Sunday 20 January 2019

Main maternity hospitals to face safety probe over foetal monitor machines

Róisín and Mark Molloy leave a fitness-to-practise hearing at the Medical Council in Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney
Róisín and Mark Molloy leave a fitness-to-practise hearing at the Medical Council in Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney

Eilish O'Regan and Allison Bray

The three main maternity hospitals in Dublin are among 11 centres involved in a safety probe of machines used to monitor a baby's heartbeat during labour.

The investigation by a HSE-appointed group will also examine the foetal monitoring machines in maternity units in Portlaoise, Cork and Limerick.

Health Minister Simon Harris described the risk assessment as "precautionary".

However, the HSE was under pressure to explain why it was carrying out this surveillance now even though Philips, the manufacturer of the machines, issued a medical device recall in 2009.

Krysia Lynch, of the maternity support group Aims, said: "If the results of foetal monitoring of the baby and the mother are wrong, then every decision that follows in the pregnant person's care also has the potential to be wrong."

Foetal monitoring can be essential to find out if a baby in the womb is in distress and suffering a fall in oxygen which can lead to brain damage.

Avalon Foetal Monitor machines were in use in the maternity unit at Portlaoise maternity hospital, where a number of babies died in similar circumstances over a number of years when they suffered a loss of oxygen after their mother was given a drug to speed up labour.

The recall notice about the machines was first made public by Róisín and Mark Molloy as a result of their own investigations after the death of their baby, Mark, in 2012 in Portlaoise.

The HSE said that Philips issued a device recall in 2009 due to the receipt of a high volume of complaints that certain models of the machine were taking inaccurate readings.

The alert referred to the need for better guidance for staff in the use of the machines in the interests of safety.

The HSE said yesterday it has had a "number of communications" in recent weeks and in order to obtain reassurance it set up the risk assessment team.

They will look at the current situation and also do a lookback to see if the right actions followed the 2009 alert.

Ms Lynch said, however, that "in 2014, units were asked to check if the notices from Philips had been complied with.

"It appears from reports that in some units this might not have been the case."

The minister added: "What I would say to any woman going into our maternity services today is that all of the hospitals have been reissued with the guidance.

"So, this is about guidance, so that those using those monitors know how to correctly interpret the results. So, it is a precautionary measure being taken by the HSE."

Meanwhile, a Medical Council inquiry is to resume today into an obstetrician presiding over the delivery of Mark Molloy.

The obstetrics/gynaecology registrar known as 'Doctor A' is facing allegations of professional misconduct and poor professional performance at a fitness-to-practise hearing, including failing to adequately review or interpret a cardiotocograph (foetal monitor).

Baby Mark died at Portlaoise Hospital on January 24, 2012. Róisín and Mark Molloy told a previous hearing they were told their son was stillborn but later found out he was born alive and died 22 minutes later after attempts to resuscitate him failed. They are attending the hearing this week. 'Doctor A' denied the majority of the seven allegations against him.

Irish Independent

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