Toddler’s hospital death ‘totally avoidable’: mum

Duncan Murray |

Pippa White had been perfectly healthy and happy four days before she died, her mother Annah said.
Pippa White had been perfectly healthy and happy four days before she died, her mother Annah said.

The mother of a two-year-old girl who died from sepsis in a regional NSW hospital says her death was “totally avoidable”, as she vowes to push against the same happening to any other child.

Pippa Mae White died at Orange hospital in the state’s central west on June 13, 2022 shortly before her third birthday.

Her mother Annah White told an inquest in Sydney on Thursday that just four days earlier her daughter had been perfectly healthy and happy.

“By the Monday, she was dead,” Ms White said.

In an informal statement as the first round of coronial hearings into Pippa’s death wrapped up, Ms White said she and husband Brock would never stop advocating to change the system that cost their daughter her life.

“It is our personal opinion that Pip’s death was totally avoidable,” Ms White said.

“Your death will not be for nothing.” 

Ms White took Pippa to hospital in Cowra on June 12, around three days after she began experiencing symptoms including a high temperature, vomiting and diarrhoea.

A decision was made to transfer Pippa to Orange Base Hospital, where she died the following day after suffering two cardiac arrests.

On Thursday, Dr Suhail Mir, who initially assessed Pippa in Cowra, gave further evidence in which he denied any oversights in testing that could have revealed the true extent of her illness.

Pippa (right) and big sister Lucy (file image)
A doctor denied any testing oversights that could have revealed the true extent of Pippa’s illness. (HANDOUT/)

Legal representative for Pippa’s parents, Richard O’Keefe SC, told the inquest that during their visit to Cowra hospital Ms White believed her daughter’s condition deteriorated, observing discolouration of her skin and issues with her breathing.

Dr Mir told the inquest he was certain he would have conducted a thorough examination of the child, prior to phoning the on-call pediatrician in Orange for a consultation.

“There is no way any doctor would call a specialist without knowing what is wrong with the patient,” Dr Mir said.

The pediatrician in Orange, Dr Adam Buckmaster, said during his evidence on Wednesday the information he received from Dr Mir in the call led him to believe Pippa was getting better – including being told the toddler was sitting up and eating an iceblock.

“My overall vision … was of somebody who has been unwell for a few days but appears to be on the road to recovery,” Dr Buckmaster told the inquest.

However, according to Ms White at that time her daughter was “lethargic” and vomiting back up any fluids given to her, Mr O’Keefe told the inquiry.

Pippa White (bottom left) with her family (file image)
Annah White thanked the inquest, family and supporters for giving Pippa the “justice she deserves”. (HANDOUT/)

The junior doctor who treated Pippa once she arrived at Orange hospital, Dr Christopher Morris told the inquiry this week he should have escalated the toddler’s care earlier than he did.

“I wish I had,” he said.

Dr Morris said he spoke with Dr Buckmaster about Pippa when she was showing signs of sepsis and formed a plan to treat her with antibiotics and fluids, and take blood tests to track her progress.

Despite efforts to save Pippa and plans to transport her to Sydney for further treatment, she continued to deteriorate and was declared dead shortly after 1pm on June 13.

Ms White thanked the inquest, as well as a large number of family and supporters who attended, many of whom wore yellow in honour of Pippa’s favourite colour.

“Thank you for taking our concerns seriously and giving Pip the justice she deserves by having her story told,” she said.

The next round of inquest hearings is scheduled for May, 2025.