First-time mum 'believed everything GP said'

ANDREA O'NEIL
Last updated 05:00 29/04/2014

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A first-time Porirua mother has told the Coroner's Court she was made to feel like an over-anxious nuisance at her GP clinic, three months before her baby died in her arms in hospital.

Plimmerton Medical Centre is under scrutiny for its care of the baby, who suffered jaundice and discoloured poo in his first months of life in late 2012.

He was later diagnosed with the rare liver disease biliary atresia, after the alarm was raised by a different GP surgery.

On March 4, 2013, the baby had a liver transplant at Auckland's Starship hospital, which failed.

The family decided their son had suffered enough and he died 11 days later, aged 5 months.

"I was a first-time mum and believed everything the doctor said to me," the mother told an inquest yesterday.

"Any first-time parent should be able to expect they should be taken seriously by their doctor, no matter what their concerns."

The names of the baby and his parents were suppressed by the coroner, Deborah Marshall.

Plimmerton GP Brian Wesley-Smith's memory of events was scrutinised yesterday. He insisted he recommended a blood test for the baby when his mother brought him to the doctor with flu symptoms. The mother called this a "lie".

The doctor said another woman was at the consultation on December 4, which the mother also said was not true.

"I stand by the integrity of my recall," Wesley-Smith said.

The baby had jaundice from birth but, being part-Asian, it was hard to tell how bad it was, the mother said.

The baby also had foamy yellow-green poo, which the mother had tried to resolve by seeing a lactation specialist and eliminating lactose from her diet.

The mother raised her concern at her son's six-week checkup with locum Sue Wilson, but was assured it was normal. She saw Wesley-Smith two weeks later, and mentioned the poo, but felt "brushed off" by the doctor.

Wesley-Smith had not read a midwife's report in the baby's file, mentioning jaundice and "lemon-lime poo".

He said he worried that bringing up the jaundice would be undiplomatic, and did not book a follow-up appointment because he was not the baby's regular GP and it was not his place.

Wesley-Smith failed to record in his notes that he offered a blood test, or had examined the baby's stomach for liver swelling. He cited poor computer skills and, said if handwritten notes still existed, he would have recorded more details.

The doctor confused dates during his testimony. He said he wrote a report four weeks after the consultation, then said he meant right after the baby's death, months later.

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While on the stand, he recalled a previously unmentioned memo he wrote to himself after learning the baby was sick, and another report he sent to his lawyer after the baby died.

The mother said claims she was worried about submitting her son to a blood test did not stack up. When her son needed invasive surgery later on, she said yes to all procedures that might help him

"I loved [him] with all my heart and did everything I could have done for him his whole life. If they had suggested a blood test, I would have definitely done it."

She was a protective mother, who barely let anybody else hold the baby, so the idea another woman was with her in Wesley-Smith's office holding her son was absurd, the mother said.

"That alerted me to the fact that he just couldn't remember who I was."

The inquest continues tomorrow.

- The Dominion Post

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