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Pregnancy drama cost fallopian tube – and almost life

Queenstown woman Lovitha Karu­­­­­­­­­­­nakaran’s resort pregnancy night­mare has left her feeling lucky to be alive.

Karunakaran and husband Rambabu Eng­iddaraman are de­­manding better local maternity services after her horror health experience, which cost her a fallopian tube.

The 27-year-old lost the reproductive tube – one of two that women have – after it ruptured when her ectopic pregnancy was allegedly missed by Queenstown GPs in August last year.

It wasn’t till she flew to Christchurch two days later – en route to holidaying in Australia – that her life-threatening condition was picked up.

“[The Christchurch doctors] were quite surprised that nothing was done when I was bleeding because if they’d done a scan [the Queenstown GPs] would’ve known my [abdomen] was full of blood,” Karunakaran claims.

“One [Christchurch] doctor told me if I’d gone on that flight to Australia I would have died.”

Karunakaran – a Malaysian living in Queenstown for five years –believes the nightmare of her first pregnancy may have been avoided if South­­land District Health Board provided better maternity services at Frankton’s Lakes District Hospital.

The struggling 22-bed LDH doesn’t even have a pre-natal ultrasound – the only place pregnant mums can have scans locally is at Otago Radiology based at Queenstown Medical Centre.

SDHB has come under fire after Mountain Scene revelations of significant underfunding at LDH, with further cost-cutting on the horizon.

Karunakaran’s nightmare started soon after learning she was about five weeks pregnant – two weeks before she was due for her first scan.

She went to QMC at Remarkables Park after she started bleeding but couldn’t see her regular GP.

“I asked [another doctor] if I needed a scan to make sure that it was all fine and [the doctor] told me it was not necessary.”

Karunakaran claims she was told she could go to Otago Radiology for a scan later if she still wanted to – but the GP allegedly didn’t write a referral letter.

Later that same day, in more pain, she went to Otago Radiology for a scan: “They told me that if the doctor didn’t suggest one then they wouldn’t be able to do one for me.”

A further three days later, when due to fly to Christ­church, she was bleeding heavily and in severe pain.

She tried to get an ap­­­­­p­ointment at QMC but all doctors were fully booked so she went to Mountain Lake Medical Centre instead.

“The doctor [at MLMC] told me I’d probably mis­carried but it was fine and they couldn’t do anything about it because [Otago Radiology then] had no scanning on Fridays and there’s no other equipment in Queenstown.”

The MLMC doctor suggested she get a scan in Christchurch before flying to Australia.

In Christchurch, a suff­er­ing Karunakaran rea­­lised she and her husband wouldn’t be going on holiday.

It was while being scanned at Christchurch’s St George’s Hospital that doctors diagnosed her ectopic pregnancy that had ruptured a fallopian tube.

They immediately rushed her to Christchurch Women’s Hospital for surgery to remove the tube.

“I’m really glad that I was admitted in Christchurch instead of Queenstown,” Karunakaran says.

“I don’t know what would have happened to me then.”

“But if I’d had the chance to have a scan in Queens­town earlier, I probably wouldn’t have lost my fallopian tube.”

Despite Karunakaran signing a Privacy Act waiver, QMC managing partner Dr Richard Macharg says medical ethics prevent him talking about her case but he invites her to get in touch.

“There are a number of significant concerns raised.

“I can reassure the person that we would look into this extremely carefully and take it very seriously.”

MLMC practitioner Dr Michael Stephens also won’t comment.

Karunakaran says she’s sharing her story in the hope of LDH securing better maternity services.

“Queenstown’s not a small town. A lot of people are depending on the hospital here.”

Docs disagree on ultrasound scans

Local doctors disagree on whether the Wakatipu is short of pre-natal scanning services.

Queenstown Medical Centre managing partner Dr Richard Macharg says the resort doesn’t need another ultrasound – Otago Radiology now has a full Monday-Friday service at his complex and that’s enough.

“With regard to the size and the population in Queenstown – but most particularly to do with the availability of urgent scanning – if you were to try to compare us with a lot of other places in New Zealand, you’d actually find it was better.”

But Mountain Lake Medical Centre’s Dr Michael Stephens says Queenstown needs another ultrasound service
– whether at Lakes District Hospital or elsewhere.

“It would be extremely useful to be able to have scanning available on the day. We need this as a facility in the town – it’s such a powerful diagnostic tool, not just for pregnancy but for multiple organ disorders.”

Meanwhile, the Wakatipu Health Trust believes Southland District Health Board should provide an ultrasound in LDH’s “spartan” maternity ward to help ease demand.

“At minimum, SDHB could contract with Otago Radiology to provide scans after hours and over the weekends for emergencies,” trustee Maria Cole says.