Melbourne’s Alfred Hospital repeatedly performs heart surgery for a girl from Adelaide and a boy from Bendigo

Life-saving heart surgery for children is being scrapped at the last moment, causing desperate families agony as Victoria’s health system introduces tough new Covid rules that halt some operations.

Little Esmee-Rose Gregory, 3, has been waiting for life-changing open-heart surgery since December, but her surgery has been canceled five times.

She was due to go to the theater on Tuesday and her parents, Luke and Ebony, again drove her 750km from Adelaide to Melbourne – only for the operation to be scrapped again.

“It’s just stressful and just heartbreaking,” father Luke Gregory said on Friday. “It’s too easy to say come back later – but there may not be a later.”

heart surgery since December, but her operation has been canceled five times” class=”blkBorder img-share” style=”max-width:100%” />

Little Esmee-Rose Gregory, 3, has been waiting for life-changing open-heart surgery since December, but her operation has been canceled five times

Melbourne hospitals are suspending category two and three elective surgeries to focus on critical emergency operations as the latest wave of Covid grips Australia.

But it has brought chaos and heartache for families who wait months for their children to get the treatment they need.

The Gregorys drove from Adelaide to Melbourne on Sunday after being told again that Esmee-Rose’s surgery was due to take place on Tuesday.

But after arriving, they found out on the morning of the operation that the operation was canceled again at the last moment.

They tried again on Wednesday and Thursday, but it was canceled again both times.

Esmee-Rose Gregory was due to go to the theater on Tuesday and her parents, Luke and Ebony, again drove her 750km from Adelaide to Melbourne – only for the operation to be scrapped again.

Esmee-Rose Gregory was due to go to the theater on Tuesday and her parents, Luke and Ebony, again drove her 750km from Adelaide to Melbourne – only for the operation to be scrapped again.

The Royal Children’s Hospital were concerned there would be no spare intensive care bed to care for Esmee-Rose after the operation and have now pushed back the operation to August.

“It’s not easy, waking up every day not knowing what’s going to happen and where we’re going,” Mr. Gregory told the Today show on Friday.

“And then to know that we’re going to come home after kind of wasting a week. It’s not the best feeling.

The family say the last time their daughter had surgery for her heart condition was life-changing and hope for even more improvement after her next operation.

“She will have a better life expectancy,” her mother said. “She’ll be able to do more things than a three-year-old can do.”

But she now has to wait weeks more to go under the knife.

Mother-of-four Ms Gregory added: ‘She could come down at any time.

“It means we have to stop our lives to come back. It’s just a horrible thing to go through and I don’t want anyone else going through it.

The Gregorys drove from Adelaide to Melbourne on Sunday after being told again that Esmee-Rose's surgery was due to take place on Tuesday.

The Gregorys drove from Adelaide to Melbourne on Sunday after being told again that Esmee-Rose’s surgery was due to take place on Tuesday.

Bendigo boy Winston Tilkeridis, 5, has had eight heart surgery cancellations since May – including twice within an hour and once just 40 minutes before it was due to start.

He needs palliative surgery to help relieve his congenital tricuspid cardiac atresia, but father Cristean Tilkeridis fears the operation may come too late.

The child had a catheter placed in his heart last October ahead of his open heart surgery which was due within six months and was originally scheduled for April.

But nine months later, he is still waiting for the operation and the family’s life is at a standstill in the meantime.

“If he didn’t have to have surgery, he would end up having heart failure – and then it would be emergency surgery,” Mr Tilkeridis told the ABC.

“Winston used to be okay with going to the hospital, but now he’s really, really anxious. It’s cruel to put anyone through that.

“It’s really important that we are not just numbers, we are people.”

Patrick Lo of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons said staff shortages due to illness and the severe flu season were impacting hospitals.

“There are simply no resources left to carry out these procedures,” he told Virginia Trioli on ABC Radio Melbourne. “Hospitals are completely full to bursting.”

Some Melbourne hospitals are limiting elective surgery to clinically urgent Category 1 <a class=patients to allow them to ‘continue to care for the most seriously ill'” class=”blkBorder img-share” style=”max-width:100%” />

Some Melbourne hospitals are limiting elective surgery to clinically urgent Category 1 patients to allow them to ‘continue to care for the most seriously ill’

The hospital has also reintroduced limits on outpatient appointments and mandatory N95 masks for visitors.

Dr Roderick McRae, president of the Australian Medical Association of Victoria, said on Thursday the state’s health system was at a “crisis point”.

He added: “Something has to change because the healthcare system is at breaking point.”

The state health department said the Royal Children’s Hospital would work with the families to reschedule the operation again.