Paul Blomfield, the grandfather of dead baby Bela Heidrich, speaks outside the Rockhampton Magistrates Court.
Paul Blomfield, the grandfather of dead baby Bela Heidrich, speaks outside the Rockhampton Magistrates Court.

Hopes death will spark changes

OUTSIDE Rockhampton Magistrates Court yesterday, lawyer Christine Mercer said it was sad it took the tragic death of a baby to bring about recommendations to change Queensland Health’s policies.

Coroner Annette Hennessey had just finished handing down her recommendations after a coronial inquest into the suffocation of baby Bela Heidrich at Rockhampton Hospital in 2008.

Ms Mercerwas representing Zelia Blomfield – Bela’s mother.

Zelia was left alone with Bela in her hospital bed within 24 hours of the February 28 birth and a midwife told her it was okay to fall asleep while breastfeeding.

Bela was propped against her mother with a pillow and when Zelia woke an hour later, she found Bela was cold and blue.

Zelia called out for help but efforts to revive the baby failed.

Bela’s post-mortem examination found she died from asphyxia due to “over-laying”.

An expert appointed by the coroner said while leaving Zelia to breastfeed Bela while lying down was appropriate, it was unacceptable to advise a mother to fall asleep.

Coroner Hennessy had 12 recommendations for Queensland Health. She suggested they develop a special policy for bed-sharing and birthing services be made aware of three deaths in similar circumstances.

The existing policy should be updated to make nurses do a risk assessment before allowing mothers to breastfeed lying down, she said.

This would include noting how lucid she is, giving her information about the dangers of lying down and a buzzer to contact staff if she gets tired, and determining how much supervision she needs.

The coroner also recommended every prospective parent in Queensland be given information about bed sharing, and that nurses be trained in new procedures for consistency.

Bela’s grandfather Paul Blomfield said the family was happy with the coroner’s findings.

“We will always treasure the memories of Bela,” he said.



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