Editor’s note: The reports about the four newborn babies occurred in October 2020. They did not occur in the summer of 2021, as our publication of the story suggested. We regret and apologize for the error.
According to health officials, four babies have died in Adelaide, Australia over the last four-week period, after being denied medical transport to Melbourne because of COVID-19 restrictions.
“Adelaide, the capital city of the state of South Australia, doesn’t offer pediatric cardiac surgery,” explained the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). Local news outlets have reported that this means that approximately 100 babies are sent to other states for treatment every year, usually to the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, 450 miles to the South East.
“Because of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, however, Melbourne no longer remains an option. Patients must be sent to Sydney instead,” FEE reported, with Sydney being 850 miles to the East.
This difference equates to an extra 45 minutes in flight time, which can have a huge impact when it comes to a sick infant whose survival can depend on treatment received within minutes.
“The infants never left Adelaide, news reports indicate, presumably because doctors either determined they would not survive the lengthy trip or because Sydney’s Children’s Hospital at Westmead — the lone hospital available due to travel restrictions — lacked the capacity to treat them,” FEE added, meaning that “the infants failed to receive treatment that could have saved their lives.”
Dr. John Svigos, who is an obstetrician and gynecologist, told Australian news media that these babies “almost certainly” would have benefited from on-site surgery.
“Particularly in our current COVID situation where 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,” said Svigos. “I shall leave it to you to imagine the profound effect of these deaths on the parents, their families and the dedicated medical and nursing staff dealing with these tragedies.”
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
This news comes as Australian officials impose widespread COVID-19 restrictions across the country, which have resulted in various extreme consequences.
One such example includes the “shooting deaths of several dogs who were about to be rescued by a shelter — because a rural council didn’t want volunteers to travel to pick up the dogs.”
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the Bourke Shire Council in Australia’s New South Wales interpreted the country’s COVID-19 restrictions in the harshest terms possible, killing the dogs “to prevent volunteers at a Cobar-based animal shelter from traveling to pick up the animals last week.” Australia is currently enforcing an extreme lockdown to combat the Delta variant. In Sydney, the country’s largest city, military personnel were called in to enforce lockdown measures.
In response to the restrictions, mass protests have also swept the country, with police arresting more than 250 people on Saturday alone.
“Mounted police used pepper spray in Melbourne to break up crowds of more than 4,000 surging toward police lines, while smaller groups of protesters were prevented from congregating in Sydney by a large contingent of riot police,” Reuters reported.
Correction: This article was incorrectly published on August 24, 2021. The “four week period,” and reports about the four dead babies, emerged in October 2020. We regret this error.