Four newborn babies have died in the Australian city of Adelaide in the past four weeks after they could not be airlifted to Melbourne for special treatment due to strict coronavirus travel restrictions.
The state of South Australia does not have a cardiac unit for children meaning seriously ill newborns in Adelaide with heart issues are normally taken to Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital in the nearby state of Victoria – but this option has been ruled out due to the pandemic and a ban on inter-state travel, an inquiry heard on Tuesday.
Anyone entering South Australia from Victoria must travel for an essential purpose, which includes “urgent medical, dental or health treatment,” attending a funeral, or “providing health services.”
Bernadette Mulholland, an executive at the Salaried Medical Officers Association, said doctors told her, “In these four cases, the issue was Victoria not being able to retrieve the babies.”
Other health professionals backed her claim that internal cross-border travel restrictions were to blame.
“The baby and her parents and sometimes some other relatives and carers would have to go to Melbourne, and then they’d have to come back. So there are COVID problems on each end in the sense that when they come back, they’d have to be quarantined. Now, none of that is more serious than saving the life of a baby, and I’m not sure just why this happened,” Flinders University emeritus professor Warren Jones told Sky News Australia.
Four Newborns in Adelaide have died after being denied lifesaving heart surgery because it wasn't available in Adelaide, and they couldn't be transferred interstate because of travel restrictions. #9News pic.twitter.com/IFZsv9kq4k
— 9News Australia (@9NewsAUS) October 20, 2020
Associate Professor John Svigos confirmed to the South Australian parliament’s public health services committee that Melbourne’s lockdown meant transfer for the babies, who required specialised cardiac care, was not available.
“In our current COVID situation… the usual process of referral to the Melbourne cardiac unit is no longer tenable, and referral to Sydney is on a case-by-case basis,” he said, as reported by the Daily Mail.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said in a press conference in Melbourne the children were not kept away due to lockdown and he denied his state was in any way responsible.
“I don’t think it is a matter of restrictions,” he said, adding “there was a choice not at our end, but the other end for them not to be sent.”
“I can only go with what I’m been told. I don’t think it was a ‘you can’t come here’ type of deal.”
The babies died over the course of the past four weeks, with the most recent death coming on Friday.