investigating the case and none should be spared if found at fault.

Meanwhile, the deceased, who is a chronic kidney patient from Samtse, was living in a rented house in Phuentsholing and was undergoing dialysis prior to her referral to Thimphu.

She was brought to Thimphu on January 27 in an ambulance after she tested positive to the virus in Phuentsholing, but died early morning the next day.

The health ministry declared that she had died of cardiac complications due to underlying kidney disease probably exacerbated by the Covid-19 infection.

However, the husband and the relatives of the deceased complained that the deceased died of negligence as they did not receive health assistance in the hotel.

They also alleged the deceased did not have basic necessities like enough blankets in the room. “She could have been saved if she received better health care and attention,” her husband then said.