Leila Baartse-Harkin inquest: doctor quizzed over girl’s swing-fall death.

By Claire Campbell

A girl who died two days after falling from a swing did not have a perforated bowel when she was first examined, a doctor from the Adelaide Women’s and Children’s Hospital has told an inquest into the child’s death.

Nine-year-old Leila Baartse-Harkin died in October last year, after a fall from a playground swing at the East Fleurieu School at Strathalbyn.

A lawyer representing her family, Claire O’Connor, questioned whether clinical observations and assessments were sufficient ahead of Leila’s discharge from the Adelaide hospital.

The girl was taken there by her parents after Strathalbyn Hospital staff assessed her vomiting and complaints of abdominal pain.

The Women’s and Children’s Hospital doctor who examined Leila was recalled to give evidence when the inquest resumed on Monday.

Emergency department duty registrar Amy McMellon told the hearing Leila was discharged by a more senior doctor, Elissa Pearton, after showing signs of improvement, namely less pain and feeling more comfortable.

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“The injury that killed her was a bowel perforation that caused peritonitis … she did not have that when I saw her,” Dr McMellon told the coroner.

She conceded the only way to exclude a bowel perforation would have been by operating.

“If it was big enough, [a CT scan] might have seen it, if it was a very small perforation, they might not have seen it,” Dr McMellon said.

The inquest heard such a scan was not done but that medical staff performed an x-ray, an abdominal pressure pain test and a jump test to assess any pain.

Ms O’Connor asked Dr McMellon if signs of improvement could be attributed to the medication the child had received.

“If the pain was worsening and the vomiting had continued she would have stayed in,” Dr McMellon said.

The inquest was told there was no second observations recorded prior to the girl’s discharge from hospital about two hours after she was categorised as a priority-2 patient in the emergency department.

Coroner Anthony Schapel heard a discharge letter stated Leila had no injuries other than a fractured wrist from her fall.

“I didn’t really reflect the abdominal pain in my summary, did I? I could have and I should have, yes,” Dr McMellon told the coroner.

The inquest continues.

This post originally appeared on ABC News.


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