The public inquiry into the death of a nine-year-old Derry girl is to get underway today.
Raychel Ferguson died in June 2001 in the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children after surgery at Altnagelvin Hospital.
An inquiry is being held into her death, and the deaths of two other children, four-year-old Adam Strain, and nine-year-old Claire Roberts.
It is also investigating events following the death of 17-month-old Lucy Crawford and specific issues arising from the treatment of Conor Mitchell (15), who had cerebral palsy.
Fluid management was believed to be a factor in each of the deaths.
Proceedings will begin at Banbridge Courthouse at 10am with opening remarks by the Inquiry’s Chairman, John O’Hara QC.
This will be followed by an opening address from Senior Counsel to the Inquiry, Monye Anyadike-Danes QC, which will set out the structure of the Inquiry and the main issues to be considered.
Legal representatives for the main interested parties to the Inquiry will then be given an opportunity to make opening addresses if they wish.
The public hearings are scheduled to run until the end of November 2012. The Inquiry Chairman hopes to complete his report and present it to the Minister for Health by the summer of 2013.
It is intended that the public hearings will focus on each case in question in chronological order, commencing with that of Adam Strain.
The Inquiry was established by the then Minister for Health in Northern Ireland, Angela Smith, in November 2004. It was suspended in 2005 in order to allow the PSNI to undertake investigations related to the three cases which the Inquiry was initially examining.
In 2008, the police indicated that their investigations were complete and the Public Prosecution Service directed that there would be no prosecutions.
As a result, the Inquiry announced the resumption of its work at a Progress Hearing on May 30, 2008. The terms of reference were revised in November 2008.
The inquiry oral hearings are open to the public. Details of them will be posted regularly on the Inquiry’s website (www.ihrdni.org ), and a full transcript of each day’s proceedings will be available on the website the following day.
Raychel’s mother, Marie Ferguson, has consistently said she will not give up on her fight for justice for her daughter.
“I have lived for 10 years with the guilt that I had done something wrong,” she said. “I sat there in that hospital and watched Raychel dying. I will be glad to see the people involved in Raychel’s care take the stand and tell me what went wrong. I want the truth.”