Parents ‘broken’ by death of three-day-old baby daughter, inquest told

·3-min read
Elena Sala and David Matthews with baby Rosanna Matthews (Family handout/PA)
Elena Sala and David Matthews with baby Rosanna Matthews (Family handout/PA)

A woman has described her family as “broken” after the death of her three-day-old baby girl.

Rosanna Matthews was born on November 20 2020 at Tunbridge Wells Hospital in Kent. She was in a coma from birth and died three days later.

After two years of delays an inquest into Rosanna’s death opened at the Archbishop’s Palace in Maidstone on Tuesday.

We've had sleepless nights, anxiety, PTSD and we will never be completely right again

Elena Sala

Speaking after the first day of the hearing, Rosanna’s mother Elena Sala described the impact her baby’s death has had on her family.

She said: “It has broken us. We are not the same people we were before we had her.

“We’ve had sleepless nights, anxiety, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and we will never be completely right again.

“We’re hoping massively for change. It was an unnecessary death, from our point of view, it doesn’t need to happen to anyone else but I know it most likely is.

“There needs to be proper education and training at that hospital.

“The delays to the inquest have delayed things but I’m glad it’s finally happening so we can finally get some answers.”

Aside from some heavy discharge throughout the later months, Miss Sala described her pregnancy with Rosanna as completely normal.

Rosanna Matthews (Family handout/PA) (Matthews family)
Rosanna Matthews (Family handout/PA) (Matthews family)

She started experiencing contractions at 41 weeks and six days, on November 20 2020, and when she was examined at Tunbridge Wells Hospital she was 2cm dilated.

She was told to go home and return in two hours, which she did at 11.40am, by which time she was 3cm dilated. Normally she would have been sent home again, but because she was in so much pain she was admitted to hospital.

Miss Sala started to feel a strong desire to push from around 4pm but was advised against this by midwives. She believes if she had begun to push when she felt the urge, her baby might have lived.

Throughout her time in the hospital she received different types of pain relief including gas and air and eventually an epidural, but Miss Sala claims it did not have any effect and she was in pain while suffering “massive contractions” and being told not to push.

Midwife Agatha Carter, who gave evidence by videolink, said Miss Sala twice declined a vaginal examination to check how dilated she was, which could have led to progressing the labour and birth.

Miss Sala said she declined an examination once as she wished to wait for the epidural, which was delayed as both duty anaesthetists were busy elsewhere, and added that the benefits of an examination in progressing labour were not explained to her.

Tunbridge Wells Hospital (Gareth Fuller/PA) (PA Archive)
Tunbridge Wells Hospital (Gareth Fuller/PA) (PA Archive)

The family’s solicitors said foetal and maternal heart rate monitoring was not up to standard and action was not taken when abnormalities were detected.

After three failed attempts to deliver the baby using a vacuum cup, and a further failed attempt with forceps due to the pain felt by Miss Sala, she was taken to theatre for a Caesarean section and Rosanna was finally born at 5.48pm.

Rosanna’s family, including father David Matthews, who are from Maidstone in Kent, are considering a clinical negligence claim against Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, which runs Tunbridge Wells Hospital.

Their lawyer, Mark Bowman of Fieldfisher Solicitors, said: “No family should have to wait two years and two aborted attempts to go through an inquest.

“We just hope and expect the coroner will conduct a thorough investigation, lessons will be learned, mistakes won’t be repeated and other families won’t have to endure that.

“With a clinical negligence claim we will need to see how things go over the next few days.”