Victorian hospital crisis postponed child’s heart surgery nine times

On Tuesday, July 12, the ABC reported on Winston, the five-year-old Bendigo boy who needs open-heart surgery but whose surgery has been canceled “eight times.”

Cristean Tilkeridis, Winston’s father, is “emotionally overwhelmed”.

“I’m completely overwhelmed, and it’s nine postponed surgeries, not eight, as the ABC reports,” Mr. Tilkeridis told Neos Cosmos.

He said Winston suffered from ‘palliative’ congenital heart disease, tricuspid atresia, and was due to have his fifth open-heart surgery at the Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) in April.

Mr. Tilkeridis said Neos Cosmos that his family “received an email from the hospital indicating that the operation is scheduled for the end of July”.

“We will hear from the hospital over the next few days, I think they want to make sure it’s a tight deadline before they get back to us.”

Winston’s surgery was classified as category two, as “semi-urgent”, with surgery required within 90 days.

“And if he weren’t to have surgery, he would end up having heart failure – and then it would be an emergency operation,” Mr Tilkeridis said. the ABC.

A spokesperson for the Royal Children’s Hospital has confirmed that “increased demand” along with “high acuity among our patients and increasing levels of staff illness”, have impacted waiting times for services “as well as on some planned surgeries”.

“We are evaluating our ability to perform planned surgeries daily based on the clinical priority of all emergency patients who have presented overnight, bed availability and staffing levels,” the carrier wrote. word of the RCH to Neos Cosmos.

The RCH said it “will continue to work closely with the families to reschedule the postponed procedures as soon as possible”.

Mr Tilkeridis contacted the Victoria Department of Health, who were in touch in June, but has not heard from them since.

Neos Cosmos sought comments from Mary-Anne Thomas – Victoria’s new health minister – but at the time of writing she had received nothing.

Dr Roderick McRae, president of the Victorian branch of the Australian Medical Association (AMA), said Neos Cosmos that the hospital is under extreme pressure.

In Winston’s case, Dr. McRae said there were only two places such a complex operation could be performed, and one of them is the RCH. He said these operations require time in the intensive care unit [ICU] after the operation.

“If you or I had open heart surgery, we would need to go to an intensive care unit after the operation, and if you know there is no intensive care unit available, then you don’t start the operation,” Dr. McRae said.

Dr. McRae also expressed his deep sympathy for Winston and his family.

“Those who try to care for people like Winston are reduced to tears when they cannot provide the level of care they could provide on a good day,” Dr McRae said. Neo Cosmos.

Our hospital crisis

Mr Tilkeridis said the RCH surgeon apologized for canceling Winston’s operation and said it was a ‘resources’ issue.

However, like many Victorians, Bendigo’s Greek-Australian father does not understand “why after two years” of COVID-19 the hospital system is again overwhelmed.

“I don’t understand why we are in such a situation; the government has had more than two years to deal with this,” said a frustrated Mr. Tilkeridis. Neo Cosmos.

The COVID-19 disease and backlog of surgeries have overwhelmed hospitals, and many have seen their surgeries repeatedly canceled.

Dr. McRae said Neos Cosmos that there has been a “historic underinvestment in capacity in Victoria and Australia, forever”.

“We had a growing population, but no corresponding increase in hospital beds, mental health services and everything else,” Dr McRae said.

Mr Tilkeridis said the only thing he could see ‘is that the Victorian government has said public hospitals and ambulance services will receive a payment of $3,000 to relieve some of the pressure’.

Dr McRae said the $3,000 was needed as a “retention bonus” for all hospital staff.

“The head of cardiac surgery understands, as does the cleaner and the person at the door, the bonus is there to encourage people not to give up on a system that is under intense stress.”

Dr McRae said nearly 2,000 healthcare workers are laid off from the public hospital system.

“Health workers are either sick themselves or they are caring for a sick parent, partner or child,” Dr McRae said. Neos Cosmos.

Another issue is COVID burnout by healthcare workers, including doctors and hospital staff.

“We were already under the pump when COVID hit, and many healthcare workers carrying the burden said, ‘I don’t need this,’ and retired, they left the system; if you’re 55 and you’re thinking, “Well, if I keep doing this, I’m going to get COVID,” you’re off.

Winston the little boy whose much-needed heart operation has been postponed nine times. Photo provided.

Can foreign doctors fill the gaps?

Neos Cosmos asked Dr McRae if the AMA was in favor of increasing the number of foreign doctors entering.

He said it was a “tough balance” and that foreign medical graduates are also needed in nations of their own nations.

“It’s also a moral question,” said Dr McRae, then asked, “Is it ethical to take a doctor out of the Philippines and put him in Australia?”

Dr McRae said the Australian Medical Council (AMC) “wants to recognize doctors, but some of them may not be relevant to the Australian situation”.

“A great African doctor can be excellent in areas such as malnutrition and malaria, as well as other diseases specific to that region. But they have to adapt here and suddenly can’t take care of a 5-year-old child with tricuspid atresia, it all takes time.

Community complacency over COVID is a cause of the crisis

Dr McRae was shocked that “30% of Australians haven’t had their boosters”.

“Community complacency,” such as people not wearing masks on public transportation and “people not getting a reminder,” is one cause of the immediate health system crisis.

Professor Vasso Apostolopoulos, the world-renowned virologist from the University of Victoria, said “the pandemic has not become endemic”.

The COVID-19 pandemic “is not over”, and only vaccines, reminders and, where appropriate, the wearing of masks can make us safer.

“The new waves of Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 variants have significantly increased the rate of illness, hospitalization and death among unvaccinated people and those who did not receive a booster,” said the Professor Apostolopoulos.

Dr McRae said that “vaccination is extremely important, and I have seen many older Greeks who have not been vaccinated who get very sick and die too often”.

“Vaccines protect people, they’ll keep you from going to hospital and they’ll keep you from shutting down the healthcare system,” Dr McRae said.

Flu and other viruses that had been absent during the shutdowns added to the havoc, the doctor added.

“If you can’t see your GP for five days because they’re fully booked and you have a sick child, you’ll be going to the emergency room of a hospital and all that adds to the stress.”

The whole family is suffering from the health crisis.

Bendigo-based Greek Australian Mr Tilkeridis said his whole family was feeling the stress, affecting his mental health. A historically underfunded healthcare system, waves of new Omicron variants and COVID complacency are taking their toll on Winston and his family; their lives stalled until he was operated on.

“I had to go back to work because I don’t have enough time off. I was planning my discharge around this surgery for a good two years,” Mr. Tilkeridis told the ABC.

Winston and his twin brother Harvey are also unable to start kindergarten, as they have been told Winston cannot be vaccinated until he has had surgery.

The family, including Winston’s grandparents, have had to remain in self-isolation since May to ensure Winston does not contract COVID before his operation.

The Victorian government appears unwilling to risk political capital as it heads into a state election. After two years of strict closures and controls, there is little desire to impose masks and vaccines. Add to that a bone-shrinking federal budget after 24 months of tough pandemic spending and you have the perfect storm.