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Austin Facer, six, dies after waiting 12 hours for medical evacuation

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A six-year-old boy went into cardiac arrest and died after waiting 12 hours for a medical plane to evacuate him from a regional hospital.

Austin Facer giggled and watched Spongebob Squarepants at Broken Hill Hospital, waiting for a transfer to a facility in Sydney, Adelaide or Melbourne on October 22, 2019.

The young boy would go into cardiac arrest after being delayed for nearly 12 hours, and tragically died shortly after being co-vaced.

Austin Facer (pictured) died on October 22, 2019 after waiting nearly 12 hours to be medically evacuated from Broken Hill to a tertiary hospital in a capital city

The inquest into Austin’s death at Lidcombe Coroners Court is reviewing the circumstances surrounding his tragic death.

Austin’s parents became increasingly concerned about his health in 2018 and 2019 after the child lost his appetite, developed shortness of breath and chest pain during exercise and became generally lethargic. In addition, Austin had been diagnosed with asthma in 2015.

Counsel for Peter Aitken described his death as “extremely sad” and said his two siblings were devastated by his passing.

“He was an active, happy little boy, who had barely begun his life’s journey,” said Mr. Aitken.

Despite several visits to specialists, doctors found no immediate cause for concern.

The day before he died, Austin collapsed at school and became unresponsive after being taken to infirmary.

Paramedics resuscitated the boy before taking him to Broken Hill Base Hospital, where they discovered a life-threatening irregular heart rhythm known as ventricular fibrillation.

There was confusion after Austin arrived at the facility at 12:30 p.m., with pediatrician Margaret Kummerow revealing she was told he was suffering from a severe asthma attack rather than a heart problem.

Sydney is a 13 hour drive from Broken Hill or a two hour 15 minute flight, while Adelaide is just a six hour drive or 1 hour 15 minute drive

Sydney is a 13 hour drive from Broken Hill or a two hour 15 minute flight, while Adelaide is just a six hour drive or 1 hour 15 minute drive

Six minutes after arriving, Dr Kummerow told the medical detectives that the child was “pretty well at the moment” before adding: “As he has responded, I think it’s okay to stay here.”

The inquest criticized the doctor over her actions, with Dr. Kummerow said she was not given time to independently confirm that he had a heart defect.

“Once we formed our own minds, that’s exactly what happened, and it wasn’t a long period of time, there was absolutely no question that he needed to be transferred,” she told the hearing.

An hour after arriving at the hospital, another request was made for a tertiary hospital transfer. At 3 p.m., his father began to worry about the delays.

Just before midnight, Austin was finally medically evacuated, but just 40 minutes into the journey, he went into cardiac arrest again and was unable to be resuscitated.

Mr Aitken said the inquest would examine whether a faster transfer could have prevented Austin’s death and whether the decisions surrounding his evacuation were appropriate.

Sydney is a 13 hour drive from Broken Hill or a two hour 15 minute flight, while Adelaide is just a six hour drive or a 1 hour 15 minute flight.

Austin waited nearly 12 hours in hospital as doctors held 'circular' conversations about where to send him for proper care

Austin waited nearly 12 hours in hospital as doctors held ‘circular’ conversations about where to send him for proper care

During the hearing, it was revealed that Austin had a rare congenital heart disease, but experts were still divided on the cause of death.

One said if the abnormality had been discovered, surgery could have been considered, but admitted it was “difficult to predict.”

Another Broken Hill specialist, Dr Timothy Bailey, spoke of his frustration at the delays surrounding the six-year-old’s care.

“He’s languishing here in Broken Hill. We’ve got nothing left to offer,” said Dr. Bailey, who worked in the emergency room the day he died.

“I really wanted to get him where he needed to be.”

dr. Bailey hugged Austin’s mother after the inquest and collapsed because he said the boy deserved a better outcome, according to SMH.

‘As an emergency department locum I travel a lot around NSW, I have worked in Victoria and South Australia,’ he added.

“This is not an uncommon problem… that’s the universal feedback from all areas I work in,” he said of the delays in the handover. I think it deserves priority.’

Elizabeth Ryan, the state’s deputy coroner, apologized to Caroline and David Facer for the child’s death in her opening statements.

“We are very sorry for the loss of Austin,” she told the parents.

“We’ll try to find answers to the questions I know you have about his death.”

The Facer family agreed to have Austin’s photo and name published.

The investigation continues.

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