Chief Executive deeply sorry for pain and suffering caused to families

Belfast Trust Chief Executive Colm Donaghy

Belfast Trust Chief Executive Colm Donaghy

By Niall McCracken

THE Chief Executive of the Belfast Trust has said the organisation regrets the “pain and suffering” experienced by the families of the children whose deaths are being investigated by the child fluid death inquiry, going back almost 18 years.

Speaking during the final week of public hearings at the Hyponatraemia Inquiry in Banbridge, Colm Donaghy said he was giving evidence as a parent as well as a chief executive.

Mr Donaghy said communication with the families had not been sufficiently transparent and he was “deeply sorry” for the role the Belfast Trust played in prolonging the agony of the families.

The Hyponatraemia Inquiry was announced in 2004. For more background information on the issues being examined by the inquiry please click here.

Other senior members of the Belfast Trust were also giving evidence at today’s hearing, including the Belfast Trust’s Medical Director, Dr Tony Stevens.

At the beginning of this morning’s evidence, Mr Donaghy, who had previously been the Chief Executive of the Southern and the Northern Trusts, was permitted to read a statement on behalf of the Belfast Trust by the chair of the inquiry, Mr Justice John O’Hara.

Mr Donaghy: Let me begin by categorically stating that the Belfast trust regrets the pain and suffering experienced by the families of Adam Strain, Claire Roberts, Lucy Crawford and Raychel Ferguson and Conor Mitchell and apologises for all the shortcomings in care at the Royal Hospitals that have been identified either prior to this inquiry or during the hearings.

I’m here in front of you today as chief executive but also as a parent. The unqualified agony and pain felt by the parents of the five children cannot be underestimated. The abject sorrow and grief felt by the families I know was not lessened with the passing of time. In fact I fully accept it is as raw today as it was then exacerbated by the actions of the three trusts involved. For the part the Belfast Trust has played in prolonging this agony I’m deeply sorry. I’m aware through this inquiry how litigation has been handled by the Belfast Trust has added to the hurt and grief felt by the families.

Communication with the families was not sufficiently transparent. Our medical and nursing staff missed the opportunity to reflect on what may have gone wrong and consequently there was a lack of communication with the wider acute hospital network in Northern Ireland and the Department of Health. The evidence presented shows that training in fluid management in children was inconsistent, record keeping was incomplete and our governance was not sufficiently developed or robust.

Mr Donaghy said he believed that lessons had been learned.

Mr Donaghy: Chairman, I want to assure you that in all my year as a Chief Executive, the Inquiry into Hyponatraemia-Related Deaths in Children in Northern Ireland has had the most significant impact on my trust in terms of the learning from it. There is no member of staff who has remained untouched by the inquiry’s impact. I also want to assure you that the trust now has the necessary framework and mechanisms in place to implement the recommendations of this inquiry when required.

Mr Donaghy concluded his statement by saying that he wished to offer an invitation to meet with the families to provide any further “reassurances about the lessons we have learned.”

The inquiry continues.