Mushroom and hospital that killed

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Bhutanese media carried news in series about the Mushroom poisoning and death of four in Thimphu referral hospital. The death of a man in 30s and two children on May 16 in Thimphu hospital became newsy. Kuensel, on its May 17 issue, reported the story that developed in Samtse and ended up in fatality in Thimphu.

The wife of the deceased man, who was undergoing treatment in ICU, died the following night. They were first admitted to Samtse hospital after they got the symptoms of poisoning like nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. The family consumed the wild mushroom for their dinner on May 11, according to the Kuensel.

Given the road accessibility, Samtse hospital is not far away from Chengmari, where the mushroom poisoning actually began. According to the media, the victims were admitted to Samtse hospital the next day that is May 12.

Doctors in Samtse hospital did not see the patients critically ill, although they referred the four patients to Thimphu on May 14, while another was discharged. He, however, was brought back to the hospital on May 16.

The media failed to report on the nature of habitat from where it is collected, the growth stage and even the physical characteristics of the mushroom that was consumed. Such information would help the experts to identify the varieties of mushroom that can be lethal, at least for the public safety.  The fact that mushrooms appearing in various shapes and color after the pre-monsoon rain in Bhutan and consumed just on the basis of traditional knowledge is accountable to this loss of human life, sometime taken as mere accident.

The Kuensel published only one side of the story, very much inclined to justify the death of four people as ‘unpreventable’. There is nothing about what people in the village has to say about the incident, how and when the victims transported to hospital, why were not they referred to Thimphu  when the doctors knew about the seriousness of poisoning effect after 24or 48 hours or so.

BBS news of May 22 indicated of late referral by Samtse hospital to Thimphu, which meant some advanced anti-toxin treatment could have been initiated early.  Going by the news of BBS, the neighbor who was discharged the other day soon returned to hospital; got referred to Thimphu and he could be saved. This sufficiently give reason to guess and question the treatment plan of Samtse hospital, keeping the patients as young as 10 years just under saline, when it was not well-equipped to do all the tests and detoxify the poison. It also reads, ‘the neighbor was referred only when the four people died’. If that is true, the doctors did not take care of the condition in which the patients arrived at the hospital and how fair would it be for them to keep under simple treatment if sufficient time has elapsed.  Is this careless handling of patients who are under risk of losing their life by the district hospitals a reason to say: because it is for free?