Former Bacchus Marsh nursing director gets 10 year ban

03 Feb 2021

A former Victorian nurse and midwife who was employed at Bacchus Marsh Hospital as Director of Nursing has been reprimanded by a tribunal and disqualified from applying for registration for 10 years for  4 findings of professional misconduct.

The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) took immediate action to restrict Julia Meek’s registration in June 2016 following an investigation into newborn deaths at Bacchus Marsh Hospital (Djerriwarrh Health Service). Ms Meek surrendered her registration in October 2016 and has not practised since. 

The NMBA referred Ms Meek to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal) alleging that she failed to take adequate steps to deliver effective systems and processes at DjHS. Specifically, it was alleged that Ms Meek:

  • oversaw a service where there was inadequate training for nursing and midwifery staff; 
  • failed to take adequate steps to ensure the presence of a midwife competent in fetal surveillance monitoring in the birthing suite for each shift; 
  • should have been aware that there was no clear admission and transfer criteria (to ensure that only admissions suitable to the capacity of DjHS were accepted) and that she should have remedied this; and
  • failed to ensure adequate formal peer and multidisciplinary review of clinical practice and perinatal deaths and implementation of practice recommendations.  

On 27 January 2021, the tribunal confirmed findings of professional misconduct for all four allegations. It ordered Ms Meek be reprimanded and disqualified from applying for registration for a period of ten years.   The tribunal noted, consistent with the decision concerning Mary Little, the real seriousness of the conduct was the systemic deficiencies and the failure to identify and rectify them.  

NMBA Chair, Adjunct Professor Veronica Casey AM, said: ‘This tragic case is a reminder to all midwives and nurses to fully understand their professional responsibilities. Ensuring safe and quality care is paramount. The public must to be able to trust that those nurses and midwives treating them or their families are doing all they can to keep them safe.’ 

Ahpra CEO, Martin Fletcher, said: ‘We welcome this tribunal decision. While this outcome may bring little comfort to those families who tragically lost their babies, it is important that senior health professionals with clinical governance responsibilities for patient safety are held to account.’ 

The full decision can be found on the Austlii website.

Background

From October 2015 onwards Ahpra and National Boards launched investigations in relation to 101 matters about the care provided by individual practitioners at the Bacchus Marsh Hospital during the period 2008 to 2015. This followed a cluster of potentially preventable stillbirths and neonatal deaths at the Bacchus Marsh Hospital (Djerriwarrh Health Service).

A total of 43 registered health practitioners were the subject of concerns in the 101 matters reported (some practitioners were the subject of multiple notifications). All investigations are finalised, with some practitioners awaiting hearing in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

For the 43 registered health practitioners reported, almost half (21 practitioners) had matters which were able to be closed without the need for regulatory action. This includes practitioners who surrendered their registration or who had already taken steps towards remediation, which a National Board considers sufficient to manage any ongoing risk to the public. For example, when a practitioner has completed education or training that addresses any gaps identified in their skills or knowledge.

For those practitioners where further action was taken:

  • six practitioners were cautioned
  • six practitioners had conditions imposed on their registration (including those who were cautioned and had conditions imposed), and
  • 10 practitioners were referred to a panel hearing or the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

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Page reviewed 3/02/2021