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A Kiwi nurse who is at the center of an investigation into the death of a newborn in an Australian women’s prison has been criticized for her “unfortunate” treatment of the baby’s mother.
Georgina Melody refused first aid to the infant, known as “Baby A”, after she discovered she was unresponsive at the Dame Phyllis Frost Center in Victoria in 2018.
Firefighters later noticed a weak pulse and rushed to perform CPR, which was unsuccessful, the Daily Mail reported.
Today, a lawyer working for Baby A’s mother told Victorian coroner John Olle that her client accepted that Melody did not contribute to her daughter’s death – but targeted her behavior during the traumatic event.
“We have made the remark that it is unfortunate that Nurse Melody did not provide any information or assistance to either Baby A’s mother or the emergency services personnel,” Julie Munster said in court.
“Witnesses said they were disturbed by the events of the day and the lack of action or information from Nurse Melody, consistent with the use of the adjective ‘unfortunate,'” Munster added.
“We note that this evidence of distress or concern has not been challenged.”
The court had previously heard that Melody had worked the night shift at the Dame Phyllis Frost Center for just six months prior to the night the baby died.
Baby A was 12 days old when she died in the prison’s “Mothers and Children’s Ward” in August 2018.
She was born addicted to methadone and her mother was serving time on drug charges, the HeraldSun reported.
Rachel Ellyard, an attorney assisting the coroner, told the court at a pre-inquest hearing in August how Baby A could not have been more vulnerable.
“She was vulnerable because she was a newborn baby. She was at risk because she was born addicted to methadone and therefore had additional health needs.
“She was vulnerable because her mother was in prison and was a drug addict herself.
“So her case raises important questions about children in her position and how they are cared for.”
“Unmerciful and unkind”
Melody previously told the inquest that she had no formal training in neonatal care and was not responsible for looking after inmates’ babies except in an emergency.
The night Baby A died, Melody was 30 minutes from the end of her shift when she was picked up by a guard after she could not be reached on a radio in the prison’s medical ward.
The inquest found guards had called a “Code Black” after hearing frantic calls from another inmate that Baby A was unresponsive, the Daily Mail reported.
Melody told the court she didn’t know she was treating a newborn until she saw Baby A’s limp body being rocked by her mother.
“I wasn’t immediately made aware of who the victim was,” Melody, who reportedly showed no emotion on the witness stand, said in court.
“When I came in I had no sense of distress. I heard no hysteria or panic.”
The court heard that Melody refused to resuscitate Baby A, although firefighters who arrived later tried to save the child.
“The nurse just said, ‘Oh, I’m sorry.’ That was it…she didn’t touch the baby,” an inmate named “Alice” claimed.
Melody denied touching the baby and also denied apologizing to the mother.
Attorney Julie Munster, who acted for Baby A’s mother, asked if Melody was troubled by the incident.
“Not necessarily. No,” Melody said.
“No. It was surprising.”
Munster claimed Baby A’s mother told Melody her child wasn’t breathing.
“She was begging you to help her baby,” Munster said.
“No,” Melody replied.
Munster also accused Melody of being “ruthless and unkind” for failing to explain to Baby A’s mother that she had assessed her child was beyond help.
“No. I don’t accept that,” she said. “I’m a kind person.”
“Should be respected”
Attorney Robert Harper, acting for Melody’s employer Correct Care Australasia, told the Coroner’s Court that the evidence did not support a finding against the nurse.
“Neither party alleges that Nurse Melody’s treatment of Baby A contributed in any way to her death. Baby A’s mother’s attorney used some terms in my submission that are loaded,” Harper argued.
“For example, terms like ‘failed’, ‘lack’ and ‘unfortunate’. In my submission, Your Honor, the pejorative element in these submissions should be rejected. The evidence doesn’t support it.”
He said the evidence showed Melody’s quick head-to-toe examination of the baby, during which she determined the child was dead, was appropriate.
The court also heard from a medical expert who said Melody’s judgment should be respected.
The experienced doctor said, “You have to respect the nurse’s judgment that the baby was dead long enough that CPR would not be helpful.”
The investigation continues.