Though costly, helicopter services crucial in medical emergencies

Published On: August 12, 2019 08:13 AM NPT By: Sarita Shrestha

DHADING, Aug 12: Last week Nyu Tamang of Labdung village in the northern side of Dhading district suddenly felt pain in his stomach. His condition got worse in a while. Family and friends took him to a nearby health clinic where he was given saline water. But the pain did not ease, and his health condition deteriorated further. Helpless relatives then contacted a  helicopter to take Tamang to Kathmandu for further treatment. Upon reaching Kathmandu, doctors said that delays in bringing him could have been fatal. He is presently receiving treatment in the capital. Phurba Tamang of Thulogaun also suffered from stomach related ailment recently. He fainted. The 50-year-old was sent to Kathmandu through helicopter only on Wednesday. Doctors there saved his life. 

Phurba and Nyu represent ordinary people in Dhading villages for whom the cost of a helicopter is way too high than they can afford. However, in an emergency, they were helped by friends and neighbors ‘as saving lives is more important than the cost’. 

“He started crying due to stomach ache. After some time, he fainted. If we had not called the helicopter, anything could have happened,” said Phurba’s close neighbor Ram Bahadur Tamang. “Life is important than money. It is natural to help in such a situation. Tomorrow, we might also face the same problem,” he added. 

Dhading is not far away from Kathmandu in terms of distance. But the transportation facility is not smooth. Roads are dilapidated, vehicles are not available. Some rural villages in Dhading are almost cut off from Kathmandu due to the lack of roads. In such a situation, there is no way than to airlift patients to the capital during emergencies. Helicopters charge over Rs 100,000 for one way flight to Kathmandu.

According to Phurba’s neighbor, Ram Bahadur, the helicopter was called for Rs 120,000. He and other neighbors had raised money for the cause. “We are compelled to pay as much as they ask for as without helicopter service saving a life is unimaginable in case of medical emergencies,”  he said. 

Labdung Tamang of Thologuan lamented that there is no solution to even minor health issues in the villages. Sometimes the lack of awareness, whether the case is normal or severe puts people in a dilemma. 

“We sometimes confuse minor health problem for major and vice versa. We cannot differentiate. And then we have to call helicopter which is a matter of thousands of rupees,” he said. “People do not have that much money, but to save lives, they go to any extent, they borrow from others and take many more unwanted hassles.”

Even though the slogan of ‘Singhadurbar in each village’ became quite popular, people in remote areas suffer for even minimum facilities. Locals in Dhading stated that pregnant women are hardest hit when hospitals are not nearby. 

“When it’s the time of delivery, women have to be airlifted. These days, complications during delivery are becoming common,” said Labdung. “What would the poor families do?” 

According to Labdung, around 18 people from different places of Dhading were rescued through helicopter in the last one year alone. “These include pregnant women and other patients,” he said. 

Lapa and Sertung are considered the most remote villages of Dhading. Road networks have not touched these villages. According to Labdung, the lack of facilities cost human lives here. 

The government has recently announced free helicopter rescue for pregnant women and new mothers. Dhading is one of the 34 districts that are beneficiaries for this service. Locals have, however, demanded that the government focus on opening health facilities in their villages and towns. 

“It is a welcome move that the government has announced free helicopter service. But even that might not be very convenient as it sounds,” said Labdung. “If there are doctors near your place, you don’t have to go elsewhere. Locals’ demand is for having a proper health facility in our locality,” he added. 

Locals in Dhading have also demanded that not just pregnant women and new mothers but all kinds of patients should be offered the airlift facility in case of medical emergencies.

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