We received instructions in early 2014 to act on behalf of an aggrieved mother and father who lost their newly born baby in 2013 while a patient at Western Sydney Private Hospital.
The mother presented to the Private Hospital having commenced labour on a public holiday at thirty-seven (37) weeks gestation. The baby was born by way of a ‘vacuum extraction’ after an induction of labour. The baby’s condition at birth was satisfactory and she had ‘apgar’ scores of 9 at 1 minute and 9 at 5 minutes after birth. Otherwise, her presentation was normal, of note however, her head circumference was 33cm.
Two (2) hours after birth she was unsettled and crying however, consolable by being picked up. A nurse questioned whether the baby had a headache from the ‘vacuum extraction’.
Three & half (3 ½) hours after birth the baby was transferred to a ward along with her mother however, was observed to be hypothermic with a temperature of 36.1o Celsius. She was taken to the special care nursery for assessment.
At three & half (3 ½) hours after birth the baby appeared cold, pale and dusky. A large haematoma on her head was noted and her head circumference increased to 34cm.
At five & half (5 ½) hours after birth the baby’s head circumference increased to 34.5cm.
At five & half (5 ½ ) hours after birth the baby was still pale and a paediatrician was called by nursing staff. An investigation of a full blood examination and chest x-rays was planned however, while blood was about to be collected the baby’s heart rate decreased to 118 beats per minute. This is a display of typical decompensatory response to inadequate blood / oxygen supply to an infant’s heart.
At five & half (5 ½ ) hours after birth the baby was observed to be floppy and the paediatrician was requested to attend the special care nursery. Soon after the baby’s condition deteriorated rapidly and she was grunting, a cardiac arrest alarm was made at approximately six (6) hours after birth. Intubation was undertaken by a medical officer an intravenous cannulation was attempted unsuccessfully.
The paediatrician arrived approximately seven (7) hours birth. He was able to cannulate the baby through the umbilical vein and she was given infusion of large volumes blood products including pack cells, fresh frozen plasma, cryoprecipitate, platelets and saline as well as infusion of inotropic drugs. There were long periods of bradycardia and hypotension despite treatment.
The baby died two (2) days after her birth as a result of global hypoxic-ischaemia injuries secondary to hypovolaemia and cardiac arrest.
The autopsy identified that the cardiac arrest was due to hypovolaemia associated with subgaleal haemorrhage from an emissary vein which was probably torn during the method of delivery (vacuum extraction) at least 180 mls of clotted blood was found in the subgaleal space.
This is a very distressing outline of events however, we were able to obtain a expert opinion from a renowned Victorian Paediatric Intensive Care Specialist who provided an opinion that the hospital and paediatrician failed in their duty to take adequate steps to assess the clinical condition of the baby at two & half (2 ½) hours post birth. There was a failure to diagnose likely hypovolaemia, shock and haemorrhage, failure to adequately assess and monitor shock and take steps to treat the hypovolaemia with intravenous fluids and shock. The hospital, in particular, failed to inform the paediatrician of the baby’s condition and the paediatrician failed to ensure that he was adequately informed. This all lead to a delay in the treatment of the baby which caused her ultimate demise.
Both the mother and father were severely distressed by the actions of the hospital and paediatrician and sought our assistance in making a claim for nervous shock. We were able to obtain reports on their behalf from a psychiatrist who assessed their mental illness and provided a report to be used as corroborating evidence of the illnesses sustained. The psychiatrist was able to show that the reaction to the death of their child was not just grief but was an abnormal reaction to the death of their daughter due the conduct of the hospital and paediatrician.
Due to the sensitive nature of the case, the matter was successfully resolved a mediation and the parents avoided the need to participate in the court process and add to their already vulnerable state. Both matters resolved for over $100,000.00.
Our firm was able to get the result for our client’s due to the access we have to our panel of specialists who provide reports based on practice and research which are factual and cannot be overturned. We were able to run the matter on “No Win, No Fee” arrangement to give our client’s peace of mind without the added financial pressure.