The Minister for Health has again thrown employees at the Department of Health under the bus, despite being responsible for an understaffed hospital and cutting corners on triage support.

“In the last month, the Chair of Child and Adolescent Health Services Board has been forced to accept ultimate responsibility and resign, and last night it was revealed PCH health workers have been sidelined as a consequence of failures under the McGowan Labor Government’s watch,” Shadow Health Minister Libby Mettam said.

“While the Minister tries to deflect the blame, the reality is there were outstanding issues regarding fragmented care, lack of clinical supervision and concerns about ongoing education of staff, the skill mix and the ratio of experienced vs junior staff on duty at PCH.

“These issues around patient safety, particularly children in waiting rooms, were raised in October last year, yet nothing was done.

“In December, the ANF warned “it would take a catastrophic incident to occur before something was changed” and they felt they “would be thrown under the bus when this did happen”, yet nothing was done.

“Devastatingly, the ANF’s prediction eventuated on April 3 this year with the tragic death of Aishwarya Aswath.

“The Health Minister needs to stop the spin and stop deflecting blame and acknowledge that he knew about the issues and failed to act.”

Ms Mettam also questioned why the McGowan Government did not fund a triage support nurse to check vital signs, as recommended, when PCH was opened in 2018.

“It is incredulous, in a State as prosperous as ours, that this Government did not act to ensure such a simple and potentially life-saving position was established,” Ms Mettam said.

“It also beggars belief that the Health Minister failed to act on the very policies he was advocating for in Opposition with Malakai’s Rule.

“He had four years to ensure this rule – which gives parents the right to call for a second opinion when they feel they aren’t being heard – was enacted but he did nothing.

“The Minister has sat on his hands time and time again, ignoring the warnings and failing to implement simple but potentially life-saving policies and positions.

“What we’ve seen is a monumental failure in the processes and the system and the Health Minister needs to stop deflecting the blame and explain how this has been allowed to happen on his watch.”

Timeline of failures:

  • 2016 – Roger Cook advocates for Malakai’s Rule – a process where parents can escalate concerns to enact an independent review after the death of a seven-month-old baby who was sent home with his parents from two hospitals and later died. The rule was never brought in. The Minister says it will now be called Aishwarya’s Care.
  • 2018 – A triage support nurse role was supposed to be established when the PCH opened but wasn’t.
  • 2020 – October – Senior clinicians met with health executives to raise serious concerns about patient safety, particularly in relation to children in the waiting room.
  • 2020 – December – The AMA and ANF warned understaffing was compromising patient care and the ANF said “it would take a catastrophic incident to occur before something changed” and they felt they “would be thrown under the bus when this did happen”.
  • 2021 – April 3 – Aishwarya Aswath tragically dies after waiting almost two hours for care at PCH.
  • 2021 – April – Health Minister writes to ANF admitting PCH experiencing staff shortages.
  • 2021 – May – CAHS Board Chair Debbie Karasinski steps down and PCH nursing staff sidelined.