By Niall McCracken
The Medical Director of the Belfast Trust has contacted the family of Baby 3 to inform them that an investigation is ongoing into issues around their baby’s medical notes, including interviews with staff members.
Following the publication of an interview with the father of “Baby 3” who criticised the trust for a lack of contact with his family, Dr Tony Stevens has written to the family’s legal team to address a number of concerns they had raised in a previous letter that was sent over two months ago.
However, the family’s Solicitor Ernie Waterworth has said that, while he welcomes that the trust has finally responded and they are investigating the matter, the family are still in the dark about why cuts Baby 3 sustained are not in the medical notes which were given to the family.
He said: “In his letter Dr Stevens actually confirms that there is no record of any injury, this in itself opens up and in an entirely new set of questions. If they’re not physically missing from the record, then they haven’t been properly recorded in the first place. The family will need answers as to why this is the case.”
On April 16 2012 Mr Waterworth of McCartan Turkington and Breen wrote to the Medical Director of the Belfast trust on behalf of the family.
In the letter he outlined three primary concerns they had previously discussed with the Health Minister before the publication of the interim report of the Troop review. The Department would eventually tell them to direct their queries to the trust. In the letter to Dr Tony Stevens, Mr Waterworth stated:
“There was an incident that occurred on January 14 when my clients received a telephone call advising that their baby had sustained three cuts, one on the cheek, one on the left hand and one on the lower leg right hand side. They were advised that the nurse taking the line out had torn the skin. We note from the medical records received there is no reference to this incident at all.
“There appear to be a number of redaction in the notes- please clarify the position.
“In 2009 when my clients attended the unit following the birth of their first child there was a strict policy whereby sterile water had to be used rather than water from the taps. In January this year there was no sterile water available and they were instructed to use tap water. Please confirm if there indeed a change of policy with regard to the use of sterile water and if so, when that came into effect.”
Ahead of the publication of our interview with the father of Baby 3 on June 20, we contacted the Belfast Trust to outline the criticisms he had over a lack of contact on its part. In a statement the Belfast Trust said:
“We appreciate this is a very difficult time for all concerned, however we are not permitted to discuss the care and treatment of individual patients.
“However we wish to advise that we have engaged with the family you have mentioned throughout this extremely difficult time. We are currently following up on the issues they raised in their recent correspondence and we will continue to try and resolve the remaining issues.”
By June 21 the solicitor for the family had received correspondence from Dr Tony Stevens outlining that the trust had reviewed the medical and nursing notes for January 14 and advised that there was no record of any injury sustained or removal of a line, but that an “investigation which includes interviewing staff is ongoing.”
Dr Stevens also attached the Neonatal Unit Policy in respect of Infant Hygiene which had been in place since 2002. The trust only introduced the use of sterile water for nappy changing on January 17 2012 and prior to this date adhered to the 2002 policy.
The policy outlines that staff should “Inspect the baby’s skin for any redness or breakdown, report any skin breakdown. Inform the tissue viability team if necessary.” Under procedures it also states that staff should “document findings in nursing notes and on observation notes”.
Mr Waterworth believes this policy was not followed during Baby 3’s time in the neonatal ward at the Royal Jubilee Maternity Hospital.
He said: “There it is, in black and white: protocols and procedures that clearly in this case have not been implemented. The family know that this event was significant in their baby’s short life and they deserve to know how and why the hospital have some how missed it.”