Coroner wants change to out-of-hours service after baby death

Any patient phoning three times should be immediately seen by a doctor

Eleven calls had been made to the Westdoc service by the father of the sick baby, who later died, eight of them before he was referred to and seen by GP.

Eleven calls had been made to the Westdoc service by the father of the sick baby, who later died, eight of them before he was referred to and seen by GP.

Thu, Dec 12, 2013, 20:50

A coroner has recommended that out-of-hours GP services should ensure that any patient who phones three times in connection with a medical problem should be immediately seen by a doctor.

The recommendation was made at the end of a resumed inquest into the death of baby Oisin Clancy who died at Galway University Hospital on January 7 last year, just a week after his birth.

His parents, David and Catherine, from Ballybaun, Headford, Co Galway had earlier told the inquest they had been in repeated contact with the out-of-hours Westdoc service after becoming concerned that he wasn’t feeding in the early hours of January 6 last.

They only succeeded in having their baby seen by a doctor after firmly insisting.

Phone records indicated that there had been a total of eleven calls between Mr Clancy and the Westdoc service, eight of them before baby Oisin was referred to and seen by GP, Dr Thomas Rea.

The inquest heard that, following Mr Clancy’s second call, the case had been listed as ‘routine’ by Westdoc.

West Galway Coroner, Dr Ciaran MacLoughlin observed that, as a GP, if he had received a second call about a five-day-old baby, he would not regard it as routine. The protocol in operation at Westdoc may not be sound, he said.

He believed that the Westdoc practice of adhering to the protocol of listing such calls as routine should be abandoned, as no two people or medical cases were ever the same.

Dr Rea said he examined Oisin for 51 minutes and his condition did not seem alarming. He treated him for colic, told his parents to call back if they had any concern and supplied them with a letter for hospital admission if they felt it necessary.

Dr Rea said he was very distraught when he heard of the child’s death. He had never experienced a case of suspected meningitis in this way in 40 years of practice.

Baby Oisin died from overwhelming sepsis and meningitis, caused by Group A Strep, the inquest was told. Pathologist, Dr Grace Callagy said that she had never come across a case of an infant contracting meningitis from Group A strep.

A colleague with 40 years experience had only known of one such case.

Dr MacLoughlin returned a verdict in accordance with the medical evidence and described it as a very distressing inquest, particularly for Mr and Mrs Clancy.

Offering his sympathy to them and their extended family, he recommended that whenever three calls are made to an agency, the caller should be offered the facility to see a doctor immediately.

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