Inadequate hospital staffing affecting death rates in the birthing unit

Inadequate staffing levels and ineffective deployment of midwives are key to many adverse events and near misses in birthing units, according to an international researcher in midwifery.

Addressing an RMIT seminar tonight, Brenda Ashcroft from the University of Salford in the UK, will discuss her study which found that three-quarters of births where there is a risk of death or brain damage occur when too few midwives are on duty.

Ms Ashcroft said her year-long study of seven labour units, published in the British Medical Journal, found they were at least one midwife short in almost 40 per cent of cases.

“We saw other examples where there were too few experienced staff on duty, particularly at night”, Ms Ashcroft said.

Professor of Nursing at RMIT and leading expert in health care ethics, Megan-Jane Johnstone said the Salford research raised questions for Australia’s nursing and midwifery sectors.

Citing early Australian research Professor Johnstone said “In Australia over 16 per cent of patients suffer from some kind of harm, including permanent disability and death, every year while in hospital.

“Around 50 per cent of these episodes could have been prevented”, she added.

Researchers in nursing and midwifery will address current issues affecting birthing units nationally and internationally at RMIT. The seminar, to be chaired by RMIT’s Head of Nursing and Midwifery, Professor Olga Kanitsaki AM, will feature visiting researchers from the UK, Brenda Ashcroft and Susan Baines from Salford University in the UK, and Australian ethics expert Professor Megan-Jane Johnstone, from RMIT University.

Professor Johnstone will discuss the ethical imperatives of conducting clinical risk management research aimed at improving the protection of patients from harm and improving safety and quality in Australia’s health care sector.

The seminar will also cover preliminary findings from Susan Baines from the University of Salford into the physical, psychological and social benefits of aquatic exercises during pregnancy.

For media queries contact: Megan-Jane Johnstone: +61 (0)3 9925 7557


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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