Wednesday 17 January 2018

'It could happen again', inquest into death of baby Conor hears

Conor’s mum Siobhan Whelan
Conor’s mum Siobhan Whelan

A senior midwife at Cavan General Hospital said it is "possible" that the circumstances in which a baby boy died just hours after his birth could happen again at the hospital.

In an incident form filled out on May 14, 2014, Ann Arnott, who was the midwife in charge when Siobhan Whelan presented at the hospital the day before, said a re-occurrence was possible.

Conor Whelan was delivered by emergency section on May 13 2014 and died just 17 and a half hours later.

His mum Siobhan and his dad Andrew were present in court this week to hear testimony in an inquest into his death.

Ms Whelan said she wants to know how she fell "through the cracks" of the system. She believes a red flag raised about a low-lying placenta which could have diagnosed a condition that was found after her son's birth was not followed up on.

She had been suffering from a case of undiagnosed vasa praevia, an obstetric complication in which foetal blood vessels cross or run near the internal orifice of the uterus.

On the day she presented at the hospital, Ms Arnott took a call from Ms Whelan who rang to say she believed she was in labour at around noon.

At 12.50 she said she "heard a scream coming from the corridor outside". Ms Whelan had blood on her trousers but Ms Arnott said she determined it was not an active bleed. She was overdue and was scheduled to be induced on May 14.


A number of steps were taken in relation to Ms Whelan after she presented with bleeding, including a CTG scan which was set up to monitor her baby's heartbeat.

Two junior doctors, a registrar and a senior house officer, were called to assess her. It was decided to carry out an artificial membrane rupture.

The midwife said she wanted the consultant Dr Rita Mehta to carry out the procedure but she told the doctor, who was at a statistics meeting, that it could wait 10 minutes.

However just a minute or so later, due to a deceleration in the baby's heart rate, it was decided the procedure should be carried out immediately.

Dr Mehta was summoned immediately and the procedure was carried out. Ms Whelan was then rushed to surgery as staff had trouble accessing a foetal heart rate. Baby Conor was born at 13.49 on May 13 and was transferred to the Rotunda in Dublin for treatment.

However he was subsequently brought back to Cavan where he spent his final hours with his parents and two sisters.

The court heard that Ms Whelan's placenta was divided into two discs, joined by vital arteries and veins via the membrane.

The condition was not picked up during a scan in March 2014, although a radiographer, Dr Angela Mortimer, who compiled the report based on the scan said it would have been present.

Ms Whelan said she was told her consultant would likely carry out an internal exam later to follow up, but this was disputed by Dr Mortimer, yesterday who said she would "never say that".

The inquest continues.

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