A Wanganui midwife who handed over care of some of her patients to a graduate midwife in a "loose arrangement" has been censured and suspended from practising for six months.
Cheryl Baker was charged that she practised without a certificate during April and/or May 2010, and that she acted unprofessionally or inappropriately from February to May 2010. She was also found to have brought midwifery into disrepute.
She was found guilty following a hearing at the Health Practitioners' Disciplinary Tribunal in May this year.
In its penalty decision, the tribunal said Ms Baker was suspended for six months from May 23 and if she returned to practice afterwards she would be subject to 18 months' supervision.
It ordered her to pay $12,700 as her share of costs for the Professional Conduct Committee and the tribunal.
The tribunal also formally recorded its strong disapproval of her conduct.
At her hearing, the tribunal was told Ms Baker was a self-employed midwife and had an access agreement with Wanganui Hospital to care for her clients.
She failed to notify the Whanganui District Health Board of the handover of the care of her clients to another midwife, and she also failed to notify her clients that she had handed over their care.
In evidence, a new graduate midwife said that between March and May 2010 Ms Baker told her she had clients for her. It was a "loose arrangement" without a formal handover. The graduate was never able to "pin down" what was to happen.
Pregnant clients turned up to the clinic and advised her that Ms Baker had instructed them to attend, and she would also be there. Ms Baker never attended and the clients were unaware the midwife was a new graduate.
The graduate said she did not hear from Ms Baker and attempts to contact her failed. She said she took seven of Ms Baker's 10 clients because she felt sorry for them, despite her own workload being "horrendous".
Ms Baker also gave the graduate's name as lead maternity carer (LMC) on a form of one of her clients.
Following complications with the client, the graduate said two obstetricians told her the client was "very unwell" and that she had "not discharged duty of care". She was very distressed at being told this.
Ms Baker said she had "intended" to renew her practising certificate, which must be done yearly, but became distracted.
She told the tribunal she did not think her continuing practice as a registered nurse and "assisting another midwife" was "untoward and not permitted".
Ms Baker said she suffered psychological trauma following a neonatal death in 2003. In 2006 it was found the death would not be subject to a coroner's inquest, but in 2009 it was decided to go to to an inquest. She said this caused her significant psychological distress.