Ganga Karki died for want of a ventilatorKarki, who had been airlifted to Kathmandu due to postpartum complications, died after being unable to gain admittance at a hospital with a ventilator.
Ganga Karki went into labour a week ago at eight months pregnant. She lost the child, giving birth to a dead baby. On Friday, after developing postpartum complications, she was airlifted from her home in Sankhuwasabha to Kathmandu’s Paropakar Maternity and Women’s Hospital.
Thirty-two-year old Karki died on Friday night for want of a ventilator.
According to Paropakar hospital director Dr Jageshwor Gautam, Karki was brought in late and needed ventilator support as she was suffering from pre-eclampsia, a pregnancy-related disorder that results in high blood pressure and can affect the brain.
“Our hospital doesn’t have a treatment facility for neurological ailments and the patient needed ventilator-based treatment,” Gautam told the Post. “We called every government hospital with ventilators that also treat neuro-related problems but none of them agreed to admit the patient.”
According to Gautam, calls were made to Bir Hospital, Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital and Patan Hospital.
Dr Kedar Prasad Century, director of Bir Hospital, said that the hospital was unable to take the patient in as all Intensive Care Unit beds in the neuro ward were full.
“We have only five dedicated ICU beds with ventilator facilities in our neuro department and all of them were full,” said Century. “So we were unable to accept the request of the maternity hospital.”
At the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital, Dr Subash Acharya, head of the ICU department, said that the hospital had readied a bed for the patient after receiving a call from the maternity hospital, but the patient never arrived.
“I had received a call from the maternity hospital, following which I asked the department to clear an ICU bed with a ventilator,” said Acharya. “When the patient did not show up, I called the hospital back and that is when they informed me that the patient had already passed away.”
Officials at Patan Hospital were unavailable for comment.
The poor state of Nepal’s health care infrastructure is no secret. Qualified personnel and necessary equipment are few and far between. Intensive care unit beds and ventilators are limited in number and tend to be present only in tertiary-level hospitals in urban centres. And currently, with all attention diverted towards Covid-19, patients suffering from other life-threatening illnesses, like Karki, are being deprived of the critical care they require.
Karki went into labour about a week ago at the Biratnagar-based Nobel Hospital, where she delivered a dead child.
“The doctors could not operate on her to remove the foetus as her blood pressure was high. They had to use a vacuum to extract the baby,” said Januka Karki, the deceased’s mother-in-law. “We took her back to our village as we had already spent over Rs 400,000 for her treatment and doctors said that there was nothing more they could do for her medically.”
Upon reaching home, Karki’s health worsened, which led village locals to urge Januka to charter a helicopter and take her daughter-in-law to Kathmandu for treatment.
“The doctors here [at the Paropakar Maternity Hospital] made calls to other hospitals but no one wanted to admit her and we were unable to save her,” said Januka, who is currently waiting to claim Karki’s body.
Doctors have taken swab samples from Karki to test for the presence of the coronavirus.
Karki is survived by a husband, who is a migrant worker and is currently in Qatar, and two—9 and 11 year old— sons.
Samuel Chhetri contributed reporting.