The grieving parents of a little girl who died after waiting for hours in a hospital emergency room are demanding $5 million dollars ‘minimum’ from the Western Australian Government.
Aishwarya Aswath, seven, spent two hours in the waiting room at Perth Children’s Hospital for a fever on April 3, before she was triaged in the second-least urgent category.
Her parents Aswath Chavittupara, 39, and Prasitha Sasidharan, 33, begged for her to be assessed by doctors after her eyes became cloudy and her hands turned cold, but it was too late – she died after she was finally seen by a specialist.
The couple are launching a multi-million dollar compensation claim in the civil court against the Western Australian Government after a report blamed her death on a series of systemic failures.
But family spokesman Suresh Rajan said the devastated parents are also planning to ask for a $5 million damages payment to be paid on top of any legal compensation.
Aishwarya Aswath, seven, (pictured) waited for two hours in the emergency room of Perth Children’s Hospital only to die soon after she finally received treatment
‘It is difficult for (the family) to quantify exactly how much it (an ex-gratia payment) should be,’ Mr Rajan told The Australian.
‘But you would expect from based on what we have seen from other ex-gratia payments, you are probably not going to be looking at anything less than $5 million.
‘That would be the very minimum.’
An ex gratia is a voluntary payment offered to a party from a sense of moral obligation rather than because of any legal requirement.
Mr Rajan said the matter of the additional cash would be raised with Health Minister Roger Cook at a meeting on Thursday.
Mr Cook would not confirm whether the government would make an ex gratia payment but said he was ‘always open to listening and talking’ to the family.
In May, a report by WA’s Child and Adolescent Health Services found Aishwarya died of sepsis after contracting an infection in group A streptococcus, with staff failing to identify the seriousness of her condition.
Aswath Chavittupara, 39, and Prasitha Sasidharan, 33, (pictured) are planning to sue the WA Government and use the funds to launch a foundation in their daughter’s honour. They are also seeking a $5million ‘minimum’ damages payment to be paid on top
An independent inquiry by the Australia Commission on Safety and Quality and Health Care found a series of systemic issues may have contributed to the schoolgirl’s death.
The inquiry described emergency department staff as ‘exhausted, demoralised, and isolated’.
The ACSQHC report, released this week, made 30 recommendations for change including addressing nursing and medical staffing shortages, and recognising parental input when handling child cases.
Aishwarya’s parents will not pocket any of the funds received from the state government, they will go towards setting up a foundation in Aishwarya’s name to improve health services in WA.
‘No amount of money can bring my daughter back. But it is important to fight for others,’ Mr Chavittupara previously told The Sunday Times.
‘If somebody on a previous occasion had fought against the system like me, I would probably have my daughter with me right now.’
Mr Chavittupara said he and his wife planned to dedicate the rest of their lives to building another public hospital in Perth with paediatric services.
An internal report found Perth Children’s Hospital missed a series of opportunities to ramp up Aishwarya’s care as her condition deteriorated
They want the facility to have 300 and are prepared to sell half of their personal business to fund the project.
Mr Rajan announced last month Aishwarya’s family sought legal advice about suing the government.
‘It would be a multimillion-dollar claim based on the fact that she was only seven years old and there were so many years of income earning capacity which were taken away from her,’ he said at the time.
The CAHS report in mid-May also found emergency department staff missed a ‘cascade’ of opportunities to escalate the seven-year-old’s care as she succumbed to a fatal infection on Easter Saturday.
Aishwarya’s parents sought help on five separate occasions while in the waiting room.
Within 20 minutes of arriving, her hands were cold, her eyes were discoloured and her respiratory rate and heart rate were significantly elevated.
But the severity of her condition wasn’t recognised until an hour and 17 minutes later, when a doctor noticed she had cold peripheries and slurred speech.
She entered a resuscitation bay but was pronounced dead within two hours.
An independent inquiry -released this week – found a series of system issues may have contributed to Aishwarya Aswath’s death
The report highlighted a 30-minute period where it was left to one nurse to watch over eight waiting room cubicles as Aishwarya continued to deteriorate.
In meetings with hospital executives dating back to October last year, emergency department staff raised concerns around the safety of children in the waiting room.
Plans for the new hospital to have a triage support nurse who would check patients’ vital signs did not progress after it opened in 2018.
The CAHS made 11 recommendations which the government agreed to implement at PCH by November, including improvements to triage policy.
Aishwarya’s death will also be investigated by the coroner.