Teenager died weighing 19kg

AN INQUEST into the death of a 13-year-old Ipswich boy has been told he weighed just 19 kilograms when he died.

The wheelchair-bound child died in Ipswich Hospital from severe pneumonia.

Child safety experts closed their case on the teen just three days before his death after deciding he was not at risk.

Ipswich Coroners Court was told the boy was examined by a GP only days before he died but his symptoms went unnoticed.

Detective Sergeant Tania Plant gave evidence on the first day of the inquest and said the child’s parents had repeatedly called for help in caring for their son.

“They were asking for further help. They would’ve taken whatever they could get,” Sgt Plant said.

“It did seem there were difficulties getting that for them.”

The boy first came to the attention of the Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect team (SCAN), which includes members from Queensland Police, Queensland Health, Education Queensland and the Department of Communities, in 2007 after reports his mother left him unattended in a car.

On June 30 last year, the SCAN team met again to discuss the boy’s welfare after his special school principal reported that he was not being cleaned properly.

But after half-an-hour of “robust” argument between SCAN members his case was closed. He died three days later.

Detective Senior Sergeant Troy Salton said a representative from the Department of Communities’ Child Safety office argued the boy was safe as the family was visited three times a week by a nurse and once a week by a commercial cleaner.

“They weren’t concerned,” Snr Sgt Salton said.

Snr Sgt Salton said Child Safety workers often returned to weekly meetings saying they did not have the staff or resources to follow up problems.

The Queensland Times cannot name the boy as a suppression order was made against his identification. The child had lived with cerebral palsy due to a birth injury, and was diagnosed with suffered spastic quadriplegia, bulbar palsy, epilepsy, respiratory obstruction during sleep, orthopaedic problems, contractures and recurrent dislocation of the hips.

He had difficulty swallowing, had to be fed through a tube into his stomach and functioned at an age of “less than six months”.

Pathologist Dr Nathan Milne, who conducted the autopsy said the boy was 18 kilograms lighter than the healthy minimum for his age, although he added that many disabled children were underweight.

Dr Milne said the doctor who examined the boy before his death should have been aware that children suffering his disabilities were more susceptible to pneumonia. He said the child’s life expectancy would have been 17 to 20 years.

The boy’s parents were too upset to speak publicly about the case. The inquest is expected to continue early next year.

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