Hospital's 'failures' over baby death

GRIEVING parents of a baby who died of E.coli have today told how a series of failures in their care at Ipswich Hospital turned what should have been the happiest time of their lives into the worst.

GRIEVING parents of a baby who died of E.coli have today told how a series of failures in their care at Ipswich Hospital turned what should have been the happiest time of their lives into the worst.

Stuart and Merle Barbrook issued the statement after an inquest into the death of their baby daughter Rowanne found there were a number of “deficiencies” in her care.

Rowanne died from the bacterial infection shortly after she was born at Ipswich hospital on October 29 last year. Her twin sister Erin also contracted the infection but survived.

The inquest, held at Endeavour House yesterday, heard that after she had been admitted to hospital Mrs Barbrook waited 43 hours to see a doctor - despite the fact she should have been classed as high risk because she was expecting twins and her waters had broken prematurely.

It also emerged that doctors failed to spot an irregular heartbeat on monitoring equipment.

Recording a narrative verdict, Greater Suffolk coroner Dr Peter Dean said: “There were clearly a series of deficiencies and failures throughout the entire time that Mrs Barbrook was in hospital.

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“One feels she deserved a higher standard of care than that which was actually delivered.

“Clearly, the system failed her in these circumstances.”

The inquest heard that Mrs Barbrook was admitted to Ipswich Hospital at 12.15am on October 28 last year after her waters had broken.

She did not see a registrar until 8.20pm the following evening.

Doctors giving evidence said the unit had been very busy and they had to prioritise cases.

Because Mrs Barbrook showed no outward signs of the infection until a few hours before Rowanne's birth she was not thought to be in urgent need.

E.coli is a bacteria which naturally occurs in the bowel. If it spreads to other areas of the body, like the uterus, it can cause serious infection.

The inquest found that it was unusual for a mother to have such a degree of infection inside the uterus without showing any outward signs.

Dr Dean said there was no suggestion that hospital staff “acted in anything other than good faith at all times” and could not state that Rowanne's death was a direct result of the lapses in care.

He said: “It's clear that the failures were there, what's less clear is whether the outcome in these circumstances would have been different.”

He added: “There is some reassurance that the lessons from the very sad loss of Rowanne Barbrook have been investigated, identified and, as far as we can see, remedied where possible.”

In a statement issued after the inquest Mr and Mrs Barbrook, of Bildeston, said: “It could all too easily have been an inquest in to the death of both of our daughters.

“In light of the verdict and findings we sincerely wish the hospital reviews and, if necessary, changes how they care for expectant mums, so in the future all mums-to-be entering Ipswich Hospital can have the confidence that they will receive the best care and attention possible, and that the risk of neo-natal deaths are minimised.

“The birth of our daughters should have been the happiest time of our lives, but it turned into the worst, and we feel the hospital should do everything in its powers to stop this happening to any other couple.”

Mr Ian Scott, Ipswich Hospital's medical director said: “When this very sad death occurred in October 2004, we expressed our sincere condolences to the family and I would like to re-iterate our condolences now.

“Senior staff working in maternity services undertook an immediate investigation into all the circumstances surrounding baby Rowanne's death, at the time. What they found was that better communication and more careful monitoring could, and should have been in place.

“There have been significant changes in maternity services in recent months and the issues identified in this investigation are being addressed.

“Childbirth is not risk free and while we are very thankful that sudden and unexpected deaths of babies are isolated incidents, we are determined to do everything we can do, to minimise the risks involved, but we will never be able to eliminate all risks.”

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