Stephen McElroy inquest: Family hoping to get answers

Stephen McElroy
Stephen McElroy

The family of a Ballyward boy who died just hours after he was discharged from hospital are hoping his inquest this week will answer concerns they have about the standard of care he received.

The inquest into the tragic death of sports-mad Stephen McElroy (11), who passed away at Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry on March 29, 2015, is due to take place at Armagh Court on Thursday and Friday.

In the lead up to this week’s hearing, Stephen’s family have raised a number of serious concerns about the quality of care he received at Daisy Hill Accident and Emergency Department, and have alleged that a series of failings within the hospital and Southern Health Trust, led to his death.

Stephen, a P7 pupil at St Mary’s Primary School, was taken to the hospital shortly after 11:50pm on March 28, suffering from abdominal pain and vomiting.

The Rathfriland Football Club Youth player, who had a previous history of abdominal surgery for appendicitis and subsequent complications, was assessed and triaged as ‘urgent’, yet wasn’t seen until after 6am on March 29.

The family say he was diagnosed with constipation, was prescribed medicine and then discharged but when his condition didn’t improve and they contacted the A&E Department at 8am, he wasn’t recalled.

With his condition deteriorating, Stephen’s family took the decision to take him back to Daisy Hill Hospital. He collapsed on arrival at the A&E Department, and despite efforts to save him, he died shortly after 3.20pm.

Speaking ahead of the inquest, a statement issued on behalf of the family by Patrick Mullarkey of O’Reilly Stewart Solicitors said: “The family harbour grave concerns over the quality of the care afforded to the child at the time of his attendance at Daisy Hill Hospital. They allege misdiagnosis of his condition, a failure to admit and a failure to treat. Had he been correctly treated, the family allege he would have survived.”

The statement continued: “Over and above the alleged individual failings in this case, the family also contend there were systemic failings within the hospital and Trust that lead to this death. They contend that the A&E Department was understaffed by inexperienced staff that night and that there was a delay in care being provided. A Serious Adverse Incident Report prepared by the Trust highlighted difficulty in staffing the Department at that time.

“The media will be aware of recent reports concerning the proposed closure of the Department due to difficulties in recruiting experienced staff, lack of permanent consultant staff and reliance on short term locums. These issues have been identified in the post incident investigation and will figure in the forthcoming Inquest.”

A spokesperson for the Southern Health Trust said it would be “inappropriate” to make any comment ahead of the inquest, but stressed that “the Trust will participate fully in the inquest process.”