Child deaths to be investigated

Two new cases of children who died in hospital in the North are to be the subject of a public inquiry, it was revealed today.

The deaths of Conor Mitchell, 15, and Claire Roberts, 9, are to be probed after they received fluids in hospital.

Although an inquest ruled fluid management at Craigavon Area Hospital in Conor’s case had been acceptable, an investigation is being held by John O’Hara QC in Belfast in January.

Mr O’Hara said: “The Department of Health had introduced guidelines on hyponatraemia. A question arises, however, as to the extent to which those guidelines were followed, if they were followed at all.

“In Conor’s case there is clearly no point in having guidelines if the staff there, when they are directed, are not trained in them.”

Hyponatraemia is a dangerous condition caused by low sodium levels in the blood.

The deaths of Claire, four-year-old Adam Strain, both from Belfast; Raychel Ferguson, nine, from Derry; and Conor, 15, are all being investigated.

Family and legal representatives had gathered in Belfast for a review of progress on the case, which had been stalled for over two years because of a police investigation.

A decision has been taken not to prosecute in a separate case, the death of 17-month-old Fermanagh toddler Lucy Crawford. Mr O’Hara wants to begin full hearings next year.

He described Conor as an intelligent boy. He suffered a number of seizures before a fit which was fatal.

The cerebral palsy victim died in the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children four days after being admitted to Craigavon.

Lucy, Raychel and Adam died because of a shortage of sodium in their systems.

Health Minister Angela Smith set up this inquiry in November 2004 amid claims that the three children died needlessly from hyponatraemia.

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