Friday 27 April 2018

Girl who had legs amputated after meningitis misdiagnosis settles case for €5.6m

L-R: Rachel and Verdun Hayes, parents of Gemma Hayes from Ballinlough, Cork, pictured leaving the Four Courts with their Solicitor, Colm O Riain Pic: Collins Courts
L-R: Rachel and Verdun Hayes, parents of Gemma Hayes from Ballinlough, Cork, pictured leaving the Four Courts with their Solicitor, Colm O Riain Pic: Collins Courts

Tim Healy

A GIRL who had to have both legs amputated below the knee after contracting meningitis when she was three has settled her High Court action against a medical practice for €5.6million.

When Gemma Hayes (now 15) was brought to the out-of-hours hours family GP service, South Doc, Kinsale Road, Cork vomiting, unwell and with a rash, a doctor diagnosed tonsillitis, the court heard.

Four-and-a-half hours later, when her concerned parents returned to South Doc with her, the correct diagnosis of meningitis was made and she was rushed to hospital.

John O'Mahony SC, for the family, said that valuable time was lost between the tonsillitis diagnosis and the correct diagnosis when the child could have gone to hospital and have been treated.

Counsel said when she was examined at 5.01 am, on the first visit to South Doc,  meningitis should have been diagnosed.

When she was later diagnosed with meningitis and referred to Cork University Hospital, counsel said, the child was in profound distress.

Counsel said as well as the amputations below the knee on both legs, Gemma had to have 132 operations in the last 12 years.

Through her mother Rachel Hayes, of Pic Du Jer Park, Ballinalough, Cork, Gemma sued South West Doctors on Call Ltd, with offices at St Finians Hospital, Killarney, Co Kerry, which was the provider of the out of hours service, South Doc on the Kinsale Road, Cork.

She also sued Dr Leon Britz, who worked at South Doc at the time, and who had examined and diagnosed her with tonsillitis on July 10, 2005.

The court was told liability was conceded but causation remained an issue between the parties.

It was claimed there was an alleged failure to have the necessary skill to provide an appropriate and competent after hours medical service.

It is also claimed there was a misdiagnosis of Gemma's condition and an  alleged failure to properly assess a rash on the child's body in a proper manner, including by using a glass.

Approving the settlement, Mr Justice Kevin Cross congratulated Gemma's parents, Rachel and Verdun Hayes, for the care they have given their daughter.  He said while what had happened was terrible, it could have been far worse.

Outside court, in a statement on behalf of the family by their solicitor,  Colm O'Riain, he said the settlement funds will be invested with a view to providing Gemma with the care and support she requires.

"It has been a long road to this day and Gemma has displayed great fortitude.

"She will shortly sit her Junior Cert exams and we wish her well," he said.

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