Exclusive report: Seven baby deaths in seven weeks - are Waikato Hospital's maternity services in crisis?

A Waikato mother is disgusted with the medical care she was subject to at Waikato Hospital, saying a lack of action led to her baby's death and very nearly her own.

"It's only by the grace of God that I'm not with my baby girl.

"They had 17 hours to save my life and my daughter's life and they did nothing," she said.

The woman and her husband, both experienced health professionals, have spoken to 1 NEWS about their ordeal in January this year, but wish to remain anonymous.

They say they've been told their baby's death was the seventh in seven weeks at Waikato's maternity unit.  

'I was struggling to breathe'

Kate was 28 weeks pregnant when she was woken by excruciating abdominal pain in the middle of the night in January.

She was no stranger to pain, her experience living with severe endometriosis which led to her having an ovary and kidney removed and she'd built a high pain threshold.

But this was different, she said she could hardly breathe.

The couple rushed to the hospital at 1.30am where a duty midwife said staff were 'extremely busy' and the baby would be monitored through a device until the doctor could visit a few hours later. No pain relief could be administered until after that, Kate was told.

At around 5am, the blood results showed Kate wasn't in premature labour and she was told a general surgeon would review her in the morning. The pain relief wasn't working.

"They were worried enough that I needed to be constantly monitored baby wise, but yet they weren't worried enough to see why, or what was actually wrong with me..." she said.

The morning shift started but no surgeon met Kate. When she asked when they would come, she was told they'd have to wait and see. Her pain was progressively getting worse.

"I got to the point that all I could do was grip the bedsheets and sob and cry," she said.

It would be 12 more hours before Kate was seen by an obstetrician, seventeen hours more before she was sent for a scan.

"On my way down to the scan I vomited black coloured water with big blood clots," she said.

She said she knew she needed to pee after the scan, but her inability to do so was a realisation something was "really wrong."

She vomited blood clots again before her midwife told her the cause was unknown as the scan didn't show anything.

"I turn around and say to my husband and I grab hold of his hand and I said to him very clearly, 'I think I'm dying.'"

Kate went into cardiac arrest.

An anuerysm which ruptured her uterus and leaked eight litres of blood in her abdomen was the cause.

Emergency operation

It took 43 minutes from the time she collapsed to the time her daughter was delivered.

"We know that if a person is deprived of oxygen for ten minutes... there's irreversible damage," she said.

Kate was told her baby was fine.

"I felt scared in lots of ways... I've got this prem baby, but at the same time I thought, 'Phew, luckily that I was in hospital, luckily they managed to deliver my little girl and she was fine."

Kate's fears of brain damage heightened when she was wheeled to see her baby, several days later, and saw that her hands and feet were bent at unnatural angles.

A doctor later said her daughter was likely to have a brain injury caused by the traumatic surroundings of her birth. An MRI scan at eight weeks would determine the severity, she was told.

But that date was never met, the baby was unable to breathe on her own at three weeks old and had developed pneumonia that needed antibiotics.

"We asked them to not give her antibiotics and to turn the ventilator off, and to let her go."

"We didn't want our little girl to suffer," her husband said.

No apology

Kate learnt from her hospital notes that the scan she was told showed nothing, had actually showed an aneurysm.

An ACC investigation carried out by an independent obstetrician is damning of the treatment Kate received.

It reports her obstetrician should have seen her sooner. It says if they'd operated earlier, they would have detected an imminent rupture and an emergency caeserean would have saved her baby's life.

"They stuffed around for 17 hours, causing me to collapse... causing me to lose my baby... and they've never said sorry," she said.

Kate said she is "absolutely furious" over what happened.

"This is a place where you're supposed to go to get care, to get help... You trust the people to make sound judgements, to make sound calls."

A well-placed source told Kate her baby's death was the seventh in seven weeks at Waikato Hospital's maternity unit, a statistic that's left her disgusted.

"We are not a third-world country... we aren't out the back of Zimbabwe somewhere having babies."

