Pregnant Indian woman dies after hospital transfer due to lack of vacancies in Lisbon

Written By Lara Silva

A pregnant Indian woman that was vacationing in Portugal died last Saturday after being transferred from Santa Maria Hospital to Sao Francisco Xavier in Lisbon. The woman was transferred due to a lack of vacancies in neonatology. The baby survived after an emergency c-section and is hospitalized at Sao Francisco Xavier Hospital.

The woman was 34 years old and around 30 weeks pregnant. According to the University Hospital Center Lisbon North (CHULN), she was first admitted to Santa Maria Hospital last Tuesday, August 23, at 2 AM and transferred to Sao Francisco Xavier that same day.

CHULN explained that “after normalization of arterial tensions and a significant respiratory improvement, she was transferred the same day to Sao Francisco Xavier Hospital, due to a lack of vacancies in neonatology, accompanied by a doctor and nurses.”

The Director of the Obstetrics Services at Santa Maria Hospital, Luisa Pinto, told CNN Portugal that the hospital only had two vacancies. The hospital allowed a mother pregnant with twins to remain, as the pregnant woman that eventually died was stable at the time. 

She needed to be transferred as the largest unit in the country did not have a vacancy to hospitalize the baby after labor was induced. The labor needed to occur to save the mother’s life as she had been diagnosed with severe preeclampsia and uterine growth restrictions.

During the transfer, the pregnant woman suffered a cardiorespiratory arrest that lasted 17 minutes. The medical staff tried to revive her during the trip, but when they arrived at Sao Francisco Xavier, she was in a profound coma.

Doctors were able to perform an emergency c-section when the pregnant woman arrived at Sao Francisco Xavier Hospital. The baby was born with 772 grams and is in intensive care for premature babies.

The mother remained in a coma for a few days until cerebral death was detected, and her death was then officially declared on Saturday afternoon. 

Press conference at Santa Maria Hospital

In a press conference at Santa Maria Hospital on Tuesday morning, Luisa Pinto and Clinical Director Luis Pinheiro said that the pregnant woman was stable at the time and that all the right conditions were in order for it to take place.

They also said that it was safer to transfer her rather than allow her to give birth at Santa Maria. Andre Graca, the Director of Neonatology of Santa Maria Hospital said that “the best transport is the mother’s uterus.”

Without vacancies, the baby could have arguably been born in Santa Maria and later transferred for care. However, Andre Graca argues this would be extremely risky in the first hours of the newborn’s life. 

When asked whether the mother would have survived if Santa Maria had more vacancies, Luisa Pinto said, “Probably not. Probably the same would have transpired. Although trying to revive someone in an ambulance is different than in a hospital…”.

She went on to say that it is not common for those with preeclampsia to go into cardiorespiratory arrest, so the situation was unexpected.

However, she says that due to the pregnant woman being foreign, the staff did not have her medical records about any previous pathologies. They will be investigating what happened.

Luisa Pinto also said that the pregnant woman could not speak English or Portuguese but was accompanied by her husband. 

Minister of Health Marta Temido resigns a few hours later

A few hours after this report was released in the media, the Minister of Health, Marta Temido, formally presented her resignation. Prime Minister Antonio Costa accepted her resignation request and informed the president. 

Temido has not mentioned the death of the pregnant woman in her resignation request. However, she has been recently scrutinized for the closure of emergency obstetrics services in various hospitals due to a lack of doctors. 

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