MEDIA STATEMENT IN RESPONSE TO THE DEATH OF 8-YR-OLD BOY IN TASMANIA.
Today, 6 September 2021, a coronial investigation into the death of an eight-year-old boy from asthma in Burnie, Tasmania has found that his “death was entirely avoidable” and “occurred because of substandard medical treatment.” We express our deepest sympathies to this young boy’s family and loved ones.
The findings of the investigation outline a tragic set of circumstances which ultimately lead to his death. It is critical that healthcare staff know how to recognise the signs of an asthma flare-up and know how to take the right steps in response.
Asthma is a serious condition which disproportionately affects children in our community.
Asthma cannot be cured but for most people, it can be managed. Despite this, in Australia, 80 per cent of asthma hospitalisations are considered preventable and almost half of all asthma hospitalisations are for children under 14 years old.
We acknowledge that the Tasmanian Health Service have conducted a Root Cause Analysis and recommended a protocol requiring speedy transfer to the Royal Hobart Hospital Paediatric ICU in cases like this. We welcome this recommendation and would like to see this protocol implemented with appropriate education for all health care staff who may be treating children with asthma flare ups.
In this case a young death could have been averted if staff were able to recognise the difference between an anxiety attack and an asthma exacerbation. Asthma Australia understands the distress this death would have caused all involved. This tragic and preventable death reinforces how serious asthma can be and the importance of ensuring our front-line health staff have the skills and knowledge to manage this disease.