Of the myriad events that rose to the occasion to commemorate the 60th birth anniversary of our beloved King, His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo in the country, one amongst many that have been speculated to reverberate with an accelerating vigor in the times to come have been vehemently foreseen with the establishment of the Royal Bhutan Helicopter Services Limited (RBHSL). This establishment is seen to be a history in the making for the country’s aviation sector. Originally charted out to address the social and developmental needs of the country, the helicopter service with the RBHSL in the last two years evidently seems to have successfully anchored its role towards the goal of the nation on a wider and broader spectrum.

Predictably, the helicopter Service in the country have ushered in and brought about palpable and varying benefits to its populace on a gamut of socio-economic expeditions such as medical evacuation, firefighting, passenger transport, cargo/freight transport and so on. Statistically, it is increasingly seen to be rising up to become the game changer in times of medical emergencies and natural disasters in the country. Gauging by its progress and the colossal impact it has made over the past, it is admirably laudable and applauding.

With the advent and launch of the helicopter service in the country, the medical services in the country has been virtually ameliorated and is further on seen to augment the quality of the resilient medical system in the country.  Through a converse lens, this can be viewed to be an ‘icing on the cake’ in the evolutionary context of the Bhutanese medical system. This onerous and lifesaving responsibility of the medical evacuation with the RBHSL is learnt to be shouldered by the Bhutan Emergency Aeromedical Retrieval Team (BEAR).  BEAR is learnt to provide elite trauma and medical resuscitation to patients and conduct life-saving surgical procedures. To this day BEAR has made formidable stride in saving a number of lives that would otherwise not have been possible without its existence.

The birth of the BEAR is learnt to be the culmination of collaboration amongst the Ministry of Health, JDWNRH and Royal Bhutan Helicopter Services Ltd (RBHSL) with the singular mission of saving the precious lives of its citizens by providing intensive medical care wherever needed across the country. Ever since its launch, there has been no looking back but has seen to be virtually going strong over the period of time despite numerous challenges of its own. It is known to have undertaken many emergency evacuation trips across the length and breadth of the country and have saved numerous lives of our citizens to this day. In the face of life threatening medical emergency situation from across all the nook and corners, BEAR has invariably come to its rescue.

We have heard stories of how a man in the mountain of Lunana in the north broke his leg after a lethal fall from a cliff to how a women in Samtse in the south suffered a fatal guar attack. We have also come across and learnt about how a women from the east in Trashiyangtse with hemorrhagic shock, dying from placental abruption and pregnant with twins to a case of a woman from Zhemgang, who suffered from florid cardiopulmonary failure and many more life defying complexities that sprung from across various far-flung and geographically challenged locations many of which have culminated in a successful and happy ending. The recent one being a case of a woman who was airlifted to the national referral hospital in Thimphu from Bumthang after being mauled by a bear a couple of days back has been found stable as reported. In many of these cases, patients were resuscitated, airlifted and treated at the hospital where many of them towards the end have been found to have walk out of the hospital in recuperated health and in smiles. These are potent phenomena and an incredible facets of some of the significant milestone in the level of excellence in the medical services in the country zealously undertaken by a team of three health professionals. Over the period of time, the BEAR team has received huge accolades from a large sections of the Bhutanese citizens in the country for its marvelous feat and achievements. The three member team have done wonders in saving the lives of people which in the past has never been thought of let alone achieve such feat.

The helicopter services as pledged by the government has not only risen to live up to its cause but has gone miles ahead in spurring a ray of hope to its general populace  in a number of socio-economic excursions within the country. Seemingly the government has successfully charted out and strategised these hopes to translate into reality as we can now validate on our own account. This truly is seen to be an icing on the home made cake. With time and diligent navigation, a subtle paradigm shift in the quality of the emergency medical services has been seen to have been raised its bar with the formation and launch of the BEAR.

Given the indispensable role the BEAR has elucidated to play in the recent past in saving lives of the people, it is paramount that the existing team grow on both fronts, horizontally and vertically from a sustainable point of view in the times to come.  In other words, no stone would be left unturned to ensure that the team evolve and grow both in quality and quantitative context over the years. To this end, support from across all corners and predominantly from the government is seen to be crucial and of paramount importance for the BEAR’s ability to grow and continue extending unprecedented emergency medical services on time.  This form of life affirming support extended to the people in the remote pockets of the country remarkably blends and portends well with our own background of the gross national happiness principle integrated in our lives at all levels.

BEAR has invariably brought about smiles and reloaded happiness in the lives of its beneficiaries including their families and to the country at large that otherwise would have been a different story altogether in its absence. To continue this at an unprecedented pace and renewed vigor, the support to improve emergency services is seen to be quintessentially the fundamental need of the hour now and later. Beyond this, the helicopter services in the country as it appears is poised to scale newer heights and break boundaries of medical services in the country.

Contributed by 

Kezang Namgyel

Bhutan Hydropower

Service Limited

Jigmiling, Gelephu