Last week it was revealed that a baby died at the hospital after an emergency caesarean took priority over a mother's scheduled caesarean, prompting doctors to warn that the lives of women and babies were being put at risk there.

The couple have had no apology from the Waikato District Health Board or acknowledgment of wrong-doing.

A spokeswoman for the board said in a statement that the case cannot be discussed due to privacy issues.

'We have carried out a review of this case which we have shared with the mother and have offered to meet with her to discuss it,' she said.

The board said it believes the review was carried out in the appropriate time frame.

On average, one baby dies in the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit a fortnight and the board said this is comparable to other district health boards in the country.

It refutes the figure of seven deaths in seven weeks.

The matter's now been referred to the coroner.

Have you or someone you know lost a baby due to a botched delivery? Email paul.hobbs@tvnz.co.nz

1 NEWS speaks to a woman whose baby died after she was left languishing in the hospital for 17 hours. Source: 1 NEWS



Hamilton high school principal slammed for speech saying truants were highly likely to become rape victims

A Hamilton high school principal has been condemned for a speech in which she said truants were highly likely to end up in prison, be illiterate, a rape victim or commit suicide.

A student secretly recorded the school assembly speech by Fraser High School principal Virginia Crawford and uploaded it to YouTube.

In the speech, Crawford called any truant a “statistic of the worst kind".

"Highly likely to go to prison, either commit domestic violence or be a victim of domestic violence, be illiterate, be a rape victim, be a suicide victim, be unemployed for the majority of their life, have a major health problem, die at an early age, have an addiction, gambling, drugs or smoking,” she said.

"When I drive out of school during class time for meetings, and I see groups of students sitting outside the dairy, fish and chip shop, bus stop, some of the things I am thinking is that is another group of students without a future.

"That is another student who will end up as a statistic, that's another loser, that's another wannabe. Another student desperate for friendship, another we've lost."

She urged students to work hard in school to make better lives for themselves.

One parent commented on the YouTube video, saying they would pull their daughter out of the school.

“This is actually quite disturbing, I'm seriously concerned as my daughter attends this school. Yes she's had days off school, and there's been a time I've forgotten to call...... But wen u say such things like this?” the parent wrote.

“You have failed my daughter as an educator, you have failed the system, my daughter hasn't failed as a student and I haven't failed as a parent. This revolting tormenting speech has only proven that YOU madam principal are the FAILURE in this matter. Disgusting inappropriate accusations. I'm pulling my daughter out until you are replaced.”

Another commenter said his stepson would no longer attend Fraser High School after hearing the speech.

“I'm glad too (sic) say that my wife's son…will no longer be attending 'fraser high school'. After seeing this speech I was literally shaking, this kind of offensive culture should not be permitted in New Zealand,” he wrote.

Board of Trustees parent representative Milton Ngaruhe told Stuff that he had been sent messages about the speech, but hadn't had parents complain to him about it. 

"Personally I haven't had a chance to listen to more than a minute of the video and there is a process that we go through."1

1 NEWS has tried to contact the school. 

A child at school.

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1080 case goes to Māori Land Court as two Northland men challenge DOC's right to drop on Russell State Forest

Two Northland men challenging DOC's right to drop 1080 on Russell State Forest say it needs to show it has consent from Māori and the community.

Riki Ngakoti and Hayward Brown have applied to the Māori Land Court for an injunction to stop the pesticide drop that's set to happen in the next fortnight.

Auckland opponents of 1080 trying to stop a drop in the Hunua Ranges, have taken their case to the Environment Court.

But Mr Ngakoti said he had sought advice from the Tikanga Māori Law Society and believed the Māori Land Court had jurisdiction.

"There will be arguments by the settlers of New Zealand - our fellow Kiwis - and government officials, that the Department of Conservation manages Crown land. We had that argument from the court when we applied, but we...interpret that land to be Māori customary land."

Mr Ngakoti said he and Mr Brown were not so much anti-1080 as anti-risk and DOC had not provided a forum in which that risk could be publicly evaluated and debated.

