Karen Whittaker and her daughter, Chloe, wonder how many more false starts they will be forced to endure before Brisbane surgeons finally perform Chloe’s operation.
Karen Whittaker and her daughter, Chloe, wonder how many more false starts they will be forced to endure before Brisbane surgeons finally perform Chloe’s operation. Valerie Horton

Flu season blamed for Chloe's pain

EACH time her five-year-old daughter's operation is cancelled, Karen Whittaker sees the hope vanish in her little Chloe's eyes.

Ms Whittaker has taken her child to Brisbane three times since July 2011 for surgery to fix her troubled breathing and restore her deteriorating ability to hear.

On each occasion the Royal Children's Hospital has had to refuse treatment due to a shortage of qualified nursing professionals. It claims this has been caused by an unusually high level of staff taking sick leave.

Her last visit saw the Yarrilee student prepared on a hospital bed 20 minutes from going under the knife, only for a patient with more urgent needs to claim her place in theatre.

"It's placing me under a lot of stress, especially with needing to have a lot of time off work, financially," Ms Whittaker said.

"Having to watch my child not being able to hear properly and having to continue to shout and have everything up loud so she can even hear at all, and how upset it is getting her because she just wants to be fixed."

Children's Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service chief operating officer Sue McKee said this year's flu season had wreaked havoc with staffing levels at the RCH.

She claimed that without sufficient qualified nursing personnel the hospital had no option but to cancel surgeries.

"The Royal Children's Hospital prioritises the safety of its patients and will not provide a bed without qualified professionals to staff it," Ms McKee said.

"Due to an existing medical condition, Chloe requires an intensive care (high-dependency) bed after her surgery and the RCH was unable to safely provide the level of care she required on the dates in question."

But for Ms Whittaker the questions are mounting - she wonders why the Queensland health system is unable to treat her sick child?



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