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Northern Ireland hospital worker put body bag on dead baby's bed beside parents, inquest told


Altnagelvin Hospital

Altnagelvin Hospital

Altnagelvin Hospital

The parents of a baby who lived just a few hours have told a court of the trauma they felt when an Altnagelvin hospital porter with a "black body bag" walked into the room as they spent their last moments with their daughter.

Hannah Coyle's life support was switched off because her condition at birth continued to deteriorate despite paediatric doctors "doing everything possible".

Hannah's parents, Melanie and Kieran Coyle from Knockena, Londonderry, were in a private room with her when a porter entered and put a body bag on the bed beside Mrs Coyle.

Mr Coyle described the horrific moment as he and his wife were giving their evidence at their daughter's inquest at the Coroner's Court sitting in Londonderry yesterday.

Mrs Coyle recalled how other family members had left the room. She and her husband were alone with Hannah when the porter "came in with a black body bag and sat it on the bed beside me".

Mr Coyle asked the porter to leave and take the body bag out of the room.

Coroner Joseph McCrisken told the couple that this was "pretty horrendous", adding: "I and other people in this room are going to make sure that never happens again."

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Mr McCrisken said he would comment further on this today when he is expected to announce his findings on Hannah's death on January 20, 2015.

The child had been delivered by emergency Caesarean section after her heart rate fell dramatically during labour. It dropped from 160 beats per minute (bpm) to 80, which prompted the decision to transfer Mrs Coyle to the operating theatre.

The baby's heart rate dropped further before recovering somewhat during surgery but, despite a smooth delivery, she was "pale" and unresponsive.

Resuscitation began immediately and was continued by Paediatric Consultant, Dr Damien Armstrong.

In his evidence, Dr Armstrong said he received an urgent call to the labour ward when Hannah was six minutes old and showed "no obvious heart rate".

Two minutes later, Hannah showed "good chest movements" and made intermittent "gasps", but it wasn't until she was 16 minutes old that Hannah's heart rate was recorded at 100bpm.

Hannah was transferred to a neonatal unit where ventilation was necessary.

Mr Armstrong recalled that despite their efforts, Hannah continued to deteriorate until she was receiving 100% oxygen at 12.30pm when, "given that Hannah was dying, the decision was made to allow Hannah some time with her family".

Mr Armstrong pronounced death at 2.15pm.

Earlier, the court heard from midwifery staff and other medics that they believed Mrs Coyle's labour had been normal, despite indications of placental abruption.

However, just one minute after Staff Midwife Claire Lynch completed an assessment, she was alerted to a drop in Hannah's heart rate.

Dr Niamh Doherty - the Registrar who had assessed Mrs Coyle - performed the emergency procedure.

Each of the medics was asked if they thought a 13-minute delay in transferring Mrs Coyle to the labour ward and therefore on to the theatre could have contributed to Hannah's death.

None thought this was a factor.

The inquest into Hannah's death continues today.

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