What happens when patients encounter an inefficient healthcare system? They suffer the consequences; some of their conditions get worse, leading to an untimely death. That is what happened to Amrita Lanka when her parents brought her to Monash Children’s hospital, as she had immense stomach pain, vomiting, and fever.
Melbourne couple Chandra Sekhar Lanka and Satya Tarapureddi took their daughter to their general practitioner on April 29, who referred Amrita to the hospital after he suspected appendicitis.
After reaching the hospital, they had to wait for two hours in the emergency department before receiving any medical treatment. Finally, when the medical staff inspected Amrita’s condition, they conducted an abdominal scan, after which they gave a diagnosis. They informed her mother that she did not have appendicitis but was more likely suffering due to gastroenteritis.
Following the diagnosis, at 9 pm that night, a nurse gave fluids through an intravenous drip, but soon she had trouble breathing. Also, her mother immediately pressed the staff assistance button after her daughter signaled she could not breathe properly, but nobody came for any medical assistance.
Therefore, she went to the reception and told them that they had been waiting for 20-25 minutes for some medical attention for their daughter, who was encountering breathing issues. Finally, after fifteen minutes, they arrived and checked her condition, following which they informed her that Amrita had not eaten anything for two days; hence she was showing such symptoms.
Besides, the medical staff also told Ms. Tarapureddi that her daughter could be discharged after a few hours of receiving the fluids or the following morning after reassessment. However, at 3 am the next morning, a doctor took a blood test in response to their concerns about Amrita’s breathing – nearly six hours after first sounding the alarm.
Then, the medical staff shifted her to a short-stay room, where they realized that she was in a critical condition; soon, she went into cardiac arrest. Her father, who was at home with her nine-year-old brother, rushed to the hospital after learning of her daughter’s deteriorating condition.
By the time Mr. Lanka saw his daughter, her heart had stopped for two minutes, but the doctors were able to revive her. Additionally, during that condition, she said that she wanted to talk to her father; on the other Mr.Lanka was crying and consoled her daughter, saying that she would be alright soon.
However, Amrita passed away at 10:17 am on May 7. Saturday, 21 hours after her parents took her to the hospital. Her family described her as a lively and chatty girl at home but a calm and shy one outside; she was kind to everyone, loved pets, and always wanted to become a veterinarian.
Amrita’s parents are in deep despair due to their daughter’s untimely demise; also, they are saddened because they do not know what led to the sudden death. Hence they are looking forward to an external investigation into the circumstances that led to her cardiac arrest.
They said that the truth needs to come out, and at the end of the day, everyone needs to feel secure when going to the hospital. But with the occurrence of such incidents, it is hard for people to keep faith in the healthcare system.
Mr. Lanka said that his wife alerted the hospital staff five times overnight regarding their daughter’s breathing difficulty, but they did not pay any attention. Moreover, when they came to check up on her, they dismissed her condition by saying that she was encountering such issues due to an empty stomach. He emphasized that if they had done their job properly by providing appropriate medical assistance on time, Amrita would have been still alive.
On the other hand, in a statement, Monash Health said that they have reached out to the family for support and ensured that they would carry out an investigation. Besides, the organization’s spokesperson expressed their condolences to her family and friends.
Similarly, Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley said that losing a child is something that no parent should endure, and he expressed his deepest thoughts and sympathies. Additionally, he asked Monash Health to ensure they complete a full clinical review. They have already referred the incident to Safer Care Victoria and the Victorian coroner, the standard practice when a patient dies in care.
Monash Health has confirmed that they are treating the incident as a sentinel event, a designation set aside for the most severe cases of patient harm and death that have resulted from adverse patient safety events.
Shadow Health Minister Georgie Crozier criticized the government for mismanaging the health system; he said that the entire system is lagging and unstable. Also, he added that the deceased child’s parents had not received an apology or response from the government.
However, Premier Daniel Andrews said that although Amrita’s death was a terrible tragedy, the Covid-19 pandemic has put the healthcare system under unprecedented pressure. Furthermore, he elaborated that politics and Liberal Party health funding cutbacks won’t solve the issues; he said that concerted efforts are to support the nurses, doctors, and healthcare facilities to battle the deadly disease.