Belfast Telegraph

Mums still aren't told about killer bug, say couple after baby Hollie inquest

Brendan and Susan Maguire outside court yesterday
Brendan and Susan Maguire outside court yesterday
Baby Hollie
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

The parents of a baby girl who died just half an hour after birth have said they are shocked that information is still not being provided about the danger posed by the Group B Strep infection in unborn babies.

Dunmurry couple Brendan and Susan Maguire went through the trauma of losing little Hollie on October 26, 2016, and warned other mothers-to-be to take a simple test for the infection.

Ms Maguire wiped away tears as the findings were delivered at the close of the inquest into Hollie's death yesterday after two-and-a-half years.

While it marked the end of legal proceedings, they feel more still needs to be done to alert parents to the potential dangers.

Coroner Patrick McGurgan confirmed the cause of death at the Royal Victoria Jubilee Maternity as Congenital Pneumonia (Group B Strep).

But while he said no blame could be attached to medical staff, he hoped lessons had been learned with regard to the interpretation of Cardiotocography (CTG) scans, used during pregnancy to monitor the foetal heart rate and contractions.

Prior to Hollie's death, a rate of five beats per minute and higher was considered normal, but there was no upper limit.

As a result, spikes in Hollie's heart rate were considered no cause for concern, but alarm bells should have been raised had midwives received proper training in reading the scan.

The coroner said the failure to spot abnormalities led to a "false reassurance" that everything was fine, though added this had not affected the tragic outcome.

"To us it was illogical to have no upper limit to these heart rate stats," said Mr Maguire (31), a mortgage adviser.

"I wouldn't say that we're satisfied.

"I understand that they've highlighted a serious breach from the Trust with regards to the CGT readings and I'm happy they now know that was a major issue.

"As part of their serious incident report I questioned the heart rate and they came back initially and said it was fine. Then they went away and got their own expert, who confirmed that clearly it wasn't.

"For me the one good thing to come out of this is that now they will be aware.

"We know Hollie may have still died from her pneumonia and infection, but the fact is that they missed these other issues.

"This would have caused more suffering to her and that's what hurt us the most. If Hollie was going to die, she didn't need to have the extra hit from this mistake in not understanding."

Most pregnant women who carry Group B streptococcus (GBS) bacteria have healthy babies, but there's a small risk that it can pass to the baby during childbirth, something dad Brendan feels expectant parents need to be made aware of.

The couple now have a 19-month old baby girl, Evie, and Susan is currently five-and-a-half months pregnant. Despite losing Hollie to Group B Strep, Ms Maguire said she still hasn't been given any information on the effects the infection can cause.

"There needs to be choice and awareness," she said.

"I think people should be at least given the factual information for them to have a choice of whether or not to have a test.

"The coroner specified that the NHS do not test for Group B Strep, but if you go to any private hospital they test for it. Most major countries in the world test for it. The information is out there, but the NHS doesn't provide it."

And Brendan said that simply relying on the word of a doctor without a test wasn't good enough.

He said: "Ninety two per cent of the time, there won't be any symptoms, so how can you simply rely on the word of a doctor without the test? Nowhere is there information that this can kill a baby. Had we been made aware a test was available, and it costs just £35 in a private clinic, then absolutely we would have done it.

"Now it's left to people like us to raise awareness.

"Our concern is that there's a risk-based approach for something you simply can't see. People need to be told what the risks are."

Reacting to the coroner's finding, a spokesperson for Belfast Trust said: "Belfast Trust extends our sympathies at this very difficult time to Hollie's parents.

"There has been regional learning from Hollie's case and as a result Northern Ireland has changed its processes in relation to the assessment of baby heart monitoring in labour."

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