Commissioner to investigate baby death

MARYANNE TWENTYMAN
Last updated 05:00 05/03/2013
Axton
GRIEF: Hamilton mother Denise Simpson-Vogan is hoping an investigation by Health and Disability Commissioner Anthony Hill will about the death of her baby boy Axton.

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The Health and Disability Commissioner is to formally investigate the death of Hamilton baby Adam Barlow, who died following a botched birth in 2009.

Commissioner Anthony Hill recently confirmed the investigation would proceed after Adam's parents, Robert and Linda Barlow, wrote to him in June last year outlining concerns into their son' death. 

This followed last year's decision by Hamilton coroner Gordon Matenga, who ruled that Adam died in October 2009 due to intrapartum asphyxia - a lack of oxygen to the brain and vital tissues during labour.

Mr Matenga also outlined a "series of failures" by midwife Jennifer Rowan, now known as Jennifer Campbell, that contributed to Adam's death, including failure to recognise the progress of labour was not normal; failure to convey urgency on transfer to Waikato Hospital staff; and failure by both Miss Rowan and hospital staff to recognise the urgency of Mrs Barlow's delivery.

In a statement released yesterday, Mr Barlow said "we do not want to make any comments at this early stage of the HDC [Health and Disability Commission] investigation".

Mr Hill has also agreed to investigate the death of Rotorua baby Axton Mead, who died in February 2009 from perinatal asphyxia, a haemorrhage on his brain and a background of foetal malnutrition.

Following an inquest into Axton's death, Mr Matenga found midwife Priscilla Punita's care during labour fell below expectations after she misread foetal heart or CTG monitoring records taken by maternity unit staff, and removed the equipment. He believed Axton may have lived if his heart rate had been monitored during labour.

Midwifery Council chief executive Sharron Cole said Ms Punita had since retired from her midwifery role and said she was confident the council had done everything in a timely manner.

"How long other agencies take to investigate is a matter for them but the council is confident that it took immediate and appropriate action as soon as it received the notifications," she said.

According to the HDC website, only 10 per cent of complaints are investigated.

Axton's mother, Denise Simpson-Vogan, who now lives in Hamilton, was initially told it was unlikely her son's death would be investigated, according to Action to Improve Maternity founder Jenn Hooper.

"It has certainly taken a lot of work to get this investigation confirmed but we are certainly thrilled with the result," she said.

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However, based on previous HDC outcomes, Mrs Hooper said she was not overly confident the investigation would end with a satisfactory result for the families.

"I don't know anyone that has been close to satisfied with the outcome of an HDC investigation and to be honest I don't see that [Mr Hill] will have enough power to bring about the kind of results we would like to see - such as midwives being struck off," she said.

But Mrs Hooper said the HDC process was an important step for grieving families.

"If you want to sit back and remember your baby knowing you have done everything you can for them, then you have to go through this process."

- Waikato Times

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