baby
© Zoonar GmbH/AlamyAustralian Associated Press
A newborn baby in hospital. Adelaide is Australia's only mainland capital where paediatric cardiac surgery is not performed, state MPs have heard.
A lack of cardiac surgery facilities may have contributed to the deaths of four babies at Adelaide's Women's and Children's hospital over the past month, a South Australian parliamentary committee has been told, prompting calls for an inquiry.

The obstetrician John Svigos told the committee on Tuesday that Adelaide was the only mainland capital where paediatric cardiac surgery was not available, which meant critically ill infants and children had to be transferred interstate.

He was aware of three deaths in the past four weeks, he said, while the Salaried Medical Officers Association industrial officer Bernadette Mulholland said there had been another death last week.

The evidence prompted the committee chair and upper house MP, Connie Bonaros, to call for an independent investigation into the deaths and any others that might be linked to the lack of cardiac surgery facilities.

"The current situation is completely and utterly unacceptable and reprehensible," Bonaros said. "It breaks my heart to hear explosive claims that young babies and children are potentially dying unnecessarily at the hospital.

"It is shameful that Adelaide is the only mainland city in the land without such a unit, but it is even more disgusting that babies are allegedly dying because of it."

Bonaros said Svigos had indicated the deaths might have been "avoidable" had the surgery unit been available.

The surgery services were shut down in 2002 but a review is now under way.