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Midwife labelled a danger is spared a life ban; 'LACK OF COMPETENCY' LEADS TO A YEAR'S SUSPENSION.

Byline: JOSIE ENSOR

A MIDWIFE labelled a "continuing danger to the public" was spared a life ban yesterday, despite adjudicators referring to her "irremediable lack of competency".

Martha Okuonghae, 51, had admitted trying to administer lethal drug doses to women in labour. She was banned from practising for a year.

Ms Okuonghae, who worked at Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil between 2005 and 2006, admitted in a Nursing and Midwifery Council hearing to attempting to give 10 times the correct amount of labour-inducing drug syntocinon to her patients.

Giving evidence earlier this week, senior sister on the ward Theresa Jones said that had the midwife from Trefechan's mistake gone unnoticed it could have resulted in a failed induction or death in some cases.

Chair of the committee Cheryl Beach described yesterday how Ms Okuonghae's actions were not accidental and said she would be prone to repeat them in future.

"She failed to show improvement during the course of her supervised practice and subsequently failed to show any insight into her failings," Ms Beach said.

Ms Okuonghae broke down in tears as she pleaded with the panel not to issue a striking-off order from the profession she had "loved and dedicated her life to".

The committee had heard evidence from her supervisors at the hospital, who had said they were afraid to leave the "incompetent" midwife alone with patients out of fear for their safety.

Ms Okuonghae's chief supervisor, senior nurse Marie Jones, told the Cardiff hearing how on one occasion the midwife was not ready to deliver a premature baby and she was forced to step in and "hold back the baby's head" so the midwife had time to put her gloves on.

Staff were so concerned with Ms Okuonghae's ability to cope in emergency situations she was put on a three-month supervision process and went through "drills" to assess her responses.

On one exercise, the Nigeriaborn nurse did not give the correct treatment to a dummy patient suffering from a postdelivery bleed, a mistake her supervisors said could have proved fatal.

Ms Okuonghae qualified as a nurse in her home town in Nigeria in 1983 before arriving in the UK in 2002 and completing a midwifery course in Cardiff a year later. After her training, she took up a position as a midwife at Nevill Hall Hospital in Abergavenny, before moving to the Merthyr hospital in late 2005.

In her summing up, Mrs Beach said: "We took into consideration that her actions were not accidental, nor has she offered any genuine expression of regret or apology."

Ms Okuonghae had this week blamed her sub-standard performance on the stressful environment of the ward. However, Mrs Beach ruled yesterday that she was "under no more pressure than any midwife should have been able to cope with, yet she was incapable of operating safely unsupervised".

"She has not remedied her lack of competence and is therefore likely to repeat her errors [so it is] in the interest of public safety that we order a one-year suspension," she said.

Ms Okuonghae, who is still a registered nurse, will be allowed to apply to work again as a midwife after the year-long ban is spent.

CAPTION(S):

Martha Okuonghae arrives at the hearing. She said she had dedicated her life to her profession
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 29, 2011
Words:550
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