Cuts blamed as stillbirth tragedy shocks France

February 4, 2013 by Angus Mackinnon

France has launched an investigation into a stillbirth that occurred after a full-term pregnant woman was sent home from an overrun maternity unit in a case that has raised concerns over the impact of EU-driven austerity on the country's renowned health system.

A in Mali was knocked off the top of France's news agenda on Monday as commentators demanded to know how such a tragedy could have happened in a country that prides itself on its state-of-the-art medical facilities.

A Paris prosecutor began looking into the case after the parents of the stillborn child filed a complaint of criminal negligence while Marisol Touraine has commissioned an emergency administrative and medical enquiry into what went wrong.

The baby was discovered to have been stillborn overnight Thursday-Friday at the Port Royal maternity unit in Paris.

The expectant mother had come to the clinic during the day on Thursday and on the previous Tuesday seeking to have her labour induced.

On both occasions she was sent home because, according to her partner, there was no bed for her, despite the couple warning staff that the baby was "not moving much".

Whether the prospective father's account was accurate will be addressed by the investigation but the head of the maternity unit, Dominique Cabrol, has already confirmed that the clinic was "at " on Thursday.

AP-HP, the body that runs in Paris said in a statement: "We now have to get to the bottom of why woman was sent home, whether there were no beds and if so, why was she not transferred to another maternity unit."

Politicians from across the political spectrum questioned whether the tragedy was the result of cutbacks in staff numbers.

Paris hospitals have been told to make 150 million euros ($200 million) of cutbacks this year as part of a drive to cut the national deficit in line with European Union rules.

Medical professionals say cuts have not helped but believe a recent reorganisation of maternity services in Paris is also to blame.

Under a 1998 reform, maternity clinics are classed on a scale of 1-3, with type one being for women who are expected to have a trouble-free pregnancy and type three for those liable to have complications.

In practice, what has happened is that demand for type three clinics has outstripped supply, creating bottlenecks, according to Jean Marty, the chairman of the body that represents French gynaecologists.

"People think they will be safer in a type three clinic with the result that they are flooded with patients and at the same time the administration has been trying to close type one establishments to recover the additional costs," Marty told AFP.

"We see the results today with patients who should be in type three clinics being sent back. It is not human error, it is a structural problem."

Cochin-Port-Royal is a huge maternity unit by French standards with some 5,000 births last year and advanced facilities for dealing with premature and complicated births.

France's National College of Midwifes (CNSF) also pointed the finger at the changes, saying: "Every new study shows France's infant mortality results worsening."

"If all the most advanced means were not being made available for all pregnant women, the cases where they are really needed would be able to access them in good time."

Explore further: Hong Kong warns mainlanders over emergency births

Related Stories

Hong Kong warns mainlanders over emergency births

May 4, 2012
Hong Kong on Friday warned expectant mothers from mainland China against rushing to emergency wards without prior bookings, saying they were putting their babies' lives at risk.

Births at home and in midwifery units could signify cost savings for the NHS

April 20, 2012
Giving women who have previously given birth and who are at low risk of complications the opportunity to give birth at home or in a midwifery unit saves the NHS money, is safe for the baby and improves outcomes for the mother, ...

Gestational diabetes ups costs of maternity care by one-third

January 22, 2013
(HealthDay)—Women with gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) are significantly more likely to receive an emergency cesarean section, have their infant admitted to a neonatal care unit, and incur significantly higher maternity ...

New study on maternity care published

November 18, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- The result of a major study comparing two methods of maternity care, commissioned by the HSE and conducted by the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Trinity College Dublin, has been published recently in ...

Hong Kong slashes quota for mainland babies

June 24, 2011
Hong Kong on Friday announced a sharply reduced quota for mainland Chinese women allowed to give birth in its public hospitals, as it struggles to cope with the tens of thousands arriving yearly.

Recommended for you

Population health impact of infants born small for gestational age in low- and middle-income countries

August 18, 2017
In low-and middle-income countries, it is common for babies to be born of low birth weight, due to either inadequate growth in utero (fetal growth restriction) and/or preterm birth, (birth before 37 weeks gestation). Maternal ...

Hormone from fat tissue can give protection against polycystic ovary syndrome

August 10, 2017
Obesity and reduced insulin sensitivity are common in polycystic ovary syndrome, PCOS. New research based on animal studies, and to be published in the journal PNAS, reveals that the hormone adiponectin can protect against ...

Study in mice may reveal insights into causes of miscarriages for some women

August 9, 2017
Researchers at St. Michael's Hospital have identified how natural killer cells in the mouse placenta can cause a fetus to fail to grow in the womb or cause miscarriages.

Insomnia, sleep apnea nearly double the risk of preterm delivery before 34 weeks

August 9, 2017
Pregnant women who are diagnosed with sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and insomnia appear to be at risk of delivering their babies before reaching full term, according to an analysis of California births by researchers ...

Elective freezing of IVF embryos linked to higher pregnancy rates in some cases

August 1, 2017
A delay in transferring embryos to the mother improves the success of in vitro fertilization in certain cases, according to a study by scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine, Celmatix Inc. and several other ...

Negative birth outcomes linked to air pollution exposure early in pregnancy, study finds

July 27, 2017
Exposure to air pollution early in a pregnancy could increase risk for preterm birth and low birth weight, according to a study led by researchers at NYU School of Medicine, and published on July 27 in Environmental Health ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.