'Disrespect' over WA girl's hospital death

·3-min read

The parents of Aishwarya Aswath have accused the West Australian premier of disrespecting their daughter's memory by dismissing staffing concerns at Perth Children's Hospital.

An independent panel this week found staff at the hospital had been "exhausted and demoralised" in the lead-up to Easter Saturday, when seven-year-old Aishwarya died of sepsis after presenting to the emergency department.

The report by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care describes the triage and waiting areas as particularly vulnerable and "suboptimally staffed".

Premier Mark McGowan this week said the emergency department had its full compliment of staff and therefore was not understaffed on the night Aishwarya died.

He told parliament people who acquired sepsis in Australia had a one-in-six chance of death.

Aishwarya's parents Aswath Chavittupara and Prasitha Sasidharan said the government appeared to be seeking to deflect blame for their daughter's death.

"I think when someone talks about statistics, it was like disrespecting Aishwarya," Mr Chavittupara told reporters on Thursday.

"All we're trying to do is learn from the mistakes and make meaningful changes and we can move forward. They are trying to defend themselves with all these statistics.

"If it was sufficiently staffed then why did they (subsequently) add more staff?"

Health Minister Roger Cook this week conceded that even the full PCH emergency department roster as it existed at the time had not been sufficient to meet demand. Additional doctors and nurses have since been recruited.

Aishwarya's parents had been expecting the independent report delivered this week to dig deeper into what happened on the night their daughter died.

Instead the report focuses mostly on the policy settings within WA's health system that may have contributed to the tragedy.

"It doesn't address any of the concerns that we raised," Mr Chavittupara said.

"They missed the point."

Aishwarya was taken to the $1.2 billion hospital with a fever and triaged by a nurse - who did not check her vital signs - in the second-least urgent category.

Within 20 minutes of arriving, her hands were cold, her eyes were discoloured and her respiratory rate and heart rate were significantly elevated.

But a review by the Child and Adolescent Health Service found the severity of her condition wasn't recognised until an hour and 17 minutes later, despite Aishwarya's parents having raised concerns on five separate occasions.

She was pronounced dead within two hours of entering a resuscitation bay, having succumbed to an infection related to group A streptococcus.

The family is concerned a coronial inquest could take years to complete. They plan to conduct their own inquiry into Aishwarya's death using a panel of experts who could report to the health minister.

Opposition health spokeswoman Libby Mettam said a leaked survey by the Child and Adolescent Health Service showed just 43 per cent of staff felt valued for their work and 37 per cent felt morale was good in their workplace.

"The Labor government has had more than four years to fix the staffing issues in our state's hospitals," Ms Mettam said.

"This has consistently been raised but this government has ignored the alarm bells, which has led to the tragedy surrounding Aishwarya Aswath."

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