Cuts blamed as stillbirth tragedy shocks France

February 05, 2013 - 4:46:54 am

PARIS: France has launched an investigation into a stillbirth that occurred after a full-term pregnant woman was sent home from an overrun maternity unit in a case that has raised concerns over the impact of EU-driven austerity on the country’s renowned health system.

A military campaign in Mali was knocked off the top of France’s news agenda yesterday as commentators demanded to know how such a tragedy could have happened in a country that prides itself on its state-of-the-art medical facilities.

A Paris prosecutor began looking into the case after the parents of the stillborn child filed a complaint of criminal negligence while Health Minister Marisol Touraine has commissioned an emergency administrative and medical enquiry into what went wrong.

The baby was discovered to have been stillborn overnight Thursday-Friday at the Port Royal maternity unit in Paris. The expectant mother had come to the clinic during the day on Thursday and on the previous Tuesday seeking to have her labour induced.

On both occasions she was sent home because, according to her partner, there was no bed for her, despite the couple warning staff that the baby was “not moving much”. Whether the prospective father’s account was accurate will be addressed by the investigation but the head of the maternity unit, Dominique Cabrol, has already confirmed that the clinic was “at saturation point” on Thursday.

Politicians from across the political spectrum questioned whether the tragedy was the result of cutbacks in staff numbers. Paris hospitals have been told to make ¤150m of cutbacks this year as part of a drive to cut the national deficit in line with European Union rules.

Under a 1998 reform, maternity clinics are classed on a scale of 1-3, with type one being for women who are expected to have a trouble-free pregnancy and type three for those liable to have complications.

In practice, what has happened is that demand for type three clinics has outstripped supply, creating bottlenecks, according to Jean Marty, the chairman of the body that represents French gynaecologists.

AFP

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