A prison nurse who refused to provide first aid to an unconscious newborn baby in a women’s prison says she did her job right.
Prison nurse Georgina Melody, a New Zealand national who had been in Australia for just over a year when ‘Baby A’ died, had only taken up the night shift at the Dame Phyllis Frost Center in Victoria for six months before the tragedy.
On Tuesday, Ms Melody received a certificate of compensation from Victorian coroner John Olle after objecting to voluntarily conducting the inquest into Baby A’s tragic death on the grounds that she could face disciplinary or civil action.
She continues to work as a registered nurse for Correct Care Australasia, which provides health services to over 6,500 men, women and young people in Victoria at its 13 public prisons.
Prison nurse Georgina Melody left CPR on a newborn to firefighters because she considered him already dead
Prison nurse Georgina Melody covers her face in shame after leaving Victoria Coroners Court on Tuesday
The inquest comes almost three years after a Daily Mail Australia investigation revealed the needless tragedy – which was denied at the time by Corrections Victoria.
‘Baby A’ – as she must be known by law – was just 12 days old when she died in the prison’s ‘mother and child 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 compensate her for perjury on the witness stand, Ms Melody told the inquest she had no responsibility to care for inmates’ babies except in case of emergency.
She didn’t even have any formal training to take care of them.
The night Baby A was found unconscious, Mrs. Melody refused to perform CPR on the child’s tiny body.
The nurse was only half an hour away from imitation when baby A was found unconscious by his distraught mother.
The inquest heard that a prison guard was forced to physically pick up Ms Melody after she could not be reached by radio from the prison medical unit.
Prison guards had called a ‘code black’ after receiving frantic calls from another inmate saying Baby A was unresponsive.
Although the inquest was made aware of the frantic situation in the mother’s unit, Ms Melody claimed she was unaware she was on her way to help a newborn baby until she saw Baby A’s mother cradling her child’s limp body.
“My attention was not immediately drawn to the identity of the victim,” she told the inquest.
Ms Melody, who showed no emotion on the witness stand, said the situation in the unit did not even appear to be an emergency.
“When I walked in, I didn’t have a sense of urgency. I didn’t hear any hysteria or panic,” she said.
Ms Melody further claimed that no one else on the unit was crying when she arrived, and no one told her that a baby was not breathing or needed help.
A bird’s eye view of Melbourne’s famous Dame Phyllis Frost Centre. It is home to some of Australia’s worst female prisoners
Last week, an inmate called ‘Alice’ told the inquest that Ms Melody refused to help the newborn baby after an inmate was forced to administer CPR.
“The nurse just said, ‘Oh, I’m sorry.’ That was it…she didn’t touch the baby,” Alice said.
Alice had been the first inmate to hear Baby A’s mother screaming for help around 5.30am.
“Baby don’t breathe,” cried the desperate mother.
While other mothers locked in the unit panicked, Alice desperately tried to convince the prison guards to open the door and provide help.
“They kept hanging up on me,” Alice said. “They said they called a code and said we just had to wait…we didn’t know what to do.”
Alice said when prison staff became frustrated with her repeated calls, they cut off the intercom to the room.
The court heard prison guards stand aside and watch another inmate, called ‘Donna’, perform CPR on the baby.
“They said they needed permission to open,” Alice said.
When prison staff finally entered the unit, Alice claimed to have treated the hysterical mother with cold contempt.
“There was no solace,” she said. “Someone asked him where the baby slept.”
The Dame Phyllis Frost center can accommodate 604 inmates and contains a unit dedicated to mothers and their children, from babies to preschoolers
Women live together in large groups inside the women’s prison
Babies are being forced to wait for treatment inside the Dame Phyllis Frost Center in Melbourne.
Ms Melody has denied accusations that she didn’t even touch Baby A or that she immediately apologized to her mother.
The nurse claimed to have performed an examination on the baby and quickly determined that she was dead.
The coroner heard as Ms Melody refused to provide CPR to the baby, firefighters who then went to the unit worked frantically to try to revive her.
The nurse told lawyer Julie Munster, who represents Baby A’s mother, that she was not at all upset by the incident.
‘Not necessarily. No, she said. ‘Nope. It was surprising.
Ms Melody claimed Baby A’s mother had been ‘reluctant’ to cooperate with her when she arrived at the unit.
“She was reluctant when I spoke to her in the first place. She was calm,” she said.
Ms Munster told Ms Melody that her client told her Baby A was not breathing.
“She was begging you to help her baby,” Ms Munster said.
“No,” replied Mrs. Melody.
Ms Munster accused the nurse of being ‘uncompassionate and mean’ for not telling Baby A’s mum of the results of the assessment she had done which led her to deny her baby CPR .
‘Nope. I don’t accept it,” she said. ‘I’m a nice person.’
The investigation is continuing.
WHAT STAFF AND INMATES ARE SAYING ABOUT NURSE GEORGINA MELODY
The inquest heard that the prison nurse’s decision not to help the baby shocked not only the baby’s mother, but also prison staff and investigators.
In a heartbreaking impact statement, the baby’s mother expressed dismay at her jailers’ alleged failure to help.
“I still don’t understand why no staff performed CPR or anything on the baby until the firefighters arrived,” she told the court.
Several prison guards expressed similar concerns about the nurse’s alleged inability to provide assistance to the baby.
“I did not see the nurse perform CPR on the child. I found it quite distressing to see,” a guard said.
“I was surprised and saddened by this lack of action,” said another.
A prison operations supervisor told the inquest he was also upset by Ms Melody’s ‘inaction’ on the night.
“I was surprised that no one was giving medical attention to the baby,” he said.