Sydney hospital contractor fined for fatal baby gas bungle

A subcontractor responsible for a gas bungle at a Sydney hospital, which killed one newborn and left another with brain damage, has been fined $100,000. Christopher Turner was on Friday convicted in Sydney’s Downing Centre District Court over the fatal mix-up.
Newborn John Ghanem died in July 2016 after he was ventilated with nitrous oxide – commonly known as laughing gas – from a gas port labelled “oxygen” in Bankstown-Lidcombe Hospital’s operating theatre eight.
In June 2016, Amelia Khan suffered brain damage, epilepsy and blindness after she was administered nitrous oxide after requiring resuscitation upon delivery.
Turner pleaded guilty to failing in his duty under the Work Health and Safety Act and was facing a maximum possible fine of $150,000.
In a statement on Friday, SafeWork NSW executive director of investigation and enforcement Valerie Griswold said the gas outlet had been operational between work being done in 2015 and the incidents in 2016.
She said there were 438 emergency caesarean deliveries at the hospital that year and 36 babies were born in the operating theatre affected by the port “cross-connection”.
“Because that particular theatre was the furthest from the birthing suites it was not used as often and only two babies required resuscitation, both within one month of each other,” she said.
“It was not until the death of the second baby that the issue with the resuscitation gas outlets was discovered and use of the theatre promptly suspended.”
Ms Griswold said the authority began prosecution proceedings against five parties in 2018 for alleged breaches of the Act.
“Two of these matters proceeded to a hearing at court, being the cases against installation company BOC Limited and its contractor Christopher Turner,” she said.
The cases against two other defendants were discontinued for legal reasons.
According to SafeWork, the remaining case against South Western Sydney Local Health District “was discontinued when it entered an enforceable undertaking with SafeWork as an alternative to prosecution”.
“The enforceable undertaking has a value of $536,500 and will include the rollout of an electronic contractor registration kiosk in acute facilities across South Western Sydney LHD as well as a new department-wide risk information system which will enable learnings and experience to be shared with all NSW Health entities,” it said.