Hospital refused to treat 4yo Aboriginal girl

By Cosima Marriner | July 25, 2009 | | VIDEO - ABC News story

Queensland Health has launched an investigation into the death of an Aboriginal girl, 4, after her family claimed she was refused medical treatment because of racism and concerns about swine flu.

The incident came as the state's Health Minister, Paul Lucas, warned indigenous Australians were likely to be hospitalised for swine flu at a rate six times higher than the general community. Three per cent of indigenous Australians have been hospitalised with the disease, compared with 0.5 per cent of the general population.

The girl died in her grandmother's arms late on Thursday in the remote north-west Queensland town of Doomadgee.

Katrina Walden said her granddaughter had been turned away from the local hospital several times in the past week before she was finally admitted on Wednesday.

Her grandfather, Athol Walden, told ABC Radio that the hospital was reluctant to admit patients because of fears of swine flu.

Queensland Health said yesterday that the cause of death was unknown. It is conducting tests for swine flu, with the results due over the weekend.

"If the family has any concern, regardless of whether it was swine flu, I do think it's appropriate for us to investigate," Mr Lucas, said.

"If that treatment in the particular case wasn't up to scratch, it's something we take seriously."

But Mr Walden said: "If my little granddaughter was a white child, she would have been flown out the first day she went to the hospital."

Queensland's chief health officer, Jeannette Young disputed the family's claims the local hospital turned the child away.

"We don't refuse medical treatment for anyone - we assess them appropriately," she said.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

History of tribunal rejections for Doomadgee doctor

July 27, 2009 |
The doctor at the centre of an investigation into the death of a four-year-old in remote Queensland has had his medical evidence not accepted in two tribunal hearings.

Dr Zulfikar Ali Hudda, who is registered in Queensland and NSW as a doctor based at Tweed Heads, was flown out of Doomadgee on police orders after the death of four-year-old Naylor Walden.

Dr Hudda was relieving for the resident doctor in the community.

Naylor died in her grandmother's arms on Thursday night after finally being admitted to the Doomadgee Hospital on Wednesday and diagnosed with pneumonia.

Her grandparents say she was turned away from the northwest Queensland hospital several times during the previous week, despite having a temperature and breathing problems.

They claim the girl was not admitted because she was Aboriginal and because of swine flu concerns.

Test results returned on Saturday were negative for both swine flu and normal flu. The cause of death has not yet been determined.

A search of tribunal records by AAP showed that in two hearings in which Dr Hudda has been involved his evidence has not been accepted.

In one 2001 hearing involving a World War II veteran, Dr Hudda said he did not believe the patient, whom he had treated since 1990, had hypertension.

But the Administrative Appeals Tribunal found it was "difficult to deny" that the patient, who died from a heart attack in March 1995, suffered from that disease when he had above-normal blood pressure readings over "a lengthy period".

In another AAT case in 1993 the doctor said a WWII veteran's constant need to take medication and his heavy drinking brought about renal failure and pancreatitis.

But the AAT found: "There is no material before the tribunal to suggest any connection between alcohol and medication intake and renal failure ... the tribunal finds (the patient) ... did not have chronic pancreatitis and that any pancreatitis he may have had was caused by gallstones blocking the bile duct and not by alcoholism."

Calls to Dr Hudda's surgery went unanswered on Monday.

A Medical Board of Queensland spokesman declined to comment.

Queensland Health declined to comment on the tribunal evidence, but Mount Isa health district chief executive Suzanne Sandral said the doctor was well experienced.

"The doctor at Doomadgee was a locum supplied to Queensland Health through Australian Medical Placements, as a senior medical officer," she said.

"He was born in East Africa and has extensive medical experience in Australia - including in indigenous communities - for more than 20 years."

Australian Medical Association Queensland president Dr Mason Stevenson said doctors should not be made scapegoats.

"The AMA has major concerns whenever a doctor is hastily put up as a scapegoat for deficiencies within the Queensland Health hospital system," Dr Stevenson told AAP.

