Published Monday, 15 October 2012
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Dr Heather Steen also told the inquiry the medical notes at the time were very poor and admitted it was "absolutely appalling" her parents were not told about how ill their daughter was.
Claire Roberts' parents attended the inquiry in Banbridge on the first day of the hearing into their daughter's death on Monday.
Claire was admitted to the Royal Hospital on 21 October 1996, suffering from vomiting and drowsiness.
She died two days later.
Her death and that of four other children is now being examined by the inquiry.
Hyponatraemia, a condition caused by not having enough sodium in the body's fluids, was linked to her death.
Dr Steen said she had little memory of events because of health reasons, adding the medical notes taken at the time were very poor compared to the standards she would expect now.
She said those facts couldn't be defended, nor is it acceptable.
Dr Steen told the inquiry that while she believed she had been aware of Claire's presence in the ward, she had no memory of examining her the day before she died and that afternoon she had left to a hold a clinic outside the hospital.
Dr Steen told the inquiry she did ring the ward at 5pm from the Cooper Street clinic and was reassured by the nurse in charge enough to go home and not to return to the hospital.
"If I had have gone back in, I might have made a difference," she told the inquiry.
"I deeply regret that."
The senior counsel to the inquiry then asked the doctor: "No one was really sure what was happening with Claire, she was your patient. Did you not think 'I ought to be there?'"
Dr Steen agreed with this and said again she regretted her decision.
Inquiry Chairman John O'Hara QC interjected at this point saying this suggested Claire was seriously ill but stable and that the doctor was getting more information down the phone than the Roberts family were receiving in the hospital. That he said was "appalling".
The clearly upset paediatrician turned to the family and as Mrs Roberts sobbed, Dr Steen said it was "just appalling, because Mrs Roberts would never have gone home".
She said: "They were both committed to their daughter, and it is absolutely appalling that the doctors, nurses and everyone involved in the child's care didn't get it through to Claire's parents how ill their daughter was. They went home expecting her to go to sleep and wake up in the morning. That is awful."
The inquiry will resume on Tuesday.