DOCTORS have been severely criticised after a toddler who was known to be at risk bled to death in hospital because of a “failure to communicate” when senior staff left for the weekend.
Medical experts said Tharun Umashankar, two, could have been saved if medics at Sheffield Children’s Hospital had acted more quickly and worked together to detect the bleed and operate.
The criticism comes just a day after it was revealed that police were investigating the death of two-month-old Hanna Fareem at the hospital. Three staff have been suspended over that incident.
Independent expert David Crabbe, a paediatric surgeon, said an endoscopy to look at Tharun’s digestive system should have been carried out when he was admitted on Saturday, July 10, 2010.
He told the Sheffield inquest: “What was a complete failure was the lack of collaboration between surgeons and gastro-enterologists. Closer teamwork would have resulted in a different outcome.”
Recording a narrative verdict, coroner Chris Dorries said: “On the basis of expert opinion there was a failure to plan and or a failure to communicate about a child known to be at serious risk.”
The boy had endured three endoscopies at the hospital in the previous fortnight after vomiting blood and suffering stomach pain but was thought well enough to be discharged on Friday, July 9, 2010.
Consultant paediatric gastro-enterologist Dr David Campbell, who was in overall charge, although off duty that weekend, said he left instructions to be called if the boy had a serious bleed again.
Tharun was readmitted on the Saturday, after mother Sentamil, 38, became worried, but paediatric registrar Dr Tafadzwa Makaya told the inquest she had not been told to alert Dr Campbell.
The boy’s condition worsened and Mrs Umashankar, from Barnsley, said that by 6.30am “all the doctors were in panic and confused”. She said when Dr Campbell later arrived: “I believed he was going to save my son.”
However, despite a blood transfusion, Tharun failed to respond and he died at 9am on the Sunday. The family are now taking civil action for damages.
Police said an investigation was “ongoing” into the death of Hanna Fareem, who was born last October with a rare condition which affected her breathing. Officers said the probe was over the administration of a controlled drug.
The hospital extended its condolences to Tharun’s family and said procedures had been changed.