Raychel inquiry hears claims of ‘cover-up’

PACEMAKER BELFAST 26/2/2013  Nurse Ann Noble arrives at Banbridge court on tuesday to give evidence into the death of Raychel Ferguson who died at Altnagelvin Hospital in June 2001  in a Hyponatraemia - related death  PHOTO COLM LENAGHAN/PACEMAKER
PACEMAKER BELFAST 26/2/2013 Nurse Ann Noble arrives at Banbridge court on tuesday to give evidence into the death of Raychel Ferguson who died at Altnagelvin Hospital in June 2001 in a Hyponatraemia - related death PHOTO COLM LENAGHAN/PACEMAKER

A public inquiry has heard allegations that hospital staff covered up mistakes in the treatment of a Derry schoolgirl who died just hours after routine surgery.

Nine-year-old Raychel Ferguson died in the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children in June 2001, 36 hours after she was admitted to Altnagelvin Hospital with stomach pains and nausea.

The Hyponatraemia Inquiry into her death and those of a number of other children heard that two mistakes in her care were highlighted at a meeting held at Altnagelvin two days after she died.

The inquiry was also told that these mistakes were not revealed to Raychel’s mother, Marie, at a meeting with medical staff three months later.

Nurse Ann Noble, who had been in charge of Raychel’s care, said that at the internal meeting on June 12, 2001, medical staff spoke of a failure to monitor the level of salt in the little girl’s body.

She said she had never encountered a child with such a low level of sodium in their blood.

An anaesthetist also told the meeting that Raychel had been receiving too much fluid while in the hospital, Mrs Noble said.

A death certificate recorded excess fluid on the brain as one factor which led to Raychel’s death.

At one stage during Mrs Noble’s evidence, Inquiry chairman John O’Hara QC asked her: “Can you understand how Mrs Ferguson got the impression that there was a cover-up? Because, to put it very, very succinctly, the mistakes which were admitted to internally at the meeting on June 12 were not admitted to externally with the Fergusons on September 3.

“So, if you were sitting like Mrs Ferguson, you’d think ‘that’s a cover-up’?”

Mrs Noble replied: “Yes.”

Mrs Noble later told the inquiry that she “reproaches herself” for not asking a doctor to carry out a more intensive investigation when Raychel continued to be sick following the surgery to remove her appendix.