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Fury over appeal to dead babies' parents

PUBLISHED: 18:04 07 October 2009 | UPDATED: 11:06 23 August 2010

CONCERNED: Family left worried

CONCERNED: Family left worried

A MOTHER who received a letter asking for donations to a hospital s baby unit was disgusted to discover the plea was also sent to parents whose babies had died. Care worker Hayley McGill, 29, gave birth to her baby Olivia at Darent Valley Hospital. Arri

A MOTHER who received a letter asking for donations to a hospital's baby unit was disgusted to discover the plea was also sent to parents whose babies had died.

Care worker Hayley McGill, 29, gave birth to her baby Olivia at Darent Valley Hospital.

Arriving five weeks early, the baby was transferred to Tambootie Ward, the hospital's special baby care unit, as she fought for survival.

Her healthy baby is now 18 months old but at the end of the month Mrs McGill received a letter asking for contributions for a proposed extension at the baby unit.

The letter reads: "Firstly, I must apologise for this impersonal letter. We are writing to ask for your help as a parent/s of a special care baby born at Darent Valley.

"Unfortunately, not all won their fight for life and if you are the parent of a baby or babies who did not survive we do hope you will forgive us for writing to you..." Furious Mrs McGill, from Gravesend, said: "They did not even bother to cross reference and check if the baby survived.

"The worst of it is that they addressed the letter to the parent of the baby, so potentially people are having letters from DVH addressed to their dead children. I just found this inappropriate and insensitive. They are attempting to pull on vulnerable heart strings.

"The cause itself is a good one, but surely no one is going to respond positively to that kind of approach."

Despite her concerns about the letter, Mrs McGill praised the unit and staff on the ward for saving her life and that of her baby during a complicated caesarean operation in which Olivia was born weighing just 4lb 2.5oz.

She added: "I have nothing but praise for the staff on this ward. I have no doubt without their expertise neither of us would be here. During my pregnancy we both had extremely high and dangerous blood pressure. Olivia was in special care for weeks.

"But on the other hand there are those who are not as fortunate. Losing a baby is something that never heals and devastates you. To then get a letter addressed to your dead baby asking for money must be horrendous. This policy needs rethinking."

A spokesperson for Darent Valley Hospital said: "We are deeply concerned that our fundraising letter has caused distress to anyone and offer our sincere apologies.

"We have stopped sending out any further letters and will be reviewing the approach to this fundraising appeal.

"It is our aim to provide the very best service to patients and families.

"We are already investing significantly in our maternity services, including our neo natal/special care unit for sick and premature babies. The care that we can give to such babies is improving every year and we are helping more babies recover then ever before.

"Fundraising appeals help the hospital to provide extra services for patients in our care and offer people a way to become involved and support their local hospital. Nevertheless, we are very sorry for any upset this letter may have caused to families."

michael.adkins@archant.co.uk

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