Mum stunned as midwife cleared

Queenstown mother Sara Gutzewitz was ''stunned'' and ''disillusioned'' yesterday after a tribunal dismissed a charge of professional misconduct against her
midwife, Jan Scherp.

An application for permanent name suppression for Ms Scherp - until now known as ''Ms P''- of Central Otago, was declined.

Ms Gutzewitz told the Otago Daily Times yesterday she and her husband, Conan Wilcox, were ''not out for a witch hunt'', but did hope the Health Practitioners' Disciplinary Tribunal hearing would provide ''some accountability''.

''We got none, whatsoever.

''I don't feel like we have a justice system here - we have a legal system ...

''I had a funny feeling that would be the outcome.''

The five-person tribunal, which comprised a lawyer, three midwives and a layperson, found none of the five particulars of the charge had been proved.

Allegations had centred around the communication Ms Scherp, who works for Sage Femme Midwives, gave to Ms Gutzewitz at the time of the birth of her son in 2010.

A key point was her failure to communicate information about a medical condition she had, supra-ventricular tachycardia (SVT), which at the time of the birth left Ms Scherp feeling faint and caused her to leave the birthing room without ensuring adequate care for Ms Gutzewitz or her newborn.

Ms Gutzewitz said yesterday she felt like ''a possum in headlights'' and said she had ''completely lost faith in a system that is in place [to provide faith]''.

''I'm disillusioned. I thought something happened here that I'm now being told didn't happen.

''My husband thought it happened, my mother thought it happened ... and now I'm being told ... I was wrong.''

Ms Gutzewitz told the Otago Daily Times yesterday she and her husband had declined an offer of name suppression.

However, Ms Gutzewitz hoped to help achieve greater transparency within the midwifery profession, which was a reason she and Mr Wilcox supported the publication of their names.

''Conan and I would really like to petition, in the very near future, for some sort of public information [to be available] about midwives,'' Ms Gutzewitz said.

''You don't know the good ones from the bad, because we have no right to information on midwives, or their history.

''I think there should be some sort of public knowledge.''

Until such time as that information became publicly available, she would advise expectant mothers to ''grill'' their midwives.

''Don't be afraid to ask questions and if they don't want to answer your questions, you've got to ask yourself why.''

With regard to Ms Scherp, Ms Gutzewitz believed lifting her name suppression ensured wider public knowledge about her medical condition and its potential effects.

''There is an awful lot more I would like to say ... but I can't.''

Ms Scherp declined to comment when contacted.

- tracey.roxburgh@odt.co.nz

Courage

Ms Gutzewitz and her family should be commended for having the courage to address a major flaw within the midwife industry. That flaw is zero accountability.  Most expectanct parents have no option but to utilise the services of a midwife, and there can be no denying that when faced with making this choice you will be told in hushed tones that there are "good ones and not so good ones". The problem is, with little to no accountability, there is no way other than word of mouth of finding the information you need to assist you when making that decision.   

I wish the Gutzewitz family all the best for their future.  

Midwife

Good on you and your husband for following through....Don't second guess yourself , you did the right things. [Abridged]

Midwives

This story, should, and will, send a solid message to mothers. I am sure 99% of midwives are very professional and diligent, but there is a gap, and it's obviously in the vetting, recruitment and supervisory process. There seems to be a horror story published quite often, but it just goes on and on, decisions like this just don't make sense.

Im glad you are who you are Sara, take care.

Thank you

To  Ms Gutzewitz and her husband, thank you for following through to try and achieve some form of justice. You are so right in your opinion that there is a difference between 'justice and the law'.

It takes very brave people to say 'this is not good enough' and take action to highlight  situations such as this.

[Abridged]