Three-year-old died hours after sent home from Mullingar hospital

© The Irish Times

A three-year-old girl died of toxic shock syndrome hours after being discharged from the emergency department of Mullingar General Hospital with a diagnosis of diarrhoea and vomiting, the High Court has heard.

The HSE apologised to the parents of Sarah Mahon who died as her parents were driving her back to the hospital from where she was discharged about eight hours earlier.

The apology was read under a settlement of the action by William Mahon, Pottingham Commons, Moyvore, Co Westmeath, on behalf of his wife and family, over his daughter’s death. The terms also include a €40,000 payment to them.

Sarah was first brought to the emergency department after 5am with a red rash on her trunk, vomiting and rapid heart rate.

After Sarah was examined, they were sent home and told to give Sarah water, Mr Mahon told the court. Sarah was not given treatment and died in the car as they returned to the hospital at 1.30pm the same day, he said.

He and his wife Rosemary were very traumatised by what happened, he said.

“If she had been treated, she would have had a chance to survive. Sending her home and asking us to give her water was not going to do it,” he said.

A seven year wait for an apology was too long, he also said. “I want the HSE to develop some formalised approach where accountability and an apology is up-front. The apology was hard fought and they had to read documents such as the post-mortem report “no parent should have to read.”

They would have to live with this for the rest of their lives but took solace from the fact recommendations of an internal investigation into the case had been implemented, Mr Mahon added.

In its apology, the hospital offered sincere apologies to the parents of the child and the Mahon family for the failure in relation to the initial diagnosis of Sarah when she attended at the hospital emergency department on February 16th 2009.

“We offer our deepest condolences to you for the tragic and untimely death of your daughter,” the apology stated.

Emily Egan SC, for the HSE, said all recommendations of a review carried out after Sarah’s death had been implemented, including one regarding paediatric resuscitation.

In the action against the HSE, it was claimed, when brought to the hospital emergency department at 5.15am on February 16th 2009, Sarah was suffering from a very extensive red rash on her trunk, had vomited and had a rapid heart rate.

It is claimed she was visually examined and diagnosed with diarrhoea and vomiting and discharged with advice to provide fluids and arrange a urine sample to her GP. As she was being brought back to the hospital at 1.30pm that day, she went into cardiac arrest, resuscitation was started but discontinued and she was pronounced dead at the hospital.

It was claimed there were failures to properly interpret the child’s symptoms when she first presented; to make or consider a diagnosis of possible toxic shock; to refer the child for immediate investigation or to treat her as an emergency case when she initially presented.

Approving the settlement, Mr Justice Kevin Cross sympathised with the Mahons on the loss of their daughter.

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