The technicality of citizenship has left nine-year Auckland residents adrift in India with a premature baby in intensive care and a mounting $20,000 medical bill.

But amid the unprecedented Covid-19 global travel upheaval the New Zealand Government won't provide consular or financial assistance to Richel and Krisshgopaal Kharola, who are Kiwi permanent residents.

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Instead, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Mfat) advised that the Kharolas contact family, friends or their bank after an ordeal that threatened the mother and newborn daughter's life.


Richel Kharola, 31, nearly lost her daughter after an emergency birth in New Delhi three weeks ago. Her waters broke at 29 weeks.

Kharola was incorrectly prescribed bed rest and a probiotic medication by a local gynaecologist, but was rushed to the ER four days later, on May 17, with severe abdominal pains and no amniotic fluid.

She gave birth to her daughter, who is as yet unnamed, at a private hospital in the east of the city.

"I was very afraid the baby would die because it's premature. Even after I gave birth to her," she said.

"It's very easy for them to be sick - lung problems. Thank God so far there is no problem other than pneumonia for our baby.

"She turned blue just two days ago. She stopped breathing. She had apnea, they called it. It's just hard."

The couple had travelled to New Delhi in December last year for their first holiday since emigrating to New Zealand in 2012.

At the time of travel, Richel did not know she was pregnant.


But on January 29 she was rushed to the emergency department with a retroplacental haemorrhage, in which she lost 50 per cent of her placental blood.

Her inability to travel after that meant the Kharolas missed the New Zealand Government-chartered repatriation flights from India in March.

Hunkered down in their city of birth, the Kharolas were paying around $1300 a day for their daughter's stay in ICU at Max Super Speciality Hospital, Patparganj, for a week.

They were told their daughter must stay there for four to six weeks.

Including the cost of medications, the Kharolas' bill quickly climbed beyond $20,000 and they decided to transfer to the free government-run Chacha Nehru Bal Chikitsalaya Hospital.

But the level of care there worries the couple, especially amid the Covid-19 outbreak - where India now has the fourth highest number of infections globally at more than 300,000.


"We want to transfer our baby back to a private hospital. Many might not understand why, but for those people who have been in the government hospital of a Third-World country, they would," she said.

"Almost all patients are from poverty-stricken families. They stay in the basement parking of the hospital, which is fine if there is no Covid-19 pandemic. Imagine a lot of people gathering together, sleeping on the parking floor.

"They are not changing their clothes when they visit their babies in the ICU every two hours.

"The hospital requires all mothers to change the diaper and feed their baby after every two hours."

An Mfat spokesperson told the Herald the Kharolas should seek assistance from their country of citizenship.

"While we understand this is a very stressful situation for the Kharola family, New Zealand consular services are provided to New Zealand citizens only. This is outlined on our Safetravel website, including what financial advice and assistance the government is able and unable to provide."


In their direct response to the Kharolas, Mfat also suggested the couple seek assistance from their bank or insurance provider.

Auckland residents Krisshgopaal, 34, and Richel, 31, Kharola have suffered a number of medical emergencies in 2020 since travelling to India for a holiday. SUPPLIED
Auckland residents Krisshgopaal, 34, and Richel, 31, Kharola have suffered a number of medical emergencies in 2020 since travelling to India for a holiday. SUPPLIED

Richel has been a permanent resident of New Zealand since 2014 after immigrating from the Philippines, and she and her husband have been living in Auckland since 2012.

Richel works in IT and quit her Auckland job to return to New Delhi to visit her husband's family for the first time. She was confident she could find new employment on her return.

"We were always working in New Zealand - it's easy finding IT jobs - and we used to have a business. But even with all those savings, we can't afford it," Richel said.

"As much as possible I really don't want to ask for help. It's shameful for us but we just don't have an option," she said.

"At the moment we are just borrowing money from family members.


"It is just a nightmare. Giving birth here, I can't even explain it. It's very, very hard especially when you are running out of money.

"It's sad to know only citizens get help. It was my mistake for delaying it."