SA Health in strife after a scare involving baby bottles at a hospital in Adelaide’s north.

Staff at the Lyell McEwin Hospital recently contacted parents of more than 30 newborn babies to alert them of the mixup, which involved a bottle washer being connected to a chemical descaler instead of a detergent.

The department said there was a low risk of mouth irritations among infants exposed to the descaler.

The error was not noticed for six days, and it took another four days for families to be notified, reports ABC news.

A senior doctor at the hospital was yesterday unable to name the chemical that had been incorrectly used.

“I don’t have a name that I can give you, I’m afraid. I don’t know the name of the product,” said head of paediatrics Dr Mark Thesinger.

“The descaler as I understand is just another cleaning agent, but a cleaning agent for the bottle washer rather than for the bottles themselves.”

But SA Opposition health spokesman Stephen Wade said parents had a right to know exactly what product their children may have come into contact with.

“It’s outrageous that the Lyell McEwin Hospital waited four days to alert the families,” he said.

“For a spokesperson to not be able to identify the agent does raise questions about whether this has been properly investigated and whether people can feel confident in the information they are receiving.”

Mr Wade said the incident was more proof of an entrenched “culture of cover-up” within SA Health.

“It’s concerning that clinicians are not able to give the public full information about what’s involved here,” he said.

“After all, people will be saying: ‘how do you know what the impacts of the agent might be if you don’t know what the agent is?'”

The hospital has begun a review of the incident to work out how the mistake was made, and said no adverse reactions had been reported so far.

Do you think the health department acted in the correct manner?

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  • Some babies could have had slight reaction and the parents just thought the babies were unsettled. Newborns normally go home in one or two days. Sick babies can be there for a few days. They probably realised when the container had to be changed. Things like that should be checked by a second person. I know Mum who bled more than she should have because the delayed putting in the stitches she needed. The staff actually left the room and went back to her later.


  • Glad no adverse reactions has been reported so far !
    Mistakes happen, we all make them. Good that the hospital has begun a review of the incident to work out how the mistake was made.


  • I had both my babies at Lyell McEwin and Dr Thesinger was our paed as both girls were premature. I can’t recommend the hospital highly enough. Mistakes happen and thank good ness this was a minor one in the scheme of things. I hope no babies were effected.


  • I think families should have been notified a lot earlier! And incredible that it took them 6 days to realize such a mistake had been made!!


  • Not good enough. Totally not even close to good enough! It should not have happened in the first place and the affected families should have been told immediately and not 4 days later. Big fat fail!


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