Page last updated at 14:39 GMT, Monday, 28 April 2008 15:39 UK

Baby died after guidelines broken

Better hospital monitoring could have saved the life of a baby, an inquest in Devon has been told.

Austin Kirwan was born in Torbay Hospital in 2005, but died three days later in intensive care at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth.

He died from massive internal bleeding in his chest.

A Plymouth inquest heard guidelines were not followed and the midwife attending the birth had a break of just six hours in a 24-hour period.

The unborn child's heartbeat should have been checked every 15 minutes but was only checked every half an hour while mother Melanie Kirwan was in labour at Torbay Hospital, the inquest heard.

When you are doing a delivery the adrenalin keeps you going
Wendy Shiggins

Midwife Wendy Shiggins said she made regular checks which showed the unborn baby was doing well, despite records which showed an 80-minute gap with no reading.

Baby Austin weighed 9lb 13oz (4.5kg) when he was born, apparently healthy on 19 September 2005, but he became seriously ill within minutes and died in his father John's arms three days later.

A post-mortem examination showed the baby died from bleeding into his lungs which prevented oxygen reaching his body.

The inquest heard how Austin's heart was shown slowing down in the latter stages of his mother's eight-hour labour, but it was considered normal at the time.

Ms Shiggins said she had monitored the child more often than she noted in the records and found nothing to cause concern.

'Different outcome'

The midwife denied being tired even though she had worked from 0900 to 1800 the previous day before going on call again at 2200 and being called back to the hospital just before midnight.

She attended Mrs Kirwan until the birth at 0835 and called for help 25 minutes later when she saw Austin had turned dusky, blue or grey.

"I did not have any problem with tiredness," the midwife told the inquest.

"There could have been some degree of tiredness from working two shifts together but when you are doing a delivery the adrenalin keeps you going."

Dr Gurpreet Pandher, consultant in charge of obstetrics, said in hindsight the trace from the unborn baby's heart monitor suggested further investigations were needed.

She said it was possible the outcome could have been different if further tests were ordered, but the birth could only have been brought forward by 15 to 30 minutes.

The inquest continues.

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