Midwife's condition never diagnosed

18:45, Feb 20 2013

A midwife facing a disciplinary tribunal in Queenstown this week was never officially diagnosed with the medical condition central to her defence for leaving a mother and baby during a complicated birth.

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 left her client and baby unattended in a room following a traumatic birth that left Ms Gutzewitz with an extensively damaged perineum, which required surgery. The baby was allegedly left on Ms Gutzewitz's stomach without being dried, cleaned or covered for several minutes. The umbilical cord was left attached during that time.

Ms P explained she left the room because she was suffering from the health condition supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), which she has never been definitively diagnosed with and she thought another midwife was present in the room to take over the delivery.

However, Ms P's recollection of events conflicts with evidence given by the other midwife Valerie Drake, Ms Gutzewitz, her partner Conan Wilcox and her mother Jan Gutzewitz.

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


However, she said she hadn't discussed SVT with clients or colleagues before the delivery on February 7 because it had not affected her ability to perform her role as a midwife before and she thought she would be able to self-manage the episode in the same way she had in the past.

In 2003, Ms P sought medical attention at an emergency department and was told by the doctor her complaints of a racing heart and light headedness were "symptomatic" of SVT. The doctor told her to come back for an electrocardiogram (ECG) if she experienced another episode of SVT, she said.

Ms P sought no expert medical advice.

"I didn't seek further . . . it wasn't indicated to me [by the doctor] it was something I should seek advice on," she said.

Under cross-examination by director of proceedings Aaron Martin, Ms P conceded that she "should have been telling my clients and colleagues at Southland Hospital" about the condition since 2003.

When pressed, Ms P conceded that SVT had always posed a risk of occurring during her work as a midwife.

Ms P admitted her failure to disclose information to a client which could compromise the care she provided.

"In hindsight, I guess I concede that," she said.

Following the incident in 2010 and while under supervision, Ms P said she had introduced a plan to manage her condition during midwifery duties.

Asked whether she should have introduced the plan immediately after being made aware of the possibility she was suffering from SVT, Ms P admitted she should have.

However, Dr James Blake, a consultant and interventional cardiologist at Christchurch Hospital, said he believed a better plan would be for Ms P to seek expert advice on the condition.

"It is curable. It is a low risk procedure and there is a 90 per cent cure success rate."

The hearing adjourned last night and the tribunal's decision is expected today.

The Southland Times