Toddler ‘refused hospital bed’ before she became ‘blue and floppy’ and died of flu

Three-year-old Caitlin Cruz died within hours after arriving at a hospital, after she collapsed in her father’s arms at a GP appointment. An inquest has opened into how the child died

    Caitlin Cruz was ‘refused a hospital bed’ before she became ‘floppy and blue’ and died of flu, an inquest has heard (Image: GOFUNDME)

    A toddler was refused a hospital bed before she became "floppy and blue" and died from a virus, an inquest has heard.

    Caitlin Cruz died from flu complications less than 24 hours after she arrived at a hospital in October 2016.

    The three-year-old girl went home from a daycare in Sydney with a fever, and stayed at home for several days to recover.

    She was taken to a GP on October 21, but her condition worsened and she returned the next day.

    But as Caitlin sat waiting on her father's lap at a Rhodes GP clinic, she "appeared to pass out and lose consciousness" and vomited onto her shirt, counsel assisting Maria Gerace said in an opening statement at the coroners court.

    Caitlin collapsed on her father's lap while at a GP appointment
    (Image: GOFUNDME)

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    Mr Gerace said Caitlin complained of a sore stomach, was lethargic and looked as if she might faint, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

    GP Sumeena Qidwai, who was examining Caitlin when she collapsed, screamed at her assistant to call an ambulance.

    “She was floppy and blue and her face and body looked pale,” she told the court.

    “I was extremely concerned she’s probably the sickest child I have ever seen.”

    Caitlin was refused a bed by two separate nurses at the Westmead Children's Hospital before she died from flu complications, an inquest had heard
    (Image: GOFUNDME)

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    Caitlin was resuscitated and taken to The Children's Hospital at Westmead without a referral note because Dr Qidwai felt her life was in imminent danger.

    Paramedic Julia Hickman said she did inform the nurse of Caitlin's blue lips and unresponsiveness, and that she had to advocate for Caitlin to be admitted to a bed, after two nurses said "she can go to the waiting room".

    Ms Hickman told the inquest: "First of all, we didn’t have a parent with us.

    "We said 'I don't think it’s appropriate she go to the waiting room.'"

    Caitlin died less than 24 hours after being admitted to hospital
    (Image: GOFUNDME)

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    After one nurse noticed Caitlin was receiving fluids through a cannula in her arm she agreed she “had to” have a bed, Ms Hickman said.

    Mr Gerace then said the Caitlin had to wait three-and-a-half hours for an electrocardiogram to be performed on her because the machine was out of battery.

    She was then transferred to a ward overnight without being assessed by a senior clinician.

    Caitlin's condition deteriorated the next morning and was admitted to intensive care.

    She died at 11.15am on October 23 after a 45-minute resuscitation attempt.

    Caitlin's parents hope the inquest will give them an understanding of how their daughter died
    (Image: GOFUNDME)

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    Her cause of death was determined to be complications from an influenza B viral infection. An autopsy found 50ml of fluid around her heart, which was described as "significant".

    Ms Gerace said the amount of fluid may ultimately be the cause for Caitlin's rapid deterioration and death.

    The Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) found "a number of systemic shortcomings" and found Caitlin's care "inadequate in a number of respects".

    The HCCC also found it "unacceptable" that the emergency investigation took so long.

    Catilin's parents is hopeful the inquest can shed some light on what exactly happened to her daughter.

    She told reporters outside the coroner's court: "We are not doing this just for Caitlin, we’re doing this for her little sister who will never know her."

    Mr Cruz said his hope was "no other child has to fall through the cracks like Caitlin did".

    The inquest continues.


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