Baby left brain damaged
A NEWBORN baby has died and another has been left brain damaged after they were given doses of nitrogen gas instead of oxygen in a “devastating error” at the Bankstown-Lidcombe Hospital.
The fatal mix-up occurred in one of the hospital’s birthing rooms when an outlet in neonatal resuscitation unit emitted nitrous oxide — commonly known as happy gas.
Doctors had instructed “oxygen” be given to the babies, born in June and mid-July, to help them cope after struggling through delivery.
The deadly mistake was only realised last Thursday after paediatrician raised the alarm after the second baby died.
The family of the baby who died has told The Australian they didn’t find out until a week later what happened to the newborn boy.
Sonya and Youssef Ghanem — whose other children were born at the same hospital — had their baby boy via Caesarian on Wednesday, July 13.
“They said they needed an emergency, ” Ms Ghanem’s elder daughter Chantal told The Australian.
“They didn’t say why. It was rushed, all rushed. We were waiting and waiting and waiting … then we just find out, you know, gone. The baby’s gone.”
Chantal said the hospital then 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.”
The Ghanem family held a funeral for the little boy on Thursday, July 21.
The other newborn is still fighting for life and remains in a critical condition at hospital.
Health minister Jillian Skinner described it as a “devastating error” and said she was “profoundly sorry” to the grief-stricken families. As her department launched a full-scale investigation, she said: “I reassure the public of the safety of Bankstown-Lidcombe Hospital and hospitals across NSW.”
“Bankstown-Lidcombe Hospital has checked all eight operating theatres and found an installation fault in only one theatre,” said Ms Skinner adding:
“It has been corrected but that theatre remains closed.”
She said the oxygen outlet had been certified by BOC Limited in July, 2015.
Opposition health spokesman Walt Secord last night described the deadly bungle as ‘every parent’s worst nightmare”.
“It is astounding and shocking,” Mr Secord said. “There has to an independent, external investigation, separate from that conducted by the Department of Health. Mr Secord said the findings of that independent inquiry must be released to the public.
Government sources claimed information on the bungle had not been released yet because the families had wanted more time before the issue became public.
An “exhaustive investigation” had found no other babies than the pair had been affected despite the bungle not having been identified for weeks.
South Western Sydney Local Health District is conducting a formal investigation to determine if Bankstown-Lidcombe Hospital staff followed protocols which may have detected the installation error last year.
Secretary of NSW Health Elizabeth Koff has advised the state’s 15 Local Health Districts and two specialty networks have urgently reviewed their protocols for ensuring medical gas outlets are correctly installed and verified in compliance with the Australian standards.
Mr Secord said: “It can’t just go to the Minister and be covered up.
On its website BOC states that it sells “medical nitrous oxide” and “medical oxygen” to healthcare facilities.
Nitrous oxide is commonly known as laughing gas. The colourless gas is commonly used for sedation and pain relief, often used by dentists and medical professionals to sedate patients undergoing minor medical procedures.
BOC, states that the nitrous oxide (n20) it sells is used as an anaesthetic and analgesic agent.
The Australian Drug Foundation, on its website, warns that if a large amount of nitrous oxide is inhaled it can result in a loss of blood pressure, fainting and heart attacks.
“This government has the tendency to commission reports and then not release them
and show what the report actually reveals.”
Mr Secord said the incident was a sign of the enormous pressure that the NSW health system is under.
“This is the human cost of cuts to the health system.
“When you tear $3 billion out of the health budget, staff are under pressure and mistakes happen.”