Probe into Darling Downs meningococcal deaths

Jasmyn Louise Carter-Maher died after contracting meningococcal septicaemia. Photo Facebook
Jasmyn Louise Carter-Maher died after contracting meningococcal septicaemia. Photo Facebook Facebook

HOW medical staff at two Darling Downs hospitals failed to detect sepsis in two patients is the focus of a coronial inquest in Toowoomba.

Jasmyn Louise Carter-Maher, 17, had been admitted to Warwick Hospital on August 3 last year and died the next morning from meningococcal septicaemia.

Coroner John Lock will hear evidence surrounding the teenager's admission and treatment at the hospital.

In an overview to both cases, counsel assisting the coroner Megan Jarvis said the teenager had gone to the hospital with headaches, dizziness and aches in her arms and legs.

Overnight her condition deteriorated and she developed a rash on her face, abdomen, chest and neck and had trouble breathing.

Yesterday marked the first anniversary of Ms Carter-Maher's death.

However, the first day of the inquest focused on the death of 86-year-old Verris Dawn Wright who was taken by family to Oakey Hospital on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, 2013, with abdominal pain.

After being given morphine and other medical treatment, Mrs Wright was sent home after she said the pain had gone.

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She was brought back to the hospital on Boxing Day and later died of septic shock arising from severe infection related to a then undiagnosed bowel obstruction.

Following her death, a review recommended the implementation of the Queensland Adult Deterioration Detection System (QADDS) to help hospital staff treat deteriorating patients.

Ms Jarvis submitted, though in place by the time of the death of Ms Carter-Maher, Warwick Hospital staff had not properly utilised the QADDS process.

Dr Elizabeth Hayem had been the GP on call when Mrs Wright presented at Oakey Hospital.

Dr Hayem told the inquest she had been called by nursing staff to the hospital and, because Mrs Wright was a small lady, she had ordered a small dose of morphine to help ease her pain.

After examining Mrs Wright at the hospital she thought her symptoms pointed to a urinary tract infection or a possible kidney stone.

She had ordered an abdominal X-ray but later when Mrs Wright said the pain had gone she was prescribed some medication and allowed to go home.

Dr Hayem said she could not remember if the person responsible for doing the X-ray had not been at the hospital and may have taken some time to get there but for whatever reason the X-ray wasn't done before Mrs Wright went home.

She said an X-ray might not have picked up a bowel obstruction if the ailment was in its very early stages but, in hindsight, she would have followed up and had the abdominal X-ray done.

At the time she was happy to let the patient go home under the instructions that if she had any other symptoms she was then to return to the hospital, she said.

Asked by Ms Jarvis if the pain killer morphine could have masked the pain associated with bowel obstruction symptoms, Dr Hayem said the low dose of morphine wouldn't have been enough to mask that pain and that, in any case, Mrs Wright's vital signs at that stage had been good.

Ms Jarvis told the inquiry that from the time Mrs Wright was admitted back to the hospital on the morning of Boxing Day to her death about 12.30pm that day she had not been seen by a doctor.

The inquiry, which is to look into whether better practices could be implemented at the hospitals to ensure such incidents don't happened again, continues today.



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