HIGH RISK: Staffing levels a worry at Lismore Base Hospital.
HIGH RISK: Staffing levels a worry at Lismore Base Hospital. Marc Stapelberg

'One baby stopped breathing ... it was scary'

Latest: WOMEN who have recently spent time in the women's care unit at Lismore Base Hospital have come out on Facebook in support of staff.

Amongst the comments, many praised the hard work of midwives and nurses, and highlighted the difficult conditions under which the worked.

Lana Rose said:  "Both my girls births were completely different - one was problem free, the other was one of the most scariest moments of my life. But not at any point did I doubt the staff and their capabilities. They were there the whole way and comforted me through out it all!"

Kylie Butwell said: "In both of my birthing experience's in Lismore Base I can't fault anything. We were lucky enough to experience wonderful and helpful staff and midwives. 

"Can't praise them enough for the wonderful work they do, and to do it all still under conditions less than ideal is commendable. Definitely underpaid, under appreciated and over worked!"

Angela Huxstep said: "The nurse to patient ratio needs to be changed. The NSW Nurses Association has been recommending that for the longest time."

 

Monday 1pm: ​IN LIGHT of the concerns raised by staff and the union about staffing levels in the women's care unit at Lismore Base Hospital, patients have shared their own worrying stories with us on Facebook.

Lisa Quinn said: "When my son was in the new special care there were six babies in there including my son".

"There was one nurse, me and my partner in there. She was on the phone to Lady Cilento (Children's Hospital) when all the sudden one baby stopped breathing, then another baby's heart rate shot to 225bpm. Both alarms ringing. 

"She told me to stay on the phone to LC, she asked my partner to help her stimulate both babies. Then they had to bring in an regular RN (registered nurse) to help because no one else was availiable. It was scary!"

Sarah Tierney said: "I recently spent time in the Special Care nursery where there were 10 babies between two nurses and only one trained in that area".

"The trained nurse was in tears the next morning because she was under so much pressure. Thankfully there were no emergencies with any of the babies overnight, otherwise who knows what could have happened. Our nurses need better support!".

 

Original story Monday 6.50am: A REPEAT of the death in the women's care unit of Lismore Base Hospital three years ago is a threat if staffing levels are not improved, concerned staff and union representatives say.

Michaela Perrin, 26, died on October 22, 2014, six days after giving birth to her third child via a Caesarean section, after she contracted a sepsis infection.

But three years on, despite a detailed internal investigation into the tragedy, some staff say conditions during the night are still "dangerous", with trainee midwives sometimes being left to "fend for themselves" in the new 18-bed Women's Care Unit.

The Northern NSW Local Health District has rejected the claims, with chief executive officer Wayne Jones saying midwifery students were employed only as assistants-in- midwifery to work under the supervision of two registered midwives.

However, a staff member who spoke on condition of anonymity said the unit was often inadvertently under- staffed during the night when senior midwives were called out due to demands in the nearby birthing suite.

"You can't leave a midwife and a (student) on the ward alone... that causes problems," the staff member said.

"It's a scary situation that you could be left with eight or 10 women and their babies with just you and a (student) on night duty.

"The majority of midwives at the moment are really stressed about what's happening."

Common risks to patients in the unit included post- natal bleeds - a "possibility for just about every woman who comes through in the first 24 hours (after birth)" - and wound infections, which contributed to the death of Ms Perrin.

"The big thing that happened with Michaela was people didn't do their follow- up, they didn't do their observations, for whatever reasons, but that's happen- ing now because we're all getting so stressed trying to get everything done that we're not getting time to do a proper check on everything.

"Anything can happen, and it does."

In a statement, Mr Jones said additional midwives were called into work "where there are babies with high acuity, additional patient loads, or more than two women in established labour".

But this claim was rubbished by the staff member, because the hospital has no on-call system for nurses or midwives.

Findings from the NSW Coroner's Court inquest into Ms Perrin's death have yet to be released, but the inquest heard her life- threatening condition was not diagnosed early enough.

She was discharged from the unit three days after giving birth, but returned the following day in pain.

After being sent home with a painkiller prescription, she returned the next day, and died in the women's unit the following morning.

In his statement, Mr Jones said the Local Health District conducted a detailed internal investigation to review the circumstances of the death.

He could not comment specifically on the case due to the Coroner's inquiry.



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