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Even though there is a demand to bring back Sonam Tamang from Japan, from many Bhutanese, including parliamentarians from her constituency, the patient’s medical condition calls for a deeper study of the option.

Labour ministry explores air ambulance to bring back Sonam Tamang

Even though there is a demand to bring back Sonam Tamang from Japan, from many Bhutanese, including parliamentarians from her constituency, the patient’s medical condition calls for a deeper study of the option.

Since September last year, the patient who had gone through the Earn and Learn programme is on a ventilator.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering told Kuensel that the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources (MoLHR) was exploring air ambulances from different countries and associated costs.

“For now, the basis is the recent air evacuation of a man from Japan to India, which cost USD 170,000. So, we can imagine it would be far more than that,” he said.

The prime minister has said that the government will go all out to put the money together. The patient needs to be flown back on a fully equipped air ambulance, with a team of medical experts.

However, the prime minister said that the decision on whether she will be brought home would depend on the mother.

He also informed that the doctors in Japan were facing difficulty in communicating with the patient’s mother Dhan Maya Tamang. “So we are exploring to find an interpreter who can speak Lotshamkha.”

“We are constantly in touch with Sonam Tamang’s doctor. We are closely monitoring the situation. The last update was this afternoon and Sonam’s condition was not changed,” he said yesterday evening.

Asked about the chances of the patient’s recovery, Dr Lotay Tshering said doctors “professionally would not say”. He said Sonam Tamang’s health was in status quo as of yesterday.

However, Sonam Tamang’s brother-in-law Sha Bdr Rai told Kuensel that the mother was informed about some improvement in her condition. “Sonam’s mother and I had a conversation on WeChat. She told me that doctors told her that she had improved a bit.”

He said the family had not discussed whether or not to bring her to Bhutan. “The mother and brother have just reached Japan and are observing the patient.”

Sonam Tamang’s mother and brother reached Japan on July 27, and accordingly, the director general of the department of employment and human resources on July 26 wrote to the Honorary Consul in Japan requesting for support to the patient’s family.

However, the foreign ministry on July 31 communicated to labour ministry, saying that director general, Sherub Tenzin, had sent the letter not keeping with the norms of external affairs seeking explanation. The labour minister was on medical leave when the letter was sent.

The director general on behalf of the department extended appreciation to the Honorary Consul in Japan for support provided to Sonam Tamang and Bhutanese youth in general and requested for more support.

The letter mentions that the Bhutan Employment Overseas (BEO) and its Japanese counterpart Support for New Departure (SND) has appointed Takeda Takashi coordinator and interpreter for the Bhutanese family during their stay in Japan.

Meanwhile, an online signature campaign to bring the patient to Bhutan has been started, but nitizens are divided. As of 7.20 pm yesterday, 2,640 had signed the petition. They need 5,000.

Japan’s medical law doesn’t permit an unstable person such as Sonam Tamang’s condition (state of coma) from traveling and even if the government allows the travel, there is no guarantee that she could brought her back to life as she is on a lifesaving machine.

“In such a highly unguaranteed situation, our government couldn’t find a solution. Comparatively, health facility in Japan can’t be compared to what we can provide here,” the prime minister said.

The government is also bearing 30 percent of her medical expenses and other additional costs of her hospitalisation. The rest is covered by Sonam’s medical insurance in Japan.

The MP of Tsirangtoe Sergithang, where the patient belongs to also responded to social media criticisms, saying that he has been working towards improving the situation. “Our priority is Sonam and it is in her interest, and the family’s, that she be kept in the hospital that ensures best facilities.”

Some nitizens have suggested keeping her in Japan because of better medical care facilities. However, others say it would make little sense to keep her in Japan if her condition does not improve.

  MB Subba

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