Vital heart surgery for children is being scrapped at the last moment causing agony for desperate families as Victoria’s health system introduces strict new Covid rules that’s stopping some operations.
Little Esmee-Rose Gregory, 3, has been waiting for life-changing open heart surgery since December but has had her operation cancelled five times.
She was due to go into theatre on Tuesday and parents Luke and Ebony again drove her 750km from Adelaide to Melbourne – only for the op to be scrapped once more.
‘It’s just stressful and just heartbreaking,’ said father Luke Gregory on Friday. ‘It’s too easy to say come back later – but there might not be a later.’
Little Esmee-Rose Gregory, 3, has been waiting for life-changing open heart surgery since December but has had her operation cancelled five times
Melbourne hospitals are pausing category two and three elective surgery to focus on critical emergency operations as the latest Covid wave takes a grip on Australia.
But it has caused chaos and heartbreak for families waiting months for their children to get the treatment they need.
The Gregorys drove from Adelaide to Melbourne on Sunday after again being told Esmee-Rose’s op was to go ahead on Tuesday.
But after they arrived, they found out on the morning of the operation that the surgery was being cancelled at the last moment again.
They tried again on Wednesday and Thursday, but it was cancelled again both times.
Esmee-Rose Gregory was due to go into theatre on Tuesday and parents Luke and Ebony again drove her 750km from Adelaide to Melbourne – only for the op to be scrapped once more
Royal Children’s Hospital feared there may not be a spare bed in intensive care to look after Esmee-Rose after the operation and has now pushed the surgery back to August.
‘It’s not easy, waking up every day not knowing what’s going to be going on and where we’re going to be going,’ Mr Gregory told the Today show on Friday.
‘And then to know we’re going to be going home after sort of wasting a week’s time. That’s not the best feeling.’
The family say the last time their daughter had surgery for her heart condition it transformed her life, and hoped for even more improvement after her next op.
‘She’ll get a better life expectancy,’ said her mum. ‘She’ll be able to do more things a three year old can do.’
But she now faces waiting weeks more to go under the knife.
Mother-of-four Ms Gregory added: ‘She could go downhill anytime.
‘It means that we have to stop our lives to come back again. It’s just a horrible thing to go through and I don’t want anyone else to go through it.’
The Gregorys drove from Adelaide to Melbourne on Sunday after again being told Esmee-Rose’s op was to go ahead on Tuesday
Bendigo boy Winston Tilkeridis, 5, has had his heart surgery cancelled eight times since May – including twice within a hour and once just 40 minutes before it was due to begin.
He needs palliative surgery to help ease his congenital heart disease tricuspid atresia, but father Cristean Tilkeridis fears the operation may come too late.
The child had a catheter put into his heart last October ahead of his open heart surgery which was supposed to be carried out within six months and was originally scheduled for April.
But nine months later, he’s still waiting for the operation and the family have had their lives on standstill while they wait.
‘If he wasn’t to get into surgery, he’d eventually have heart failure — and then it would be emergency surgery,’ Mr Tilkeridis told the ABC.
‘Winston used to be OK with going to the hospital, but now he’s really quite anxious. It’s cruel to put anyone through that.
‘It’s really important we’re not just numbers — we’re people.’
Patrick Lo of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons said staff shortages because of illness and the severe flu season were impacting hospitals.
‘There’s just no resources left to carry out these procedures,’ he told Virginia Trioli on ABC Radio Melbourne. ‘The hospitals are completely bursting at the seams.’
Some Melbourne hospital are restricting elective surgery to clinically urgent category one patients to allow them to ‘continue caring for the most critically ill’
The hospital has also reintroduced limits on outpatient appointments and compulsory N95 masks for visitors.
Dr Roderick McRae, President of the Australian Medical Association of Victoria , said on Thursday that the state health system was at a ‘crisis point’.
He added: ‘Something has to change because the healthcare system is at breaking point.’
The state health department said the Royal Children’s Hospital would work with the families to reschedule the surgery again.