Hospital says sorry over double meningitis tragedy

IPSWICH: Ipswich Hospital has today apologised to the families of two meningitis victims after an investigation uncovered serious failings.

The hospital launched a SUDOC [sudden death of child] investigation after 11-month-old Ellie Parsons, and two-year-old Rhianna Warner died from meningococcal septicaemia at the Heath Road hospital in December last year.

Today Peter Donaldson, the hospital trust’s medical director, admitted there was a “failure by staff” to give proper attention to the symptoms and added there will be a detailed action plan to ensure appropriate guidance is followed in the future.”

Ipswich Hospital spokeswoman Jan Rowsell added: “We are very sorry and offer our sincere condolences to the families.”

Both families were too upset to speak to The Evening Star about the outcome of the investigation.

Ellie, of Felixstowe Road, Ipswich, died on December 14 within ten hours of getting the symptoms. Then on New Year’s Eve, two-year-old toddler Rhianna, of Damselfly Road, Ipswich, died suddenly after suffering symptoms of meningitis. It was found they both died from meningococcal septicemia.

A third youngster, Rhianna’s playmate Kyron Vince, died a day after his friend although it was later discovered he died from complications, not meningitis as originally suspected. Two more cases of adults dying from the disease this year have also come to light.

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Yesterday Peter Donaldson, the hospital trust’s medical director and Gwen Collins, director of nursing and quality, met with Ellie and Rhianna’s family to share the results of the investigations.

Mr Donaldson said: “We promised to leave no stone unturned in carrying out these investigations so that we could answer the questions each family understandably have of the hospital.

“The onset of this form of septicaemia, is often rapid after a mild start and it is often fatal whatever treatment is given. The investigations could not show that the outcome for these children would have been different. However, they have shown that, in both cases, there was a failure by staff at this hospital to pay sufficient attention to specific observations that could have given rise to a greater degree of suspicion that the children might be suffering from a more life-threatening infection.

“These were not the failings of individuals within the hospital so much as a failure of the hospital to ensure that the appropriate guidance for assessing children presenting with a fever was fully understood and followed.

There is now a detailed action plan that will be fully monitored by the hospital board to ensure that the proper guidance is now followed.”

n Have you suffered a tragedy and want to tell us your story? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstar

n During the cases of Meningitis in the town, The Evening Star printed posters warning of the signs of the illness. For a copy of the poster please contact the newsdesk on 01473 324790 or send an e-mail to starnews@