"This case along with most other cases are complex, with multiple factors involved, and usually involve more than one treating health professional working in an underfunded, under-resourced system."

The girl's death has been referred to the coroner and Queensland's Health Quality and Complaints Commission.

Queensland Health is also conducting a review of the girl's treatment known as a root cause analysis.

Naylor's grandmother Katrina Walden said she was angry and wanted justice over Naylor's death.

"The doctor and the nurses that were on call need to be brought to justice," she told ABC radio.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said Health Minister Paul Lucas would visit the community in coming weeks, at the invitation of the family.

"I would caution against jumping to conclusions, we have yet to see the matter fully investigated and it is currently before the coroner," Ms Bligh told reporters.


Child's flu death sparks race tensions in Australia


A doctor was evacuated from an Aboriginal community in Australia's remote north amid race tensions following the death of a four-year-old girl believed to be suffering swine flu, reports said Saturday.
The child was sent home from the six-bed Doomadgee town hospital three times, despite having a fever and breathing difficulties, before finally being admitted in a serious condition, her family said.
The hospital's only doctor refused to transfer her to the larger hospital in nearby Mount Isa and she died in her grandmother's arms late on Thursday, they said, accusing staff of racism.
"If she were a little white child, the first day she went to the hospital she would have been flown out to Mount Isa," her grandfather, Athol Walden, told The Australian newspaper.
"Some of them we get here are racist, a lot of the people who work in our community."
His wife, Katrina added: "I think she was neglected because she was a little black girl."
Test results released on Saturday showed she was not in fact suffering from A(H1N1) influenza, and the cause of death would be determined by the coroner, the state's chief medical officer said.
Police said they had sent reinforcements to the 1,200-person town after angry residents gathered at the hospital, and airlifted the doctor out under armed guard.
"There were worries about public safety and behaviour that was worrying for Queensland health staff," said Ray Pringle, superintendent of Mount Isa police.
Paul Lucas, the state's health minister, said authorities were investigating the family's claims.
"The allegations that have been made are serious ones and they will be investigated by the coroner," Lucas said.
"I just say to people, please keep calm about this.
"The last thing we want to do about this is have people react in an inappropriate way. It is a tragedy. It needs to be investigated."
Lucas said Australia's impoverished Aborigines, who suffer higher rates of disease than the rest of the population, were particularly at risk from swine flu, and six times more likely to be hospitalised with the disease.
An Aboriginal woman lost her near-term baby after contracting swine flu this week, and remains in a coma in Townsville hospital.
Total deaths linked to swine flu here stand at 48, with latest figures putting the number of infections at about 16,500, with 105 people in intensive care.
Children account for a number of the most recent deaths, and officials have warned the number of cases is likely to spike in coming weeks as young people return to school from vacation.

Doomadgee death: doctor 'not welcome back' | 26th Jul7 2009 | ABC NEWS VIDEO

The girl's family has accused hospital staff of racism and negligence (ABC: File photo)

Video: Indigenous girl 'turned away from hospital' (ABC News)
Map: Doomadgee 4830
Related Story: Family plans legal action over 4yo's death
Related Story: Doomadgee death: Qld denies culture of racism
The family of a four-year-old girl who died in a Queensland Gulf Aboriginal community last week say the doctor who treated her is not welcome there any more.

The doctor involved was flown out of Doomadgee hours after her death on Thursday.

The girl's family has accused hospital staff of racism and negligence, claiming they took too long to diagnose and respond to her illness.

Her grandfather, Athol Walden, says the attending doctor at the hospital should find somewhere else to work.

"I don't think he will be welcome back here any more because of the little life that was left in the palm of his hand never came back," he said.

"With us Aboriginal people, in our traditional law... it takes a long long time to let go of what's been taken away from us. I wouldn't welcome him back."

Queensland authorities say the child did not have swine flu. A post-mortem examination will be carried out this week.

Queensland Health, the Health Quality and Complaints Commission and the Coroner are investigating the girl's death.