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WA nurse died after neck pain: inquest

AAP logoAAP 3/10/2016

A WA coroner has indicated he is unlikely to find a doctor's failings contributed to the death of a nurse who complained of neck pain and died less than a day after she was discharged from hospital.

Tamika Patricia Carol Ullrich initially visited a GP in December 2012 and was referred to a physiotherapist, but returned the next day and was given anti-inflammatory medication, counsel assisting the coroner Kate Ellson said in her opening address on Monday.

The following day, Ms Ullrich visited the Northam emergency department and was seen by nurse Vicky Morrison, who triaged her as an "uncomplicated patient" while doctor Anthony Boyd was seated nearby.

"Although he never examined her himself, he believed he had overheard enough to gain a sufficient understanding of her history and presenting complaints," Ms Ellson said.

Dr Boyd prescribed Ms Ullrich an anti-inflammatory injection of Ketorolac and diazepam to relax her muscles.

Ms Ellson said while Dr Boyd believed he told Ms Ullrich she might go home with a further muscle relaxant, Ms Morrison remembered him saying Ms Ullrich could go home and he had written her a medical certificate.

Dr Boyd testified he had planned to check on Ms Ullrich later but when he returned she had left.

Ms Ullrich's mother cared for her that night while she repeatedly vomited and needed help in the shower, but eventually went to her own bedroom about 4.30am.

At about 6am, Ms Ullrich's mother returned to check on her daughter and found the 23-year-old dead.

The court heard Ms Ullrich was likely to have died from chronic hydrocephalus with brain swelling, but Coroner Barry King is aiming to clarify her cause of death.

Mr King said he would likely find Dr Boyd's acts and omissions did not cause or contribute to her death.

Ms Ullrich was among five people in less than three years to die after being discharged from the regional hospital and the case was previously examined by chief medical officer Gary Geelhoed.

The Performance and Professional Standards Panel of the Medical Board of Australia determined Dr Boyd's behaviour was unsatisfactory and conditions were imposed on his registration so he retired.

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