Budget estimates heats up over death of boy, 5, sent home from Sydney hospital

Questions over the death of a five-year-old boy after he was sent home from a Sydney hospital have opened state health budget estimates hearing on Wednesday.

Opposition health spokesperson Walt Secord held up a photograph, identifying the boy and his parents by their first names as he told Health Minister Brad Hazzard that a fundraising page had been set up to pay for the boy's funeral.

Fairfax Media has decided not to identify the boy or his family without their permission. The committee chairman gave instructions after the estimates hearing that their names be redacted.

The five-year-old died at Sydney Adventist Hospital on Thursday less than 10 hours after he was sent home from Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital. The case has been referred to the coroner.

The fundraising page describes him as "the most energetic, kind, easy going and well mannered little boy".

He died in his parents' arms, according to the family friend who set up the page.

"I can't imagine how his family are feeling and I express my deepest sympathy to them," Mr Hazzard said.

He told the estimates hearing that he has had discussion with Hornsby hospital staff to ascertain what was known about the case.

"At this point all I can really say to you is there is no indication as to what actually caused the passing of this little boy," he said.

Mr Hazzard has directed North Sydney Local Health District to conduct a full review into the circumstances surrounding the boy's death.

Mr Secord used the estimates hearing to recall six incidents in the NSW Health system over the past four years in which children died or were permanently injured, due to errors or that raised questions about incorrect diagnoses.

The list included the death of a newborn boy and permanent brain damage of a baby girl who were given nitrous oxide instead of oxygen at Bankstown Lidcombe Hospital in 2016.

"[Have you now] reached the conclusion that there are problems in paediatric care?" Mr Secord asked the health minister.

Mr Hazzard said that it was terrible to think any child or adult could be misdiagnosed, adding it was not possible to say with certainty that misdiagnosis was the issue in every case.

Asked if there was a case for a statewide audit of paediatric services, Mr Hazzard said he would give a review some consideration "but advice I have had to date is paediatric services in NSW lead the country," he said.

"I will consider it, Mr Hazzard told Fairfax Media, "but my sense is that at the moment I don't think it's necessary."

"I would say that there are about 2.7 million attendances in emergency departments of NSW hospitals each year," Mr Hazzard told the hearing, adding the volume had increased dramatically in the past few years.

"By far the majority of people who go into our health system get excellent service from the clinicians and ancillary medical staff and from the nurses and each of those people who do their work do it generally with full commitment and application."

Mr Hazzard said errors reflected the human component of the health system.

Mr Hazzard said there will always be some degree of adverse events in any health system, no matter how many protocols and procedures are in place.

It was the task of the government and public service to work to improve the system and learn from the adverse events.

"Not all adverse outcomes of course have human mistakes. Some of them are simply unavoidable," he said.

Over $18,500 has been raised for the boy's funeral at 4pm on Wednesday.

A spokesperson for the North Sydney Local Health District said a thorough review of the circumstances around the child's death would be overseen by the NSW Chief Paediatrician.

The story Budget estimates heats up over death of boy, 5, sent home from Sydney hospital first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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