AN inquiry into child deaths at Northern Ireland’s hospitals has appealed for help to track down a missing and potentially crucial witness.
The issue was raised last week at the second progress hearing of the Inquiry into Hyponatraemia-related Deaths.
During proceedings last Thursday, the legal team for one of the bereaved families spoke out about the missing witness.
The inquiry is investigating the deaths of Adam Strain, Raychel Ferguson and Claire Roberts. During the preliminary hearing at Banbridge Court House, the legal team for Adam Strain’s family raised questions about the whereabouts of an anaethetistic nurse referred to in previous witness statements.
Adam Strain was four-years-old when he died in the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children on the 28th November 1995. His care and treatment is being examined by the inquiry in relation to the management of fluid balance and the choice and administration of intravenous fluids into his body.
Speaking to The Detail, David Hunter of Hunter Associates Solicitors, who represents the Strain family, said he believes any new witnesses have the potential to have a significant bearing on the inquiry.
“When we were going through the papers for the inquiry, they made reference to an anaethetistic nurse who may have been in theatre at the time when Adam was undergoing his kidney transplant,” he said.
“However, there is no statement from this witness and the inquiry isn’t clear at this stage on whether there even was a nurse present, but we believe there may have been for two reasons.
“One of the witnesses had previously said there was an anesthetic nurse there but that they couldn’t remember her name, while the other witnesses refers to the fact that it would be standard procedure to have an anesthetic nurse in an operation like that Adam’s, but they can’t remember if there was one or not.”
During last Thursday’s hearing the chairman said that they have made strenuous efforts to track down the witness in question, but have had no success as of yet. Mr O’Hara said he hoped the media present could help in finding the missing witness. No other media outlet was represented at the hearing.
We contacted a spokesperson for the Royal College of Nursing in Northern Ireland, they said: “The RCN has not, to date, been contacted by the public inquiry into hyponatraemia deaths in Northern Ireland in relation to tracing an anaesthetic nurse of interest to the inquiry team.”
Mr Hunter believes that there needs to be clarification on this as soon as possible.
“It’s a bit strange that the witnesses do refer to this nurse, but we don’t have a statement from them. If anybody has any further information on this we would ask them to either contact the inquiry or us.
“The family feels this that this could be important. Even if there wasn’t a nurse present, that in itself may have implications. If it’s standard procedure then why wasn’t there an anesthetic nurse present?”
The next hearing of the inquiry will take place in Banbridge on 12th September with the official hearings expected to start on Monday 7th November. In the meantime Mr Hunter is appealing for anyone with any information in relation to the witness to come forward.
He said: “The whole thing has just been a real ordeal for the Strain family and indeed all the families. I would ask anyone who believes they could assist even in the smallest way to come forward.
“The fact that it has gone on for so long has meant the families can’t get closure until it’s all over, so anything that can bring us closer to that end, should be considered in the inquiry.”
Last week The Detail reported that the Inquiry had been provided with information about a new case involving the death of a young girl at Antrim Area Hospital, six years after the inquiry was first announced.
At the latest hearing the chairman, Mr John O’Hara QC announced that he was considering a small number of other cases and if they were to be included in the inquiry, it would be revealed in due course.