Sunday, January 11, 2009


Red News Readers,

Why are the public and the media surprised at the treatment of miscarrying women? We live in a world now where the economy matters more than society, where compliance with financial constraint matters more than compassion, where health care is delivered in cost units without consideration of human need. So when the stressed staff in emergency departments treat miscarrying women with a lack of compassion, there may be personal and professional issues involved for that staff member, but they are also complying with the policy imperatives of their employers and governments. Ministers and government departments can issue memos reminding staff of the need to be compassionate but it will take a lot more than a simple piece of paper to change behaviours.

Jenny Haines

Lisa's agony: Miscarriage edict ignored

Lisa Carty, Sun Herald.

January 11, 2009

Devastated ... Lisa Watt's three-month-old baby in its sac kept slipping through her fingers and no one at Maitland Hospital was available to help her retrieve it.

A WOMAN has told how she begged hospital staff to find her a bed before she miscarried her baby into a toilet.

In shock, a devastated Lisa Watt, 39, tried to retrieve the foetus before flushing it away.

Her case is one of at least four in which miscarrying women have complained of substandard care at Maitland Hospital, in the Hunter Valley.

Mrs Watt said the case of Jodie Whiteside, who miscarried into a hospital toilet on December 22, showed nothing had changed since she complained about the treatment before she delivered her fourth child, a 12-week-old foetus, in a hospital toilet on May 19.

"I wrote to the hospital three weeks after I lost my baby because I was very unhappy with the way it was handled," she said.

"The maternity unit rang me and told me it could have happened anywhere. I told her I knew that but I couldn't get over the fact that it had happened in the hospital."

Despite an edict that miscarrying women should be given a bed in the maternity unit - an edict issued after Jana Horska miscarried into a Royal North Shore Hospital emergency department toilet in 2007 - Mrs Watt was given only a chair.

"I told the doctor I could feel the baby was just going to gush out," she said.

"She apologised and said there were no beds. She told me to come back in three hours for a scan but I knew the baby was coming and I couldn't wait three hours.

"I went to the toilet and had the baby. He was perfectly formed. I could see him in the little sac. I was trying to get him out. I kept trying but he kept slipping off my hands. I was crying and saying: 'Stay on mummy's hands.'

"For a long time I blamed myself because I just flushed. There was no one there to help me."

After Mrs Watt sent a written complaint three weeks later, a senior hospital staff member phoned and told her the miscarriage could have "happened anywhere", she said.

"I said I could have dealt with it if it had happened anywhere but it didn't; it happened in their hospital. They might have thought it was just a miscarriage but I was losing my child. To me, it wasn't so impersonal as it was to them."

In another case, a woman who miscarried her first baby on December 6 - two weeks before Jodie Whiteside lost her baby - also sent a letter of complaint.

In a written response, Hunter Area emergency services director David Gleadhill said improvements had been made and more were planned.

He apologised, saying the emergency department was not a good place to have a miscarriage, adding that lack of funding meant the hospital's early pregnancy service only opened three mornings a week.

"We would like it to operate seven days a week and we will continue to lobby for this," Dr Gleadhill wrote. "Until that happens, patients attending hospital with a threatened miscarriage will continue to attend the emergency department and may, unfortunately, experience some of the issues encountered by you."

State Opposition health spokeswoman Jillian Skinner described the treatment of miscarrying women at Maitland Hospital as "scandalous".

"I have never been so outraged by a series of revelations as this," she said. "This Government is playing with these people's emotions by promising to fix the problems, then letting them down. Animals get better treatment at a vet."

Yesterday Health Minister John Della Bosca said it was "extremely disappointing that other women have had similar experiences at this hospital".

Guidelines issued after the Horska case had not been followed at Maitland, he said.

"I am very sorry those guidelines, which spell out that women and their families in these situations need to be treated with care and compassion, were not followed," Mr Della Bosca said.

"Clearly we need to reissue them and ensure frontline doctors and nurses understand them and are supported to implement them."

He said he would visit Maitland Hospital later this month