Ballina District Hospital where the patient was admitted before being transferred.
Ballina District Hospital where the patient was admitted before being transferred.

Child's death baffles health network

THE Local Area Health Network is investigating what illness was responsible for the sudden death of a seven-year-old girl at Lismore Base Hospital this week.

Authorities have not ruled out meningococcal disease, a severe and contagious infection that can come on rapidly.

On Monday afternoon, the young patient was admitted to Ballina District Hospital and later transferred to the emergency department at Lismore Base Hospital via ambulance.

Not long after, the girl died in the hospital's pediatric unit, but the cause of her sudden downfall is still unknown.

It is understood people who came in direct contact with the patient were advised to take precautionary medication on the assumption the girl may have had meningococcal disease.

But Northern NSW Local Area Health Network chief executive Chris Crawford said they had not ruled meningococcal in or out.

“But sometimes it can be difficult to pick up these things early,” he said.

“There are other explanations that are more likely and other possible causes.

“We are still investigating it with an emphasis on trying to find the cause of death.”

Mr Crawford said they were investigating the case and going over every detail.

The death of the young girl came to light after a reader wrote to The Northern Star suggesting a lack of equipment at Ballina Hospital may have contributed to the tragedy.

But Mr Crawford strongly defended the way the patient was dealt with at both Ballina and Lismore hospitals.

“Not every district hospital has the infrastructure and capability to handle all types of illnesses and that is why we have a base hospital,” he said.

“They did the right thing in transporting her to Lismore Base Hospital. We don't believe either of the hospitals has treated this in a way they shouldn't have.

“We don't know what the cause of death is and have not found anything that was dealt with inappropriately, but the investigation is ongoing.”


Meningococcal disease characteristics

Symptoms: Sudden onset of fever; headache; neck stiffness; joint pain; rash of red-purple spots that doesn’t disappear with gentle pressure; vomiting; dislike of bright lights.

Symptoms in young children may be less precise and may include high-pitched crying.

If a person may have meningococcal symptoms, see a doctor immediately, it can come on very quickly

Difficult to diagnose in the early stages

Treated with antibiotics

Source: Department of Health