The mother of a child at the centre of a major probe into the deaths of five children in Northern Ireland hospitals has called for the resignation of the chair of the inquiry.
Marie Ferguson, whose nine-year-old daughter Raychel died in June 2001, said every time the hyponatraemia inquiry is postponed “it rips the heart out of me”.
Mrs Ferguson said she has lost confidence in John O’Hara QC after his decision to postpone the inquiry until the end of next month.
The probe is examining the deaths of three children — Adam Strain, Claire Roberts and Raychel. It is also investigating events following the death of Lucy Crawford, and specific issues arising from the treatment of Conor Mitchell.
It was set up in 2004 but has been plagued by a series of delays.
The public hearings stage began last Monday but was adjourned after just one day to allow medical experts to examine a new report which says one of the children did not die from hyponatraemia.
A meeting took place in Newcastle in England last Wednesday but Mr O’Hara has given the medical experts more time after they were unable to reach a decision on the best way to move forward.
They are due to meet again next week and the inquiry will resume on March 26.
Mrs Ferguson said: “I think John O’Hara should resign, I have lost confidence in him. Every time there is another delay it rips the heart out of me, but I don’t think the suffering of the families is being properly recognised.
“They don’t see me sitting at home crying, or visiting my daughter’s grave every day. I have three other children and I haven’t been there for them because of this.”
Hyponatraemia is the result of too much fluid in the body, which causes the brain to swell. The inquiry is looking at fluid management of children in hospitals across Northern Ireland.
Mr O’Hara apologised for the latest delay.
He said: “The inquiry appreciates changes to the schedule are frustrating for the families of the children whose cases the inquiry is investigating and for other interested parties.”
Following the latest delay, the family of Adam Strain issued a statement in which they said they “retain confidence in the ability of John O’Hara QC to complete the inquiry”.
- Adam Strain died at the age of four in the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children on November 28, 1995.
- Claire Roberts died at the age of nine at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children on October 23, 1996.
- Lucy Crawford died at the age of 17 months in the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children on April 14, 2000, after having been initially treated at the Erne Hospital in Enniskillen.
- Raychel Ferguson died at the age of nine in the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children on June 10, 2001, after having been initially treated in Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry.
- Conor Mitchell died at the age of 15 in the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children on May 12, 2003, after having been initially treated at Craigavon Area Hospital.