24 April 2023

Five-year-old Rozalia Spadafora's death may raise major issues about Canberra Hospital

| Albert McKnight
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Young girl in kitchen

Rozalia Spadafora died at Canberra Hospital on the day after her fifth birthday. Photo: Supplied.

The death of a five-year-old girl at Canberra Hospital could raise major issues about processes at the facility, a preliminary hearing for an inquest has heard.

Rozalia Spadafora died at the hospital on 5 July, 2022 and hearings for a coronial inquest into her death have been scheduled to take place in late 2023.

The matter was back in the ACT Coroner’s Court on Friday (21 April) for a check-up on its progress, and Coroner Ken Archer reiterated that he wanted to hold the hearings this year.

“We’re concerned with the death of a young child. The death raises potentially significant issues in relation to process at the Canberra Hospital,” he said.

He also said the distress that has been caused to her family was obvious and very much understood. He said that, as a community, “we can ensure the proceedings are brought on expeditiously”.

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Rozalia’s parents were told their daughter died from a heart condition called myocarditis as a result of her influenza A infection. She died on the day after her fifth birthday.

Her mother, Katrina Spadafora, said she didn’t hear from the hospital again until three weeks afterwards when the media found out Rozalia’s death had been referred to the coroner’s office.

Coroner Archer said a number of reviews had been undertaken since Rozalia’s death and asked for the ACT Government to provide the details of the reviews to the inquest as quickly as possible.

The counsel assisting, Michael Fordham SC, said it was of particular importance that the government give some evidence of what changes had been made as a result of the incident.

If that was provided, it would limit some of the inquiries that the inquest will make, he said.

He said it had been a “monumental task” to obtain statements from about 15 potential witnesses, while just two more were outstanding.

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Mr Fordham said some experts had been retained, being a paediatric infectious diseases expert and an emergency physician. Two more specialist areas had been identified as well, being paediatric cardiology and ICU.

He said it was hoped that the factual evidence would be largely complete by June, then they would start formulating a list of issues and put together a brief of evidence.

The matter was adjourned for a directions hearing on 9 June.

Hearing dates for the inquest have been scheduled for 25-31 October and 4-8 December.

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