A Wanganui midwife who handed over care of some of her patients to a graduate midwife in a "loose arrangement" has been found guilty by the Health Practitioners' Disciplinary Tribunal.
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.
Her penalty will be decided today by a panel chaired by Bruce Corkill, QC.
On behalf of the professional conduct committee, barrister Matthew McClelland said Ms Baker continued to practise without a current practising certificate, placing clients and colleagues at risk.
The Midwifery Council had also ordered Ms Baker to complete a competence programme, which she had not done.
The tribunal heard yesterday that 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 neo-natal 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.
Police decided not to lay charges against anyone involved in the birth.
Mr McClelland said depression was not an excuse, and that when Ms Baker ceased to practise on March 31, 2010, she was obliged to comply with that order.