"We have tried to do a bit of research but some of the risks we haven't been able to satisfy ourselves about are the effect of 1080 on the environment below the ground... the micro-organisms, the works, the bugs - there hasn't been thorough research."

The Māori Land Court will hold the injunction hearing on Monday in Whangarei.

Meanwhile the lawyer acting for the Auckland 1080 opponents, Sue Grey, said further court challenges to the use of 1080 were inevitable.

"There has been no forum for public conversation and it got much worse last year when the former Minister for the Environment Nick Smith passed...regulations exempting 1080 from all the usual resource consent processes.

"You need resource consent if you want to extend your fence - but DOC doesn't have to get a consent or have any public consultation for dropping poison into public areas."

That had led to a build-up of pressure because people had genuine concerns and nowhere to air them, she said.

DOC has linked the anti-1080 spam campaign on Facebook to threats against its staff, based on misinformation about the toxin

But Ms Grey said she stood by her advice to 1080 opponents to use social media to promote their cause.

"I would never advocate any threats or violence. My view is that the court processes are there and we need to use them and that's what I encourage my clients to do."

Ms Grey said there had been a lot of allegations made about threats but she had her doubts.

"I've just seen an OIA response from the police and it seems that very few of those alleged incidents did happen," she said.

"There seems to be a pattern of exaggeration of these threats."

However DOC and Forest and Bird sources told RNZ there had been very serious threats made and staff were worried.

By Lois Williams

rnz.co.nz

Source: rnz.co.nz

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Private housing tenants evicted over meth contamination should also be compensated, says advocate

Tenants in private housing incorrectly evicted as a result of methamphetamine contamination testing should also be in line for compensation, according to Action Against Poverty.

Ricardo Menendez, from Action Against Poverty, said as many as 2400 evicted tenants should be in line for compensation despite Housing Minister Phil Twyford announcing yesterday that around 800 Housing NZ tenants would be reimbursed for costs related to their evictions.

“These (the 800) would have the Housing NZ tenants that would have fallen into the catchment but I do feel that all tenants should be up for compensation as well even though some (were in) private housing,” Mr Menendez told TVNZ1’s Breakfast.

“A lot of these tenants were evicted through the testing as a way to pave for redevelopments or developments for housing so I think it was just an excuse to push people out of their communities."

Housing NZ tenant Kathleen Paraha said she the meth contamination evictions had taken an enormous toll, with WINZ blaming innocent people for being evicted.

"These people have lost their furniture, their clothing, and when they go to WINZ, they’ve been declined of clothing and stuff because they think it’s been contaminated so they’re not offering enough,” she said.

“They’ve been put in debt because they’ve been evicted, because WINZ have been saying that they did this themselves, it’s their fault.”

“For one thing they should clear the debt that the government has put them in the first place.”

“They’ve been told to pay for their motel bills if they put them into motels, they’ve been told to pay for it because it’s their fault.”

Kathleen Paraha said the Housing NZ evictions took an enormous personal toll on those evicted, putting people in debt and often leading to drug use among those left homeless. Source: Breakfast


Police seeking information over terrifying early morning robbery at Tauranga home involving an axe

Police are seeking public information after a terrifying assault and robbery at a Tauranga home where two offenders broke into the house early this morning armed with an axe and crowbar.

Officers responded to an aggravated burglary on Waterford Park Drive in Papamoa at approximately 4.30am, Detective Sergeant Darryl Brazier said.

Two men had entered the property and assaulted two occupants of the house, a man and woman, before stealing two cars from the property.

The two victims received minor injuries but did not require ambulance treatment though they are receiving continued support from police, Detective Sergeant Brazier said.

Police have recovered the vehicles nearby and are currently examining them while a scene examination is also underway at the property.

If anyone in the area has any information which could assist with the Police investigation we encourage them to ring Tauranga Police on 577 4300.

Information can also be given anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Man with axe
Source: istock.com