Children’s heart doctor quits Australia after turf war
The head of The Children's Hospital Westmead Heart Centre for Children has resigned just three weeks after the turf war over cardiac services with its sister hospital was resolved.
Paediatric cardiac surgeon Professor David Winlaw announced his resignation last week after 17 years at the CHW. He intends to take up a role in the USA as a surgeon at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Centre.
Prof Winlaw was one of the main campaigners for cardiac services and surgery to be centred at one hospital, the CHW.
The desire for one centre of excellence for cardiac services led to a revolt by doctors at the Sydney Children's Hospital Randwick (SCH) who argued their cardiac services were being downgraded by stealth. The two hospitals were governed by the Sydney Children's Hospital Network and SCH voted to leave the network over the dispute.
The turf war became public and resulted in a year-long review that was finally resolved on January 24 with the government announcing that elective and emergency cardiac surgery will be restored and remain at SCH and an extra $10 million was promised to fund the service.
Prof Winlaw said he was very proud of the unit's accomplishments, but the failure of the dream for one centre of excellence had coloured his decision to leave Australia.
"It's mainly about the great opportunity that presents itself (in Cincinnati) but I do think a good cardiac service needs a lot of focus and attention at all levels from those at the bedside all the way up to the government who funds it, and at the moment we don't have that focus on providing an excellent service, we are aiming to do something that is not excellent," he said.
The father of two said he would be arriving in Ohio in August.
"I decide now would be a good time mid-career and look to new challenges. They have a very active heart transplant service there," he said.
Prof Winlaw has long expressed the desire for CHW to also perform heart transplants. At present, all Australian children requiring heart transplant must travel to Victoria.
"The service at Westmead needs to provide cardiac transplantation as an important part of a set of possibilities for children with complex congenital heart disease and other forms of heart disease. For a unit our size and a state with our population, we should have already been doing it," he said.
The Sydney Children's Hospital Network is advertising for a new board chair and CEO.