The death of an 11-year-old girl from a remote Northern Territory Indigenous community could well have been prevented after doctors repeatedly failed to recognise septicaemia, her inquest has heard.
The girl’s worried parents brought her to Gove Hospital late one night in May 2014 for an unknown infection that was suspected to be related to a swollen ankle.
It was the third time the child from Yirrkala in Arnhem Land had presented to health authorities in three days.
She had a high heart and respiratory rate, a fever and couldn’t walk on her left foot because it was so painful.
She was not seen by a doctor or given blood testing, but was given painkillers and antibiotics and again sent home.
“When she returned 13 hours later it was all too late,” Counsel Assisting the Coroner Kelvin Currie said.
“Her body went into septic shock and her organs shut down. After four and a half hours of intensive resuscitation effort she died.”
Just six months before her death, sepsis recognition guidelines were changed across Territory hospitals in response to recommendations made by the Coroner after a mother died in similar circumstances at the same hospital.
“Sepsis recognition criteria were not followed, the doctor did not recognise the seriousness of the symptoms and no consultation with Royal Darwin Hospital was sought (until it was too late),” Mr Currie told the Darwin Coroner’s Court on Thursday.
“This may well have been a preventable death.”
Mr Currie said the serious bloodstream infection is often not easily detectable.
“But early detection is vitally important,” he said.
“Failure to do so will often lead to death.”