Upon the command of His Majesty the King, the government will set up Royal Bhutan Helicopter Service Limited (RBHSL)’s regional office in Mongar and Gelephu, especially for medical evacuation.
Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering, while addressing the nation live from Gelephu yesterday morning, said the regional office will have a full-fledged ground staff like in Paro to provide services.
He said that having chopper services in the regions will help the timely medical evacuation, which is often delayed by bad weather.
Lyonchhen said that the government, finance ministry, Royal Bhutan Helicopter Service and experts are working out the details to establish the offices and begin the service.
He said the government is planning to buy new helicopters, but as the purchase of a new chopper could take about two years, the government began talks on leasing a chopper for immediate relief. “HM commanded to facilitate the chopper services at the earliest considering the risk of the virus and movement inconveniences as health centres and specialists are scattered and scarce.”
The Prime Minister said that besides the timely service during the pandemic, the chopper service would bring a new patient referral system in the country for other health emergencies and disasters.
He also said that easing Covid-19 restrictions meant extra responsibility for health and frontline workers. “With more relaxation, more cases and patients will require medical assistance, which will burden the frontline workers. The choppers will facilitate referral hospitals in Thimphu, Mongar and Gelephu to ensure timely medical airlifts uninterrupted by bad weather.”
Meanwhile, there are two choppers in the country today.
RBHSL provides helicopter services for medical evacuations, firefighting, airlifting of relief materials, local charter and tourist charter. Last year RBHSL carried out 109 medical evacuations.
According to the Ministry of Information and Communication’s statistical report 2021, RBHSL has carried out 783 medical evacuations since 2016. It also made critical medical care accessible to every Bhutanese and facilitated the nationwide distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.