The death of a nine-year-old girl who fell from a swing and suffered a perforated bowel and peritonitis was preventable, and there were “serious failures” in the care she received, a coronial inquest has been told.
Leila Baartse-Harkin died from internal injuries that went undiagnosed two days after falling from a swing at her school in Strathalbyn in October 2015.
Her parents took her to the Women’s and Children’s Hospital — on advice and referral from the Strathalbyn Hospital, as she had a high heart rate, complained of abdominal pain and had been vomiting.
She was discharged less than two hours later with no injuries recorded on her discharge letter other than a fractured wrist.
Leila continued to vomit and complain of abdominal pain and was taken to a general practitioner in Strathalbyn and prescribed analgesia, but died the next morning.
Outside the Coroner’s Court, Leila’s mother Edie Harkin said she now felt her only daughter’s death was preventable.
“My belief is that it was preventable. I now feel I have a full understanding of what went wrong,” she said.
“I think it will lead to some changes in the way SA Health deals with patients and consumers in general.”
Leila had perforated bowel while at hospital.
Counsel assisting the coroner Naomi Kereru told the inquest in her closing submissions that Leila did have the perforated bowel when she presented at the Women’s and Children’s hospital and it should have been identified.
“I ask Your Honour to make the finding that Leila’s death was preventable,” she told the inquest.
“Leila should not have been allowed to go home in the early hours of that morning, she had presented with a picture of a serious injury and the cause of this had not been identified.
“If Your Honour accepts this submission and also finds that Leila should have been admitted for observation based on these factors … surgical advice would have been sought, a CT scan would have been done and an operation would have ensued to repair the hole in the bowel.”
Treating doctors, Elissa Pearton and Amy McMellon, have told the inquest Leila developed a perforated bowel after she was discharged from the Women’s and Children’s Hospital.
Parents ‘given false sense of security’ when sent home.
Dr Pearton, who made the decision to discharge, said Leila was pain-free and had a normal heart rate when sent home — a claim the family’s lawyer Claire O’Connor disputed.
Ms O’Connor agreed with Ms Kereru’s submission and said Leila’s parents were given a false sense of security when she was discharged from hospital and that appropriate observations were not taken nor recorded.
“This child has died because of her [Dr Pearton] failure, she must have realised that,” Ms O’Connor said.
“If [Leila] was kept in at that point, she would have survived.”
The inquest which began in December last year will wrap up on Friday.
Deputy state coroner Anthony Schapel will then have to consider whether Leila should have been admitted to the Women’s and Children’s Hospital, whether her bowel was perforated when examined at the hospital or whether she developed it later as her treating doctors claim.
He will also consider whether Leila’s death was preventable before he hands down his findings.
This post originally appeared on ABC News.
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