WA Labor failing West Australian kids with six preventable deaths in hospitals last year

The annual Child and Adolescent Health Service annual report 2022-23 has revealed six Western Australian children died in our hospitals last year as a result of errors in care and not their underlying conditions or illnesses.

The deaths were classified as SAC-1 clinical incidents that were due to the health care the children received, or lack thereof, and could have been prevented.

There were 25 SAC-1 clinical incidents reported altogether for the year, with two others resulting in serious harm.

Shadow Health Minister Libby Mettam said the significant jump in deaths, up from two last year, was devastating and pointed to a system under extreme pressure.

“Despite a series of reviews and recommendations about how to improve the CAHS in the last two years, this is a service that is still floundering,” Ms Mettam said.

“This is our flagship children’s hospital and to see medication mishaps and infection control measures cited as contributing factors in some of these deaths is staggering.

“We know that many health care workers are working double and triple shifts at the moment due to workforce shortages but to lose six children as a result of these preventable incidents is deeply disturbing and completely unacceptable.

“West Australians expect and deserve world class care in this facility and the Cook Labor Government can’t continue to hide behind internal reviews.

“The public’s trust and confidence in the health system in PCH has been undeniably damaged by a series of failings and there needs to be urgent and open transparency.”

Ms Mettam said the annual report also revealed a supernumerary resuscitation team had still not been implemented at the Perth Children’s Hospital.

“This was a key recommendation from the Independent Inquiry into Perth Children’s Hospital following the tragic death of Aishwarya Aswath in April 2021 and its absolutely astounding that it is still not operational,” Ms Mettam said.

“It’s been almost two years since the report was tabled in November 2021 and yet it clearly hasn’t been a priority for this government.

“This dedicated resuscitation team is supposed to operate 24/7 to ensure there is always a team in place above and beyond the normal rostered staff to respond to emergencies.

“Two years on, why hasn’t this been made a priority? It is absolutely appalling and points to a government that does not have the ability or capacity to actually deliver on health.”

Ms Mettam said the report also highlighted a concerning blowout in elective surgery waitlist times within the CAHS.

“The number of Category 1 patients waiting more than 30 days for surgery has doubled in the last year,” Ms Mettam said.

“These are urgent surgeries that can become an emergency if not treated within the 30 days and it beggars’ belief that 10 per cent of children seeking this medical treatment are waiting more than a month.”

Almost 30 per cent of children waiting for category 2 surgery were waiting more than 90 days and alarmingly, nearly 40 per cent of children are waiting more than a year for category 3 surgery.

“These surgeries are not optional extras and lengthy delays can lead to long-term behavioural and developmental delays so it’s disgraceful that it has not been prioritised.”

Emergency department wait times were also disappointing, with only one in three triage category 3 patients seen within the recommended 30 minutes and less than half of the triage category 4 patients seen within the recommended hour.

“The Cook Labor Government has recorded $17bn in surpluses over the past three years and has the capacity to make meaningful investment to fix the health system.

“Yet it’s clear it’s not a priority with only $1.094bn spent on health over the same period.”