‘I’m sorry’: WA’s apology to heartbroken family

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    Western Australia has offered an unreserved apology to the family of Aishwarya Aswath, who died at Perth Children’s Hospital last month while waiting to see a doctor. Health Minister Roger Cook addressed the tragic death of the seven-year-old girl in parliament on Wednesday and tabled the recommendations from the first investigation into her death.

    “I wish to apologize unreservedly for this failure and for the heartbreak and devastation Aishwarya’s death has caused her family and her community,” he said. “On behalf of the McGowan Government, Child and Adolescent Health Services, and all the health community, I say to Aishwarya’s family — I am sorry.”

    Mr Cook said it was clear Aishwarya should have received better care at the children’s hospital when her parents took her on Easter Saturday with a fever. The report found the seven-year-old had succumbed to an infection related to group A streptococcus after being largely ignored for two hours.

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    Her parents, Aswath Chavittupara and Prasitha Sasidharan pleaded with staff for her to be assessed as her eyes became cloudy, and her hands turned cold and became rigid. She died soon after seeing a doctor. Aishwarya’s parents were given a copy of the report this morning.

    “It is vital that we now give the family appropriate time to read and process the report,” Mr. Cook said. “We must respect their right to privacy and acknowledge that this report documents in detail the final hours of their daughter‘s life — it is confronting and extremely distressing to read.”

    The initial report made eleven recommendations, including a review of cultural awareness for staff, a pathway for parents to properly voice concerns to staff, improvements to the triage policy at Perth Children’s Hospital, and the adaptation of an established sepsis recognition tool.

    After the initial investigations, Mr. Cook said he had requested a second, independent inquiry into the Perth Children’s hospital emergency department. “It is vital that we learn what happened at Perth Children’s Hospital and continue to improve the care provided to the children and young people of Western Australia,” he said.

    “I know this tragic event has been felt by staff across Perth Children‘s Hospital, and we must continue to support them and the work they do.” Family spokesman Suresh Rajan told the ABC that Aishwarya’s parents welcomed the report, but more needed to be done.

    “When we look at the recommendations themselves, we are staggered that it takes the death of a child to have those recommendations for procedural changes which should be a given for any hospital in a first-world nation,” he said. “It means this is now almost a line in the sand to say we have to move on from here.

    “It has taken the death of a child, but if it results in a better health system, then that apology is really welcome as a starting point. “They’ve gone from a position of grief to a position of anger … what (Aishwarya’s parents) are driven by now is very much around systemic change that will make sure no-one else has to go through this.”

    The grieving parents held a hunger strike outside the hospital earlier this month to demand answers over her death — before the findings from today’s inquiry were handed down. West Australian Premier Mark McGowan committed to two separate investigations into Aishwarya’s death earlier this month.

    “It’s a very, very sad thing for the family. I think everyone feels for them but we can’t possibly understand their grief,” he said. “It’s beyond imagining. “There’ll be two inquiries into the matter to get to the bottom of what has occurred. I think we owe the family and Aishwarya that as a state.”

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