Aishwarya’s parents in court plead for change at Perth Children’s Hospital as inquest wraps up

The parents of a little girl who died of sepsis after waiting two hours in an emergency department waiting room have begged a court to take the “necessary steps” to prevent more parents having to endure a similar loss.

An inquest into Aishwarya Aswath’s death at the Perth Coroner’s Court was on its eighth and likely final day on Friday.

Through their lawyer, Tim Hammond, Aishwarya’s parents read a statement where they called on the court to honor her memory.

“As responsible parents we have always given all of the opportunities in order for Aishwarya to flourish and thrive,” Mr Hammond read.

“Our daughter had big dreams in life and always dreamt of becoming a teacher.

Lawyer Tim Hammond (left) accompanies Aishwarya’s parents into court on Friday.(ABC News: Cason Ho)

“She… became the youngest ever teacher because of the circumstances of her death that should serve as a lesson for all of us to abide by.

“This was especially so for our West Australian health system.

“Why should our health system change only after the loss of an innocent little life?

“What did Aishwarya do wrong? Why did she have to pay the ultimate price?”

Family’s search for truth

Mr Hammond said all the family wanted was for the truth to come out and to see “meaningful and sustainable change in the health system so this doesn’t happen again”.

“Our health system has always denied and defended their actions,” Mr Hammond read.

“We want our health system to be transparent and also held accountable.

“Everything we have heard in the last few days has confirmed there is much in the system that still needs to change.

“We request the honorable court to please take necessary steps to honor Aishwarya’s memory.”

A picture of a woman holding a framed photo of a little girl
Aishwarya’s mother Prasitha Sasidharan has carried this photo of her daughter into court on each day of proceedings. (ABC News: Cason Ho)

The head of Western Australia’s child health service said it “absolutely” should not have taken the death of a little girl for changes to be made to Perth Children’s Hospital, as he granted staffing levels were not adequate when she was in the emergency department last year .

Then acting Child and Adolescent Health Service chief executive Simon Wood gave evidence at the inquest into the circumstances surrounding Aishwarya’s death from massive toxic shock caused by a bacterial infection in April last year.

Aishwarya spent almost two hours in the waiting room before being admitted to hospital.

At times she was left without medical supervision when the only nurse on duty was called away to other urgent cases.

Dr Wood said while staffing levels met hospital policy at the time – known as “establishment levels” — they were not adequate to meet a surge in patient presentations that had been building since late 2020.

He said while the process of finding more staff had begun by late 2020, it wasn’t until an injection of government funding that increased staffing levels.

A man in a suit walks next to a woman, both of them wearing face masks
Dr Simon Wood says staffing levels were not adequate at Perth Children’s Hospital at the time Aishwarya died. (ABC News: Cason Ho)

The WA government gave an additional $46 million to the Perth Children’s Hospital in the financial year following the little girl’s death.

That included $9.5 million for the Emergency Department in the 2021/2022 financial year — $3.5 million of which was earmarked for extra staff positions.

Another $11 million top-up was provided this financial year for the hospital’s ED.

Nursing staff doubled

Dr Wood told the inquest that since Aishwarya died, nursing staff had almost doubled and another 20 senior ED doctors and 12 junior doctors had been added.

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