Probe underway into maternal death at New Amsterdam Hospital
By Daniel Da Costa
Stabroek News
October 21, 2003

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An internal inquiry has been launched into the death last Monday of 38-year-old Deborah Crawford and her baby at the New Amsterdam Public Hospital.

According to a medical source the woman died from haemorrhage, while her baby apparently suffocated and died as a result of his mother’s excessive bleeding.

Stabroek News has been informed that Crawford’s baby was apparently still-born and she succumbed despite emergency surgery to remove her uterus in a desperate effort to stop the bleeding. Relatives of the dead woman have since called for an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding her demise.

A senior official at the hospital told this newspaper yesterday that an inquiry has been launched into the woman’s death. According to the official, the administration was in the process of collecting information from the nursing staff involved in the case. A report is also to be solicited from the gynaecologist who attended to Crawford. The official said that so far no evidence had been obtained that pointed to negligence on the part of the institution’s staff.

According to Crawford’s reputed husband, Leon Vaughn, his wife had told him that the nurses had pressed her stomach in an effort to force the baby out. He also stated that the gynaecologist had told him that the baby had suffocated but was not told the cause of his wife’s death.

The senior hospital official is calling for an independent investigation to be conducted by persons not employed at the institution. “So far the information at my disposal indicates that the delivery was a normal one and there were no signs of possible complications,” he said. This newspaper has been reliably informed that the hospital’s matron and at least two nurses who attended to Crawford have been questioned by administration officials. A post-mortem was performed on Crawford’s body at the New Amsterdam Hospital yesterday.

Stabroek News has been informed that contrary to reports in another section of the media, the baby was not delivered by caesarian section. According to a source, the baby was not larger than normal and the woman was not diabetic as was stated.

Reports in another section of the press had said that Crawford was attending a clinic for “high risk” maternity patients at the New Amsterdam Hospital and that her diabetic condition caused the foetus to be about three times larger than a normal one.

Crawford was taken to the hospital by relatives at around 2:00 pm two Sundays ago after complaining of labour pains. Some time after 2:00 pm efforts were made to secure blood, a hospital source said. However, the woman’s relatives said that it was not until after 4:00 pm that they were told that Crawford needed blood. One source at the hospital had told this newspaper that it took some time before contact was made with Vaughn to secure the blood. And a hospital staff member close to the case said that it took two hours for the laboratory to make one unit of blood available. According to the source, there were approximately eight pints of blood in the laboratory, none of which had yet been cleared by the National Blood Transfusion Unit (NBTU) in Georgetown. Clearance of the blood which is screened at the NBTU reportedly took at least one hour, by which time “it was too late” another source close to the case said.

One doctor told this newspaper that in almost all the maternal-death cases at the institution over recent years, the main problem has been the availability of screened blood. Several women have died at the institution over time, either during or shortly after delivery. Unfortunately, the results of the numerous investigations launched into maternal deaths have never been made public. Crawford’s relatives are not only calling for an independent investigation, but for the findings of such a probe to be made public as soon as they are available.

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