Remember when Singaporeans raged at the National University Hospital (NUH) after a husband’s post about his wife’s miscarriage went viral?
Spoiler alert: you probably won’t be any less angry after reading this.
Bleeding Subsided On Ambulance, Deemed Stable
The pregnant lady was admitted to NUH’s emergency department at around 10:35pm on 15 March for bleeding.
Medical workers attended to her immediately when she arrived, and noted that her bleeding had subsided on the ambulance. Her vital signs were also within normal ranges, and the lady indicated that she was experiencing only mild pain.
She was thus deemed to be stable, and since she was in early labour, she was arranged to be transferred to the labour ward as soon as possible. She was also placed next to the nursing station for better visual monitoring.
However, the labour ward was full, which was why she had to wait for two hours.
Unborn Baby Died Due To Placental Abruption
When the lady was finally transferred to the labour ward, the woman was quickly attended to by a team led by two senior consultants.
But it was too late, as an ultrasound scan showed that the baby had no heartbeat. This was caused by placental abruption, which means that the placenta partly or completely separates from the inner wall of the uterus before delivery.
As the placenta is what sends oxygen and nutrients to the baby, the lack of these essentials is what caused the death of her unborn child.
However, here’s the real kicker: placental abruption causes heavy bleeding in the mother.
Sounds familiar? That’s because the lady was literally bleeding from her birth canal, and displaying the most obvious symptom of placental abruption.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, fetal death occurs in 15% of severe placental abruption cases. If this condition was recognised earlier and immediate induction of labour was done together with blood transfusions, the baby could have survived.
However, the lady waited for two hours. Even fully-grown adults can’t survive this long without oxygen, let alone an unborn child.
Yes, this is a very rare and unpredictable pregnancy complication, but a pregnant mother bleeding should have been enough of a warning bell. Medical staff from the labour ward should have been sent to check in on the lady in the A&E immediately, and might have been able to see the signs.
NUH was Managing 3 Other Cases In Emergency and Labour Departments That Night
The chief executive officer of the hospital, Professor Aymeric Lim, said that all COVID-19-positive pregnant women over 36 weeks are admitted to three public hospitals. This means that NUH was facing a higher load of pregnancy cases.
On that night, the hospital was managing three other expectant patients with COVID-19 in the emergency and labour departments. The staff were all busy managing the urgent cases.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that they should be excused for letting the lady wait for so long. Professor Lim said that they will review the process of managing pregnant patients in the emergency department when the labour ward is full, to ensure such incidents won’t happen again.
Met with Family, Will Continue to Provide Care and Support
Professor Lim apologised for the wait time of two hours, and also acknowledged that they should have done more to provide closer monitoring and care. He also admitted that they should have updated the patient on her condition and the transfer process.
The hospital is deeply saddened by the family’s loss, and will continue to provide care and support to them. In fact, a team from NUH have met with the family on 23 March to address their concerns directly.
The baby, whom they named Titus, was cremated at Mandai Crematorium and Columbarium on 16 March.
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