An Australian hospital has been labelled a ‘national disgrace’ after four babies died in just one month due to a lack of cardiac services, an inquiry has heard.
Associate Professor John Svigos described the Adelaide Women’s and Children’s Hospital as ‘second class’ at the South Australian parliament’s public health services committee hearing on Tuesday.
A child who requires emergency heart surgery would normally be transferred to Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital, as the Adelaide site is not equipped to undergo such a procedure.
But due to the COVID-19 border closure that is no longer possible.
Children with severe cardiac issues are now sent to Westmead Hospital in Sydney but only on a case-by-case basis.
An Australian hospital has been labelled a ‘national disgrace’ after four babies died in just one month due to a lack of cardiac services, an inquiry has heard (stock image)
‘The Women’s and Children’s Hospital has sadly seen the deaths of three babies in the past four weeks who were unable to be transferred, who almost certainly would have benefited from on-site cardiac services,’ Professor Svigos said, according to the Adelaide Advertiser.
‘I shall leave it to you to imagine the profound effect of these deaths on the parents, their families and the dedicated medical and nursing staff dealing with these tragedies…. They feel that they have let their patients down.’
The respected obstetrician, who now heads up the WCH Alliance lobby, bluntly asked how many more deaths of babies and young children will the community and staff be forced to endure before the situation is improved at the hospital?
Shortly after the explosive testimony, South Australian Salaried Medical Officers Association chief industrial officer Bernadette Mulholland informed the committee a fourth child had also tragically died on Friday.
She told the committee a chronic lack of resources is leaving medical staff on the brink of ‘burnout’.
Ms Mulholland explained it was common for junior doctors to be found ‘sleeping on the floor because of a lack of resources’, the INDAILY reported.
A road sign has been erected in Adelaide by the WCH Alliance lobby, calling for an upgrade to cardiac services at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital
‘Essentially there is not enough staff, not enough resourcing, not enough allied health to run many of the services of paediatric medicine in this state,’ she said.
‘If something is not done about it then the legacy this will create for the women and children of this state will unfortunately be very grim.’
One year earlier hospital staff called for a an upgrade to the chronic lack of paediatric cardiac services available at the hospital but the business case was rejected because it was not seen to be economically viable.
Committee chairwoman Connie Bonaros said the situation is ‘utterly unacceptable’ and ‘national disgrace’
An independent report concluded the number of likely cases would not be enough justify $6million set-up cost, or keep the skill levels of surgeons up to standard.
But Professor Svigos warned the hospital must become self sufficient and not rely on patient transfers.
‘If we are not self sufficient we are going to run into this problem again – it would be crazy to think we are not going to have another pandemic at some stage,’ he said.
After sitting through the alarming testimony, committee chairwoman Connie Bonaros said the situation is ‘utterly unacceptable’ and ‘national disgrace’.
She said babies were dying entirely due to penny-pinching.
In response to the damning allegations, the Women’s and Children’s Hospital told Daily Mail in a statement, paediatric cardiac surgery services are currently under review with the Network’s Board.
‘We are working closely with our clinicians to develop a service proposal for the use of ECMO for children in South Australia,’ the statement read.
‘The hospital added that South Australian children will always have access to the health services they need.
‘The quality of the services we provide is always our number one priority and South Australian families should rest assured that our hospital continues to provide the safest care for our patients.’
The Women’s and Children’s Hospital said paediatric cardiac surgery services are currently under review with the Network’s Board (pictured, the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide)