Girl, 4, died from meningitis after doctors ‘dismissed her symptoms as a cold’

February 12, 2013 | by | 0 Comments

A four-year-girl died from meningitis after bungling medics repeatedly dismissed her symptoms as a cold, her distraught mother claimed today.

Morgan Phelan was rushed to A&E suffering from a high temperature and a rash all over her body – tell-tale signs of the deadly condition.

Shockingly, she had to wait four hours before a doctor examined her because of a shortage of staff working on the children’s ward at Good Hope Hospital, Sutton Coldfield, West Mids.

Morgan Phelan died from meningitis after doctors dismissed her symproms as a cold

Morgan Phelan died from meningitis after doctors dismissed her symproms as a cold

When she was finally seen at 11.30pm on January 17, see was so ill she was asleep when a doctor examined her who then told her mother Gemma she was suffering from a “bad cold” and ordered her to go home.

The next day Morgan’s condition deteriorated but when Gemma rang the hospital for advice she was told not to bring her in because her temperature was not high enough.

But on Saturday, January 19, Gemma dialled 999 after Morgan collapsed on the sofa not breathing and was ‘glassy eyed’.

Paramedics were unable to restart her heart and she was taken to Birmingham Children’s Hospital where she was officially pronounced dead at 5.10pm.

Just a week after her death Harvey Ward at Good Hope Hospital was shut because of a “lack of appropriately qualified staff.”

Hospital chiefs have now launched an urgent investigation into staffing levels to discover if Morgan’s death could have been prevented.

Morgan's heartbroken parents Gemma and Ryan hold a picture of the toddler

Morgan’s heartbroken parents Gemma and Ryan hold a picture of the toddler

Gemma, 22, from Kingstanding, Birmingham, blasted medics for “failing” her daughter by ignoring the early tell-tale signs of meningitis.

She said: “Morgan was discharged at one in the morning and they told us it was a viral infection – or as one doctor told us a ‘bad cold’.

“They performed the final checks while she was still asleep and sent us on our way.

“She had no clothes with her, it was snowing and she didn’t even have shoes on.

“Myself and my husband don’t drive so we had to wait in the snow for a taxi.

“When we got home she went straight to bed and stayed there, when we got up she didn’t seem interested in getting out of bed and just lay there which wasn’t like her.

“We phoned the hospital and they said ‘unless her temperature has gone up please don’t bring her back in.’

Good Hope Hospital in Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands where Morgan was discharged from while suffering fatal meningitis

Good Hope Hospital in Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands where Morgan was discharged from while suffering fatal meningitis

Staff at the hospital, pictured, are accused of sending home the dying toddler because they didn't have enough staff

Staff at the hospital, pictured, are accused of sending home the dying toddler because they didn’t have enough staff

“I offered her fizzy pop, tried everything to get her out of bed but she wasn’t moving.

“On the Saturday she looked like she was getting better so I ran down the shop to get her some sweets.

“I came back and she didn’t look right, she wasn’t breathing properly and she wasn’t responding.

“We called the ambulance and while we waited I was trying to get her to say ‘mum’, ‘please say mum’.

“The paramedic arrived and laid her on the floor.

“He told me to get an overnight bag because when the ambulance arrived she would need to go straight to hospital.

“She was hooked up to a heart machine in the living room and it was flat-lining, I said ‘Oh my God, is she dead?’

“The ambulance came and took her to the hospital, when we got there they told me she’d been declared dead.

“They told me they’d do some tests and we’d know why she’d died two to three days later, but we never heard anything.

“It wasn’t until we went to our GP surgery later that we found out that she had fluid in her lungs and fluid on her spine – signs of meningitis.

“No-one had told us anything.”

Shockingly, a week after her death Gemma and husband Ryan, 27, a meat-packer, received a letter from the hospital referring to Morgan as a “he” instead of “she”.

The couple, who also have a two-year-old son Kian, believe Morgan could have survived if doctors had prescribed her with antibiotics when she was first seen in hospital.

Gemma said: “We are devastated, she was such a lively little girl and she was very clever.

“Her school work was more like a six-year-old.

“I was training at college to be a midwife but that’s not going to happen now, I can’t enter a profession I don’t trust.

“They have failed my little girl, on Thursday we had to have her cremated.

“She should be at school running around with her friends, not in a box in the living room.

“I should be at college and my husband should be at work, we shouldn’t be sitting here crying our eyes out all day.

“They can’t tell me they didn’t let Morgan down in a very bad way.

“My little girl shouldn’t be dead, if they had taken note of her symptoms and given her the right antibiotics I believe she’d still be here today.

“A child doesn’t just develop meningitis overnight, when we took her in to that hospital on January 17 she was dying and they could have done something.

“I just want answers and to know why they can’t answer anything that we have asked.

“They know that they are responsible for Morgan’s death and that they haven’t done their job properly.”

An inquest has been opened and adjourned pending reports, and the hospital has launched an investigation in to Morgan’s treatment.

Sue Moore, managing director for Good Hope Hospital, said: “This is a tragic case and we would like to send our sincerest condolences to the family of Morgan Phelan during this very difficult time.

“We take the care and safety of all of our patients very seriously and we are currently undertaking an investigation into Morgan’s sad death which will be shared with the family.

“Unfortunately, due to patient confidentiality, we cannot comment on any individual patient’s treatment.

“We have arranged to meet with the family so we can discuss and address their concerns fully.

“Our decision to close Harvey Ward has been taken following the advice of clinicians and is in response to ensuring safe staffing levels within specialist paediatric nursing.”

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