Girl (3) settles case over brain damage during birth for €2.5m

HSE and Kerry General Hospital apologise ‘unreservedly’ to child for injury at delivery

Colleen and Kevin Worthington, of Clounsharragh, Cloghane, Castlegregory, Co. Kerry pictured speaking to the media outside the Four Court. Photograph: Collins Courts

Colleen and Kevin Worthington, of Clounsharragh, Cloghane, Castlegregory, Co. Kerry pictured speaking to the media outside the Four Court. Photograph: Collins Courts

 

The Health Service Executive (HSE) and Kerry General Hospital have apologised unreservedly at the High Court to a girl who suffered brain damage during her birth at the hospital.

Skye Worthington(3) settled her action against the HSE on terms including an interim payment of €2.52m to cover the next three years.

Through her mother, Colleen Worthington, Cloghane, Castlegregory, Co Kerry, the child sued as a result of injuries sustained during her delivery at Kerry General Hospital, Tralee, in April 2011. The court was told liability had been admitted.

Mr Justice Kevin Cross was told the child has cerebral palsy, has to be fed through a tube, can communicate only with her eyes and can sit only for short periods. Had she been delivered 15 minutes earlier, she would not have been injured, the court was told.

In court, Bruce Antoniotti SC, for the child, read an apology from the general manager of Kerry General Hospital, TJ O’Connor, on behalf of the defendants.

“HSE South/South West Hospital Group and the maternity department of Kerry General Hospital wish to apologise unreservedly to you and your family for the birth injury caused to your daughter Skye at the time of her delivery.” it stated.

“Whilst it was not intentional and it cannot be undone, we have learned lessons from the management of Skye’s birth by having a formal review of which you were part. This has helped clarify a number of important issues.”

The statement also said: “I do not underestimate how traumatic this has been for you and your family but I can assure you that lessons have been learned and acted upon with the ultimate aim of ensuring the safety of our patients at all times. On behalf of the HSE, we are truly sorry for what occurred.”

Approving the settlement, Mr Justice Kevin Cross said the apology was “very meaningful”, “out of the ordinary” and not “just a formation of words”.

Mr Antoniotti said Skye’s parents were most grateful for the apology and it greatly helped them.

The judge said it was a very good settlement and he hoped Skye will now get all the equipment and help she needs.

When the case returns to court in three years time, the Worthingtons can then decide whether to opt or a lump sum final payment or, if the necessary legislation is in place, annual periodic payments to cover future care needs.

Earlier, outlining the case, Mr Antoniotti said Mrs Worthington was admitted to Kerry General Hospital on April 21st, 2011.

Counsel said the baby was healthy and the CTG trace was reassuring. After 4am on April 22nd, a drain of meconium was noticed and syntocinon, a drug used to speed up labour, was administered after 10am.

At 10.58am, the contractions were very strong and there was a prolonged deceleration noted in the baby’s heartbeat, counsel said. According to his side, the “cardinal error” was that the deceleration in the heartbeat caused by the contractions was ignored. At this stage, syntocinon should have been stopped, counsel said.

Syntocinon was increased at noon and, just before 3pm, the CTG trace said was “pathological”, counsel said.

His side were very critical of the steps taken and contended the baby could have been delivered and spared 25 minutes of acute hypoxia and escaped injury. The baby was delivered by emergency caesarean but was flat and was transferred to Cork University Hospital where she received excellent care, he added.

Outside court, Kevin and Colleen Worthington said Skye, their only child, has to fight for her place on this earth, sometimes fighting for every breath, but is “feisty and determined” and they are very proud of her.

“We don’t know what route Skye’s life will take, but this settlement will help pave that route, and give her the tools she needs to thrive. If we could return this settlement and magically enable Skye to walk and tell us she loves us or where she has pain, we would, but that’s not an option for us,” Mrs Worthington said.

“Finally, we accept the State’s apology,” she said. “One day Skye will read it and we’ll be able to explain.”