A devastated couple branded a maternity unit an “emergency response blackspot” as they emotionally told an inquiry today of their daughter’s death just hours after she was born.
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 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 rescuscitate 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 face 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 ‘weech’ 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.
The inquiry, before Sheriff Pino di Emidio, continues and is expected to run for seven days between now and September.