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A New Zealand nurse at the center of an investigation into the death of a newborn baby inside an Australian women’s prison has been criticized for the “unfortunate” treatment meted out to the baby’s mother.
Georgina Melody refused first aid to the little girl, known as ‘Baby A’, after she was found unresponsive at Victoria’s Dame Phyllis Frost Center in 2018.
Firefighters later detected a weak pulse and rushed to give CPR, which was unsuccessful, the Daily Mail reported.
A solicitor acting for Baby A’s mother told Victorian coroner John Olle today that his client accepted that Melody did not contribute to his daughter’s death but targeted her behavior during the traumatic event.
“We commented that it was unfortunate that Nurse Melody did not provide information or assistance to Baby A’s mother or emergency services personnel,” Julie Munster told the court.
“Witnesses said they found the events of that day and Melody’s lack of action or information distressing, which is consistent with the use of the adjective ‘unfortunate’,” Munster added.
“We note that there has been no challenge to that evidence of distress or concern.”
The court previously heard that Melody had been working the night shift at the Dame Phyllis Frost Center for only six months prior to the night the baby died.
Baby A was 12 days old when she died inside the prison’s “mother and baby units” in August 2018.
She was born addicted to methadone and her mother was serving time for drug-related offences, the HeraldSun reported.
Rachel Ellyard, an attorney assisting the coroner, told the court in a pre-trial hearing in August how Baby A couldn’t have been more vulnerable.
“She was vulnerable because she was a baby. She was vulnerable because she was born dependent on methadone and therefore had additional health needs.
“She was vulnerable because her mother was in prison and she was a drug addict herself.
“So her case raises important questions about the children in her position and how they are cared for.”
‘ruthless and rude’
Melody previously told the inquest that she had no formal training in neonatal care and had no responsibility to care for the detainee’s babies other than in emergencies.
The night Baby A died, Melody was with 30 minutes left on her shift when she was picked up by a guard after she could not be reached by radio in the prison’s medical unit.
The inquest heard that guards had called a “code black” after hearing frantic calls from another inmate that Child A was not answering, the Daily Mail reported.
Melody told the court she didn’t know she would nurse a newborn until she saw Baby A’s limp body being cradled by her mother.
“It wasn’t immediately drawn to my attention as to who the victim was,” Melody, who reportedly showed no emotion on the witness stand, told the court.
“When I entered I didn’t have a sense of emergency. I didn’t hear any hysteria or panic.
The court heard that Melody refused to provide CPR to Child A, despite firefighters who arrived later fighting to try and save the child.
“The nurse just said, ‘Oh, I’m sorry.’ It was like that…she didn’t touch the baby,” said one inmate, called ‘Alice’.
Melody denied being able to touch the baby and also denied apologizing to the mother.
Attorney Julie Munster, acting for Baby A’s mother, asked if Melody was feeling distressed by the incident.
“Not necessarily. No,” Melody said.
“No. It was amazing.
Munster said Baby A’s mother told Melody her son wasn’t breathing.
“She was begging you to help her baby,” Munster said.
“Nope,” Melody replied.
Munster also accused Melody of being “pitiless and rude” for failing to explain to Baby A’s mother that she had assessed her son as hopeless.
“No. I don’t accept it,” she said. “I’m a kind person.”
‘should be respected’
Solicitor Robert Harper, appearing for Melody Correct Care Australasia Employers, told the coroner’s court the evidence did not support a finding against the nurse.
“No party claims that Nurse Melody’s handling of Baby A contributed in any way to his death. Baby A’s mother’s attorney, in my view, used some terms that are loaded,” Harper argued.
“For example terms like ‘failed’, ‘lack of action’ and ‘unfortunate’. In my view, Your Honor, the pejorative element of those remarks should be dismissed. The evidence doesn’t back it up.”
He said the evidence showed Melody’s rapid head-to-toe examination of the baby, during which she determined the baby was dead, was appropriate.
The court also heard from a medical expert who said Melody’s judgment should be respected.
The medical expert said, “You have to respect the nurse’s judgment that the baby had been dead long enough that CPR wouldn’t be helpful.”
The investigation continues.