Midwives accused of leaving four day old baby alone in a cupboard
Published 11/11/2013 | 15:02
Two midwives responsible for a sick woman's four-day-old baby lay the child on its stomach and left it in a stationery cupboard, a tribunal has heard.
Yvonne Musonda-Malata and Christine Onade are accused of failing to provide appropriate clinical care to a baby while working on a night shift at Queen's Hospital, Romford, north east London.
Ms Malata, 35, who has worked as a nurse since 2004, was responsible for looking after the baby while its mother caught up on sleep, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) was told.
It is alleged that she tended to the baby, known as Baby A, in a cot by the midwives station before moving it into a large stationery cupboard after it became unsettled.
She and Ms Onade, 46, are also accused of failing to record any feeds given to Baby A. Both midwives deny all allegations.
The alleged incident, which occurred on 18 April, 2011, was reported by Alex Curtis, a nursery nurse at the hospital who found the baby alone in the cupboard at about 6:30am.
She told the tribunal: "I went to the post-natal ward to get an envelope from the stationery cupboard and found a baby lying on its tummy on its own.
"The baby was in the cot just behind the door. I cannot remember whether the light was off or on, but I saw baby on its front and went to check if it was breathing.
"This was an unusual occurrence. We always lie a baby on its back as there is a risk of cot death.
"If, as a nursery nurse, I took responsibility for a parent's baby, I would never leave it alone. If I needed to go off and do something, I would ask another nurse to look after the baby."
Derek Zeitlin, the case presenter at the NMC, said: "The baby's mother has a health condition and it is vitally important for her to get a good night's sleep. Her husband therefore invited the midwives to take the baby away so that his wife could get a good night's sleep.
"That decision was not taken lightly. The nurse looking after Baby A's mother was involved in that decision. It was the right thing to do."
Mr Zeitlin explained that the baby became unsettled at "various points" throughout the night, adding that there was "no specific place to put a baby" while it was looked after in the post-natal ward.
He said that Ms Malata and Ms Onade had both confirmed that Ms Malata had placed Baby A in a cot in the doorway of the cupboard, but claim that the door was kept open.
Mr Zeitlin said: "There came a stage where Ms Malata was called away to another patient and was away for about 20 minutes.
"The next thing that happened was a member of the nursing staff went to the cupboard and was shocked to find Baby A inside.
"The door was closed. The baby was found on its stomach, but babies are always placed on their back to avoid cot death."
He added: "There were no feeding charts for Baby A. The reality of that was that entries that were made about feeds didn't coincide with what the registrants record about the feeds.
"There was a question of whether Baby A may have been overfed."
Rita Skeats, a midwife who was working alongside the midwives that evening, said: "The first time I encountered Baby A was at 1.30am. I went to the midwives' station and noticed Baby A in its cot.
"I remember that the father of the baby came out of the room [where his wife was sleeping] at 2.30am, complaining that the mother could still hear the baby crying. She could therefore not sleep.
"I recommended that the baby be cared for at the nursery, but Ms Malata and Ms Onade said they were coping OK and would keep the baby there. This decision was made jointly between the two midwives."
Ms Skeats, who has been a midwife at the hospital since 2001, told the tribunal that she had two further encounters with the baby, when she fed and changed it.
She continued: "When I returned [to the midwife station], Baby A had been placed in darkened section of the area. Ms Onade was looking after the baby at this time.
"She was by the desk and Baby A was fast asleep on [its] back. We do not allow babies under three months old to sleep on their front.
"At 6am I went to the nurses' cupboard to retrieve my stethoscope, which I keep in my bag. At this time, Baby A was still in her cot in the darkened area of the midwives' station.
"I went to to my patients and when I returned back to the midwives station later I did not know where the baby was, but I assumed it had been taken back to its mother.
"Alex Curtis said the baby was in a cupboard and it had vomited all over itself and it was suffocating in an airless cupboard. Baby A was fast asleep and the sheets were clean. There was no vomit.
"Ms Malata told me that the baby had not been in the cupboard. She told me that Baby A had been wedged in the door way."
Ms Skeats suggested to the tribunal that Queen's Hospital mishandled the case.
She said: "I believe too much was put into the case, too much emphasis was put on it. No harm came to the baby, the baby was cared for.
"The hospital did not bring out any guidelines on how to look after a baby in this situation. I think too much has been made of this.”