A six-year-old girl was referred to hospital a number of times over a five-year period with vomiting and dehydration but no underlying cause had been established when she died, an inquest heard.
Aibha Conroy of Gowla, Cashel in Connemara, Co Galway died at Temple Street Hospital on December 14, 2011, four days after she was admitted to Galway University Hospital with a history of vomiting, headaches, and a very low blood sugar reading.
Dublin Coroner’s Court has yet to hear postmortem evidence on the cause of her death.
However, coroner Brian Farrell said it is his understanding that there “may be a challenge” to the cause given by the pathologist.
The first day of the inquest heard from Aibha’s GP, Michael Casey, that she had a number of referrals to GUH from 2006 onwards with similar symptoms including vomiting and dehydration.
He said a pattern was emerging that minor illnesses that children pick up generally were “major” events for Aibha and that the periods between were getting shorter.
Dr Casey agreed that despite all the admissions, they were no closer to knowing what was “at play” in Aibha’s condition.
The court heard that he received a letter from GUH consultant paediatrician Edina Moylett following an admission on August 22, 2011, for an ongoing infection saying she had concerns there may be something “underlying” the symptoms.
Solicitor for the family, Damien Tansey, told the court that “there is going to be controversy” in relation to the circumstances of Aibha’s discharge from GUH following this admission. Aibha’s mother Kathleen Conroy will say that Dr Moylett told her that she “should be referred to Temple Street for further and extensive blood tests,” he said.
Dr Casey referred Aibha for her final admission to GUH on December 10, 2011, when she presented to surgery with a history of vomiting and headache.
On examination her temperature was normal but her blood sugar level was 1.9 millimoles.
Dr Casey said it was “amazing” and “disconcerting” that she was able to tolerate this level and it made her referral “more urgent”.
At the start of the inquest, Mr Tansey made a submission that an expert witness commissioned by the family to review the case for a civil action be called to give evidence.
However, Dr Moylett’s barrister, Dr Simon Mills, said the witness’s report had no “probative or evidential value” for the inquest and he should not be called.
Dr Farrell said he would reserve his position on calling a coroner’s expert to give evidence.
Mr Tansey said that while the inquest is fact- finding, “the public have an interest in ensuring that if mistakes were made that those mistakes were not repeated and that lessons were learned,” he said.
“That if someone goes into Galway University Hospital tomorrow with a sick child they can be confident that the treatment administered in relation to that sick child will be appropriate”.
The inquest was adjourned for further hearing on November 18.