Western Australia’s Labor government has used its parliamentary majority to block calls for an independent inquiry into the death of a young girl at a Perth hospital.
Seven-year-old Aishwarya Aswath spent two hours waiting in the emergency department at Perth Children’s Hospital after presenting with a fever and being triaged in the second-least urgent category during the Easter weekend.
Aishwarya’s parents had pleaded for her to be assessed by doctors after her eyes became cloudy and hands turned cold.
She died soon after she was finally seen in front of her distraught parents, who said they had begged staff to see their little girl.
The incident is being investigated by Western Australia’s Child and Adolescent Health Service which is due to provide its report next Wednesday.
Aishwarya Aswath died after being made to wait for two hours for treatment in the Perth Children’s Hospital emergency room, her parents claim
But Aishwarya’s parents, who went on a hunger strike outside the hospital over the weekend, believe the department is unlikely to provide genuine answers.
Opposition health spokeswoman Libby Mettam on Tuesday moved a parliamentary motion for an independent inquiry into Aishwarya’s death.
‘We cannot have the health department investigating its own system and expect objectivity in a case such as this,’ she told the Legislative Assembly.
‘And we cannot allow an investigation through the lens of what is obviously a broken health department that can allow a seven-year-old girl to languish in an emergency department waiting room until it’s too late to actually help her.’
Ms Mettam said cultural issues had been highlighted by advocates who felt the Indian couple may have been ‘too polite’ in approaching hospital staff.
Opposition Leader Mia Davies said WA’s health system was ‘stretched at the seams’.
Nurses at Perth Children’s Hospital have defended themselves saying staff shortages were putting patients at risk
The circumstances surrounding Aishwarya’s death will now not be explored in an independent probe
‘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.
Labor used its considerable majority to reject the motion 49 votes to six.
Health Minister Roger Cook said the existing inquiry involved a panel of 10 people, four of whom were independent of the Child and Adolescent Health Service.
They included the chair, paediatrician Janine Spencer, a public emergency department nurse, an ‘external multicultural expert’ and a private paediatric consultant.
‘We don’t know what happened that night,’ he said.
‘We weren’t there – we weren’t the doctors and nurses making the decisions, we weren’t the family trying to get attention for their daughter.
‘So we should all be careful to make sure that we don’t pre-judge this inquiry.’
Mr Cook said he had personally promised to Aishwarya’s father that there would be a ‘thorough and robust investigation with the highest priority’.
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.