Belfast Telegraph

Parents angered by 'negligence' which led to baby's death at Antrim Area Hospital

By Claire Williamson

The devastated parents of a baby boy whose death could have been prevented have slammed the "catastrophic negligence" of the midwifery staff at Antrim Area Hospital.

Little Matthew White was just five days old when he died from brain damage on November 8, 2006.

His parents have said they hope that midwives will learn the "importance of listening to maternity patients".

The first inquest into baby Matthew White's death revealed he died from hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy – a condition which arises from the brain being deprived of oxygen.

It was suspended in December 2007 after it emerged that police were investigating the death of a second baby from brain damage in the care of the same nurse, midwife Heather McComish, at the same hospital.

Yesterday the second inquest into Matthew's death heard there were several failings in caring for the child.

Matthew's mother Karen White wept as statements were read to Belfast Coroner's Court which confirmed that with the right intervention the little boy would still be alive.

In a statement, Dr David White, a GP, and his wife said: "This experience and subsequent inquest has been every parent's worst nightmare.

"We have suffered the loss of our baby son due to the catastrophic negligence of the midwifery staff at Antrim Area Hospital.

"During the coroner's inquest we have listened to experts confirm our painful opinion that, with the correct intervention, our baby son should have been born healthy and well."

They added: "Our wish is that midwives will learn the importance of listening to maternity patients and acting on what women tell them, not presuming that they always know best without the proper assessment.

"We hope that hospitals and those with training responsibilities will ensure that midwives are appropriately trained and capable of performing their duties.

"We trust that by going through this needlessly prolonged, painful experience and highlighting these issues will bring about positive changes in our maternity wards in the Northern Trust and beyond.

"In addition, the time period from our loss in 2006 and the conclusion of this inquest has been scandalous and punishing.

"We trust the relevant regulatory organisations will now review the circumstances of this case in light of the coroner's verdict in the inquest."

On Monday the inquest learned that the midwife at the centre of the probe into Matthew's death will not face prosecution.

Medical experts agreed that if the midwife had appropriately assessed the onset of the Co Antrim woman's labour, the mother could have expected "the safe delivery of a live, healthy child".

In a statement, Heather McComish admitted to "sub-standard care".

The Northern Health and Social Care Trust along with midwife McComish admitted to a series of failings including that midwifery staff failed to recognise the onset of labour and to act accordingly to examine the patient and summon medical care as required, and midwifery staff failed to respond adequately to reports made to them by Mrs White.

A statement read on behalf of the Northern Health Trust offered sincere condolences to the White family.

Coroner John Leckey said: "I have nothing but sympathy for Dr and Mrs White.

"It's very sad indeed and I extend my heartfelt sympathy to the family."

He added: "But I'm sure you will never forget Matthew."

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