Boy in ICU after hospital insulin overdose

A 14-year-old from Perth spent 24 hours in intensive care after being mistakenly given 11x the correct dose of medication

Chris Walton was reportedly given the incorrect dosage of insulin by a nurse while in the emergency department at Princess Margaret Hospital in Perth on Sunday.

His mother, Maria Walton, told WA Today her son, who has diabetes, could have died because of the mistake.

“We went to hospital because he had high sugar and ketones and they were supposed to help his ketones go down but instead they gave him 44 units instead of four units,” she told the publication.

“The nurse didn’t notice, me and my son actually told them, ‘he’d had 44 units in emergency, why are you giving him more for?’, and they panicked and then doctors and everything came out of nowhere.”

“He could have got brain damage if I hadn’t said ‘he’s had this much amount of medication’, he could have gone into a diabetic coma and possibly died,” Ms Walton said.

Chris was released from hospital on Tuesday but his mother is not happy with the quality of treatment her son received.

SHPA Chief Executive Kristin Michaels says the error highlights the need for robust medications safety systems and processes in hospitals.

“This tragic incident shows why insulin is broadly acknowledged as a high-risk medication,” says Ms Michaels.

“Hospital pharmacists are highly attuned to the potential for severe medication errors involving high-risk medicines, which makes adherence to medication safety principles and standards of practice, and ensuring all patients receive medication reconciliation services and medication chart reviews – regardless of which area of the hospital they are in – so very important.”

Princess Margaret Hospital executive director Michelle Dillon told WA Today that a review has been launched into the incorrect dose.

“The patient’s condition was managed and the patient has now been discharged from hospital,” she said. 

“PMH staff kept the family informed and provided support throughout their time in hospital.

“The incident has been reported and will undergo an internal investigation.”

The news comes just one week after the Australian Medical Association warned of dangerously low staff morale at the Princess Margaret Hospital.

AMA WA president Andrew Miller said rostering problems and a lack of resources were the critical causes, while the run-down state of the building also had an impact.

WA Health Minister Roger Cook said he was concerned by the report results, but said the hospital’s board had taken “decisive steps” to remedy the problem and launched an independent review into the issue.

Princess Margaret Hospital is in the process of closing and is set to be replaced by the new Perth Children’s Hospital.

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