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Cardiff Hospital Admits Maternity Delays Led To Death Of Baby

Devastated Couple Say Baby Was Their Last Chance To Have A Family


A Cardiff woman has received an undisclosed substantial six figure payout, after her baby son died as a result of critical delays during his birth. Despite being flagged by the hospital as a high risk pregnancy in need of special care, midwives at the University Hospital of Wales failed to spot that Johanne Rees’ unborn baby was in distress, whilst a doctor even claimed that she was not in labour at all, but simply needed the toilet.

Cardiff & Vale NHS Trust has finally admitted liability for the errors. However, Ms Rees, from Penarth, and her partner Krishna Govekar say their lives have been completely devastated by the death of their son, Arun, who they believe was their last chance of having a child.

Their solicitor, Guy Forster, a medical negligence expert with national law firm, Irwin Mitchell, is concerned that the Trust initially refused to admit any wrongdoing. It was only as a result of legal action that the Trust finally admitted errors had been made and Mr Forster is now calling for the hospital to prove that it has learnt from its mistakes.

In the early hours of November 19th 2005 at 32 weeks’ pregnancy, Johanne Rees was admitted to UHW’s maternity unit with severe abdominal pains. Johanne, who was then aged 44, had been under the special care of the hospital’s Fetal Medicine Unit for the duration of her pregnancy due to the fact her waters had broken early at 18 weeks.

However, for more than two hours, midwives failed to properly monitor Johanne’s labour and did not spot that CTG heart readings were clearly showing that her baby was in distress.

Johanne says: “I just couldn’t understand why they weren’t doing anything to help me and my baby. At my last antenatal visit I was told my baby was breech and I would need a caesarean section. It was a ‘no brainer’ – I knew my baby needed to be delivered urgently.

“I was screaming in agony and begging the midwives to get my baby out but they just left me.  I couldn’t believe it when a doctor arrived and said I wasn’t ready to deliver but had probably eaten something that had disagreed with me and to try going to the toilet instead!”

It was only after Johanne was reviewed by a second doctor an hour and a half later that the decision was taken to perform an emergency caesarean. Baby Arun Rees Govekar was born at 03.42 on 19th November 2005 and was immediately rushed to the Special Care Baby Unit. 

Krishna, who had flown back from his home in Goa to be by his partner’s side as soon as he learned that Johanne had given birth, arrived at the hospital to be told the devastating news that Arun was effectively brain dead and that only a life support machine was keeping him alive.

The couple made the heartbreaking decision to switch off ten day old baby Arun’s life support on 29th November 2005.

Johanne, now 48, a property developer, had met restaurant owner, Krishna (40) after a holiday romance in Goa in 1998. She said: “Arun was a precious, much wanted baby. Krishna and I both desperately wanted to start a family together and the plan had always been for me to move out to Goa so that we could be married.

“After the upset of an earlier miscarriage, we were both so thrilled when I became pregnant again. Losing Arun has completely devastated us both and it’s difficult to come to terms with his loss even now.”

Guy Forster, a medical negligence expert with Irwin Mitchell Solicitors who represented the couple, explained: “Although baby Arun was premature he was well developed and experts have confirmed that in all likelihood he would have survived had the staff taken appropriate action.
“When a baby becomes distressed during labour, every minute is vital and any delay can be potentially fatal. Sadly, the obstetric staff took more than two hours to decide that a caesarean section was needed and by the time baby Arun was born he had been starved of oxygen and had suffered irreversible brain damage.

“Immediately following the tragedy, Johanne made a complaint to the Trust but they failed to acknowledge that her labour had not been properly managed. The Coroner initially decided that an inquest was unnecessary but, after we persuaded the Coroner to overturn this decision, the Trust gave evidence insisting all care was appropriate. 

“It is only as a result of taking legal action that the Trust has finally admitted that Arun should have been delivered earlier and that, had that occurred, he would have survived. Johanne and Krishna have received no apology for a tragedy which was totally avoidable and this is something we are now demanding from the Trust. We have also had no reassurance that hospital procedures have changed or that the staff concerned have been retrained. For Johanne and Krishna this case has never been about the money but about ensuring that lessons have been learned, as they do not want any other couple to go through the tragedy they have experienced.”

Johanne added: “The last four years have been a relentless battle to gain answers. Arun’s death has taken its toll on us both. It has affected our health, our ability to work and at times it threatened to break up our relationship completely.

“We can only hope that we can now move forward with our lives.  We are planning to get married next month, here in Wales, before moving back to Goa to start a new life together.”