Statement on baby deaths at Bacchus Marsh and Melton hospital

16 October 2015
Maurice Blackburn medical law experts believe significant patient safety breaches at Bacchus Marsh and Melton hospitals could warrant a wider inquiry.

Over the past week, representatives from the Department of Health met with parents of babies informing them that their babies’ deaths could have been prevented.

Several of those families have contacted Maurice Blackburn.

Dimitra Dubrow, principal and medical law expert said:

“These deaths are extremely distressing for patients and their families.  The people being contacted this week have already suffered the pain of losing a child and are now having to re-live the pain.

“Families need to find out why the system has failed them so catastrophically. To find out that a death of a baby was preventable is particularly devastating.”

We commend the State Government for the steps it has taken to investigate quality of care in maternity services and governance at the hospital. However the pattern and regularity of the adverse events should have rung alarm bells a long time ago. Senior management is ultimately responsible for the care provided at the hospital.”

Maurice Blackburn’s medical law department has received several inquiries from a number of families over the over deaths and other poor outcomes – including complications during labour and birth that have led to babies having long-term injuries.

“The issues are clearly diverse but in the case of one of the families who have contacted us, the complicated nature of the labour should have prompted a transfer to another hospital,” said Ms Dubrow. The mother said,

“I feel absolutely devastated about this news.  I had got to a point where I thought I could move on after years of questioning and now it’s taken me right back.” 

In another case, the issue is around monitoring of the baby’s heart beat by CTG tracing and the interpreting of the trace. Another couple said:

This has been a very upsetting week.  We have been trying to move on and we now can’t help but feel angry because we now know that there could have been a different outcome.”

“In addition to approaches about the deaths, we have been investigating another case for some time and the firm will be issuing Supreme Court proceedings against Bacchus Marsh and Melton Hospital (Djerriwarrh Health Services) on behalf of a severely disabled baby who suffered a hypoxic brain injury at birth. This baby was born in early 2013.”    

Ms Dubrow said the recent meetings with parents have taken place under “open disclosure” guidelines, where health services admit that adverse events, such as a death or severe injury have taken place and informs patients of outcome of investigations.

 “We wholeheartedly welcome “open disclosure” – it is an important step. It is about starting a dialogue about an adverse event as soon as it happens.  Hospitals are not meant to wait until the investigation is complete.  Rather, it is important that families are informed about what is known and given an assurance that the matter will be investigated.  It is then a continuing dialogue.  There would then also be a discussion after the investigation has been completed and the findings given,” said Ms Dubrow.

“It is vital for health services to keep within the bounds of their expertise and the services they can provide.  If they do not, this is when patient safety is jeopardised.”

Women must be categorised as having a low risk pregnancy of more than 37 weeks gestation to be eligible to have babies at Bacchus Marsh and Melton regional hospital. Around 1000 babies are born at the hospital each year and there are 11 antenatal/postnatal beds.    

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