Patients of HIV midwife alerted

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The Independent Online
A MIDWIFE who delivered 42 babies and was present at other births was carrying the Aids virus, a health authority confirmed yesterday. Mark Rees, chief executive for Bromley health authority, said that the woman had worked for Farnborough Hospital, Orpington, Kent, for 23 months.

He said the authority had taken expert advice, and stressed the risk to mothers or babies was negligible. However he said eight patients might be at risk and 'one or two had not yet been contacted'. The authority had opened a telephone helpline.

Dr Jackie Spiby, Bromley's director of public health, said: 'Mothers will be provided with counselling and support for as long as they need. Our helpline will be open throughout the weekend. But most women will not be at any risk at all.'

The authority was informed on 8 February that the midwife was HIV positive. It is believed that the information resulted from a post-mortem examination and there are reports that the woman died of meningitis. At an angry press conference, Mr Rees would not confirm whether the midwife had died.

He said: 'We are aware there is a degree of anxiety among the public and so we have taken steps not only to contact those people concerned but to set up a helpline so any member of the public can ring in and have private counselling. We have a duty to the individual and their family not to divulge any personal information.'

The Royal College of Midwives said there was no recorded case in the world where a midwife or doctor had infected a patient with the virus. Health Department guidelines say HIV-infected health care workers, including midwives, may conduct a normal delivery as long as it does not involve invasive surgery. Janette Brierley, HIV adviser at the college, said even that would involve only 'minimal' risk.