Parents of 7-year-old Aishwarya Aswath are demanding $5 million in ex-gratia payment from the Western Australia government after a damning report attributed their little girl’s death to a “series of system failures”.
The couple, Aswath Chavittupara and Prasitha Sasidharan, are launching a claim in the civil court against the WA government following the report’s release.
Speaking to the media, the family spokesman, Suresh Rajan, clarified that they were also planning to ask for the $5m damages payment on top of any legal compensation.
Aishwarya had died from organ failure due to a Strep A bacterial infection at Perth Children’s Hospital on April 3. She had been brought there by her parents with symptoms of fever. They waited for two hours in the waiting room to see a doctor and begged the staff to attend to their child, but to their utter despair, Aishwariya was triaged in the second-least urgent category. By the time a doctor had a look at her, it was too late.
Mrs Sasidharan, Aishwariya’s mother, described her helplessness to 9News: “I asked them… her eyes are changing. They asked if it was normal, and I said, ‘it’s not normal; she didn’t have it before.”
“They were actually neglecting us. We pleaded with them to have a look. They didn’t think it was an emergency,” she said.
In May, an internal report by the Child and Adolescent Health Services (CAHS) that oversees the hospital had found that Aishwarya died of sepsis after contracting an infection in group A streptococcus, stating that the staff had failed to identify the seriousness of her condition.
“The panel found there were a cascade of missed opportunities to address parental concerns and incomplete assessments, with a delay in escalation which may have contributed to the patient’s outcome,” the report found.
WA’s Health Minister, Roger Cook, tabled the report in Parliament and apologised to Aishwariya’s parents. “I wish to apologise unreservedly for this failure and for the heartbreak and devastation Aishwarya’s death has caused her family and her community,” he said.
“On behalf of the McGowan Government, Child and Adolescent Health Services, and all the health community, I say to Aishwarya’s family — I am sorry.”
However, he requested an independent inquiry into the tragic incident at the behest of the child’s parents.
By the Australia Commission on Safety and Quality and Health Care, this inquiry found a series of systemic issues that may have contributed to the schoolgirl’s death. The report also highlighted that the hospital’s management of Aishwariya’s case revealed flaws in its operations, noting staff shortage and exhaustion of workers.
Aishwarya’s parents have decided that all money received as ex-gratia will be put into a fund in her name to improve health services in West Australia (WA).
Speaking to The Sunday Times, Mr Chavittupara said, “No amount of money can bring my daughter back. But it is important to fight for others.”