Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Doctor's emotional apology to family for Raychel's loss

Doctors who treated a nine-year-old girl who died after an operation have apologised for a series of failures in her treatment during emotional court scenes.

Marie Ferguson welcomed an apology by a senior doctor in his statement to the Hyponatraemia Inquiry in which he admitted Londonderry's Altnagelvin Hospital failed her daughter, Raychel.

"I am glad he did it, it must have been hard for him especially as he said he has lost a daughter as well," she said.

"He came up to me afterwards and hugged me and I hugged him. I always knew the hospital failed Raychel but this is the first time it has been said, although it should have happened 12 years ago."

Raychel Ferguson (below) died in June 2001 in a Belfast hospital– days after surgery to remove her appendix at Altnagelvin.

Giving evidence on Wednesday, Brian McCord – a consultant paediatrician – said: "Raychel was failed.

"She was failed in the sense that she walked into hospital, but didn't leave in a better condition than she left. Indeed, she left in a much, much worse – and died. To lose a child is totally against the natural order of things. You nor I don't know what Raychel would have been capable of had she been here today.

"I have a daughter who died and shares Ballyowen (cemetery) with Raychel. I never got to know her. I do, however, have a young daughter of 10, just slightly older than Raychel, and to think of losing her is unimaginable.

"I cannot think what it must have been like for you as parents to have Raychel wrenched away from you in the fashion that it did happen. I, as a – parent to parent – would like to offer you my heartfelt condolences. I didn't have any chance formally to do that and I would like to have done it face-to-face, but didn't.

"In addition to that, then, I feel that communication difficulties, particularly on my part, have potentially added to your distress."

Yesterday, there were further apologies.

Robert Gilliland was the named consultant surgeon for Raychel's admission for surgery but did not see her at any point in Altnagelvin.

Mrs Ferguson sobbed as he told the inquiry that once doctors established Raychel had fixed and dilated pupils, her parents should have been told "the prospects of recovery were really very poor".

But the Fergusons were told Raychel was to be transferred to the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children for surgery and they believed this was a positive sign.

The court heard Mr Gilliland did not attend a meeting between hospital staff and the Fergusons to discuss Raychel's treatment.

He said: "I thought it would be easier to discuss her death with members of staff they had the opportunity to meet. Secondly, I didn't think there was anything from a surgical point of view, the decision to operate or perform the appendectomy, that was a cause for concern. I didn't think there was anything I could do to help to assuage their grief. If they feel I let them down, then I am sorry."

Background

Hyponatraemia is a potentially fatal condition resulting from an abnormally low concentration of sodium in the blood. The inquiry is examining the deaths of Adam Strain, Claire Roberts and Raychel Ferguson. It is investigating events after the death of Lucy Crawford, and specific issues arising from treatment of Conor Mitchell. Raychel died aged nine at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children in 2001, having been treated in Altnagelvin Hospital.

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