Doctors give contradictory evidence over baby's death

Two doctors who treated baby Elijah Slavkovic at a NSW South Coast hospital before he died from meningitis have given contradictory accounts of their discussions about the infant during the most crucial hours of his care.

The Sydney inquest into the May 2009 death of four-month-old Elijah has heard that, after arriving at Pambula Hospital on April 24 vomiting and with a high temperature, the baby was transferred to two other hospitals as doctors struggled to diagnose what was wrong.

Antibiotics that were urgently needed to treated Elijah's bacterial meningococcal meningitis were not administered for more than seven hours.

Today, two doctors involved in the treatment of Elijah after he was transferred from Pambula to Bega Valley Hospital — Dr Erika Jaensch and Dr Tin Myint — gave evidence about phone conversations they had about what to do as the baby's condition worsened.

Dr Myint, the only doctor at the hospital on the night in question, said he told Dr Jaensch, the hospital's consulting doctor who was on call but at home, that Elijah, whose family was holidaying from Melbourne, should be transferred to a bigger hospital or, if not, that she should come in to treat him.

"I said, '[Elijah's condition] could be sepsis, it could be viral, I don't think he should be kept in Bega, I think he should go to Canberra,' " Dr Myint said.

"[Dr Jaensch] said, 'I thought the child was improving. Why don't you give him antibiotics and I'll see him in the morning?' "

"I said, 'No, if you believe you can manage the baby you need to come in.' "

"She said, 'OK, transfer him to Canberra.' "

But Dr Jaensch said she had no recollection of her colleague saying Elija needed to go to Canberra, and denied that he had suggested she might come in to treat him.

"The only thing I said was for antibiotics to be given and for it to be discussed with the Canberra [Hospital] paediatric registrar."

Some hours later, after receiving advice from the Newborn Emergency Transport Service, Dr Myint ordered that Elijah be given antibiotics.

At 4am on April 25, Elijah was flown to Canberra Hospital, where intensive treatment was continued.

His condition initially improved but then deteriorated rapidly, with the baby suffering a number of violent seizures.

By the time he arrived at Sydney Children's Hospital he had severe brain damage while still experiencing seizures.

His parents were told soon after that he would not survive.

The hearing continues.

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