Stillborn baby put in cupboard

Nambour General Hospital.
Nambour General Hospital.

A STILLBORN baby was kept in a dirty utilities cupboard alongside used bed pans and dustbins at Nambour General Hospital.

The revelation came from a former Queensland Health employee, who said she spoke out to ensure measures were put in place to stop this practice from happening again.

The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, said she was haunted every day by the stark image. “The body was in an open little wooden crib with a plastic cloth and teddy on top,” she said.

“I felt chills down my spine when I walked in and saw it.

“The baby could have been placed in a million different and better places.

“Hospitals have a morgue for a start, or if the baby was waiting until the parents were able to say goodbye to their child, then the baby should have been placed somewhere cleaner.”

The woman said the utilities room contained used bed pans, dustbins and general waste.

“All sorts of non-medical staff use the room on a regular basis,” she said.

“It’s not a very respectful place.”

The “dirty” utilities room is different to the controversial “clean” utilities room which doubles as a ward when the hospital is busy.

Sunshine Coast-Wide Bay health service district chief executive Kevin Hegarty said Nambour hospital had a compassionate and practised program aimed at helping the patient and family with the grieving process in instances of stillborn babies.

He did acknowledge that despite that process, it was possible a stillborn baby could have been placed in a storage cupboard, although he said it would have been only very temporary.

“When a family asks to spend time with their baby, a process is followed to ensure the baby is appropriately presented to the mother and her family,” Mr Hegarty said.

“The baby is brought from the mortuary to a discreet area where he or she is prepared before being taken to the family.

“Part of the preparation includes ensuring the baby is appropriately groomed before being placed in a wrap and then into a symbolic wooden crib, before being taken to the parents.

“This preparation is carried out in staff-only areas, but it must also be a clinically appropriate area.”

Mr Hegarty said these processes, similar to those used in hospitals around the world, had been refined over many years and no concerns or complaints had previously been highlighted.

The woman who raised the concern said it was obvious staff were severely overstretched.

“I don’t blame them,” she said. “It’s the system.”

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