Saturday 20 July 2019

Maternity deaths probe widens as new cases emerge

Parents of hospital death babies hire top legal firm

Mark and Norma Burke
Mark and Norma Burke

Caroline Crawford

A NUMBER of families who lost babies at maternity hospitals in the west and midlands have contacted a Dublin legal firm that specialises in medical negligence.

The move comes after the Sunday Independent last week revealed that a review was being carried out into the deaths of 30 babies nationally.

Litigation solicitor Kathrin Coleman, who is a partner in Coleman Legal Partners, Dublin, confirmed the firm, which specialises in medical negligence particularly in relation to the provision of maternity services, has been contacted by a number of people about the care their babies received in Portiuncula, Portlaoise and Mullingar hospitals.

One of the cases she is reviewing is that of Norma Burke, who lost her baby son Ryan at 35 weeks gestation at Portiuncula Hospital and spent three days in ICU in a critical condition. The young mother is now demanding details from the hospital as to the care she received.

Ms Coleman is arranging for an expert in England to carry out an independent review of the treatment received by Ms Burke and her unborn son. The mother has chosen to highlight her case as it emerged that at least 15 families have come forward with similar concerns.

Ms Burke, from Portumna, was admitted to the hospital on the October 21, 2010. She was 35 weeks pregnant. "I was admitted on a Thursday before the bank holiday with high blood pressure and I was kept in to be monitored over the weekend," she told the Sunday Independent.

Staff at the hospital carried out foetal traces over the weekend. Nurses raised concerns about the results on the Sunday, which led to a discussion about delivering the baby early. But this did not happen.

"I was concerned myself about the foetal movements on Sunday," Ms Burke recalls. "There were discussions about delivering the baby on the Sunday, and I was happy with that. But they changed their minds about delivery. They scanned me again on Sunday night and decided to check me again on Monday."

Further concerns were raised by nursing staff on Monday. But Ms Burke was told to go back to bed for two hours. When she was next checked, it was discovered her baby son, who she and her husband Mark named Ryan, had died. "I asked to have my consultant called in because I was very anxious. I was told by the doctor on duty to go back to bed for two hours. They checked me two hours later and couldn't find a foetal heartbeat. The baby had passed away at that stage. It was devastating."

The heartbroken couple got to hold their baby son for half an hour after his delivery before Norma's own condition began to deteriorate, leading to her admittance to ICU where she remained for three days. "My blood pressure after delivery was so out of control. I was basically at risk of dying and was lucky to survive."

Ms Burke went on to have two healthy children without incident, but the pain of baby Ryan's death remained with her. She has now asked her solicitors to obtain her hospital records in the hopes of finding more details about her case.

"It was all so stressful after what had happened. I wasn't in a position to look for the answers I needed. I couldn't believe how many cases have now come forward. To think of all those babies who had died since. I lost my baby eight months after Warren and Lorraine Reilly lost their second baby girl."

She has now contacted the hospital and requested that her care be included in the upcoming review.

"As of now there are no terms of reference, we still don't know if there will be a review of the case. Nothing can bring him back but I hope by speaking out it will force them to make changes. It's frightening and it's just like reliving it all over again. I'm finding it very hard but I feel that I will have no closure until there is a proper independent review of my case," she added.

Ms Burke is one of a number of families who has instructed litigation solicitor Kathrin Coleman.

Ms Coleman said an independent review of all cases where concerns had been raised is necessary to establish whether there were systemic failures in Portiuncula Hospital and that it was paramount to obtain answers for families.

A spokesperson for the Saolta group in charge of Portiuncula Hospital said it cannot comment on individual cases. However, it stressed that it would communicate with all families affected.

"We have had a number of media enquiries regarding individual service users who have raised concerns about issues arising at Portiuncula Hospital."

Sunday Independent

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