A coroner has slammed an NHS trust for the deaths of two new mothers with herpes and said they should have been treated earlier for their symptoms.
Kimberley Sampson, 29, and Samantha Mulcahy, 32, died in 2018 after having C-sections six weeks apart by the same surgeon at hospitals in Kent.
Their families have been waiting five years for answers about how they became infected with the virus, which can cause sores around the mouth or genitals.
Catherine Wood, coroner for Mid Kent and Medway, said the two women could have received antiviral treatment sooner.
Wood added that, particularly in Mulcahy’s case, “suspicions should have been raised” given the staff’s knowledge of Sampson’s earlier death.
At the inquest hearing at Kent County Hall in Maidstone on Friday, Wood said: ‘The earlier treatment is given, the better the outcome.
The coroner ruled out human culpability for any of the medical staff involved in the case and said it was “unlikely” the surgeon was the cause of the herpes infection found in the two women.
She said: “I can’t find he was a carrier without evidence.”
The coroner later ruled out findings of unlawful killing and negligence, which lawyers for the women’s families had argued.
She is expected to give narrative findings for both women on July 26.
Sampson gave birth to her second child, at Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital in Margate in May 2018, and died at the end of the month in a London hospital.
In July 2018, first mother Mulcahy died at William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, Kent.
Both hospitals are run by the East Kent Hospitals University NHS Trust (EKHUT).
The coroner said: ‘This is a rare but often fatal condition and more needs to be done to raise awareness.
“All the evidence suggests that early recognition is more likely to result in a positive outcome.”
The virus, HSV-1 or herpes simplex, is a common infection, but if contracted after childbirth, it’s “a life-threatening condition,” Woods said.
The inquest previously heard in April how the surgeon, who cannot be named for legal reasons, could have been a potential source of infection.
But the surgeon told the inquest his hands were fully scrubbed, double-gloved and he wore a mask during the procedures.
He also said he had no lesions and was not infected, although he had not been tested.
The coroner said those involved who suggested it was the surgeon were trying to ‘plug the gap’ with a possible explanation, but she deemed it unlikely and that ‘statistical coincidences may occur’ .
The hearing also heard a legal challenge from the BBC and the PA news agency to lift the anonymity order sought by the trust to prevent the surgeon from being named.
EKHUT argued that her order of anonymity was to protect the reputation and sanity of her staff member from what she said would be detrimental to media reporting on the case, but the media bid argued. that fears for the surgeon were speculative.
Wood also adjourned his decision on the surgeon’s anonymity until the same hearing on July 26.