Mother Dies Hours After Delivering Stillborn

Doctors in Eilat say deaths are unrelated.

A pregnant mother died in childbirth on Monday and her baby was stillborn, due to a rare combination of medical complications. With the consent of the family, autopsies are being performed on both baby and mother.

Ayelet Gilad, 33, was admitted to Yoseftal Medical Center in Eilat on Sunday and went into labor early Monday. Relatives say she asked to deliver her baby by cesarean section, as she had done with her son, who is now eight. Staff in the maternity ward, however, said there was no justification for delivering the baby surgically and arranged for natural childbirth.

But the baby was stillborn, delivered with its umbilical cord around its neck. The hospital's director, Dr. Avi Goldberg, said the child died in the course of the delivery.

Several hours later, Gilad began complaining of chest pains. Goldberg told Haaretz the medical staff quickly found she was suffering from a spontaneous burst blood vessel that caused massive bleeding, which they were unable to stop. Despite the efforts of a large surgical team, he said, she died on the operating table.

He said Gilad had been closely monitored both during and after her labor, and throughout this time, her vital signs were normal.

Hospital staff said there was no connection between Gilad's death and that of her baby, and the hospital is now gathering as much information as possible to determine what caused the internal bleeding. Immediately after Gilad's death, Goldberg asked the Health Ministry to appoint an investigative committee on the matter.

On more than one occasion, Yoseftal, which is Israel's only hospital south of Be'er Sheva, has survived the threat of closure. It is owned by the Clalit heath maintenance organization, which recently decided to invest in upgrading the facility.

But back in 2003, Clalit had asked the Health Ministry to issue a public tender to transfer ownership of Yoseftal to another party. At the time, the HMO was facing a NIS 600 million deficit, to which the hospital's own deficit had contributed. Clalit noted that Yoseftal had high personnel costs, since high salaries were needed to attract doctors to Eilat, and also incurred extra expenses because patients sometimes had to be transferred to hospitals in the center of the country.

The hospital, established in 1968, was spared closure again in 2005. But Goldberg said the threat of a transfer of ownership has passed, and upgrades to the facility will be carried out in the coming year.

Yoseftal has a relatively low patient occupancy rate, with just under 74 percent of its 66 general medical beds being occupied on average. It currently serves a population of about 70,000, including residents of Eilat and of Israel Defense Force bases in the region as well as tourists to the Red Sea resort area.