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Baby born in Bandyup prison cell

THE Inspector of Custodial Services Neil Morgan has voiced serious concerns about a birth at Bandyup Women’s prison in March.

Mr Morgan said on January 30 Amy (not her real name) appeared in court. 

She was in the late stages of pregnancy and was granted bail subject to a number of conditions. 

But she was unable to meet the conditions and was taken to the Melaleuca Remand and Reintegration Facility. 

On February 17 Amy was moved to Bandyup Women’s Prison and spent the first few days in the orientation unit.

Then she was moved to a cramped cell, in a double story unit, on the first floor, up a flight of stairs. 

Between February 17 and March 11 she received medical care from prison health staff and transfers to hospital for outpatient care. 

At around 5.30pm on March 11, Amy made a cell call using phrases that showed she was distressed and believed she was going into labour. 

“She was taken to the Bandyup Health Centre for assessment, but information from the initial call was not passed on to the nurses,’’ he said. 

“She complained to the nurses of abdominal pain but denied being in labour – she was given paracetamol and returned to her cell. 

“About 6pm, the night lock down occurred and at about 6.30pm, Amy began to make a series of cell calls. 

“Again, she was audibly distressed and indicated she was in labour.’’

Mr Morgan said for the next hour, custodial staff talked to Amy intermittently through her cell door. 

But due to poor prioritisation, communication and decision making, nursing staff did not arrive to assess her until about 7.35pm. 

“By this time, Amy’s distress was palpable, and she clearly needed help. 

“However, the nursing staff could only assess her through the locked cell door, because the only person with cell keys was a senior staff member in the gatehouse. 

“About 7.40pm, Amy gave birth, alone, inside the locked cell. Nursing and custodial staff watched on and attempted to support her through a hatch in the door but could offer no physical support. 

“This was obviously a high-risk situation for Amy and her child. 

“She was in a cell, not in a sterile environment, and none of the standard perinatal checks for a mother and newborn were available. 

“And staff would have been unable to administer first-aid had it been required. 

“Excessive delays continued even after Amy had delivered her child.’’

He said due to poor record keeping, we cannot put a precise time on it, but it took somewhere between seven and 12 minutes before the officer from the gatehouse arrived with the keys and the cell door was opened. 

“This finally allowed assistance to be provided. 

“Amy and her baby were transferred to hospital that evening.’’

About Anita

Anita Mcinnes received a highly commended in the 2009 WA Media Awards suburban section for her reporting. Two of her sons were born at Swan District Hospital and for many years she was a partner in a small business, which operated in the Gingin-Muchea-Bullsbrook area. As a mature age student Anita studied journalism at Curtin University before working in Busselton, Dunsborough and Rockingham with West Regionals. She says the best part of her job is meeting eastern suburb residents and visiting the many attractions in the area.

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