“You can’t imagine the devastation and how scared we are about the uncertainty of our child’s care,” Hack said.
“The staff who are left are doing everything they can but there is only so much a small team can do when we have so many kids who need cardiac care,” she said.
’I told her assistant: “please confiscate [Orr’s] passport. We don’t want her going anywhere”.’
Amanda Hack, the mother of a child operated on by Yishay Orr
Hack said it was completely understandable that Orr would accept the opportunity to develop her skills and perform heart transplants for kids who need them overseas.
“She’s a superstar, and she is just not being supported by the NSW government to do what she can do,” she said.
Hack had foreshadowed Orr’s departure soon after Scarlett’s heart transplant.
“I told her assistant: ‘please confiscate [Orr’s] passport. We don’t want her going anywhere’,” Hack said.
Another top paediatric heart surgeon, Dr David Winlaw, resigned in 2020 for a position in the US after a controversial decision by the state government to run heart services at both children’s hospitals in Westmead and Randwick, setting back by years the hopes of establishing a heart transplant service in Sydney.
At the time, cardiac specialists repeatedly warned the state government that NSW could not afford to keep losing highly specialised clinicians – after decades of investment in their training – to overseas institutions and other states offering greater opportunities to practice complex medicine – such as heart transplants – as well as better remuneration and working conditions than they receive under NSW’s employment Award and public sector wage cap.
Elective surgery waiting lists at CHW blew out to 2656 children at the end of 2022 – including 41 children on the waitlist for cardiothoracic surgery, the Bureau of Health Information data shows.
A record 779 children had been waiting longer than clinically recommended for their surgeries across all specialties.
Health Minister Ryan Park announced last week that he would convene a surgical taskforce to tackle the state’s elective surgery waiting lists, including the 17,000 patients across NSW whose waiting times breached clinically recommended timeframes at the end of 2022.
The state government will also begin drafting the terms of reference for a royal commission into NSW health services within weeks.
Park directed questions to the Sydney Children’s Hospital Network (SCHN), which oversees the Westmead hospital.
A spokeswoman for the SCHN said cardiac surgery would continue to be provided by SCHN’s three cardiac surgeons – referring to a third specialist based at the Sydney Children’s Hospital Randwick, which provides limited cardiac services – supported by other specialist doctors, nursing and allied health staff.
The roughly 40 children currently scheduled for cardiac surgery were all expected to receive their surgery within clinically recommended timeframes, and the executive was working closely with cardiac clinicians on recruitment efforts.
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