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Parliamentary Questions

Question Without Notice No. 1019 asked in the Legislative Council on 30 October 2018 by Hon Jacqui Boydell

Minister responding: Hon R.H. Cook
Parliament: 40 Session: 1

Answered on 30 October 2018


1019. Hon JACQUI BOYDELL to the parliamentary secretary representing the Minister for Health:

I refer to the recent case of Andrea Williams presenting to Southern Cross Hospital after being bitten by a king brown snake. For members' advice, some members of Andrea's family are in the public gallery today. This is a very important issue for regional Western Australia.

(1) Was the appropriate antivenom available at Merredin Health Service, Southern Cross Hospital or Kalgoorlie Health Campus at the time of the presentation?

(2) If no to (1), why was the antivenom not available, when a Department of Health report from March 2018 advised that four doses were available at Kalgoorlie Health Campus?

(3) What is the cost and shelf life of antivenoms for snake bites?

(4) What is the Department of Health's policy with respect to the availability and application of venom-testing kits and antivenoms at regional and remote locations?


I thank the honourable member for some notice of the question.

(1) No.

(2) The required antivenom was available at Kalgoorlie Health Campus, Merredin Hospital held brown snake antivenom and Southern Cross Hospital held no antivenom.

(3) The cost for the five major antivenoms stocked is: $361 per phial for brown snake antivenom; $1 587 per phial for black snake antivenom; $453 per phial for tiger snake antivenom; $1 617 per phial for death adder antivenom; and $2 348 per phial for polyvalent antivenom. The shelf life for the antivenoms is identified individually by the manufacturer via the expiration date and not by a standard time period.

(4) The WA Country Health Service has been reviewing its guidelines since July 2018, following changes in the management of snake envenomation at a national level and the availability of specialist medical support through the emergency telehealth service, which has enabled more comprehensive assessment of suspected snakebite patients in country health services. WACHS is progressively expanding antivenom stock across 81 sites to ensure the availability and use of antivenom in patients who present with symptoms of snakebite envenomation. Snake envenomation is complex and not all manifestations of envenomation can be treated with antivenom. Antivenom administration is not without risks including variable rates of anaphylaxis—up to 40 per cent for some antivenoms. WACHS supports the minimum stock levels defined by the Western Australian Therapeutic Advisory Group critical medicines list for the antivenom. However, it has been determined that an expanded availability of antivenoms can be supported.