A devastated couple have branded a Montrose maternity unit an “emergency response blackspot” during a fatal inquiry into their newborn daughter’s death.
Nevaeh Stewart died just three-and-a-half hours after she was born at Montrose Royal Infirmary’s community midwife unit.
A fatal accident inquiry started at Forfar Sheriff Court today (Tuesday) into the tragedy.
Her mother, Kimberly, 31, and father Gary, 30, gave evidence at the opening of the probe.
Kimberly told how she went into labour at her home in Auchenblae, Aberdeenshire, on September 29, 2012.
She went to the maternity unit in Montrose - staffed only by midwives with no doctors on hand - where she had planned to give birth in a pool having had her previous three children at the unit.
But when Nevaeh, the family’s fourth child, was born she was said to be “pale” and was immediately rushed into another room for treatment.
Kimberly was told to have a shower by midwives before a doctor entered the birthing room a short time later and asked her if she wanted to sign a do not resuscitate order.
Kimberly said she had been given just one chance to hold Nevaeh before she was taken away by midwives.
Both she and her husband, Gary, criticised the emergency response available to mothers at community maternity units.
Kimberly said: “I think from my experience given the fact that this happened with my fourth time where I’m deemed to be an old hand at the birthing thing, I don’t think you can ever determine a pregnancy is low risk.
“You never know what is going to happen.
“You just don’t know.”
Husband Gary, who is representing the family in the proceedings, asked Kimberly: “What should have happened when it was noticed Nevaeh was not in a normal condition?”
She replied: “I think a blue light ambulance should have been called straight away. That’s the quickest way to get help.”
Giving evidence himself as a witness, Mr Stewart, 30, said the family had later discovered that a neo-natal transfer unit can take “several hours” to arrive at midwife led maternity units.
He said: “It seems that the NHS are of the opinion that community midwife units are emergency response blackspots.
“I presumed that if there was an emergency an emergency response team - a flying squad - would be brought in to fix the situation.
“I think the expression used was that they would ‘wheech’ us down to Ninewells if there was a problem.
“If you have a home birth you can get a 999 response.
“The exception is in community midwife units where there is no emergency response and you may have to wait up to six hours as there is no emergency squad to go to any unit in Scotland.”
Kimberly’s midwife, Suzanne Knox, 31, told the inquiry that Kimberly had attended at the unit on the afternoon of September 29.
She said her waters had broken but that she was sent home later that afternoon as contractions were “irregular” but that the monitoring of her progress had given “normal” results.
Midwife Miss Knox told the inquiry that Mrs Stewart had returned to the unit in the early hours of the morning in labour.
She added that Nevaeh was taken to a resuscitation machine just one minute after she was born after presenting as “floppy and pale”.
Miss Knox said: “The heart rate was normal but there was no respiratory effort.
“We used a bag and mask to provide air for eight minutes.
“I contacted a paediatrician at Ninewells Hospital at 5.19am.
“We were very concerned.
“Shortly after that she was breathing normally, had a normal heart rate but was still floppy and was grunting.
“We were told at 5.25am that a neo-natal transfer team were coming for her.”
Miss Knox detailed the care she and a fellow midwife gave over the next two hours until that team arrived in Montrose from Dundee.
She said: “At 7.10am we commenced CPR as the heart rate was absent.
“Five minutes later the transfer team arrive and at that stage they took responsibility.”
Under cross examination by Gary Stewart, Miss Knox said that home birth babies would get to hospital quicker than those born in distress at community midwife units.
She said: “The initial resuscitation would be the same but if it became evident the baby wasn’t responding we would call 999 and get the baby to hospital.
“They would go by ambulance with two midwives.
“They would get to hospital quicker, yes.”
The inquiry, before Sheriff Pino di Emidio, continues and is expected to run for seven days between now and September.