It was almost 9am when Lhapka Deki received a call from a friend who told her that the ultrasound service in Damphu General Hospital has resumed.

She was already at work in Darchargang, which is about three kilometers away from Damphu town.

Lhakpa Deki said she went home, washed the hair dye and rushed to the hospital.  She works as daily wage labourer with the public works division.

She had been waiting do an ultrasound for almost a month now.  “I’m thankful that the service is available here since I was hesitant to go to Gelephu.”

The 28-year-old mother of one is expecting her second child. She is in her first trimester but an ultrasound was recommended earlier owing to her urinary tract infection.

Like her, several other patients were happy that the ultrasound service has resumed after the machine was down for almost a month. At least 15 patients availed the service yesterday.

Hospital staff said that at least 15 to 25 patients avail the service every day when the machine is functional.

The chief of bio-medical equipment division, Tashi Penjore, said that the ultrasound machine broke down first at the end of December last year. “Two internal parts of the machine were damaged.”

He said they had to contact the supplier in India to replace them.  “But the GST implementation delayed the procurement process. It is not that we didn’t respond immediately.”

He explained that the machine was repaired on March 23 but it broke down again on April 12. “During the 20 days when the machine was functional, at least 70 patients availed the service. The machine wasn’t defunct for four months as it was reported earlier,” he said.

Tashi Penjore said if local engineers could repair the machine, the problem could be addressed faster. “Having to rely on engineers from the supplier in India takes time.”

On April 12, the same parts, which were damaged, had to be taken to India for replacement.  The parts were replaced on May 10 after which ultrasound service resumed.

He said power fluctuation is one main factor that damages medical equipment in the country. “Once the new hospital construction is complete in Tsirang, less equipment damage is expected with better power supply.”

Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang