Family speak out over Trust baby death

Published Tuesday, 01 April 2014
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The parents of a baby girl who died in a Northern Trust hospital because there was no theatre available to perform an emergency section have spoken to UTV about their devastating loss.

Family speak out over Trust baby death
Chris and Louise McAuley speak of their distress at losing their newborn baby. (© UTV)

Ballycastle husband and wife Louise and Chris McAuley's only daughter died in the most tragic of circumstances at Antrim Area Hospital in 2008.

Baby Erin was a mere 20 hours old when her battle for life ended almost six years ago.

Her death was one of 11 which occurred in the Northern Trust between 2008 and 2013 and are under investigation after the Trust admitted its response had been "below standard".

The family said they have not yet received an apology.

Chris said: "We have never had anybody sit down and even say 'We're sorry, we're sorry for what's happened.'

"We're human, we're the same as anybody else, they're human. Let's talk about it, let's bring it out into the open. Let's make this a stronger Trust, let's make a stronger maternity ward for mothers, and babies to be born. An apology is nothing to some, but to us it's a lot."

Louise had gone into hospital expecting to come home with her second child after a trouble-free pregnancy.

On 11 May 2008, a week after her due date, she was admitted to the Causeway Hospital in Coleraine for a natural birth, having previously had her first child by caesarean.

Louise suffered a ruptured uterus and little Erin was starved of oxygen.

"It was just the worst feeling in the world knowing that your daughter... you couldn't do anything for her or help her in anyway. She was dying in your arms," Louise recalled.

As medics battled to resuscitate the tiny infant, her distraught parents waited.

Chris added: "I looked at Erin when she was born and I just couldn't see any life form at all.

"Louise was going an absolute grey colour and I just thought my wife is going to die.

"I am going to be left in this room by myself with a four-year-old at home who I am going to have to explain everything to.

"You don't want this to happen - this shouldn't happen."

The mother and baby were rushed to Antrim Area Hospital almost 40 miles away, both clinging to life.

While Louise survived after spending time on life support, her baby died due to the damage caused to her brain.

Through tears, she recalled: "We said goodbye and we told her we would never forget her and explained [what had happened]. Her eyes were opening and we said that we were with her, she wasn't alone, and that we would see her again."

Chris said they were left devastated and feeling like their world was falling apart.

Erin's parents knew from the outset things weren't right at the Causeway Hospital.

They began a legal battle with the Northern Trust for answers.

Chris explained: "I knew that night in that hospital that wasn't childbirth, that wasn't right. The panic on people's faces, the information coming from the doctors that night... about theatres not being ready."

Louise added: "They were scrambling to fill in the notes."

It frustrates me to know that the theatre was just two doors down and they couldn't scramble staff together to get Erin out in an emergency.

Chris McAuley

A devastating catalogue of mistakes was eventually exposed by two consultants - one acting on behalf of the family and the other appointed by the Trust.

Trust appointed consultant Dr Paul Weir listed failure after failure in his report.

Louise was admitted to the Causeway Hospital, but not reviewed by a senior experienced Obstetrician.

Because of the problems with her labour, arrangements were made for a caesarean section, but that was delayed because there was no operating theatre available.

Dr Weir said that led the attending medical staff into a disastrous situation for both baby and the mother.

Last year, the Northern Trust agreed a settlement with the McAuley family as part of their civil action, admitting liability over the treatment of Erin and her mother.

The Trust has now confirmed baby Erin's case is one of the 11 hospital deaths where its response should have been better.

A review into her death was carried out, the Trust said, and all recommendations were implemented.

UTV understands that there will now be another investigation.

On Friday, the Trust identified 20 separate incidents over a five-year period, from 2008 to 2013, where the response had been "below standard".

The incidents were across a number of areas including obstetrics and gynaecology, imaging and the Trust's EDs and 11 of them involved deaths, five of which were perinatal.

Chris and Louise now have two sons - but Erin is still very much part of their lives and they are determined to ensure no other parents should suffer needlessly like they have.

Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay said that the Health Minister Edwin Poots should apologise for the way the family has been treated.

"I commend the McAuleys on their determination to find out what happened in those tragic hours before Erin lost her life.

"They have taken Erin's case to the courts so that no other family should have to go through a similar ordeal in search of what happened in the Causeway Hospital.

"I hope the Trust learns the lessons from this case as no family who lose a child like this should then have to fight to get the truth," the North Antrim MLA concluded.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
15 Comments
Angela Kennedy in Scotland wrote (204 days ago):
This is so sad and needles to say should never have happened in this day and age. My deepest sympathies go out to this family and any other family who have been effected by this kind of tragic loss. I commend the courage of this couple for being strong and speaking out about what happened and about the legal action that they chose to take. R.I.P baby Erin...xxx....
Joanne in Co . Tyrone wrote (204 days ago):
Thinking of you both at this time you came through so much and are so strong. . I myself had a ruptured uterus in 2007 having my 2nd child after a ceaserean section with my 1st baby.. For this to be so rare I can't be believe it has happened a year later to you...you have done right to keep going with investigations until you got answers as it shouldnt have happened.. stay strong x
Paula Magee in Caledon wrote (204 days ago):
My heart breaks for this family - and the trusts learn nothing, on 20/2/14 i gave birth to a term +10 baby boy, by the grace of god, our baby survived, however spent 3 wks in neonatal, we are unsure of his condition until he gets older. the moral of our story is i had an unknown womb infection for 48 hrs b4 delivery, and had contacted hospital 8 times in 41 hrs prior to delivery and was never admitted i lay in induction for 8 hrs un monitored on 20/2/14, which caused our baby's brain to to be starved of oxygen.
sad in belfast wrote (204 days ago):
My heart goes out to you both. This should never have happened, having a baby is ment to be the best thing in your life, you have been let down by the trust and everyone involved in your daughters birth. I wil keep you in my prayers and hope you get the answers that you need. So heartbreaking. Very brave parents sharing this. God bless x
Kelly Anne Sloan in belfast wrote (204 days ago):
Brave strong parents fighting for justice and improved services. All our love x
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