Inquest highlights need for a Royal Commission into WA health system

The Opposition is supporting calls for a Royal Commission into the WA Health system after the inquest into the tragic death of seven-year-old Aishwarya Aswath laid bare the extent of the crisis in the system.

Shadow Health Minister Libby Mettam said that while frontline health workers were doing an incredible job in extraordinarily difficult circumstances, the health system had been in continual freefall for the last couple of years and evidence suggested it was not improving.

“It’s been 16 months since Aishwarya’s death shone a spotlight on just how critical the health system had become, yet a new Minister and a bag full of budget commitments has not been able to turn this ship around,” Ms Mettam said.

“It’s clear the McGowan Government are lurching from crisis to crisis and for the people of WA to have confidence in the system, there needs to be an independent and thorough investigation.

“We cannot afford to have another three years of this dysfunction where staff are forced to work in these impossible situations and patients’ lives are potentially put at risk.”

Ms Mettam said the while the scope of the Royal Commission should include the whole system, it was important to understand why the government had not responded earlier to pleas to address staff and capacity in this case.

“This government was warned in the months leading up to Aishwarya’s death that inadequate staffing levels in the PCH emergency department could end in a disaster, yet it did nothing,” Ms Mettam said.

“It’s clear from the evidence that was provided from medical staff on the ground that the system was, and continues to be, under critical strain. The current status quo is unsustainable.

“The Premier has continually claimed the ED was adequately staffed but the number of nurses available on the night was clearly not enough to cope with the demand so either the advice was wrong, or the Premier is trying to divert and deflect attention from the truth.

“From a broader perspective of accountability and transparency, it is completely unacceptable that we have had repeated attempts to avoid responsibility at all levels for the failings in our health system.

“A Royal Commission is the only appropriate way that the WA public will get any “gold standard transparency” while this government is in power.”

Ms Mettam said it was also astonishing to hear there was still not a dedicated emergency resuscitation team in the ED and that despite more rostered staff, it is still not that much better.

“While the focus of the inquest was on the PCH ED, it’s clear the same issues of staffing and bed capacity are affecting all hospitals across the system.

“We also know maternity services have been critically impacted with hundreds of bypasses recorded in the last year and some regional services suspended and that the elective surgery waitlist has blown out from 19,000 when this government came to power to almost 30,000 this month.

“Ambulance ramping remains at record highs with ambulances waiting more than 6200 in August due to a lack of capacity in the hospitals, despite the government sending in senior health and police bureaucrats to ‘oversee’ the operation in May.

“It’s clear the health system is in a critical state and the McGowan Government is out of ideas on how to fix the problems it created.”