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Baby hospital deaths spark investigation

An investigation will begin into the deaths of four babies who died within a month at Adelaide’s Women’s and Children’s Hospital because of the alleged lack of cardiac services.

Health Minister Stephen Wade said in a normal year, only six to 10 babies or children would need an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) service and this was “an unusual cluster”.

Mr Wade announced on Wednesday SA Health‘s Chief Medical Officer Michael Cusack would work with the hospital to review the cases to see “what we can learn and if there are any implications in relation to COVID.”

Dr Cusack said the cluster was a “cause for concern” and anticipated the review to take between two to three weeks.

“I think there is a great a need and desire in the health system to analyse and understand what happened, had we provided the very best care for those children and their families and what are the lessons learned,” Dr Cusack said.

“I don’t think things have gone wrong and from the detailed investigation already undertaken at WCH, that they haven’t found lapses in care or things that should have been done that hadn’t been done.

“A question we’re keen understand is if there had been ECMO available in the state, would that have changed the outcome?”

The announcement comes after it was revealed in a parliamentary inquiry on Tuesday that four babies died within four weeks at the hospital —the most recent being on Friday — because of the lack of cardiac services.

Obstetrician Associate Professor John Svigos noted SA was the only mainland state without the service.

“Particularly in our current COVID situation where the usual process of referral to the Melbourne cardiac unit is no longer tenable and referral to Sydney is on a case-by-case basis,” Prof Svigos said.

“The Women’s and Children’s Hospital has sadly seen the deaths of (these) babies in the past four weeks who were unable to be transferred, who almost certainly would have benefited from on-site cardiac services.

“I shall leave it to you to imagine the profound effect of these deaths on the parents, their families and the dedicated medical and nursing staff dealing with these tragedies.

“The WCH Alliance would humbly ask how many more deaths of babies and young children will the community and staff be forced to endure?”

More to come.

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