Bhutan’s Emergency Medical Response in Nepal

On April 25, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, creating a tragedy of immense proportions. Entire villages, ancient temples, homes, and lives were reduced to rubble. At such a time, many stories of hope emerge, and that is what keeps the hardest hit clinging on, even if to an uncertain future. This is a time when stories of compassion, heroism, and unconditional love for humanity also arise–and make everyone believe in the innate goodness of humanity. Today, I want to report on our emergency disaster response to the call of the moment.

Upon the news of the devastating earthquake, His Majesty the King of Bhutan sent a medical relief team consisting of highly trained and motivated medical professionals and volunteers to Nepal. We were stationed in Trishuli, one of the areas worst hit by the calamity, from April 27 to May 17. We set up our self-contained, well-equipped medical team and functioned through a well-coordinated incident command system. Our team delivered medical care with minimum burden on the local resources of the community. We established our disaster triage and casualty management system with special focus on severely injured and vulnerable groups. Over 2,000 patients were treated, amongst whom more than 200 patients required surgery, mostly for orthopedic injuries. In addition to providing medical care through the stationary unit, we also visited remote and unreached areas from which we evacuated additional casualties and provided medical consultations and treatment in the villages.

Many local dignitaries and international agencies visited our camp to extend their helping hands, but seeing our fully functional and self-standing unit, they were more than impressed by how effectively we worked. The Red Cross-Nepal, Red Cross-Singapore, Handicap International-France-Nepal, Doctors Without Borders (Medicines Sans Frontieres), Korean MBC news agency, Qatar Red Crescent Society, Israeli team, USA medical groups, and local medical teams appreciated our approach and performance.

This success was only possible because of the full guidance and support from His Majesty the King of Bhutan, the government, and the people of Bhutan. In addition, our professionalism, knowledge, and skills in dealing with emergency response during such disasters, whether it is within the country or outside, is mainly due to great achievements in  Emergency Medical Services over recent years through the support of the Bhutan Foundation and other stakeholders. Many of the team members received emergency, trauma, and disaster medicine program trainings funded by the Foundation.

Speaking as one of the recipients of the trainings, I want  you to know that we are very grateful for the support we received, and we hope that these achievements will be an inspiration to continue supporting emergency medical services in Bhutan.                    

 Best Wishes,

Dr. Tashi Tenzin
Head of Emergency Department
Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital
Ministry of Health
Thimphu, Bhutan