Midwife cleared of misconduct charge

Central Otago midwife Jan Scherp was yesterday cleared of allegations of misconduct by the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal following a three-day hearing in Queenstown.

An application for permanent name suppression for Ms Scherp was denied by the tribunal, comprising deputy chairman David Carden, a lawyer, midwives Jane Stojanovic, of Otaki, Sandy Grey, of Auckland, and Dr Cheryl Benn, of Palmerston North, and lay member Jane Huria, of Christchurch.

Ms Scherp, of Sage Femme Midwives, faced the charge under the Health Practitioners' Competence Assurance Act 2003 in relation to her care of Queenstown woman Sara Gutzewitz and her son, Francis (Frankie), between January 20, 2010, and February 7, 2010.

During the last stages of Ms Gutzewitz's labour on February 7, Ms Scherp said she suffered an ''unusually severe episode'' of supraventricular tachy-cardia (SVT), which made her heart rate increase rapidly and caused her to feel faint.

She said she had called core midwife Valerie Drake to assist her with an episiotomy, before asking Ms Drake to remain in the birthing room immediately following Frankie's birth.

Ms Drake denied being present at the birth and also denied being asked to stay in the room with the family.

The particulars of the charge were a failure to communicate her condition to other midwives, clinical staff or the Gutzewitz family; a failure to adequately communicate to staff and the Gutzewitz family that she felt unwell, thereby potentially compromising the relationship with Ms Gutzewitz and the care she provided; left the birthing room without first ensuring adequate midwifery and/or medical care for Ms Gutzewitz and her son; and, after leaving the room, did not immediately ensure adequate care for her clients.

Mr Carden said the tribunal ''prefers the version that the secondary midwife [Ms Drake] was present'' at the time of Frankie's birth and when Ms Scherp left the room.

''It may not have been noticed by Ms Gutzewitz or [Ms Gutzewitz's mother]. They had their own issues to deal with and there was ongoing, evolving circumstances ...''

The tribunal found Ms Drake did leave the room at some stage after Ms Scherp, but the family was only left alone for a short time, and when Ms Scherp left the birthing room she had ''taken steps to ensure midwifery and medical care and that was adequate''.

It also found there was ''not a necessity'' for her to have disclosed information about her SVT at that time and, given there was not an obligation to do so, ''there was also not a failure''.

Mr Carden said while Ms Scherp ''could have communicated her condition better at the time'', asking Ms Drake to remain in the room was ''adequate communication''.

The tribunal found Ms Scherp had exhibited a ''measure of self control, or silence'' in not informing the family of her condition - had she done so, there was the potential to ''aggravate'' the already stressful situation.

Anita Miller, counsel for Ms Scherp, sought for the tribunal to give leave to allow an opportunity to investigate if an order for costs against the Director of Proceedings could be made.

Mr Carden granted the application, with any application to be made before 4pm on March 4.

The Otago Daily Times understands under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act the tribunal's formal written decision, once released, can be appealed by the Director of Proceeding.

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