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Trust's apology after porter with body bag intruded on grief of baby's parents

By Donna Deeney

The Western Health Trust has apologised for the distress inflicted on the parents of a dead baby after a porter arrived with a black body bag as they were saying their final farewells.

Baby Hannah Coyle died on January 20, 2015 at Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry - just hours after she was delivered by emergency Caesarean section.

The cause of her death remains undetermined.

During an inquest her parents Melanie and Kieran Coyle, from Knockena in Derry, recalled the trauma they felt when the porter came into the room with a black body bag and placed it on the bed beside Mrs Coyle.

The hearing was adjourned after coroner Joseph McCrisken ordered the trust to provide him with additional information, including a statement from the medic who was carrying out resuscitation on baby Hannah for the first six minutes of her life. Mr McCrisken apologised to Mr and Mrs Coyle, but said he didn't feel he was in a position to produce his findings until he had the additional information he requested.

A legal representative for the trust asked if he could read from a statement from the Western Trust reflecting on comments made by Mr and Mrs Coyle about the "unfortunate" involvement of a porter in the transfer of their baby to the morgue.

In a statement issued after the inquest was adjourned, a spokesman for the Western Trust said: "The trust acknowledges the great distress that this experience caused the family and apologises sincerely for this. The trust has reviewed its processes in dealing with such sensitive issues to ensure there can be no recurrence."

Mr and Mrs Coyle endured a distressing two days of evidence from medical staff at Altnagelvin involved with Mrs Coyle's labour and the infant's delivery.

At yesterday's sitting Dr Daniel Hurrell, a paediatric pathologist, told the court that while there was evidence of "acute placental abruption" there was "no evidence" of damage or abnormality to the umbilical cord.

Dr David Boyle, an expert witness who prepared a report based on Mrs Coyle's medical notes from her arrival at the foetal assessment unit, described a lack of monitoring of the foetal heart rate for the first 28 minutes as "a step missed".

He said the actions of staff at the labour ward were "absolutely exemplary".

But he added: "I do feel there was a step missed by poor records of foetal heart rate until 9am."

Records taken after this time showed baby Hannah's heart rate dropping as low as 60 beats per minute, which led to the decision to perform an emergency Caesarean section.

Mr Boyle said in his opinion, had the baby's heart rate been monitored earlier "placental abruption could have been diagnosed" at 9.21am - 13 minutes before Mrs Coyle was transferred to theatre.

Dr Boyle also told the inquest he could not understand how, just two minutes before Hannah was delivered, her heart rate showed a degree of recovery to 123bpm but was zero when she was delivered. He could not offer any explanation for the "normal" results of tests of blood gases in the umbilical cord.

These anomalies led to Mr McCrisken adjourning the inquest, but he assured the parents he would return with his findings within weeks.

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