Media release in response to 15HDC00540 Report 3 October 2016

The Health and Disability Commissioner (HDC) today released a report into the appropriateness of the care provided by a midwife in March/April 2015. The HDC found the midwife involved (RM C) failed to provide services to Ms A with reasonable care and skill, and breached Right 4(1) of the Code. He also found the RM C breached Right 6(1) of the Code by not providing Ms A with essential information that a reasonable consumer in Ms A’s circumstances would expect to receive.

“In this case, the midwife’s clinical decision making process was flawed and she did not take appropriate and timely actions in relation to Ms A’s condition,” says Associate Professor Judith McAra Couper, Chair of the Midwifery Council. “This is clearly not the standard at which midwives are expected to practise, and we acted swiftly once we were notified about the serious nature of the circumstances surrounding Ms A’s care, with barely a month passing from the time of notification to RM C relinquishing her practising certificate.”  

The Council received a notification about RMC’s practice from the DHB on 17 April 2015. Because this notice raised serious concerns, the Council wrote immediately to the midwife for her response and gave her a shortened timeframe in which to respond says Chief Executive/Registrar Sharron Cole. On 30 April 2015, the Council received the response from the midwife who advised that she would not undertake any antenatal or intrapartum care but she asked to be allowed  to complete the postnatal care of five women and then retire from midwifery. She stated she had no intention of practising midwifery again.

At its meeting on 8 May 2015, the Council accepted the midwife’s reassurance that she would complete only the postnatal care of five women under her care. However, because of its primary responsibility to protect the health and safety of the public, the Council made an order under Section 39 that imposed a number of conditions on her scope of practice. The midwife accepted these conditions and retired from practice in mid May. Her practising certificate was returned to the Council and her status in the register was changed to inactive.

The Midwifery Council acts as the guardian of professional standards for midwives. All midwives must demonstrate ongoing competence each year by participating in the Council’s Recertification Programme which includes compulsory refresher courses including applying the Referral Guidelines in practice. “The guidelines protect everybody,” says Sharron Cole. “It is one of the ways we keep mothers and babies safe, and how midwives work with their obstetric, paediatric and other colleagues when cases become complicated. While we cannot eliminate all risk, we can do everything possible to ensure the safety of mothers and babies,”

“We’re confident that midwives have a high degree of specialist skills and professionalism in all dealings with women and babies in their care. The Council is clear that a high standard is expected of every midwife and will hold midwives to account if they do not maintain these high standards,” says Sharron Cole.

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Spokespeople available:

Sharron Cole, Chief Executive/Registrar, Midwifery Council

Dr Judith McAra Couper, Chair of the Midwifery Council, Associate Professor and Head of School of Midwifery at Auckland University of Technology