Family slams daughter’s ‘substandard’ cancer treatment at Adelaide Women’s and Children’s Hospital

When treated aggressively for Mabelle Kayser’s rare bone cancer, she sometimes cried out in pain.

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The family of a young cancer patient has expressed concern at Adelaide’s Women’s and Children’s Hospital Mabelle Kayser was diagnosed in January after noticing a lump and undergoing surgery. Her parents say a lack of resources has resulted in their daughter has sometimes been in extreme pain

The 14-year-old was diagnosed in January after finding a lump on her side, and has undergone major surgery to remove a rib.

But her parents Debbie and David Kayser said the stress of their daughter’s illness has been compounded by the ‘subpar’ care at Adelaide’s Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

They have written a letter to Prime Minister Steven Marshall and Health Secretary Stephen Wade, among others, calling for an urgent increase in funding to respond to ongoing problems at the hospital.

The Kayser family said shortages of beds in the hospital’s dedicated cancer ward, overworked nurses and delays in chemotherapy treatments were all “common practice.”

Mabelle’s parents Debbie and David have expressed concerns about the quality of care.(

ABC News: Isabel Dayman


Mabelle’s mother, Debbie Kayser, told of a time, half an hour after her daughter’s surgery, she received a phone call “that she was moved.”

“When we got to the ward … she was in pain and there was no IV pole for them to put on her pain medication,” she said.

“I expected with the surgery, and the fact that she’s a chemo patient, that she’s going to need a pole.

“There have been times when she cried out in pain and just looked at her… you can’t help it.

“It’s not just disappointing, it’s disgusting.”

Mabelle said she had “been in a lot of pain a few times”.

“Especially when I had to have the surgery to get my rib out, it was very painful,” she said.

Mabelle Kayser’s stitches after surgery.(



Ms Kayser said her daughter’s chemotherapy appointments were often rescheduled at the last minute, and was concerned that the delays could affect her overall results.

Resources ‘extremely lacking’, says father

Mabelle’s father David said his family was “extremely grateful” for all the help from nurses and doctors, but that the resources were “extremely lacking”.

“They’re doing their best…but there just needs to be more,” said Mr. Kayser.

“We tried to talk to the doctors and the hospital executives…but [they] have not been very responsive.”

Mabelle’s father said there should be more staff.(



Ms Kayser said the level of treatment was not something she would expect from an Australian hospital.

“We live in a country where we all pay taxes to have basic amenities,” she said.

“It’s not like adults, where we can go to a private hospital to get cancer treatment.

“For these children it is the only place they can go, and the government is abandoning them.”

Pediatric cancer specialist Michael Rice AM joined calls for the department — named after him — to receive additional funds.

“The current facility is inadequate to provide the best care for the people out there,” he said.

dr. Rice said “nothing has been done” since more than 200 doctors wrote a letter in October 2019, saying he was “annoyed” that the department bore his name in its current state.

Labor health spokesman Chris Picton said conditions at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital were “shameful”.

“Clinicians have been warning the government about their underfunding of pediatric cancer services since last year, so the Liberals cannot argue for ignorance here,” Mr Picton said.

“We are a prosperous country and a wealthy state, and we should be able to provide the cancer treatment that children need.”

Government is working on new construction

Prime Minister Steven Marshall said the state government was “working as fast as” [it] can” to finalize plans for the new Women’s and Children’s Hospital to be co-located with the Royal Adelaide Hospital.

The existing Women’s and Children’s Hospital will be replaced.(

ABC News: Eugene Boisvert


He said the project was first promised in 2013 by the previous Labor government, which he accused of not doing “detailed work” on the project.

“In contrast, we’ve worked with the clinicians, we’ve had hundreds of consultations, [and] I think we are now very close to closing the case for the new build.”

Mr Marshall said the government was also investing in the current hospital to ensure it could meet demand before the new hospital is built.

“We’ve already put $50 million into our forward estimates to ensure that the Women’s and Children’s Hospital continues to be a very, very high-performing organization,” he said.

Nursing ward executive director Jennifer Fereday said the hospital had increased staffing levels in the cancer ward since doctors raised concerns.

“We’ve been in touch with this family to find out the details,” said Dr. Fereday.

“We take any concern of a family very seriously and have done so in this case.

“The staff, they work very hard. The nurses are experts at what they do…I have a lot of confidence in the staff that is provided.”

Mabelle Kayser was diagnosed in January after noticing a lump.(



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