Yangyel Lhaden

His Majesty The King awarded the Druk Thuksey (Heart Son of Bhutan) medal to Bhutan Emergency Aeromedical Retrieval Team (BEAR) during the National Day celebrations at the Tashichhodzong in Thimphu yesterday. 

This was in recognition of BEAR’s exceptional service to the Nation by bringing emergency medical services to the people in any part of the country and saving numerous lives.

BEAR was conceptualised in October 2016 by the medical staff working at the Emergency Department of the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH ) recognising that numerous lives could be saved if a specialised team could reach the patients and deliver prompt and critical medical care on time. 

The BEAR responds to life-threatening emergencies and its Health Help Centre hotline number is 112.

It was founded by three volunteers—Dr Charlie Haviland Mize, a resuscitation specialist, and nurses, Lhab Dorji and Kiran Diyali from JDWNRH—with the aim of providing ICU-level emergency care anywhere in the country within an hour with a helicopter-based emergency team.

Today, BEAR has 19 team members, comprising six emergency medical residents, nine site nurses, three site doctors and a specialist.

Since 2017, BEAR has responded to over 640 emergency cases. Last month on a daily basis BEAR delivered critical services to the gravely ill and difficult-to-reach population of the country.

BEAR’s head of operations, Lhab Dorji, said that receiving the Druk Thuksey medal from His Majesty was beyond the team’s expectations. “We are humbled, motivated, and encouraged to work harder.”

He said that the award came with a greater responsibility. “All our team members take time for BEAR from their regular schedules and the award has provided the extra determination for the team.”

One of the many achievements of BEAR is that it was able to provide emergency services to the victims of the Laya landslide, which occurred on June 16.

Ten cordyceps collectors lost their lives in the tragedy, which occurred at Ri-Druzhi in Laya. Two women members of BEAR went to Laya at 6am to perform lifesaving interventions at the site.

Lhab Dorji said that BEAR was able to provide services as any part of the country could be reached within an hour with a helicopter. “We attend to the needs of patients based on the severity of the condition and the distance of the site to hospital.”