Zanskar Rescue Team

Zanskar Rescue Team

Zanskar Rescue Team

During seven winter months the valley is disconnected by road due to heavy snowfall and the temperatures drop down to - 40°C. To manage emergency cases is a big challenge in winter due to difficult and long way of access to the patient home, lack of training and equipment for emergency situation on the allopathic and traditional medicine side. Frequently reported health problems in winter are: exacerbation of osteo-articular pain and obstructive respiratory disease, teeth problems, diffuse oedema, pregnancy and delivery issues.

Another aspect of insufficient patient care has been the absence on duty of allopathic medical staff that migrates to warmer regions in wintertime. People rely in winter season more on the traditional Tibetan medicine practitioner who is based at village level. On the infrastructure side lack of communication means made the alert for medical help difficult. The organisation of further transport in cases of serious health threats is challenging since the roads are closed in winter and due to administrative reasons helicopter transfer to a higher centre takes three days.

About 50 health care providers and other actors in health sector could talk during the 2nd Zanskar Health Conference one full day about winter health problems.
The main conclusion was that there is acute need for a mobile winter rescue team to enable home based care and safe patient transport to hospital in Padum (the only hospital in Zanskar), especially when all the roads are blocked by snow.
Shortly after the 2nd Zanskar Health Conference, eight young, strong and motivated Zanskari spoke out their motivation to become the first Zanskar Rescue Team.

What are the objectives of the project?

  • Train all team members in winter mountaineering & rescue techniques: Snowshoeing and basic mountaineering techniques, avalanche risk knowledge and rescue
  • Teach basic skills in rescue medicine
  •  Teach emergency & primary care medicine skills for the medical staff
  • Teach safe patient transport with a patient rescue sled
  • Ensure a free rescue service for the population
  • Ensure a payroll for the rescue team staff
  • Ensure annual continuous training for the rescue team

Who is part of the Zanskar Rescue Team?

4 technical rescue staff members:

  • Padma Sonam, Thuckjay Angchuk, Thuckjay Tahan, Stanzin Phunchok
  • all young Zanskari men aged between 32 and 39, who usually work as farmers or carpenters

4 medical rescue staff members :

  • 3 young nurses: Stanzin Dolma, Pedma Lamo, Stanzin Naskit
  • 1 traditional Tibetan medicine doctor: Tashi Drojay, 45 years old

With what kind of equipment?

Each member of the team will be provided with high-quality winter clothing, and basic mountaineering equipment including snow shoes and avalanche rescue material.
Medical and rescue equipment, including communication devices, will be provided to the rescue team.
The Swiss Society of Mountain Medicine, Bergrettung Lech, Swiss Sports Clinic, Rettungdienst Kantonsspital Uri as well as Lowa, Leki, Gloryfy, Xsocks, Zanskar sportshop and Nettomed are partners and/or sponsors of the project.

Who are the training experts?

Local experts

  • Dr Stanzin, Block Medical Officer, Doctor Zanskar
  • Dr Punzok, Dentist at Community Health Center, Zanskar
  • Ane Dolma Lamo, Senior Midwife

Foreign expert team

  • Steve Long, mountain guide, Chairman, UIAA Training Panel
  • Andreas Ferrazzini, carpenter and prospective mountain guide
  • Elisabeth Marth, Gynaecologist – Obstetrician, Innsbruck Austria
  • Christophe Huehn, general and emergency physician, Geneva, Switzerland
  • Jean-Luc Magnenat, internal medicine and pneumology, Geneva, Switzerland
  • Florence Hähni, general physician at Swiss Sports Clinic,  Bern, Switzerland
  • Eloïse Magnenat, assistant doctor internal medicine, Biel
  • Amalie Frandsen, assistant doctor internal medicine, Biel

Support & Organizing team (Zanskar Health Association)

  • Rebecca Hertzog, assistant doctor internal medicine, Altdorf
  • Yeshi Dorjay, trekking guide Zanskar

These professionals will provide the training to the Zanskari team on a voluntary basis and during their spare time.

Projet News Ticker

09 - 2017: Mountain Medicine Training of the expert team in the Swiss Alps testing the rescue sled in the terrain & preparing the teachings

10 - 2017: Yeshi travels to Delhi with managing to bring nearly 200 kg of equipment (clothes, gear, mountaineering equipment, medicines, medical equipment, rescue equipment) up to Zanskar.

11 - 2017: The Zanskar Rescue Team members are getting ready for the teaching, setting up the Rescue Team base in Tungri.