Health Minister Roger Cook has admitted the seven-year-old-girl who died after being forced to wait in the emergency department for up to two hours may have been “overlooked”.
Addressing Aishwarya Aswath’s shock death at Perth Children’s Hospital on Saturday, Mr Cook this morning admitted the “deteriorating condition of the girl was overlooked for one reason or another”.
The young girl’s parents said they’d rushed their daughter to the emergency room on Saturday after she developed a fever on Good Friday.
Her mother, Prasitha Sasidharan, said she’d “pleaded” with hospital staff to see her daughter up to five times, after her daughter’s hands had gone cold and her eyes were cloudy.
“They didn’t think it was an emergency,” she said.
“I went to the (emergency department) reception maybe four or five times.
“And I asked them to have a look at her, I was begging them ‘please help, please help’.”
In a heartbreaking interview on Nine News last night, her visibly distraught partner Aswath Chavittupara said: “I lost my daughter, this should never happen to any other child in this country”.
Little Aishwarya sadly died within hours of eventually being treated by doctors, prompting hospital management to launch a review into the cause of her death.
After confirming last night that he had asked for an explanation as well, Mr Cook this morning revealed he would be “seeking an urgent briefing from the department in relation to this horrible, horrible, incident”.
“I’m absolutely shocked… It’s just horrible and we need to get to the bottom of the matter so we can respond in a way that provides the parents with some comfort event hough we’ll never be able to replace the loss of a beautiful girl,” Mr Cook told 6PR.
He said he couldn’t imagine how Mr and Mrs Sasidharan “must be feeling today, having taken their daughter to a place where she should’ve received the best possible care”.
Mr Cook added that he was yet to receive any preliminary advice from the hospital about what happened, but confirmed he’d “contacted the acting director general and asked him for an urgent briefing in relation to” Aishwarya’s case.
“I don’t want to pre-empt any inquiry and it’s important that we take the opportunity to really just sit down and do a careful analysis of what’s happened in this situation,” Mr Cook said.
“(But) it would appear that the deterioration condition of the girl was overlooked for one reason or another.
“Whenever you have a situation where you see potential clinical failure, you obviously move heaven and earth to understand the root cause of the particular incident and make sure you put measures in place to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.”
When asked whether he believed Aishwarya’s parents’ pleas for help should have been taken more seriously, and if he thought parents typically knew best when it came to their children’s wellbeing, Mr Cook said he did.
“This (parents/family knowing best) actually has some basis in good clinical practice, in that the family, and in particular the mothers and fathers of a patient have an intuitive understanding of when their situation is deteriorating further, which is the reason why we actually have processes by which we can elevate the particular condition of a patient to another or higher consultant to make sure we just do that double check,” he said.
“But clearly these parents feel let down, they need answers — and I want answers for them.”
Mr Cook has been forced to defend the State’s health system amid record levels ambulance ramping and internal emergencies being declared at some of Perth’s largest hospitals.
On Monday he conceded WA’s inability to recruit overseas health workers was a “point of anxiety” and blamed a baby boom and COVID-enforced borders for the decision by two Perth hospitals to slash elective surgeries.
The West Australian revealed King Edward Memorial Hospital has been forced to advertise for 85 midwives and nurses as it struggles to keep up with demand.