A PREMATURE baby who died at Wrexham Maelor Hospital might have faced a better chance of survival had he been born at a specialist regional centre, an inquest was told.

Reece Wayne Yates died on the day he was born, April 22 last year, after spending time in the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) where medics tried in vain to tackle growing respiratory problems caused by lung damage.

Medics considered transferring the tot, who at birth weighed just 1.35kg, to Arrowe Park Hospital and the hearing in Ruthin heard that had he been born at the Wirral medical complex or one with similar specialist neonatal facilities his prospects would have been improved.

John Gittins, the North Wales East and Central coroner, concluded that the baby – whose parents Darren and Melissa live at Vernon Street, Wrexham – died of natural causes.

An investigation was launched by the Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board into Reece’s death, but the coroner said that while things “could have been better” no blame should be laid at the medics who treated the infant.

He was satisfied that following a review an action plan, which included improving lines of communication within the neo-natal department, was in place.

After Mrs Yates suffered a rupture in the 26th week of labour, a care plan was put in place so she could deliver Reece at between 32 and 34 weeks.

But the rupture ultimately proved to be the catalyst for the problems that led to her son’s death. She later suffered a bleed and the hospital’s medics chose to deliver Reece by caesarean section after 31 weeks at 11.35am.

After his birth Reece was placed on a ventilator and his breathing was supported. He was reported doing well until a deterioration set in later in the day as his respiratory problems became apparent. His oxygen levels and heart rate dropped and medics mulled over transferring him to Arrowe Park.

But later that day (11pm) Wrexham Maelor paediatrician Dr Kapil Gargh made the decision to withdraw his care.

“He was hypoxic (oxygen deficiency) for more than three hours and it would have resulted in irreversible damage had he survived,” said the doctor.

Dr Gargh said he wanted the baby to spend his final moments in his parents’ arms, but told the hearing had Reece been delivered at Arrowe Park his prospects of survival would have increased “many fold”.

A post-mortem examination concluded that Reece’s cause of death was as a result of a incomplete development of the lungs due to premature birth and a rupture of the membrane.

The coroner said that babies born early were prone to lung damage despite treatment after birth.

Nick Nelhans, consultant paediatrician at the Maelor, said it would have been better if Reece had been born in a “tertiary” unit.

“Reece was stable and his saturations and heart rate were good,” he said.

Asked by coroner if anyone had taken their “eyes off the ball”, the medic said: “I do feel that active decisions were being made and you have to respond to what you see.

"Everything was going well until he developed pulmonary hypertension.”

He said there had been developments about where premature babies were born, particularly with the link to a new regional neonatal unit at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd.

“I feel if Reece was born now there would be a conversation with obstetrics colleagues. If Melissa had come in after having a bleed it would have been an issue where Reece was born,” he added.

Mrs Yates told the hearing she was offered a termination, but had no regrets that she carried on and pursued the birth.

She said: “It was a shock when he was going downhill and that should have been explained to us better.”

Reece’s parents said at the time of their son’s death they were left under no illusions that had been delivered in Arrowe Park he would have had every chance of survival.

FIRST Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones has officially opened a hospital’s £18 million sub regional neonatal intensive care centre (SuRNICC) at Glan Clwyd Hospital to care for poorly and premature babies born in North Wales.

The 20-cot unit is part of the North Wales neonatal network, which links special care units in Wrexham and Bangor.