Belfast Telegraph

Parents hope inquiry will get to the truth about child deaths

By Lisa Smyth

The parents of two children who died in hospital after being given too much fluid have said they hope the public inquiry into the deaths will uncover the truth — and prevent any further deaths.

However, Marie Ferguson — whose nine-year-old daughter Raychel died at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children after treatment at Altnagelvin in Londonderry — said her life will never be the same.

A public inquiry is being held into Raychel’s death as a result of hyponatraemia — a condition caused by a lack of sodium in |the body.

It will also examine the circumstances leading to the deaths of four-year-old Adam Strain in November 1995 and nine-year-old Claire Roberts in October 1996 — both at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children.

The inquiry will also look at the treatment of 15-year-old Conor Mitchell who died at the hospital in May 2003, having been previously treated at Craigavon Area Hospital.

While he did not die as a result of hyponatraemia, there are |concerns over fluid management in his case.

At a progress hearing in Banbridge yesterday, chairman of the public inquiry, John O’Hara QC, said the public hearings would begin in November.

He also called on the legal teams to decide whether they can reduce the number of counsel involved in a way to cut costs, |explaining the budget for the |inquiry is £5m. It is hoped Mr O’Hara will deliver his findings by the summer of 2012.

Speaking afterwards, Mrs Ferguson revealed she had written to Mr O’Hara at the beginning of the year to voice her frustration |at the lack of movement in the |investigation.

She said: “I was very annoyed, it was the silence. We weren't hearing anything at all from |inquiry.

“I’m pleased we’ve been given a date for the public hearings and hopefully we’ll get the truth of what happened.”

A statement issued by the mother of Adam Strain was read out by her solicitor, David Hunter.

It said: “As Adam’s mother, I am very happy progress is now being made by the hyponatraemia |inquiry.

“It is now more than 15 years since I lost my beautiful son.

“I have high hopes this inquiry will be thorough and find answers to all my outstanding questions.”

The hearing was told that medical professionals around the world would be following the progress of the inquiry and its findings.

The inquiry was established in November 2004 by the then |Minister for Health in Northern Ireland, Angela Smith.

Under the original terms of reference, the inquiry was to examine the deaths of Raychel and Adam but this was subsequently extended to include Claire Roberts and Conor Mitchell.

Factfile

Hyponatraemia is most often a complication of other conditions in which either fluids rich in sodium are lost, for example because of diarrhoea or vomiting, or excess water accumulates in the body at a higher rate than can be excreted. Hyponatraemia can also |affect athletes who consume too much fluid.

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