Hospital agrees to probe suction delivery of baby

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 03 February, 2012, 12:00am

A baby boy may have been left brain-damaged after being delivered with a suction device and quickly developing a brain haemorrhage at Prince of Wales Hospital, the child's parents claimed yesterday.

After a meeting yesterday with doctors in charge of the case, the boy's father, Andy Ip Tat-ho, 30, urged the hospital to give a 'proper explanation' for his son's condition.

He said he was told that the doctor initiating the delivery in September was a trainee with just one month's experience on an obstetrics ward.

'My baby is an innocent victim. He would have been a healthy baby,' Ip said, holding back tears.

His son, Ip Pak-hei, has been under intensive care since his birth, and has had three operations for brain-fluid accumulation and inflammation. Doctors said he might have permanent mental and sensory damage.

The trainee failed to deliver the baby on the first try with the suction device and the boy's heart rate dropped. The trainee's supervisor succeeded on her second try. The baby had difficulty breathing and was confirmed the next day with a brain haemorrhage, according to the parents. Hospital obstetrics professor Leung Tak-yeung said the incident did not involve human error. The process was considered smooth, completed in 14 minutes with three attempts.

Pak-hei's mother, Law Wing-yee, 27, said she had asked to have a Caesarean delivery because she was so weak, but a nurse told her 'the doctors won't do it, it's not good for both you and the baby'. Doctors said they did not know about the request.

Law said everything was normal in her prenatal checks. The baby, the couple's first, was not premature and weighed 3.7kg. They want the hospital to apologise and take responsibility for the incident.

The hospital has agreed to report the case to the Hospital Authority for investigation by a third party. A spokesperson said it was not reported earlier as the incident was not considered a medical blunder.

Dr Leung Wing-cheong, head of obstetrics at Kwong Wah Hospital, said vacuum extraction was considered standard procedure when the mother failed to push the baby out with her own strength. There was a less than 1 per cent risk that it would result in the baby's brain bleeding.

Trainees account for half of the doctors in public hospitals' obstetric wards and require six years' training to become a specialist after obtaining a medical licence.

Dr Leung said the trainer-to-trainee ratio was one-to-one to one-to-two. It would be better if it was two-to-one, but there was a shortage of senior doctors as many had left for the private sector.

Professor Leung acknowledged the problem but said the situation was not dangerous. 'It is normal practice in public hospitals that trainee doctors deliver babies and use the suction device,' he added.

Recent incidents with deliveries at public hospitals include a baby who suffered oxygen deprivation to his brain at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital last month, and another who suffered a leg fracture and woman whose bladder was punctured during a Caesarean section at Prince of Wales Hospital, both last year.