Doctor didn’t know of Raychel death: inquiry

Raychel Ferguson
Raychel Ferguson

A doctor has told a public inquiry into a Derry schoolgirl’s death that it wasn’t until she was contacted by the inquiry four years later that she discovered that the nine year-old had died.

Raychel Ferguson, from Coshquin, died at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, just a day after her appendix was removed at Derry’s Altnagelvin Hospital.

Her death, in 2001, is one of five being investigated by the Hyponatraemia Inquiry which is sitting in Banbridge.

It is examining the fluid levels administered before the children’s deaths.

In the case of four of the children, an inquest stated that hyponatraemia was a factor that contributed to their deaths.

Hyponatraemia is the term used to describe a low level of sodium in the bloodstream causing the brain cells to swell with too much water.

In 2001, Dr Mary Butler was a senior house officer at Altnagelvin Hospital and was several months into her training in paediatric care.

While Raychel Ferguson was not her patient, as Dr Butler was on the ward, she was asked by nursing staff to renew a prescription for IV fluids.

The court heard that none of the documents show how the rate of fluid was calculated.

Dr Butler said she had presumed this had been carried out by medical staff elsewhere.

During her evidence, Dr Butler revealed she had not been asked to attend a critical incident meeting after Raychel’s death and only learned the child had died when the inquiry’s legal team contacted her in 2005.

According to the Ferguson family’s solicitor, they are not overly concerned about Dr Butler’s intervention in Raychel’s care.

Meanwhile, a nurse told the inquiry she should have taken blood pressure and recorded the number of times that Raychel had vomited.

Sandra Gilchrist was a staff nurse working on ward six.

The inquiry heard that nurses had stopped taking Raychel’s blood pressure for more than 12 hours.

Counsel for the inquiry asked Ms. Gilchrist if she now thought that blood pressure levels should have been taken.

The nurse replied: “Looking back now, yes it should have been done”.

The family’s barrister said he wanted to raise a number of important points.

Firstly, why the nurse did not record vomit and significant volumes of vomit and the fact that Raychel had burst a blood vessel.

Secondly, why she didn’t tell Raychel’s parents that their daughter had blood in her vomit and, thirdly, why she didn’t tell the doctor.

In response, Sister Gilchrist said she had recorded coffee grounds (bits of blood) in the child’s notes.

The inquiry has already been told that aspects of Raychel’s care were “confused and uncertain”.

It has also heard conflicting evidence about who was in charge of her post-operative care and the type and amount of fluids she was given.

The hearing continues.