Park did not respond to questions. Instead, a government spokesman said the minister was “continuing with existing agreements” made by the previous coalition government.
“There is no modification or reversal of the agreements as has been erroneously suggested.”
O’Neill said maintaining ECMO services has “always been a top priority” and she recently met with senior health workers at SCH and the Royal Women’s Hospital.
“The senior health staff have assured me that this important service is still available at Sydney Children’s Hospital,” she said.
The Sydney Children’s Hospital Network and the Health Secretary both said there had been no changes to cardiology services in Randwick and Westmead.
“I said goodbye to my daughter twice … You don’t have the right to make that decision without speaking to the parents who went through it.”
Debbie Issi, whose daughter Alexia spent 10 days on the bypass in June
Since the merger of the two hospitals to form the Sydney Children’s Hospital Network in 2010, cardiac surgery has long been a source of conflict.
Cardiac surgeons at Westmead argue that patient outcomes would be significantly improved if surgical resources were pooled in one hospital rather than spread across two sites.
Physicians at Randwick argue that the loss of complex heart surgery would endanger other services, limit their ability to recruit and train highly qualified staff, and effectively spell the end of their status as a comprehensive tertiary hospital.
dr Peter Borzi, president of the Australian and New Zealand Association of Pediatric Surgeons, said performing ECMO in children requires the skills of a cardiac surgeon, who can access vessels through the heart when needed.
“It’s not something we do [general paediatric surgeons] “I would have the skills,” he said. “Is there a children’s hospital in Australia that offers ECMO without a cardiac surgeon being available? No, that does not exist.”
Debbie Issi, whose eight-year-old daughter Alexia spent five days in hospital with ECMO while battling a strep infection, said she felt the Minister had not listened to her concerns about dwindling heart resources at the SCH.
“I said goodbye to my daughter twice,” she said. “You don’t have the right to make that decision without speaking to the parents who went through this.”
Now that she is recovering and can’t wait to go back to school, Alexia said she wants to be a heart surgeon and work in the heart department at SCH.
“The hospital means a lot to me – they saved my life.”
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