PM to overrule states on hotspots after baby's death


A woman who was compelled to travel to Sydney rather than Brisbane for urgent medical attention for her unborn twins has lost one of the infants.

The family, based in Ballina, waited 16 hours to get on the flight to Sydney after trying to get emergency treatment for the infant in Brisbane but determining that applying for a border exemption would have taken too long.

The Queensland Government says it didn't receive an application for an exemption, as the situation was too urgent for the family.

It's prompted Prime Minister Scott Morrision to declare there will be a definition of the COVID-19 hotspot - even if state premiers refuse to follow suit.

He made the declaration at the Daily Telegraph's bush summit on Friday.

"I can assure you of this, there will be a national definition of a hotspot, come rain hail or shine," he said.

"I hope it's a National Cabinet one."

A grandfather of the baby, Allan Watt told The Courier-Mail, "my daughter is down in Sydney and they are terribly upset with what has happened."

"I feel something needs to be done... If I could do anything to help anyone else to make sure this doesn't happen again," he said.

"They're still unborn, that's why she had to have emergency surgery and so they had to fly her to Sydney because it would take her too long to jump through the hoops to get to Brisbane."




Mr Watt, who is in Ballina while his wife and daughter are in Sydney dealing with the tragic loss, said even if Queensland Health would have accepted an exemption it would have taken too long to have gone through.

"They may as well have denied it because she had to have an emergency operation," Mr Watt said.

"Instead of that she had to wait 24 hours before she could have one in Sydney.

"It's easy for them to say that, but I've got a daughter sitting here worrying her guts out whether she was going to lose her babies or not and then having to fly all the way to Sydney and split our family up because it would take too long for the paperwork.

"It took them two minutes to do the paperwork in Sydney."

"They waited 16 hours at the Lismore Base Hospital before they could get a care flight to Sydney and they got to Sydney at one in the morning and operated on her about six or seven hours later.

"They found out yesterday and went for a scan and the baby was deceased.

"I'm not blaming the Health System in Queensland, the same thing could've happened if they could've gone to the Brisbane Hospital with what's happened to them now, but the fact is it could have made a difference."

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the death of a baby was a tragedy, but denied Queensland was not allowing urgent interstate medical cases to be treated in Queensland hospitals.

"I think we're very very compassionate in this state and ... if there is someone that needs emergency care, if they need a helicopter to fly them to one of our hospitals, that will happen," she said.

"If they need an ambulance to come and the clinicians decide the best place and the fastest place they go, they will not be stopped from going."

She said she did not regret her comment that Queensland hospitals were for Queenslanders.

"These are really difficult decisions," she said.

She said people should be treated in hospitals local to them, but would of course be treated in Queensland if it was an emergency or if Queensland had the required expertise.

"But we are living through a global pandemic at the moment," she said.

Ms Palaszczuk said she did not get involved in specific cases and decisions were made by clinicians.

"This is an absolute tragedy, about this young baby," she said.

"I mean there's a woman who's grieving at the moment and many people know what that feels like.

"So if the clinicians make that urgent decision about where a young person needs to go, that will be made in the best interests of that young person."

Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said Queensland continued to provide emergency services to northern NSW and "that has never changed".

"Police do not stop ambulances, they do not stop Life Flight helicopters," she said.

"I believe that I am a compassionate person."

Dr Young she was now getting so many requests for exemptions, including from Victorians who did not want to be there. Very few were granted.

Mr Morrison described the events as a terrible tragedy and called for flexibility and compassion on the borders.

He indicated the Commonwealth would proceed with creating a definition of the COVID-19 hotspot, regardless of support from the states.

There has been resistance to the idea of national guidelines to border closures at previous National Cabinet meetings.

"This is not OK, that's just not acceptable," he said.

"There has to be pragmatism and flexibility and compassion for how this COVID-19 cases are exercised.

"There's virtually no cases in northern NSW and the disruption that causes is fairly obvious in these most recent examples."

Mr Morrison said there were legitimate questions that needed to be asked of Premiers when they put in hard border restrictions.

"I'm not saying there can't be restrictions, I'm saying if there are, they have to be exercised properly, and they have to be exercised decently," he said.

"You can't justify everything on the basis that COVID may break out.

"You have to be careful about that, but there are costs on both sides of the ledger here."

Asked if he had a message for the mother, the Prime Minister offered his condolences.

"My heart breaks for you. My heart just breaks for you," he said.

Mr Morrison said answers were needed in the "terribly distressing" case.

"There needs to be an explanation as to how these hard border arrangements can lead to people not getting access to this care, as seems to be the case here," he said.

"I don't know all the facts here. I don't want to get ahead of that process.

"There does need to be an explanation here.

"I don't think anyone can say definitively whether the outcome may have been different here.

"I don't know the clinical issues... I can't draw any of those conclusions and I'm not suggesting that."

He is continuing to call for a national set of guidelines around when border restrictions should apply.

"It's important they're done with humanity. Not only looking at risk at one side of the ledger," Mr Morrison said.

"I was talking to the Danish Prime Minister this week and they have a very interesting way of identifying hotspots. That's based on clear medical evidence about case rates in particular places.

"There are ways to do this in ways to get a better understanding of how this works and that avoids the arbitrariness."


Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington said the Premier needs to be more compassionate and said medical emergencies should be automatically exempt.

"This is absolutely tragic," Ms Frecklington said.

"My heart bleeds for the family and everything they have been put through.

"When it comes to medical emergencies and border exemptions, the Premier needs to be more compassionate and consistent - not have one rule for the rich and another rule for everyday Australians."

"At the end of the day we are all Australians and medical emergencies should be automatically exempt."

Family have set up a Mycause for people to donate to help cover the medical and accommodation expenses for the couple while they are in Sydney.

It has raised more than $10,000 so far.

The page says the twins were suffering from a rare pregnancy condition called twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome.

The family will have to stay in Sydney until they are strong enough to return, while the father will commute to see their son in Ballina.

Originally published as Woman loses unborn child after denied entry for treatment in Qld