Bendigo Health reviewing Coroner's findings

BENDIGO Health is reviewing Coroner John Olle's recommendation that women planning a home birth undergo a comprehensive risk assessment.

In an email Nursing and Surgical Services executive director Peter Faulkner said that said the hospital would consider ways they could improve services to people considering having a home birth.

"If there are any learnings to be had from the Coroner's findings we will address and implement any of those opportunities," he said. 

But he also said the hospital had extensively outlined the risks associated with the practice to Garry Freemantle, whose baby Thomas died shortly after his birth - at the couple's home - in 2010.

"In this case, as the Coroner has concurred, the information provided was appropriate, extensive and consistent," Mr Faulkner said.

But Australian Nursing and Midwifery Association Victorian branch assistant secretary Paul Gilbert said the issue of home births was a  "vexed one".

He said midwives had a professional responsibility to inform the clients of risks associated with home births and that midwives could be placed in a quandary on whether to assist women with high-risk pregnancies who chose to give birth at home, despite the risks.

He said there was a need for regulation around home births and the roles of midwives who assisted at the home.

“We need much stronger and clearer regulations and guidance for the profession of midwifery in home birthing, and regulation of the practice of home birthing.”

“We congratulate the midwives at Bendigo Health for their great professionalism and advocacy in these difficult circumstances.”

Their review comes after Mr Olle's findings on Thomas Freemantle's death were released on Tuesday.

Mr Olle found that Thomas Freemantle had died from sever hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy and identified Mrs Freemantle's pre-existing obstetric risks as a contributing factor to the death.

He said the pregnancy was high-risk and that the couple had been strongly advised by Bendigo Health staff to have the baby at a hospital.

"Katrina's pregnancy posed clear and obvious risks," Mr Olle said.

"Always, the safety of the child should be paramount.

"However, in my view, Bendigo Health went to great lengths to meet the needs of the parents."

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