Inquiry into toddler's death during transfer

By John Maslin of the Wanganui Chronicle -
The death of Sophie-Maree Hunter will be subject to a coronial inquiry. Photo / supplied to WGC
The death of Sophie-Maree Hunter will be subject to a coronial inquiry. Photo / supplied to WGC

The coroner has launched an inquiry into the death of a 2-year-old Wanganui girl as she was being transferred to Auckland's Starship children's Hospital.

The inquiry comes after Sophie-Maree Hunter and her parents twice went to the Whanganui Accident and Medical clinic (WAM) for treatment for the toddler's illness.

Sophie was taken to WAM on Monday last week after her parents, Scott and Sarah Hunter, became worried because she seemed out of sorts and was running a temperature.

On that visit, clinicians asked for a urine sample from the toddler but she was unable to provide one. She was taken home and a sample taken back later that day.

They went back to the clinic on Wednesday after Sophie did not appear to be any better. They were told the original urine sample had been lost and were asked for another, but Sophie was again unable to provide one at the time.

She then appeared to perk up and after two hours they went home.

On Saturday, the Hunters were visiting family in Feilding when they woke to find Sophie yellow and listless. They took her to Palmerston North Hospital where she was diagnosed with pneumonia.

When her condition deteriorated she was put into an ambulance and was on her way to the airfield to be flown to Starship but she died en route to the airport.

Both the Wanganui coroner's office and WAM's governing body, the Whanganui Regional Primary Health Organisation, have launched investigations in to the case.

Alan Mangan, a director of WAM, said the directors and staff of the clinic again wanted to express their "sincere condolences" to Sophie's parents and extended family.

"This type of tragic event affects everyone involved, from the family to health professionals to the wider community," Dr Mangan said.

But he said an unfortunate outcome was often that such events created an "environment of uncertainty and fear" around the safety of the health services.

"It's critical that the community has confidence in the health services provided and any lack of confidence is not reflected in a failure of parents to take their sick children to those services with possible grave consequences," he said.

He said the directors of WAM had full confidence in their team at the clinic and that included all the local GPs who provided services at the clinic. He said it was a very busy time at present with a lot of significant illnesses and that created longer waits (times) for people turning up.

A funeral service for Sophie was held in Wanganui yesterday.

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