Allegations against midwife amount to ‘poor professional performance’, witness says

Brenda McGarrity before inquiry over alleged inability to operate neo-natal resuscitation equipment

Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI) fitness to practice inquiry has not yet reached a decision. Photograph: iStock

Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI) fitness to practice inquiry has not yet reached a decision. Photograph: iStock

 

A midwife’s alleged inability to operate neo-natal resuscitation equipment amounted to poor professional performance and a serious non-compliance with her code of conduct, an expert witness has told an inquiry .

Brenda McGarrity’s alleged failure to respond properly to a case of potential shoulder dystocia (where a baby’s shoulder becomes trapped in the mother’s pelvis), fell short of performance expectations, the witness told the third day of a Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI) fitness to practice inquiry.

The midwife originally facing 13 work-related allegations involving nine pregnant women. The committee has not yet reached its conclusion and two of the allegations were withdrawn on Friday due to a lack of supporting evidence.

On Friday midwife and expert witness Sally Millar gave her opinion on each of a series of charges. She believed five issues detailed at the hearing amounted to poor professional performance.

Ms McGarrity of Castleheath, Malahide, Co Dublin, also known as Brenda Lawrence, has not attended the online hearings or responded to several contacts from the NMBI inviting her .

Previous witness evidence set out numerous allegations, including that she had consulted Google for information during one labour; that she had told a client she was “on the clock”; and that she had referred to home-birthing mothers as a “tribe”. Ms McGarrity had denied using those terms in a prior submission.

In two cases where she was accused of failing to set up postnatal resuscitation equipment in a timely manner and of failing to demonstrate competency in using it, Ms Millar said she believed this had amounted to both a serious non-compliance with her professional code of practice, and to poor professional performance.

Ms Millar told the committee she had found it difficult to understand how she could have worked for her company - Private Midwives Ireland (PMI), who brought the complaint against her - without demonstrating these skills, or that she was not offered the support in learning them.

She added that the second occasion regarding the equipment was more serious because there had been sufficient time in between in which to learn it.

The committee was also told that an allegation of failing to carry out proper manoeuvres in response to a possible case of shoulder dystocia during labour amounted to poor professional performance as such a development presented serious threat to both mother and child.

“We have to respond [in such circumstances] extremely quickly,” Ms Millar said, when the infant’s body does not quickly follow the birth of the head.

Another allegation was, in her opinion, a case of poor professional performance - where Ms McGarrity had written to the National Maternity Hospital informing them that a case of shoulder dystocia had been resolved with internal manoeuvres, something contradicted by both the other attending midwife and the mother.

“It has very serious implications in terms of our professional conduct in that we must be trustworthy and we must have veracity in what we say and what we do,” Ms Millar said of the letter.

Several allegations did not amount to either poor professional performance or a serious non-compliance with the code of conduct in Ms Millar’s view. This was the case with some of Ms McGarrity’s note -aking which, while omissions were found, were not considered serious.

When taken collectively Ms Millar said it was “incredibly difficult” to say if the code of conduct issues amounted to serious non-compliance, but they were “pushing very close” to it.

In cases where poor professional performance is found by the committee, a nurse or midwife can face one or more of several sanctions including a fine, suspension or cancellation from the register. The committee retired to consider the evidence.