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Midwives criticised over baby's death

By Victoria O'Hara

An Ulster health board is to launch a review of its practices after its midwives were criticised by a coroner following the death of a baby in its care.

Paul Samuel O'Neill died from brain injury in November 2005 - just four days after he was born.

But it emerged during an inquest that the baby's life could have been saved if the midwives involved in the delivery at Antrim Area Hospital had sought medical assistance earlier.

His heartbroken parents, Olivia Bell (30) and Paul O'Neill Snr (35), have now called for all midwifery staff across Northern Ireland to be trained " regularly and effectively in all screening machines used to monitor the baby's progress".

Ms Bell told the Belfast Telegraph that she has been left asking: 'Did somebody play God?'

She said: "I still feel angry about it. You are going in with a healthy enough pregnancy and you are told the child is alive right up until delivery. Then you go home without the baby.

"A big lesson has to be learned here."

The inquest concluded that the midwives also failed to interpret vital heart monitor tracing correctly during the birth.

Concerns were also raised by a medical expert at the change over of staff during labour.a

The Northern Trust confirmed the moves to review medical procedures in a statement following Paul's death.

"The death of a baby is a tragic event for all concerned," the spokesperson said.

"The Northern Health and Social Care Trust offers its sincere condolences to the family of baby O'Neill.

"The Trust acknowledges the coroner's findings and has already taken steps to review procedures within the maternity ward, having taken account of the findings of the experts in the review team."

Breedagh Hughes, the Royal College of Midwives NI board secretary, said continual updating is an "essential part of any midwife practice".

"Midwifery has a process called statutory supervision of midwives and if it is working well, it means every single midwife in the UK meets with their supervisor midwife once a year.

"Up until now the system has been better in some places than in others.

"But if it is used properly it is a real strength of the profession, because the midwife can sit down and plan what they want to be updated in. But the onus is on their employer to facilitate that updating."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph