EXCLUSIVE: Prison nurse who refused a begging mum’s pleas to give her unresponsive newborn CPR tells inquest ‘Baby A’ was already DEAD when she arrived – after being granted immunity from prosecution
- The tragic death of ‘Baby A’ in custody is being investigated by the Coroner
- The newborn baby died at the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre in August 2018
- Prison staff have come under fire for delays in attending to the child
- A prisoner tried to resuscitate the child as guards allegedly refused to help
- Inmate claims prison nurse refused to touch the baby despite desperate pleas
- Nurse Georgina Melody fronted coronial inquest after being granted immunity
A prison nurse who refused to perform first aid on an unresponsive newborn inside a women’s prison maintains she did her job by the book.
Prison nurse Georgina Melody, a New Zealand national who had been in Australia a little over a year when ‘Baby A’ died, had only taken up the night-shift position with Victoria’s Dame Phyliss Frost Centre six months before the tragedy.
On Tuesday, Ms Melody was provided a certificate of indemnity by Victorian Coroner John Olle after she objected to voluntarily fronting the inquest into Baby A’s tragic death on the grounds she could face disciplinary or civil action.
She continues to work as a registered nurse for Correct Care Australasia, which provides health services to more than 6,500 men, women, and young people in Victoria at all 13 of its public prisons.
Prison nurse Georgina Melody left CPR on a newborn baby to firefighters because she deemed it was already dead
Prison nurse Georgina Melody covers her face in shame after leaving the Victorian Coroners Court on Tuesday
The inquest comes almost three years after an investigation by Daily Mail Australia exposed the needless tragedy – which was denied at the time by Corrections Victoria.
‘Baby A’ – as she must be referred to by law – was just 12 days old when she died inside the jail’s dedicated ‘Mothers and Children Units’ in August 2018.
The inquest heard Ms Melody was not asked to provide a statement about what happened until August last year.
Armed with her indemnity certificate, which does not indemnify her from perjury in the witness box, Ms Melody told the inquest she had no responsibility to provide care for inmates’ babies unless there was an emergency.
She did not even have any formal training to care for them.
On the night Baby A was found unresponsive, Ms Melody refused to perform CPR on the child’s little body.
The nurse had been just half-an-hour away from knock-off when Baby A was found unconscious by her distraught mum.
The inquest heard a prison guard was forced to physically go and collect Ms Melody after she could not be reached on a radio at the prison’s medical unit.
Prison guards had called a ‘code black’ after receiving frantic calls from another inmate that Baby A was unresponsive.
Despite the inquest being told of the frantic situation within the mother’s unit, Ms Melody claimed she was unaware she had been on her way to help a newborn until the very moment she saw Baby A’s mother cradling her child’s limp body.
‘It wasn’t immediately drawn to my attention who was the casualty,’ she told the inquest.
Ms Melody, who showed no emotion in the witness box, claimed the situation in the unit did not even appear to be an emergency.
‘When I walked in I didn’t get a sense of emergency. I didn’t hear any hysteria or panic,’ she said.
Ms Melody further claimed no-one else within the unit was crying upon her arrival, nor did anyone advise her a baby was not breathing or needed help.
A bird’s eye view of Melbourne’s notorious Dame Phyllis Frost Centre. It houses some of Australia’s worst female prisoners
Last week, an inmate referred to as ‘Alice’ told the inquest that Ms Melody refused to assist the newborn after an inmate had been forced to administer CPR.
‘The nurse just said “Oh I’m sorry”. That was it … she did not touch the baby,’ Alice said.
Alice had been the first inmate to hear Baby A’s mother scream for help about 5.30am.
‘Baby’s not breathing,’ the desperate mum shouted.
While other mother’s caged within the unit flew into a panic, Alice tried desperately to get prison guards to open the door and provide help.
‘They kept hanging up on me,’ Alice said. ‘They said they’d called a code and said we’d just have to wait … we didn’t know what to do.’
Alice said when prison staff became frustrated with her repeated calls they cut the intercom to the room.
The court heard the prison guards stood by and watched as another inmate, referred to as ‘Donna’, performed CPR on the baby.
‘They said they needed permission to open up,’ Alice said.
When prison staff finally entered the unit, Alice claimed they treated the hysterical mother with cold disregard.
‘There was no comforting,’ she said. ‘Someone asked her where the baby had been sleeping.’
Dame Phyllis Frost Centre can hold 604 inmates and contains a dedicated unit for mothers and their children, from babies up to to pre-schoolers
Women live together in large groups inside the women’s prison
Babies are made to wait for treatment inside Dame Phyllis Frost Centre in Melbourne.
Ms Melody denied accusations she failed to even touch Baby A or that she immediately apologised to her mother.
The nurse claimed she carried out an examination on the baby and quickly determined she was dead.
The coroner heard while Ms Melody refused to provide CPR to the baby, firefighters who later attended the unit worked frantically to try and revive her.
The nurse told barrister Julie Munster, who is acting for Baby A’s mother, she was not at all distressed by the incident.
‘Not necessarily. No,’ she said. ‘No. It was surprising.’
Ms Melody claimed Baby A’s mother had been ‘reluctant’ to cooperate with her upon arriving at the unit.
‘She was reluctant when I spoke to her in the first instance. She was quiet,’ she said.
Ms Munster told Ms Melody her client had told her Baby A was not breathing.
‘She was begging you to help her baby,’ Ms Munster said.
‘No,’ Ms Melody replied.
Ms Munster accused the nurse of being ‘uncompassionate and unkind’ for failing to tell Baby A’s mother the results of the assessment she had made that saw her refuse her baby CPR.
‘No. I don’t accept that,’ she said. ‘I am a kind person.’
The inquest continues.
WHAT PRISON STAFF AND INMATES SAY ABOUT NURSE GEORGINA MELODY
The inquest has heard the prison nurse’s decision not to assist the baby shocked not only the baby’s mother, but prison staff and investigators.
In a gut wrenching impact statement, the baby’s mother addressed her dismay at the alleged failure of her jailers to help.
‘I still cannot understand why none of the staff did CPR or anything for the baby until the firefighters arrived,’ she told the court.
Multiple prison guards expressed similar concern about the nurse’s alleged failure to provide assistance to the baby.
‘I did not see the nurse perform any CPR on the child. I found this to be quite distressing to witness,’ one guard said.
‘I was surprised and distressed by this lack of action,’ another said.
A prison operation supervisor told the inquest he too was upset about Ms Melody’s ‘inaction’ on the night.
‘I was taken aback by the fact that nobody was giving medical treatment to the baby,’ he said.