Quake: The Bhutanese medical team in Nepal will begin the return process to Bhutan with a first batch of 26 arriving tomorrow.

A second batch is expected on Thursday.

The medical team was dispatched to Nepal on the command of His Majesty the King on April 27, following the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the country on April 25.

In a meeting with the Bhutanese Earthquake Medical Relief Unit and other foreign medical teams in Trishuli and neighbouring areas on May 9, Nepalese health ministry officials briefed the teams on their plans to return the country to normalcy and take over health services.

The 78-member Bhutanese team is currently based in Trishuli, Nuwakot district, located 44km from the epicentre. It has treated 1,943 patients and conducted 194 surgeries as of yesterday.

Besides the Bhutanese team, which assisted in reactivating the Nuwakot district hospital, a combined Singapore Red Cross and Qatar Red Crescent team that arrived on May 2, run an out-patient facility near by. A team from the Protezione Civile Nationale from Italy, that arrived on May 4, also run a medical camp located 20 minutes away from the Bhutanese camp. Some doctors from Doctors Without Borders have been helping in the out-patient division of the hospital.

Regional director of the Central Regional Health Directorate, Dr Ramesh Bikram Singh, under whose jurisdiction Nuwakot district falls, said that the government is preparing to take over the running of the Nuwakot hospital and resume normalcy.

He said there is gratitude towards the teams and for their valuable work and support during Nepal’s hour of crisis.

He also said the government of Nepal plans to rebuild temporary structures and have the hospital staff begin working indoors, now that the initial wave of earthquake victims have subsided.

Dr Singh requested that the teams hand over patient records and train the staff to continue caring for those still admitted in the wards.

The Bhutanese team agreed to begin the process of handing over patients and enabling hospital staff to resume normalcy.

Dr. Tobgyal Wangchhuk, the leader for the Bhutanese team, said that Bhutan would be willing to support the Nepalese government and provide medical service and assistance to the people of Nepal until the Nepalese government was ready to take over.

Nuwakot District Hospital medical superintendent Dr. Surya Bhushal, expressed special thanks to the Bhutanese team. He said that the Bhutanese team had been of great help having arrived at a crucial time and taken care of victims and patients when the need was most urgent.

A Nepal Red Cross member, Sita Tamang, who coordinated a team of students to help people around the area, said she is appreciative of the team’s presence and efforts, and His Majesty the King, for sending the team to Nepal.

“I have seen the work you have done here, and the people here have benefitted so much,” she said. “People didn’t have spare clothes when they were admitted to the wards, nothing to cover themselves with. And your team provided shirts and blankets. They cleaned patients, even donated blood,” she added. “I want to thank you, and the King of Bhutan from the bottom of my heart for sending your team to us,” she said.

Meanwhile, all field units deployed by the Bhutanese team into the rural areas of the district have returned to the base camp.

The team had extended its reach by deploying a 31-member field unit at Samundar tar on May 7, which is connected by motor road.

In Samundra-tar, the field unit divided into four teams. The first group stayed at the base, and treated a total of 63 patients while the other three teams walked to more inaccessible areas.

A second group went to Betani village, located a seven hour walk away, and treated 100 patients. The third team travelled to Gyangphedi, a two-hour walk away, and treated 53 patients, while the fourth team walked for between two to four hours to Shikharbeshi village, where they saw 214 patients, and conducted 13 minor surgeries.

Today is the team’s 14th day in Nepal.

Gyalsten K Dorji

Additional info from Desuup Deepika Chhetri in Nepal