9 Feb 2018

Doctor loses bid to keep name secret

8:59 pm on 9 February 2018

A doctor who was found guilty of professional misconduct after a baby died due to decisions he made can now be named.

A doctor with a stethoscope writes up a medical record

Photo: 123RF

The Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal found Dr Stephen Johns failed to perform an emergency caesarian in 2011 and failed to respond to concerns raised by the obstetric registrar.

He was fined, censured, had conditions placed on his future ability to practise and his name was permanently suppressed.

But an appeal to the High Court was granted and he can now be named.

In October 2011, a woman who was 38-weeks pregnant with her fifth child arrived at North Shore Hospital after her waters broke.

Two and a half days later, she was in induced labour when the baby's heart rate was decelerating.

Two midwives had been monitoring the woman when they became concerned about the baby.

One called Dr Johns about 9pm when the cardiotocograph - or CTG - that measures the fetal heart rate was abnormal.

Dr Johns assessed that a vaginal delivery was, in his view, still possible, he accepted in hindsight this was a poor clinical assessment.

At 9.30pm he conducted another exam and left to find another doctor, that doctor told Dr Johns an emergency C section was needed but Dr Johns declined to do so.

The other doctor challenged his decision but Dr Johns insisted a lactate performed, which measures the baby's blood oxygen levels - this was done and showed severe acidosis of the baby's blood.

At 9.43pm a code red was ordered and the mother was taken to theatre for a C-section, the baby was stillborn at 9.58pm.

Dr Johns still works for the Waitemata District Health Board.

In a statement the board extended its condolences to the family involved.

"The DHB removed the doctor concerned from its acute obstetric care roster immediately after the event in question.

"The doctor was placed under supervision and an external opinion was sought, the doctor was subsequently allowed to continue practicing but only in gynecology and elective obstetrics," The DHB said.

There had been no issues with the clinical performance of the doctor in the six years since, it said.