Belfast Telegraph

Hospitals must learn from tragedy

Editor's Viewpoint

A pregnancy is one of the most delightful times in a woman's life – as well as that of the father – and, thanks to modern medicine, the expectation is that the baby will normally be born healthy.

Of course, things can sometimes go wrong. A miscarriage or a foetal abnormality can lead to an unexpected death, and that is a devastating blow to the parents.

But the death of a baby through negligence by, or lack of proper care from, maternity professionals creates a whole new level of devastation. That is what happened to the parents of little Matthew White, who died from brain damage after five days of what his mother and father called the catastrophic negligence of midwifery staff at Antrim Area Hospital. The baby boy could have been born healthy with proper intervention and if the mother's insistence that she was in labour had been followed up at the correct time.

As the distraught father said after the inquest, even professionals must listen to what patients are saying.

The couple's agony has been prolonged. It took more than seven years – a scandalously long period of time – for the inquest to be held and concluded. Ultimately, it concluded what the parents had believed all along.

Sadly, no finding can ever bring back the baby or heal the hurt suffered by the parents. They have to live every day with the knowledge that their much-wanted son died needlessly. That is a dreadful burden for them to carry through no fault of their own.

Anyone reading our reports of the inquest today must feel the deepest sympathy for this couple. And they will be appalled to learn that failures in care during labour also led to the death of a baby in the Causeway Hospital, which also comes under the Northern Health Trust.

The trust has said that a series of recommendations and improvements have been implemented since little Matthew's death. That is a familiar mantra after such a tragedy. The hope of every mother-to-be who goes into hospital will be that lessons have indeed been learned and that the care they are given is of the optimum standard.

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