Midwife cleared of misconduct

Jan Scherp
Jan Scherp

A medical disciplinary tribunal yesterday cleared Central Otago midwife Jan Scherp of any professional misconduct and dismissed the charge three years after a traumatic birth in Southland Hospital.

Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal deputy chairman David Carden lifted interim name suppression at the conclusion of the four-day hearing in Queenstown.

A five-part charge against Ms Scherp alleging professional misconduct between January 20 and February 7, 2010, while caring for Sara Gutzewitz and her son Francis was entirely dismissed.

Ms Scherp, whose addresses were given as Clyde, Becks and Omakau, worked for Sage Femme at the time of the birth, in which Ms Gutzewitz suffered an extensively damaged perineum.

Mr Carden said the labour and birth were stressful and difficult for Ms Gutzewitz and her husband, Conan Wilcox, but delivery was successful and clinical care was without question.

Scherp said she left the birthing room because she was suffering from health condition supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) and she thought a staff midwife was present in the room.

However, her recollection was at odds with evidence given by staff midwife Valerie Drake, Ms Gutzewitz, her mother Jan and Mr Wilcox.

Ms Scherp maintained the staff midwife was there during the birth and was asked to stay when she left with SVT but Drake said she was not at the birth and was not asked to take over when the primary midwife left the room.

Mr Carden said the tribunal did not need to resolve exactly what was said at the nursing station, it was difficult grappling with the facts but it seemed unquestionable that the staff midwife was called into the room.

The tribunal concluded the mother was not left alone for long, so when Scherp left she had taken steps to ensure adequate midwifery and medical care.

"On the face of it, for the mother and baby to be left without the primary midwife is not a satisfactory outcome but given the circumstances of the events and the arrangements that (Scherp) made with the staff midwife the conclusion has been reached that (the misconduct particular) is not made out."

Regarding the allegation she failed to disclose a medical condition the tribunal concluded there was "no necessity" to convey information about SVT to either staff or clients. She managed her condition and thought she had it under control and was under no obligation to disclose that.

Regarding the allegation she failed to disclose feeling unwell to her client or staff, the tribunal was mindful of the "stresses of the moment" during a delivery that was not straightforward.

Asking the second midwife to remain with the family was adequate communication given the requirements of the moment, when she was suffering or thought she was suffering from SVT.

Mr Carden said that maybe she could have said more once she left the room but perhaps she thought that was unhelpful.

"When she came back into the room maybe an apology or an explanation why . . . The tribunal is not satisfied that whatever took place amounted to professional misconduct and did not tend to bring midwifery into disrepute."

Ms Scherp's lawyer, Anita Miller, applied for permanent name suppression, which was opposed by director of proceedings Aaron Martin.A formal written decision will be given at a later date.

The Southland Times