Parents of Stillborn Speak Out as Hospital is Investigated

The devastated parents of a baby who was stillborn at Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales, have today spoken of their grief after learning that the death of their daughter is one of dozens of new cases being considered by the Independent Maternity Services Oversight Panel as part of an ongoing investigation.

Shannon Roberts, 23, from Abertysswg, Gwent, was 12-weeks into her second pregnancy when a scan revealed potential complications with the baby who was due on March 6th, 2018.

A subsequent scan revealed that she had a condition called gastroschisis, and Shannon was referred to the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff to be seen by a Consultant in order to devise a care plan for the remainder of the pregnancy, which would be delivered by her local hospital.

However, despite the severity of the condition and the associated risks throughout the pregnancy and beyond, Shannon claims the care she received at Prince Charles Hospital, part of Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board, was not consistent with the recommendations made by her Consultant.

Tragically, baby Nova-Lee did not survive the pregnancy, and she was stillborn on January 18th, 2018.

Whilst her death certificate states that she had died of gastroschisis, her parents say this was never fully confirmed as a placenta autopsy did not reveal the cause of death.

In January, Shannon and her partner Marc were invited to attend a meeting with the Independent Maternity Services Oversight Panel, together with the Minister for Health and Social Services, Vaughan Gething AM, during which they were told that theirs was one of 25 cases now being considered as part of an ongoing investigation into the care delivered to patients of the Trust.

They say that during this meeting they raised serious concerns about issues including inconsistent and infrequent monitoring that was at odds with the plan set out by their Consultant, and an incident at 33 weeks when Shannon telephoned the maternity unit for help suffering from pain, sickness and bleeding, but was told not to come in, to protect other patients.

The couple have since instructed Medical Negligence Solicitors at law firm Simpson Millar to help them determine whether more could have been done to save Nova-Lee, and in a bid to ensure that any lessons learnt as a result of a review into their ordeal are shared across the Trust to prevent others suffering as they have.

On New Year’s Eve 2018, the couple welcomed another daughter, Nirvana, to the family. But despite all of the activity taking place to improve the care offered by Prince Charles Hospital they say there is ‘little evidence to suggest that things are getting better’.

Shannon said, “There are no words to describe what we have been through as a family. We miss Nova-Lee so much and have been truly devastated by her death.

“We were already aware that there were problems within the hospital and that it was under investigation when we got the letter, and so given what we experienced it makes sense that we would be contacted to form part of that review.

“That said, whilst we are pleased that it would appear action is being taken to look at what was going on back in 2016, 2017 and 2018, we’re not convinced it’s making a big difference to what’s happening right now.

“What’s really upsetting is that when we went in to have Nirvana things were just no better. I would argue in fact that they had got worse, and it’s even more chaotic than before. At one point I had to change my own bedsheets after 3 day as the staff just kept fobbing me off.”

Shannon went on to say that whilst there are other hospitals nearby, she had been reassured by the Consultant at Prince Charles Hospital that they would be under his strict care, and under close observations, throughout the second pregnancy, and that any worries or concerns that they had would be dealt with accordingly.

Both Marc and Shannon say that because of this reassurance they felt confident that they history would not repeat itself, and that baby Nirvana would get the care she would need.

However, they say that the care was ‘just as bad, if not worse’.

Shannon said, “Despite all of the promises we saw the Consultant once during the whole pregnancy, and that’s only because I finally refused to be dealt with by his secretary or a  junior doctor under his lead.”

Carly Saxon, a Senior Associate Medical Negligence Solicitor at Simpson Millar, who is representing Shannon and Marc added, “What happened to Shannon and her family is a tragedy.

“She is, understandably, desperate for answers, and we are now investigating several concerns with regards the care she received. It is very much Shannon and Marc’s hope that as part of this process important lessons will be learnt.”

A major independent review carried out by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology and the Royal College of Midwives into maternity services at Cwm Taf Health Board last year uncovered damning failures in the care of pregnant women in childbirth and afterwards.

As part of this, the Welsh Government revealed that 140 pregnancies were investigated between January 1, 2016, and September 2018, to see if there was any “avoidable harm” – including 21 stillbirths.

Prompted by concerns about the deaths of a number of babies at the Prince Charles and Royal Glamorgan Hospitals, in Merthyr Tydfil and Llantrisant, Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board's maternity services were subsequently put in special measures.

Shannon added, “Don’t get me wrong. Some of the staff were fantastic, but the place as a whole isn’t working – for whatever reason – and I am terrified that other people will suffer as we have, and that in some cases that suffering could be entirely avoided.

“We’re pleased that the investigation is ongoing and that the Independent Maternity Services Oversight Panel are taking more and more peoples’ ordeals into account so that they can build a true picture of what is happening at Prince Charles Hospital.

“We only hope then that genuine lessons are learnt and shared across the Trust to help make things better, but from our recent experience there’s evidence to suggest it’s getting worse before it gets better.

“Those local people who rely on that hospital for their care, and the care of their loved ones including their precious, new-born babies, deserve that.”

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