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Woman wrongly told baby was dead
[Posted: Tue 08/06/2010 www.irishhealth.com]
A Drogheda hospital wrongly told a pregnant woman her baby was dead in her womb and then arranged for her to have an operation to remove the foetus.
The woman, who was supplied with abortion-inducing medicine, managed to save her baby's life after she sought a second opinion from her GP, according to a report in the Irish Independent.
Out-of-date and unsuitable equipment and shoddy work practices at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda were cited as contributory faitors to the incident.
But despite this, some of the faulty equipment identified in a report into the incident was still being used six months later.
Melissa Redmond, from north Dublin, presented herself for an internal scan eight weeks into her pregnancy on July 22 last year and was told she had miscarried.
She and her husband Michael agreed that she should have a D&C procedure to have their "dead" child removed.
Mrs Redmond was also given the abortifacient drug, Cytotec, to take on the morning of the operation.
However, she decided to visit her GP for a second opinion.
A heartbeat showed up on the external scan, confirming their baby was still alive and the baby was born in March this year.
A report into the incident found the diagnosis was based on the opinion of one doctor, while best practice suggests that another scanner, preferably an experienced sonographer, should confirm the diagnosis before it is made.
In the report, the hospital made eight recommendations to improve its facilities, key elements of which have apparently not yet been acted on. Other recommendations were only acted upon months after the misdiagnosis.
Other findings in the report were that the six-year-old scanning machine used on Mrs Redmond was not adequate to assess accurately early pregnancies and their complications;the examination couch was not suitable; there were no guidelines on scanning techniques and there was a lack of permanent, trained scan staff attached to the hospital's early pregnancy unit.
According to the Independent report, the hospital has yet to recuruit a dedicated ultrasonographer as recommended.
As the faulty scanner was only replaced last January, there are concerns on whether there may have been other mistaken diagnoses of babies being dead in the mother's womb.
The HSE said it was unlikely that an investigation would be carried out to see if similar incidents had happened with other women attending Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital who had been told they had miscarried.
It said the hospital would usually be aware of such "near misses."
The HSE said following its review of the incident, no patient is prescribed the Cytotec abortifacient drug prior to a D&C until the the fact that a baby is dead in the womb has been confirmed by a qualified sonographer and a second scan taken.
It said a consultant has now given instruction to junior doctors in the correct methodology of scanning for early pregnancy and that consultant is engaged in verifying with all scanning juniors "with a view to signing off on their competence."
In addition, a suitable couch is now in place to allow transvaginal scanning abd a dedicated qualified sonographer will be appointed to the early pregnancy unit from next month.
The incident is the latest in a series of patient scandals that have hit the Drogheda hospital in recent years.
See also 'Another week, another scandal...'
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