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Anesthesiologist staffing not a factor in B.C. stillbirth case, review finds

One month after a Victoria doctor said a stillborn baby's death was due to a shortage of anesthesiologists, an independent review has found anesthesia coverage was not a factor in the case.

The infant was delivered by an emergency cesarean section on Aug. 9 at Victoria General Hospital, the primary care centre for high-risk pregnancies on Vancouver Island.

Doctor Sue Ferreira, an anesthesiologist herself, said the lack of an anesthesiologist could have caused a delay in care, which could have resulted in the death of the baby.

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But in a review released Monday, an external medical team shot down that claim and said care was provided within time guidelines.

"After examining the case detail the review team was quite satisfied that there was no delay in the provision of anesthesia care to the patient," Dr. Ward Flemons, a professor of medicine at the University of Calgary, wrote in a statement. "Although for a short period of time the anesthesiologist was responsible for two patients, which although not an ideal situation, did not have any untoward impact on either patient."

The review was commissioned on Aug. 19, shortly after concerns about the baby's death were publicly raised.

The report said once the decision was made to proceed with a cesarean section, "the patient was quickly transferred a short distance to the main operating room" and "met by the onsite anesthesiologist and a fully prepared OR staff." The report said the cesarean section began 20 minutes from when it was called, which is within the guideline of 30 minutes.

In addition to its findings on the baby's death, the review team made 20 recommendations on how to enhance fetal care services at Victoria General.

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