Mining magnate Clive Palmer has offered millions to buy vital support machines for babies with serious cardiac issues in South Australia, after four deaths in a month.

Mr Palmer is opening his wallet for five Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) service machines that temporarily replace heart and lung function, allowing the organs to heal.

It’s believed the ECMO devices cost about $1 million each.

Adelaide’s Women’s and Children’s Hospital currently does not have an ECMO service but is looking to establish one.

Mr Palmer is now waiting to hear back after contacting a hospital executive on Wednesday.

“I felt the anguish and suffering parents in SA are feeling from losing those children and thought there must be something I can do,” he said on Adelaide radio this morning.

“It needs to be a priority to get these things into operation to save babies’ lives.”


Under the ECMO process, blood is pumped outside of the body to a heart-lung machine that removes carbon dioxide and sends oxygen-filled blood back to tissues in the body.

A review is currently under into the four deaths amid concerns a lack of cardiac surgery facilities at the Women’s and Children’s may have contributed.

Adelaide is the only mainland capital that does not have a cardiac surgery service for babies, with patients usually flown to Melbourne for treatment.

SA Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Mike Cusack said the cluster of deaths over a short period of time was a concern.

The hospital would expect to report only six to 10 such cases of very young infants with serious heart problems each year.

“When you see these tragic events there’s a great need and desire in the health system to want to analyse and really understand what happened,” he said.


Dr Cusack said investigations already conducted by the hospital had not identified any particular problems or mistakes with the treatment of the babies.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has also called for an ECMO service and a cardiac surgery unit to be provided at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

“Women and families in Adelaide have a right to expect equitable access to high-quality, safe and effective medical care, for themselves, and their babies,” president Dr Vijay Roach said.

On Wednesday, Health Minister Steven Wade said a recent report to the board of the Women’s and Children’s Hospital had ruled against establishing a full cardiac surgery unit as it could increase the risk to seriously ill infants because of low case numbers.

But he said the hospital’s board was seeking further information and input from other senior clinicians on that issue.