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‘It shouldn’t happen to another child’

The parents of 16-year-old Aoife Johnston, who died from meningitis following a lengthy wait for treatment at UHL emergency department, have said they hope no other family experiences what they have gone through, and that action is taken to address problems at the hospital.

A verdict of medical misadventure was returned at the inquest into her death this afternoon. The Limerick Coroner, John McNamara, delivered his verdict after four days of evidence at Kilmallock Courthouse.

The 16-year-old from Shannon in Co Clare died on 19 December 2022 from meningitis, after having presented at UHL two days earlier with suspected sepsis, but faced a lengthy wait for treatment.

Speaking this afternoon following the verdict, her father James said that they went to the hospital that day to get help, but did not receive it.

Her mother Carol said that when they arrived on 17 December, they never thought that they would be leaving two days later without their daughter.

“We told her get some rest, the doctors will be here soon, and the doctors never came”

“Aoife had, in my words, a horrible death,” Ms Johnston said. “She suffered the whole night and I think people need to know that.”

She added: “We welcome the verdict and the apologies, but it’s not going to change anything. Aoife is gone and that is what we have to live with now.

Asked about the environment at UHL being described during the inquest as “a death trap”, Ms Johnston said it was “terrifying”, adding that “I’d be terrified to go in there myself, or if my own other children had to go in again” which she said was “a really sad state of affairs”.

“We brought Aoife where we told her she would be looked after, but she wasn’t, we told her she was in the best place,” Ms Johnston said.

She added: “We told her get some rest, the doctors will be here soon, and the doctors never came.”

Ms Johnston said she hoped there would be improvements at the hospital, with Mr Johnston adding that promised investment there could not be “all talk”.

Asked what Aoife’s legacy will be, Ms Johnston said that, in time, people would get to know Aoife as a lovely girl, and “not as the 16-year-old girl who died on the trolley”.

“At the minute she is remembered as a girl who died on a trolley … but in time when me and James can talk to someone properly people will get to know the real Aoife. The lovely 16-year-old girl, our baby, who we loved very much.

“You will get to know Aoife then not as the 16-year-old girl who died on the trolley.”

She said Aoife was a happy-go-lucky, easy-going girl who was her father’s “best friend”.

“It shouldn’t happen to another child.

“Aoife is gone now so all the apologies and anything they put in place now … it’s not going to change that.”

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