Family of baby who died after oxygen mix-up at Bankstown-Lidcombe Hospital left devastated
HEALTH Minister Jillian Skinner is facing a call to resign after it emerged she attended the Helpmann Awards ceremony as news broke on the death of a newborn baby in hospital.
Baby John Ghanem, who was supposed to receive oxygen but was instead given nitrous oxide, died after the mix-up at Bankstown-Lidcome Hospital on July 13. His uncle Joe Kharma said today he lived for less than an hour — a mere 57 minutes.
His parents Sonya and Youssef, who had gone into hospital expecting a routine birth, did not learn for a week how their baby died.
Another family said the loss was still “very raw” and that they were considering legal action over “medical negligence”.
Another baby is still fighting for life.
Authorities knew about the blunder as far back as last Thursday but did not publicly reveal the deadly mix-up until last night.
The incident has prompted NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley to label Health Minister Jillian Skinner “grotesque” and call for her resignation.
“At the outset could I express my condolences and the condolences of the shadow health minister to the families affected here,” Mr Foley said.
“Our hearts go out to you as do the hearts of everyone in our state.”
“Mr Baird needs to find himself a new health minister,” Mr Foley said.
“The reaction of Jillian Skinner to this terrible tragedy speaks for itself, she found out about this some days ago and then she frocks up to go to the theatre.
“I find Jillian Skinner’s reaction grotesque in its insensitivity.
“Rather than reaching out to the family, rather than being available to the families to speak with them, rather than putting herself at the availability of the families affected, rather than being available to speak with the staff, she frocks up and goes to the theatre.”
Ms Skinner resisted a suggestion she resign at a press conference this morning.
“This afternoon I spoke by telephone with the mother and uncle of the newborn baby boy who died after being administered the wrong gas through a neonatal resuscitation outlet at Bankstown-Lidcombe Hospital on July 13,” Ms Skinner said in a statement this evening.
“I apologised for the devastating error which led to the baby’s tragic death.”
The child’s mother today revelled she didn’t learn what had actually happened until a week after the incident.
The Ghanems, whose other three children were born at the same hospital, had their baby boy on Wednesday, July 13.
Mrs Youssef told the Nine Network this morning she had gone to the hospital for what she expected would be a routine childbirth when she was told she needed a caesarean section.
When she woke up from the anaesthetic, a nurse told her that her baby son was dead.
“I held my baby ... just looking at him, shaking my son. `Wake up’, I would tell him, `wake up, wake up. What have they done to you’,” Mrs Youssef said.
John was buried on July 21.
Uncle Joe told 2GB: “We’re speechless. All we want is justice for baby John.”
“I can’t describe to you enough the feeling and the visuals we go through seeing a little white coffin go six feet into the ground.
“What makes it harder now is the fact that we know he was killed for nothing. They just kept pumping poison into him.”
Mr Kharma criticised NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner’s response to the tragedy which she called a “devastating error”. “I can’t understand how it’s just a ‘devastating error’ to the minister,” he said.
“You’re dealing with someone’s baby. Emotions are through the roof and all they can do is play the political game of covering up everything.” Another newborn remains in a critical condition after a similar mixup at the same hospital in June.
Mr Kharma said he hoped the second baby would pull through.
“I don’t want the family to go through what we’re going through,” he said.
The baby’s older sister Chantal said the hospital contacted them a week later saying “there’s some new information about the care your baby was given”, which was when they found out about the gas mix-up.
“They admitted it,” Ms Ghanem said.
“They said ‘it’s basically our fault’. I lost it when they said that. I just wanted to kill them.
“I am just so angry that an innocent life is gone due to something that should have never happened.”
South Western Sydney Local Health District is conducting a formal investigation.
What is know is that the fatal blunder occurred in one of the hospital’s birthing rooms when an outlet in neonatal resuscitation unit emitted nitrous oxide — commonly known as happy gas. But the gas was certified by BOC Ltd in July 2015.
Doctors had instructed oxygen be given to the babies, born in June and mid-July, to help them cope after struggling through delivery.
It is the second major scandal in the health portfolio in a matter of months, following the chemo scandal at St Vincent’s Hospital which resulted in dozens of patients being given the incorrect doses of chemo drugs by a single doctor.
Ms Skinner said earlier: “I know that the hospital in question, Bankstown, has checked all eight of its operating theatres,” she said.
“The one concerned ... there were only two babies affected fortunately. But that has now been closed and I’ve asked for every newly-commissioned theatre built over the last five years to be checked.”
Chief Health Office Dr Kerry Chant added: “At this stage we are saying the baby has been severely impacted and there are likely to be long-term impacts on the child.
“We are not walking away from the catastrophic events that were caused by this failure.”