A young girl who died while waiting for treatment at a Perth hospital was failed by staff who did not provide the help her devastated parents had pleaded for, an investigation has confirmed.
Seven-year-old Aishwarya Aswath spent two hours waiting in the emergency department at Perth Children’s Hospital (PCH) after presenting with a fever and being triaged in the second-least urgent category during the Easter weekend.
Aishwarya’s parents had begged for her to be assessed by doctors after her eyes became cloudy and her hands turned cold.
She died soon after she was finally seen.
The incident was investigated by Western Australia’s Child and Adolescent Health Service (CAHS) and its report was delivered to Aishwarya’s parents on Wednesday.
Health Minister Roger Cook said it appeared Aishwarya had died of sepsis after contracting an infection related to group A streptococcus.
Describing the report as “confronting and extremely distressing”, Mr Cook said it was clear Aishwarya and her parents should have received better care.
“They did not get the help they asked for,” he told parliament.
“I wish to apologise unreservedly for this failure and for the heartbreak and devastation Aishwarya’s death has caused her family and her community.”
Mr Cook said the report included 11 recommendations, all of which the government had agreed to implement at PCH within the next six months.
They include improvements to the triage process policy and staff education, improved clinical supervision, and development of a “clear pathway” for parents to escalate their concerns to staff.
The report also recommends developing an established sepsis recognition diagnostic tool, and a review of staff awareness of culturally and linguistically diverse communities.
Aishwarya’s death followed months of concerns about understaffing, treatment delays and record ambulance ramping at Perth’s hospitals.
Four emergency doctors were off sick on the night in question.
Mr Cook has ordered an independent inquiry into the PCH emergency department, in line with another of the recommendations.
“This independent inquiry will include any matters of specific concern identified by Aishwarya’s family,” he said.
“Perth Children’s Hospital continues to be a leading hospital that performs objectively well against safety and quality measures.”
Labor last week used its parliamentary majority to block calls for an independent inquiry into Aishwarya’s death, which had been sought by her parents.
The grieving couple went on a hunger strike outside the hospital earlier this month amid frustration about their wait for answers.
Mr Cook said the CAHS inquiry involved a panel of 10 people, four of whom were independent.
The McGowan government has promised a significant expansion of emergency departments and the hiring of additional staff.
Opposition Leader Mia Davies last week said WA’s health system was “stretched at the seams”.
“It is an utter tragedy when we know the family were in the exact right place they needed to be to seek assistance for their child,” she said.