Baby's death: Midwife admits failings

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Robert and Linda Barlow. Photo / Christine Cornege

By Natalie Akoorie

A midwife has admitted failings that contributed to the death of a newborn baby during a birth that almost claimed the life of his mother too.

Jennifer Campbell has agreed she failed to provide services with reasonable care and skill and which complied with legal, professional and ethical standards for Linda Barlow in October 2009, leading to the death of baby Adam Barlow.

The acknowledgement of her breach of the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers' Rights comes in a Human Rights Review Tribunal decision released today, five-and-a-half years after the catastrophic birth.

Ms Campbell, then a new graduate with seven months experience and operating as a self-employed independent midwife under the name Jennifer Rowan, was later found by the Health and Disability Commissioner to have made a catalogue of errors that led to the baby's death and extensive injuries to Mrs Barlow.

They included that she failed to recognise the progress of labour was not normal, failed to convey the urgency of the situation to Waikato Hospital staff on transfer, failed with hospital staff to expedite delivery, and failed with hospital staff to review and properly interpret monitoring of the baby's heart rate.

Earlier Mrs Barlow was discouraged from going to hospital by Ms Campbell and instead sent home from River Ridge birthing centre against her wishes.

The mother-of-one was later rushed to hospital where she suffered a ruptured uterus and stopped breathing following an epidural.

An emergency caesarean was performed but she was bleeding profusely internally and had to have an emergency hysterectomy.

Then 31, Mrs Barlow suffered a heart attack on the operating table before being taken to intensive care on life support, not knowing that her little boy had died.

Following the Commissioner's findings and criticism of New Zealand's midwifery system by Coroner Gordon Matenga, who blamed Ms Campbell in part for baby Adam's death, the midwife apologised to the Barlows, though not in person.

She underwent some supervision and extra training including a competence programme, but is now free to practice without conditions.

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