The grieving parents of a young girl who died while waiting to see a doctor at a Perth hospital have accused “rude” staff of ignoring their repeated pleas for help.
Seven-year-old Aishwarya Aswath was rushed to Perth Children’s Hospital on Easter Saturday after she came down with a fever that her parents noticed was getting worse.
The young girl waited up to two hours in the emergency room waiting to see a doctor, during which time her eyes turned cloudy, her hands went cold and she became rigid.
Her parents, Aswath Chavittupara and Prasitha Sasidharan, begged staff multiple times to have a doctor look at her but claim their concerns were brushed aside.
When Aishwarya was finally seen by a doctor it was two late, with the young girl dying just 15 minutes later.
An internal report into her death found the girl had succumbed to an infection related to group A streptococcus, with Western Australian Health Minister Roger Cook conceding neither she nor her family received the appropriate level of care the night they attended the hospital.
However, the review found no individual was responsible for the lack of care showed to the family and that staffing shortages weren’t a contributing factor in the situation.
The girl’s death followed months of concerns about understaffing and treatment delays at hospitals across Perth.
When Aishwarya was taken to hospital staff placed her in the second-least urgent category.
Even when it became clear to her parents that the young girl was rapidly deteriorating, they claimed their calls for help were largely ignored.
“I think some of the staff were ignoring us … they didn’t even pass on the message to their superiors so they could decide,” an emotional Mr Chavittupara said.
“We found the staff were a bit rude and we found that the level of humanity that they had was very low.”
Mr Chavittupara and Ms Sasidharan say the report has raised more questions than answers and are pushing for an independent inquiry into their daughter’s death and other incidents at the hospital.
“We didn’t get the answers that we were looking for,” Mr Chavittupara told reporters on Thursday.
“We knew they would only look at some of the areas and ignore the rest. That’s why we’ve been pushing for an external inquiry.”
Race not a factor in poor treatment, Health Minister claims
Aishwarya’s parents have questioned whether their ethnicity played a role in the treatment they received and believe an independent review needs to address this.
“If we can start connecting the dots, maybe we can find an answer there,” Mr Chavittupara said.
However, Mr Cook downplayed any race-related concerns.
“None that (the panel) spoke to believed that race played an issue in relation to the care of Aishwarya,” he said.
Among the 11 recommendations laid out in the Child and Adolescent Health Services was a review of staff awareness of culturally and linguistically diverse communities.
Other recommendations included a pathway for parents to properly voice concerns to staff, improvements to the triage policy at Perth Children’s Hospital, the adaptation of an established sepsis recognition tool and a second independent inquiry into the hospital’s emergency department.
On Wednesday, Mr Cook apologised to Aishwarya’s family on behalf of the Western Australian government.
“I wish to apologise 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.”
But Mr Chavittupara said an apology was “not good enough” and the system needed to change to ensure something like this didn’t happen again.
The family want a new system to be introduced at the hospital’s emergency department that gives concerned parents the right to have their child’s care escalated so they can be seen sooner.
“We would like the system to be called Aishwarya’s Care,” Mr Chavittupara said.
“Aishwarya’s Care will give a concerned parent the right to escalate the situation and not just wait for the hospital staff to respond.”
“We lost our child,” Ms Sasidharan said.
“This shouldn’t happen to anybody else.”