Family of student who died receive payout from DHB

By Martin Johnston

Zachary Gravatt died after being suddenly struck down with meningococcal disease. Photo / Supplied
Zachary Gravatt died after being suddenly struck down with meningococcal disease. Photo / Supplied

The family of the late Zachary Gravatt, who died of meningococcal disease at Auckland City Hospital, have received a payment from the Auckland District Health Board "in recognition of their losses" arising out of the 22-year-old medical student's death.

The DHB announced the payment this afternoon in a joint statement with Mr Gravatt's family.

The statement said the DHB had made an "ex gratia" payment to the family, but did not name the sum.

"The losses that the family suffered, and the payment itself, are private matters."

"Auckland DHB acknowledges that with different treatment Zachary might have survived. Auckland DHB's position is that meningococcal disease is an aggressive and deadly disease and, while the shortcomings in Zachary's care occurred, these did not cause his death. Sadly many meningitis cases have a fatal outcome despite the best of care."

Mr Gravatt died in July 2009 during the swine flu epidemic.

The joint statement notes that coroner Brandt Shortland, relying on an independent medical report by Dr Roger Reynolds, found shortcomings in the care Mr Gravatt received at the hospital.

"... [these included] that there were delays in treating Zachary, in considering the diagnosis of meningococcal disease and in referring Zachary to the department of critical care medicine.

"Auckland DHB has accepted these shortcomings as identified by Dr Reynolds and found by the coroner. Auckland DHB sincerely and unreservedly apologises to Dr [Lance] Gravatt [Zachary's father] and the Gravatt family for the shortcomings.

"Auckland DHB accepts that a number of aspects of the shortcomings represented substandard care of Zachary at Auckland City Hospital.

"The Gravatt family and the Auckland DHB do hold different views on whether the shortcomings in Zachary's care caused his death. The Gravatt family sincerely believes that these shortcomings resulted in Zachary's death, in the sense that Zachary could have survived with better treatment. The Gravatt family has suffered considerable distress as a result."

As part of the coroner's inquest, the DHB and the Gravatts agreed on measures to minimise the risk of the identified shortcomings occurring again.

"These changes have now been made and the lessons of Zachary's case have been taken up by the health sector," the statement said. "This is partly due to the tireless efforts of Dr Gravatt."

- NZ Herald

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