The mother of a baby who died of meningococcal meningitis after being transferred to five different hospitals says health authorities robbed her son of the chance to fight for his life.
Elijah Slavkovic died on June 10, 2009 in Royal Melbourne Hospital, six weeks after showing the first signs of meningitis during a family holiday on the South Coast.
Today a coronial inquest into the baby's death at Parramatta Local Court heard that after initially being taken to Pambula Hospital vomiting and with a high temperature, Elijah was transported to Bega Hospital and then to Canberra Hospital as doctors struggled to diagnose the problem.
Outside the inquest, his mother Sandra Bernobic said failures by health authorities had denied her son the chance to beat the illness.
"As a mum I wanted to give him every chance possible and he was robbed of those chances, not just once,’’ Ms Bernobic told reporters.
"His chance to fight was taken away, he didn't get that chance.
"He didn’t have to be transferred to so many hospitals, treatment could have been administered very early."
She described Elijah as a ‘‘very happy little baby’’.
‘‘He was a very good boy, and the love of our lives really,’’ she said, holding a knitted blue bonnet Elijah had often worn.
Earlier on Monday, the opening day of the inquest, counsel for the Southern NSW Health District’s Geoff Gammell offered the district’s ‘‘sincere condolences’’ to the baby’s family.
‘‘I unreservedly apologise to the Slavkovic family for any hurt to them caused by any failures,’’ he said.
Mr Gammell said the case had led to ‘‘changes and system improvements’’ at Pambula and Bega hospitals as well as other hospitals across the state.
Counsel assisting the coroner, Peggy Dwyer, said that, having arrived at Pambula Hospital at 8.40pm on May 24, a paediatric specialist finally recommended that Elijah be treated urgently with antibiotics about 1.20am the next morning after he had been transferred to Bega Hospital.
By this time, the baby was exhibiting a bulging fontanelle, sunken eyes and a very high temperature.
It wasn't until 3am that the dose of antibiotics was delivered.
"Why there was a delay in the administration of the antibiotics will be the subject of investigation during this inquest," Ms Dwyer said.
"You [the coroner] will hear evidence about whether that was a reasonable delay and whether it was right to wait for further tests or whether it should have been administered earlier."
Elijah initially improved after he was given the antibiotics but then his condition deteriorated rapidly, with him suffering a number of violent seizures that caused severe brain damage.
He was taken to Canberra Hospital where it was believed there was better care, but did not respond to treatment.
"Despite the best efforts of the medical team, Elijah did not improve and the family were told that he would eventually die from Diabetes insipidus – a condition related to meningococcal."
After being transferred to Sydney Children's Hospital, Elijah eventually passed away six weeks later at Royal Melbourne Hospital.
Ms Dwyer said the inquest would focus on the treatment Elijah received at Pambula, Bega and Canberra hospitals.