Bhutan is seeing a significant rise in the number of vehicle-related and unintentional injuries, as well as increasing threats of natural disasters. But in a country with rugged and mountainous terrain, transport to the nearest health-care facility can take hours, which is critical to patient care. The Bhutan Foundation is working to address these issues by building Bhutan’s capacity in emergency medical services.
Building Local In-Country Training Capacity
When the Bhutan Foundation first started our Emergency Medicine program in 2009, there were no emergency physicians in Bhutan. The program started by providing in-country training and mentorship to young medical doctors working in emergency rooms. Meanwhile, we supported two physicians to become Bhutan’s first emergency medicine physicians, thereby recognizing emergency medicine as a specialty for the country.
The Foundation conducted local trainings of health teams by bringing international and Bhutanese medical experts together. Throughout the process, we were dedicated to creating Bhutanese experts and trainers. Then, in 2013, the Foundation helped establish the National Emergency Education Center in Thimphu, Bhutan, with a fully staffed Bhutanese team. The Center continues to serve as a training ground for all healthcare workers.
Strengthening Pre-Hospital Care Services
In emergencies, the first point of care and safe transport to health facilities can be critical to saving a life. Therefore, pre-hospital care is an important part of emergency medical services. As part of our pre-hospital program, we provided first-aid and first-responder trainings to those who are often the first point of care. These include ambulance drivers, police, firefighters, and taxi drivers.
In 2018, with the introduction of helicopter services in Bhutan, the Foundation helped train and equip the Bhutan Emergency Aeromedical Retrieval (BEAR) Team. The BEAR Team responds to emergency calls throughout the country, which are most often from the far-flung and hard-to-reach communities. The team consists of trained doctors and nurses who can provide field medical services and help safely transport patients to a healthcare facility for further treatment.
Providing Essential Medical Equipment and Supplies
Along with trainings, we provide donations of essential medical equipment and supplies, so that trained healthcare workers can carry out their essential services. We have donated equipment such as ultrasound machines, cardiac monitors, and photometers. We even donated Bhutan’s first fully equipped EMS ambulance. The donated equipment is being used in ambulances, helicopters, basic health units, and hospitals across Bhutan. We have also equipped the National Emergency Training Center with simulation mannikins, CPR mannikins, and other training resources so that practicing nurses and doctors can get hands-on experience.
The Royal Government of Bhutan Spends around 7.4 – 11.4% of total government expenditure on health
There are about 32 emergency medical technicians in Bhutan. (NSB, 2019)
We supported the first National Emergency Education Center set up in Thimphu in 2013
The Bhutan Foundation is partnering with Bhutan’s Ministry of Health to improve emergency medical services in Bhutan. Trainings are conducted through the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital’s Emergency Education Center. Curriculum and training programs are developed in collaboration with Phelps Memorial Hospital Center in New York, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, and Health Volunteers Overseas.
The Bhutan Foundation needs donations in order to provide medical equipment and support for training Bhutan’s doctors and nurses. Your support will improve the lives of all Bhutanese through providing better emergency care, step by step.