Nurse left foetus in ward fridge in hospital, hearing told


A FOETUS was left in a hospital fridge for over 13 hours after a nurse failed to have the remains taken to a mortuary, a hearing was told.

Grace MacKenzie, who worked at Ninewells Hospital, Dundee, claims she called colleagues after her shift to ask them to remove the body.

The bungle meant the foetus, which was taken from a patient at 3.30am that day, was not removed from the fridge until 5pm.

Ms MacKenzie faced several charges brought by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) at a hearing in Edinburgh this week.

The hearing was told the gynaecology ward where Ms MacKenzie worked dealt with terminations and miscarriages.

Ms MacKenzie had been the nurse in charge of a night shift in the ward on the evening of February 20/21, 2009.



Elizabeth Morris, a charge nurse at the hospital, told the hearing: “A foetus had been removed at 3.30am on the 21st of February.

“The patient involved went into theatre for removal of the placenta.

“Ms MacKenzie had correctly completed the paperwork but the foetus was left in the ward fridge.

“Ms MacKenzie was responsible for ensuring  the foetus was dealt with appropriately and promptly.”

Ms Morris gave evidence the foetus was left in the fridge until she arrived to deal with it around 5pm on 21 February.

The incident was brought up at a meeting between the two nurses later, said Ms Morris.



She added: “Ms MacKenzie offered no explanation but acknowledged her failing”.

Ms Morris said the correct procedure was to call for hospital porters to remove foetuses to the mortuary.

Ms MacKenzie, who resigned from her job three months after the incident, was not present or represented at this week’s hearing.

The panel was shown correspondence which she sent the NMC earlier this year.

Responding to the charge relating to the foetus, she admitted leaving the foetus in the fridge but suggested unnamed colleagues should share the blame.

She wrote: “Normally what would happen is once the fetus was delivered I would complete all relevant paperwork put the fetus in the fridge then phone for a porter for a mortuary collection.



“[Senior charge nurse Frances Grant’s] statement reads that I called the ward from the car park after my night duty to inform the day staff that the fetus had not been collected.

“Mrs Grant also clearly states that the fetus was left until the late shift arrived to deal with this.

“If I had called the ward just after 07.00 why was the fetus allowed to be left in the fridge for around another 7 hours?”

Her statement continued: “I did in fact call the ward from my car after my night duty to inform them the fetus was in the fridge. This would have been no more than 4 hours after delivery.

“The late shift came on at 2pm which means the day staff left this undelivered for a further 7 hours at least.”

A charge that Ms Mackenzie “failed to send a foetus to the mortuary and instead left it in the ward fridge” was found proved.

The nurse claimed she called her colleagues after finishing her night shift in February 2009 and told them the foetus, which had been removed hours earlier, was still in the fridge.



A further four charges relating to the nurse’s competence were also found proved and a sixth charge was found partially proved.

The charges found proved included an incident in January 2007 where she did not give a patient their prescribed Warfarin, a blood-thinning drug.

In February 2009, she said a patient suffering from an abnormal form of pregnancy was “ready for theatre” even though no consent form had been signed and the patient was not prepared.

An allegation she failed to tell medical staff when a patient’s condition was deteriorating was found not proved.

The hearing, chaired by Brian Yates, has been postponed until January, when the panel will consider Ms MacKenzie’s fitness to practice and any sanctions they can order against her.