Undiagnosed leukaemia caused toddler’s hospital death

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Parents of a toddler who died of complications from undiagnosed cancer say they repeatedly requested tests to diagnose his persistent fever.

Sandipan Dhar died at Perth’s Joondalup Health Campus on March 24, weeks after developing the mild fever which followed vaccinations at Key Largo Medical Centre in suburban Clarkson on February 19.

His parents Sanjoy and Saraswati Dhar say they asked for tests during three subsequent visits to the medical centre, and at the hospital on March 22.

Mr Dhar told The West Australian newspaper on Friday he had received a letter from the coroner advising Sandipan died from “complications of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia”, which is the most common form of childhood cancer.

When diagnosed and treated early, it has a survival rate of around 90 per cent.

“If we knew everything possible had been done for our child and there was no possibility to get him well, that is a different story,” he told the newspaper.

“But when we know there is a treatment and a possibility of survival, how can we accept that?”

Health Minister Amber-Jade SandersonHealth Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson

Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson says the parents and hospital staff deserve a proper investigation. (Richard Wainwright/AAP PHOTOS)

Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson said the coroner had found Sandipan was “a very sick boy” who had a serious, life-threatening underlying health condition.

“As a parent myself, I can only imagine the immense grief they must be experiencing a loss of their child and my heart goes out to them,” she said.

The family say the medical centre told them an elevated temperature was a normal reaction to immunisations and no further testing was necessary.

On March 22, Sandipan was taken to Joondalup Health Campus, where his parents say they spent six hours asking for a blood test but were advised to return home.

His parents took the 21-month-old back to the hospital on March 24 after he began coughing and lost his appetite.

Sandipan’s condition deteriorated and he died at the hospital a few hours later.

Ms Sanderson said Ramsay Health Care, which operates the hospital, had been conducting an investigation and would meet with the family on Monday to talk through its early findings.

“The family deserve a proper investigation, as do the hospital staff involved and I will allow this process to be carried out before drawing any conclusions about what has occurred here,” she said.

“But I am concerned to hear that the Dhar family felt that they were not listened to, both at the GP clinic and the hospital. It is imperative that families are heard and listened to when they bring their children to hospital.”

Ramsay Health Care’s WA state manager Shane Kelly said when Sandipan was taken to hospital on March 22, it was determined that he had a viral illness, his condition improved with oral fluids and analgesia and he was able to go home

He said that when interviewed, their staff “didn’t say that a blood test was refused”.

Asked if there was a language problem, Dr Kelly said: “I think that’s what we need to explore more in the meeting on Monday, as to that difference between what our staff perception was and what Mr Dhar felt that he was asking for.”

The coroner’s office is conducting its own independent investigation.

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