Nine-year-old Adelaide girl Leila Baartse-Harkin was playing on a swingset in October, 2015—like any other child her age—when tragedy struck.
Leila jumped from the swing and belly-flopped onto the ground. Although she was taken to hospital for treatment, she was discharged and died from a perforated bowel and peritonitis, the ABC reports.
A coroner has made the heartbreaking finding that the 9-year-old's death could have been prevented if she had received proper care.
"I find that her death would probably have been prevented by abdominal surgery if Leila had been kept in the WCH and had been observed overnight," Deputy state coroner Anthony Schapel said.
"She should not have been discharged."
In the wake of Leila’s death, Mr Schapel recommended that a medical hotline should be established called “Leila's Lifeline”. The hotline would provide parents or carers with a number to call if they are worried about the diagnosis or treatment offered by doctors.
In a Change.Org petition, Leila's parents have also called for the potentially life-saving line to be established.
"In the day before and the morning of Leila's death we felt helpless, did not know where to get help and the health professionals we took Leila too misdiagnosed, dismissed our concerns and 're-asssured' us that Leila was fine," Edie and Ricky Harkin wrote on the page.
"We felt like no-one cared and no-one was listening. We were given no information on what to do if she got worse, any possible diagnosis and were given no information on our rights or a discharge summary or plan."
The parents added: “Please sign this petition to assist in preventing further needless deaths by bringing Leila's Lifeline to South Australia and give a voice to carers. We believe it will save lives.”
The hotline is based on ‘Ryan’s Rule’, which was introduced by Queensland Health in 2013.
Ryan’s Rule is a three-step process in which patients, families of carers can raise a concern if a patient's condition is not improving as expected. After raising a concern with a doctor or nurse, plus a nurse in charge of the shift, parents can call 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) for assistance.
The rule was introduced after the death of 2-year-old Queensland boy Ryan Saunders, who tragically died in 2007, The Age reports. Ryan had been suffering from all-over body pain and was misdiagnosed by his GP as having mumps. Doctors failed to diagnose his bacterial infection and a coroner found Ryan’s death was likely preventable. At the time, Ryan’s parents felt their concerns were not being heard.
The number anyone in Queensland can call is 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84).
New South Wales also has a REACH program (Recognise, Engage, Act, Call, Help is on its way) for patients and families whose health concerns are not addressed. You can find out more here.
You can find out more about The Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights here.