Midwife 'should have reported feeling unwell'

Last updated 05:00 20/02/2013

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An expert witness in the trial of a Central South Island midwife facing a health practitioners disciplinary tribunal in Queenstown said regardless of any underlying health conditions, a midwife should tell other clinical staff if they felt unwell during a delivery.

The midwife, known as "Ms P", faces a charge under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003 that amounts to professional misconduct between January 20, 2010 and February 7, 2010 while caring for Sara Gutzewitz and her son Francis (Frankie) who was born at Southland Hospital on February 7, 2010.

It is alleged Ms P failed to inform her client and other clinical staff about a health or anxiety issue which could compromise the care she could provide; failed to inform either that she was feeling unwell or experiencing significant anxiety during the labour and that she left the birthing room without ensuring adequate medical care for the baby or client.

The tribunal heard Ms Gutzewitz had been left with an extensively damaged perineum after delivering the baby and that Auckland-based obstetrician Dr Keith Allenby reported being "perturbed" at the prospect of repairing the damage. It is alleged Ms P left the baby, who hadn't been dried, cleaned or covered, on Ms Gutzewitz's stomach with umbilical cord still attached for between five and 15 minutes while she left the room.

The tribunal heard evidence that Ms Gutzewitz's mother, Janis Gutzewitz, had to clear mucus from the baby's nose and mouth to help him breathe during that time.

Registered obstetric and general nurse and midwife, Deborah Souness, gave evidence during the second day of the hearing.

Ms Souness said she felt Ms P, who was diagnosed with supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) in 2003, should have considered explaining her illness to clients before the incident under investigation and to colleagues before she left the room.

Symptoms Ms P experienced as a result of the SVT include a rapidly beating heart which would climb as high as 280 plus beats per minute, shortness of breath, dizziness and light-headedness. "It always had the potential to affect her management."

Ms P could not choose when the SVT would be an issue and in light of previous experiences with the condition she should have considered this, Ms Souness said.

However, regardless of whether Ms P was suffering from a health condition, any midwife who felt unwell should inform other clinical staff, she said.

"If you feel unwell you need to tell someone, I don't think it matters it was SVT necessarily."

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Ms P told the tribunal the condition had caused her to feel as though she was going to faint during the delivery.

But she said she hadn't discussed the condition with anyone because it had not affected her ability to perform her role as a midwife before February 7, 2010 and on that day she thought she would be able to self manage the episode in the same way she had in the past.

"I deeply regret that my condition momentarily impacted on the care that I provided to Sara and her baby."

The hearing continues today.

- The Southland Times

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