Health Minister Roger Cook has defended operations at Perth Children’s Hospital and played down the number of serious events within the child and adolescent health system.
At a press conference, Mr Cook said of the 21 ‘severity assessment code 1’ events that had occurred in the child health system since 2020, only two resulted in deaths.
The Department of Health later clarified this was incorrect and the 21 events had occurred at PCH alone, but there had only been one death because seven-year-old Aishwarya Aswath’s tragic death after waiting two hours to be seen by PCH doctors on Saturday has not yet been declared a SAC 1 event.
According to the Department of Health, a SAC1 event is an incident that “has or could have caused serious harm or death; and which is attributed to health care provision (or lack thereof) rather than the patient’s underlying condition or illness.”
Mr Cook said the other SAC1 events may have been issues with medication administration and infection control.
It has emerged that four of the 18 doctors rostered in the emergency department on Saturday had called in sick and Aishwarya was triaged as a category 4 patient despite the pleas of her parents about her rapidly deteriorating condition.
Severity Assessment Codes (SAC) in the WA health system
- SAC 1 - A clinical incident that has or could have (near miss), caused serious harm or death; and which is attributed to health care provision (or lack thereof) rather than the patient’s underlying condition or illness.
- SAC 2 - A clinical incident that has or could have (near miss), caused moderate harm; and which is attributed to health care provision (or lack thereof) rather than the patient’s underlying condition or illness.
- SAC 3 - A clinical incident that has or could have (near miss) caused minor or no harm; and which is attributed to health care provision (or lack thereof) rather than the patient’s underlying condition or illness.
Mr Cook defended the operations at PCH and described it as a world-leading hospital.
“We want people to report SAC1s because we learn from them, and we continue to improve the care that we provide, but on any metric, you look at around PCH — both in terms of Australasia, and the world — they are a leading hospital with very good and very strong quality safety measures to make sure that we provide the best possible care across the board,” he said.
On Wednesday, the head of WA’s Australian Nursing Federation Mark Olson revealed the union had previously warned Mr Cook patient safety was being compromised because of staffing levels.
Mr Cook confirmed he had spoken to Mr Olson about nurses’ concerns at PCH but was told the federation would investigate further and come back to him.
Mr Cook has spoken to Aishwarya’s parents and vowed to get answers.
However, an ‘root and cause analysis’ investigation, standard after a SAC1 event like Aishwarya’s, could take between four to six weeks to complete.
Deputy Liberal leader Libby Mettam said this timeframe was not good enough and an independent assessment could be done within a week.
Mr Cook emphatically rejected any notion that he should resign over his handling of the health system and said he felt “absolutely energised” about his role.
“I’ve been in the health portfolio for over 12 years now, there are going to be challenges, there are going to be changing circumstances that you have to adapt to,” he said.
Of the 21 SAC1 events at PCH seven resulted in serious harm, nine in moderate harm and four in minor harm as well as Aishwarya’s tragic death.