Girl (4) settles case over alleged delay in meningitis diagnosis for €1.7m

Rehmah Shafiq sued HSE, through her mother, over delay in diagnosing meningitis at birth in Portiuncula Hospital, Co Galway

A four-year-old girl who sued over an alleged unnecessary delay in diagnosing her meningitis as a newborn baby has settled her High Court action against the HSE with an interim payout of €1.7 million.

It was claimed there was also an alleged failure to screen Rehmah Shafiq and start her on antibiotics immediately after birth at Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe, Co Galway.

Rehmah Shafiq further alleged against the HSE that there was a failure in hospital to appreciate the signs of sepsis in the first hour of life. Rehmah was born on July 8th, 2019 but was not started on antibiotics for another two days when a diagnosis was made.

Her senior counsel Bruce Antoniotti, instructed by Byrne Carolan Cunningham Solicitors, told the High Court it was their case that the baby should have been given antibiotics sooner and if she did she would not have suffered from meningitis. He said due to the meningitis a blood clot formed in the baby’s brain and it is claimed she suffered a brain injury.


Mr Antoniotti said antibiotics were not started for two days after birth.

“We say it should have been done sooner and if it did she would not have suffered from the meningitis,” he said.

An expression of regret from Portiuncla Hospital was read to the court.

“The management and staff of the hospital wished to express their regret that some aspects of the care provided to the patient and her baby did not reach the standard to which we aspire and we sincerely apologise for the distress this has caused,” it said.

Counsel told the court that the HSE admitted a breach of duty and that there were signs of infection after birth and that there should have been a sepsis “workup” and antibiotics should have been administered.

The settlement, which was reached after mediation, provides for an interim payment for the next five years when thegirl’s future care needs will be assessed. Counsel said the settlement will include the provision of a special needs assistant for Rehmah at school.

The girl suffers from hyperactivity, has poor co-ordination and needs help at school, he said. Rehmah’s mother, who before her daughter’s birth was a developmental scientist, now looks after her daughter full time.

The girl at one stage interrupted the proceedings in the Four Courts with her singing and Mr Justice Coffey said it was a lovely sound to hear.

Outside court the family solicitor Dolores Gacquiin said Rehmah’s acquired brain injury has lifelong consequences.

“She is a much loved precious and energetic little girl. The interim settlement will ensure that her every need for the next five years is met,” she said.

Approving the settlement Mr Justice Paul Coffey said it was fair and reasonable.