A baby treated like an 'abandoned animal' died because of 'serious failures' at Birmingham Children's Hospital following open heart surgery, a coroner said today. Hayley Fullerton died one month after her first birthday - 12 days after being transferred from intensive care following the corrective surgery to help blood flow from her heart to her lungs. Recording a narrative verdict today at the end of the inquest into Hayley's death Aidan Cotter, coroner for Birmingham and Solihull, said: 'The failures by a number of the staff at Birmingham Children's Hospital were serious but not gross.' Speaking afterwards, Hayley's mother Paula Stevenson called the staff at the hospital 'bullies, cowards and hypocrites' and said her child's death was 'preventable and predictable'. 'Hayley died like an abandoned animal - nobody listened to me while Hayley was dying and nobody listened to me when Hayley was dead,' she said.
Inquest: Paula Stevenson holding her daughter, Hayley Fullerton, who died at Birmingham Children's Hospital one month after her first birthday after undergoing corrective surgery for a heart condition
Ms Stevenson said during the hearing Hayley had been failed 'abominably' by medical staff on ward 11, describing her experience as 'brutal'. She also said staff neglected Hayley, 'dumped' her at the end of a ward and ignored the family's concerns about her breathing as she recovered from her surgery.
Hayley died on November 11 2009, 12 days after being transferred from the hospital's intensive care unit to a general ward. At the inquest's conclusion, Mr Cotter read out a list of failings on the hospital's treatment of baby Hayley - which resulted in her passing away. 'There were futher failures to ensure physiotherapy was carried out in a timely manner, and also a failure to refer her to the paediatric intensive care unit. There was a failure to question why Hayley continued to need oxygen. There was a failure to arrange a chest X ray on November 9, and another failure to review that X ray in a timely manner.' Mr Cotter added that her medical charts were not up to date, saying: 'an inaccurate or incomplete chart is at best a waste of time - and at worst, positively dangerous.'
Mistakes: The Coroner also listed several failures including failure to question why Hayley continued to need oxygen, failure to arrange follow up chest X-ray prior and failure to refer to Paediatric Intensive Care unit
Brave: 13-months-old Hayley Fullerton surrounded by toys in her hospital bed
Birmingham Children's Hospital said in a statement it had taken 'all the steps possible' to learn from the child's death, adding management had 'improved the way we do things to ensure that no children or families experience anything like this again. They also offered 'a heartfelt apology for the distress that has been caused'. Mother Paula Stevenson, who flew to the UK from Australia to attend today's hearing with Hayley's father Bobby Fullerton, has raised concerns about the care given to her baby.
Heartbroken: Paula Stevenson said the hospital had treated her beloved child like an animal
Ms Stevenson, who is from Northern Ireland but now lives on Australia's Gold Coast, said the operation was a success and Hayley was transferred to the hospital's Paediatric Intensive Care Unit, where she spent 17 days before being moved on to a normal ward. On November 9 an X-ray revealed that Hayley's right lung had collapsed. She was given physiotherapy the following day but on the morning of November 11 both lungs collapsed and she went into cardiac arrest. She was pronounced dead after a team of doctors spent 20 minutes trying to save her, the inquest heard.
Tragic: Serious failings led to Hayley's death and the hospital involved has apologised
Speaking after the inquest verdict was returned at Sutton Coldfield Town Hall, Hayley’s mother said she believed her 'beautiful little girl' would still be alive if staff had come to her aid sooner. 'Today is Hayley’s day - I have been waiting three years to speak up,' Ms Stevenson said, adding: 'Our entire family has been completely devastated by what happened and to this day we continue to grieve for Hayley. 'I still cannot understand how trained medics could ignore the fact that she was slowly deteriorating before their eyes. They had seven days to spot that something was seriously wrong but all those precious opportunities were missed. My parents and I never left Hayley’s bedside during the entire time she was in hospital and it was obvious to us, despite our lack of medical training, that she was a very sick little girl who needed help.'
Tragic: Hayley, one, did not have her medical charts properly kept up to date by staff, a coroner said today
Ms Stevenson, who now plans to sue the trust which runs the hospital, said: 'I did all I could to try to get the nurses to help her but my appeals just fell on deaf ears. At one point, after I had complained that Hayley wasn’t getting the treatment she needed, she was moved to an isolation room, with staff claiming she might have swine flu. This diagnosis was later found to be completely wrong but it meant we were moved even further from the nurses’ station and couldn’t attract their attention easily. It was as though Hayley had been placed in isolation as a punishment for me daring to speak up on her behalf.’
In an internal review of Hayley’s death, the NHS found that a “hierarchy” among medics deterred junior staff from referring Hayley back to a paediatric intensive care unit in the days before she died. Ms Stevenson added: 'It is to their shame that not one of them saw fit to ask for an urgent second opinion.' In a statement issued after the coroner’s verdict, the Birmingham Children’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said: 'When Hayley died we recognised that some of her care fell below our usual high standards and for this we offer a heartfelt apology for the distress that has been caused. 'We’ve taken all the steps possible to learn from this. We’ve gone beyond the recommendations of our investigation and improved the way we do things to ensure that no children or families experience anything like this again.'
Source: Daily Mail UK