Baby Care

Four Babies Die at WCH: Lack of Cardiac Services and COVID Restrictions Blamed

To find out your baby has a heart condition and may need surgery is terrifying. But for 1 in 100 parents, this is a reality.

Currently, the Woman’s and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide doesn’t have the necessary cardiac services to handle these types of surgeries. 

In the past, children in South Australia with heart conditions were often transferred to Melbourne. 

However, due to the COVID restrictions, four South Australian babies were not allowed to travel to Victoria this past month. These babies were denied emergency surgery. 

These four babies have died. 

This is a heartbreaking thing to have happen and one that needs to change.

South Australian children deserve better

State Parliament Health Service Committee met earlier this week to demand better for South Australian families, explaining the situation and hoping for change. 

The hearing explained,

  • Children who would otherwise have emergency transfers to Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital for heart surgery can no longer go there due to COVID.
  • The alternative transfer to Westmead Hospital in Sydney is done on a case-by-case basis.
  • Four babies died in the past month due to the lack of cardiac services, the most recent on Friday.

A call for change

Obstetrician Associate Professor John Svigos eloquently stated during the hearing, 

I’ve been given to understand that the Women’s and Children’s Hospital has sadly seen the deaths of three babies [a fourth baby was confirmed later during the hearing] 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?”

Committee chairwoman Ms Bonaros called for an immediate independent inquiry into the deaths. She explained that Labor had cut the cardiac service and the Liberals had refused to restore it.

The current situation at the WCH is completely and utterly unacceptable and reprehensible. It breaks my heart to hear explosive claims that young babies and children are potentially dying unnecessarily at the hospital.”

What can be done

COVID restrictions may eventually ease and children will be able to return to Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital. But what happens if a pandemic hits again? What happens if the borders shut six, 12, 18 months down the road? 

If we are not self sufficient we are going to run into this problem again – it would be crazy to think we are not going to have another pandemic at some stage,” Dr. Svigos said.

The WCH Alliance is requesting a cardiac service be brought to the WCH. They had presented a case for paediatric cardiac services last year, but it was rejected. 

According to Dr Svigos, SA Health budgets $5m a year to transfer such children but a unit at the WCH would cost $6m to establish and $1m a year to run, making it cost-neutral in two years.

We will have to wait and see what the outcome is. But, for the families with babies who do need emergency cardiac services, we hope this problem is resolved as soon as possible. 

More South Australian news: 

Avatar of Jenna Galley

Born and raised in Canada, Jenna now lives in Far North Queensland with her tribe. When the mum-of-three is not writing, you can find her floating in the pool, watching princess movies, frolicking on the beach, bouncing her baby to sleep or nagging her older kids to put on their pants.

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