Page 2964 - Week 09 - Wednesday, 12 October 2022

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Having children in an area that is safe and away from the vision of sick adults is probably the best model of care.

The best model of care is what this incompetent government is prepared to walk away from. In a media release to mark the paediatric ED opening on 9 May 2016, then Health Minister and Deputy Chief Minister Simon Corbell boasted of his government’s achievement, saying:

I am proud to be delivering on this government’s commitment to better access to health services for Canberra’s families.

He went on to say:

Paediatric patients will now be seen in a private and family-friendly setting, where they can feel as comfortable as possible.

In April this year, the government, for reasons it will no doubt creatively spin, took the decision to reduce the operations of its much-lauded paediatric ED which, between April and August, was only open and operational about 50 per cent of the time. When the paediatric ED was not open and operating, its staff were transferred to the main emergency department, where all patients were seen. In other words, sick kids and their families and carers had no choice but to wait and be triaged with the sick adults. So much for this government providing the best model of care for Canberra’s sick and vulnerable children! Since August, the paediatric ED has not been operating about 25 per cent of the time.

It is important to point out the demand for a paediatric emergency stream, although I feel that the case has already been strongly made by the Labor government, which shows how quick they are to walk away from their commitments and promises. Hospital data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reveals that the second highest emergency presentation rate is for patients aged four and under. The AIHW data for ED presentations in this age group also reveals that in the ACT in 2020-21 children aged under 14 comprised one in five of all ED presentations at the Canberra Hospital. These figures would be higher if we included children under 16.

Before concluding, may I draw the attention of the chamber to comments from the AMA at the end of last month that the effect of COVID on staff shortages in our health services was minimal. On Friday 30 September, in an interview on ABC radio, AMA ACT President Dr Walter Abhayaratna said:

We have been told by Canberra Health Services that the impact on the workforce from COVID was minimal.

But we know that the paediatric emergency stream is being mothballed and not operating on a permanent basis, as it should.

The Canberra Liberals have been campaigning for better hospital and health care for sick children, which is why the paediatric ED must always be open and operating at full capacity. That is why this motion calls on the government to immediately reopen

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