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When Girl Is 10 Minutes Late to Appointment, Doctor's Office Sends Her Home. She Died Hours Later.

Shanice Clark warned the receptionist she might be a few minutes late for her daughter's emergency appointment.

As BBC News reports, 5-year-old Ellie-May Clark of Newport, Wales continually struggled with asthma, but didn't let it dim her happy personality. Ellie-May's grandmother, Brandi Clark, described her to the BBC:

“[She was] a funny little girl. Bright, very intelligent ... so funny and loving.”

According to Wales Online, in January 2015, Ellie-May missed several days of school and had to see a doctor for wheezing. Ellie-May then returned to school, only to see her symptoms return.

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When mom Shanice picked her daughter up after school on January 25, 2015, Ellie-May was unable to walk home. Shanice was so alarmed by her daughter's breathing issues that she called the doctor to make an emergency appointment.

The doctor's office told the worried mom that they could offer Ellie-May an appointment at five that evening. Shanice warned the receptionist they might be a few minutes late, as she had to arrange care for her youngest child and catch a bus to the office.

Shanice claims she got to the doctor's office only five minutes late, then had to wait another five to 10 minutes before she could speak with the receptionist. The office claims Shanice and Ellie-May didn't arrive until 5:18 pm. Thus, the receptionist informed Shanice they had violated the “10 minute rule” governing how late one could be for an appointment.

The receptionist spoke to Dr. Joanne Rowe, then told Ellie-May she would have to come back the next day. Dr. Rowe did not look at Ellie-May's records, give Shanice advice on her daughter's condition, or ask about the reason for the emergency appointment before turning the girl away. Nor did she suggest another doctor see Ellie-May.  Shanice told Wales Online:

"We got outside and, because I was angry, I got upset. When Ellie-May saw me upset she started getting upset.  She said 'Why won’t the doctor see me?'"

After the doctor refused to see Ellie-May, Shanice took her daughter home, monitored her breathing, and gave her regular inhalers. At 10:30 that evening, Shanice heard her daughter coughing and found her turning blue and struggling to breathe. She called an ambulance, but it was too late. Ellie-May died at the hospital. The cause of death was bronchial asthma.

At an inquest into the circumstances of Ellie-May's death, a representative of the family explained that Shanice was sure that steroids Ellie-May had been given during other doctor's visits would have prevented her daughter's death.

According to Sky News, the coroner's investigation has determined it was unacceptable for the doctor to turn Ellie-May away without assessing her condition, especially as the clinic knew Ellie-May was at-risk for a serious asthma episode. The verdict said:

From the evidence before me, it is not possible for me to determine with certainty whether an earlier intervention would have altered the outcome for Ellie, but nonetheless Ellie should have been seen by a [doctor] that day, and she was let down by the failures in the system. [...] Ellie-May Clark died of natural causes where the opportunity to provide potentially life-saving treatment was missed.

In addition, a statement of apology from Dr. Rowe was read aloud at the inquest:

Dr Rowe knows that nothing can be said to Ellie-May's family to make a difference but she would like to say how truly sorry she is.

However, the family remains unsatisfied with the result of the investigation. According to ITV News,  the family is “disappointed” that the coroner did not deem this a case of neglect. They added:

“The family acknowledge an apology from Dr Rowe, especially as they have been waiting in excess of three years for an outcome and to receive answers to their questions.”