Parents of stillborn girl: We hope our heartbreak can help others

Clara Rose Stewart was stillborn at Altnagelvin Area Hospital in September 2014
Clara Rose Stewart was stillborn at Altnagelvin Area Hospital in September 2014
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A Co Tyrone couple whose daughter was stillborn at Altnagelvin Area Hospital say they hope their heartbreaking loss will help bring about improvements in medical treatment for pregnant mothers and babies throughout Northern Ireland.

Robert Stewart and Clare Hyndman-Stewart, from Omagh, made the statement following the conclusion of an inquest into the death of their daughter, Clara Rose.

Baby Clara Rose was stillborn at the Co Londonderry hospital on September 1, 2014 after contracting a Group B streptococcus bacterial infection.

Following three days of evidence, during which the inquest heard from 18 witnesses, including Clara Rose’s parents, doctors and midwives, coroner Patrick McGurgan yesterday outlined his findings in the case.

He commended the couple for the “dignity and fortitude” which they had shown throughout, and also praised the witnesses who gave evidence.

The coroner ruled that Clara Rose’s death was caused by a Group B strep infection, an intrauterine infection and other factors.

He said two doctors had “misclassified” cardiotocography (CTG) – a means of recording fetal heartbeat and uterine contractions during pregnancy – readings during assessments of Mrs Hyndman-Stewart when she went to the hospital at the end of August, considering them to be normal when they were abnormal. But he said that even if the mistakes hadn’t been made it wouldn’t have altered the tragic outcome.

Mr McGurgan recommended that staff should be given “ongoing and regular supervised training” in reading CTGs, and he also voiced concerns about different policies and treatment practices being used in the same areas of medicine across trusts and even at hospitals within the same trust.

He branded the situation “inexplicable” and said he will be writing to the permanent secretary of the Department of Health to raise his concerns.

Speaking after the inquest, the couple’s solicitor Joe Moore said: “Baby Clara’s parents are very grateful to the coroner for his thorough and sensitive investigation.

“The inquest heard detailed evidence regarding mistakes in medical treatment provided to Mrs Hyndman-Stewart and they welcome the coroner’s decision to write to the Department of Health highlighting the unacceptable situation where hospitals in Northern Ireland currently operate different treatment protocols relating to maternity care.

“They hope that this important inquest verdict and the coroner’s recommendations will assist in the improvement of medical treatment for pregnant mothers and babies throughout Northern Ireland.”

A spokesperson for the Western Health and Social Care Trust said: “The Western Trust wishes to offer its condolences to the family at this time.

“The trust works closely with the Coroner’s Office in cases of this nature and will take on board any recommendations following this inquest.”