Miguel Guimarães, photographed here giving an interview to RTP on the lack of obstetricians in Portuguese State hospitals

Baby death in hospital without full complement of obstetricians

“Situations like this can be repeated”, warns president of general medical council

The president of Portugal’s Ordem dos Médicos (general medical council) has warned there could be more situations like the tragic death of a baby following an emergency C-section in a hospital without its full complement of obstetricians.

The incident, reported widely by the press today, is rapidly becoming political.

President of the Ordem, Miguel Guimarães, has blamed “the health system and those who have political responsibility for it”.

“These are situations that can repeat in other hospitals”, he told Rádio Renascença.

What appears to have happened is that an emergency case arrived at Caldas Rainha hospital last Wednesday night/ evening at a moment when there was no emergency obstetrics team “prepared for this type of situation”.

As such “whoever was on duty” (the words of Miguel Guimarães) did their best.

“This type of situation must be properly evaluated in its various aspects”, he told reporters. But responsibility, in his opinion, lies with the organisation, not the clinicians present at the time.

“The death of a baby is always a brutal matter; it is not expected to happen often. The basic issue that needs clarifying is that standard teams, prepared to save lives, were not present, he said – when clearly they should have been.

This awful situation comes during a weekend in which SIM, the independent syndicate of doctors, has warned that the next few days sees ⅔ of Lisbon maternity units either totally shut or running minimum services.

Saturday to Monday are not good days for giving birth, was the bottom line – but today’s revelations suggest that giving birth anywhere/ anytime could be becoming ‘an issue’.

Today’s reports have not alluded to the news last month that maternal mortality in Portugal has hit the highest level in 38 years. Director of gynecology and obstetrics at Lisbon’s Santa Maria Hospital Diogo Ayres-de-Campos admitted: “Obstetric care has to be rethought”.

Hospital’s administrative board “guarantees no causal link” between baby death and lack of obstetricians

This is where the real controversy begins. The moment the story ‘hit the headlines’, the administrative council of Caldas da Rainha hospital sent a note to Rádio Renascença “guaranteeing there was no causal link established between the death of the baby and limitations in completing staffing rosters”. The mere expression ‘no causal link’ harks straight back to incidents of deaths following Covid vaccinations that also ‘had no causal links’ with the vaccine… There have been several in Portugal: different ages; different walks of like – the only similarity being the victims died following vaccines against Covid-19.

Miguel Guimarães certainly has dubbed the hospital’s declarations “an attempt to calm” the issue – and he is challenging them.

“The hospital will have to explain their claim and be held accountable for it. Responsibilities are usually assigned to the health system and those who lead it. (This declaration) gives me the impression the administration is trying to de-dramatize the situation, suggest everything was fine. I do not have this information,” he said.

It was RTP news that broke the news of the pregnant woman who “lost her baby allegedly due to lack of obstetricians”. There appears to be no argument that the obstetrics unit was closed on Wednesday night “due to lack of staff” – and this appears to have been the first step on the path towards the woman losing her infant, as “the situation will have delayed her care” , writes RR.

UPDATE: As this text went up online, IGAS – the general inspectorate for health activities – confirmed it is opening an inquiry into this incident (in spite of the hospital’s assurances that there was no ‘causal link’ between the baby’s death and the fact that the obstetrics department was closed).

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com