Page 2966 - Week 09 - Wednesday, 12 October 2022

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As health minister, my priority is to ensure that Canberra Hospital provides the safest and highest quality clinical care to children and young people. So I am absolutely not going to direct them to open a separate, segregated space to ensure a better waiting environment for children and young people and their families if that will compromise the quality of clinical care that those children and young people receive.

It was made very clear to Ms Castley in that briefing, that the number one priority is to ensure that the quality of clinical care for children and young people presenting to the emergency department is as good as it can be and that having the paediatric waiting area and treatment area closed on occasion does not compromise the quality of clinical care that is provided in the emergency department to children. We need to be absolutely crystal clear about that. In fact, the only reason that it is closed on occasion is to ensure that quality clinical care can be maintained and the safest possible care can be provided to paediatric patients. That is what my amendment today makes clear.

We also need to make clear that the emergency department is never closed and provides emergency services to the Canberra community 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It permanently operates an adult and paediatric emergency department on the same footprint. That means that adult and paediatric emergency patients are seen within the same ED. Ms Castley has made the point that, when this separate space was established, part of the discussion around that was the fact that the ACT is not large enough to have an entire separate paediatric or children’s emergency department. We just do not have the population to support that safely. Treatment and care of paediatric patients is never closed and it is never mothballed. So I want to reassure the Canberra community that if your child needs emergency care you can always present to the emergency department for treatment by the ACT’s highly skilled health workforce.

When we talk about children and adolescents between the ages of zero to 16 years, they do have their own needs as they age and grow. Ensuring the right care in the right place at the right time for these members of our community is essential. That is why we have of course opened this space. I do not know if Ms Castley has been in there; she probably has. It is a friendly space for children and young people and their families while they wait and while they are treated. That is its purpose: to be a friendly space, not to change clinical care. Ms Castley, I think, unfortunately, again is too busy attempting to scaremonger the Canberra community through cheap political tactics to pay attention to the real priority, which is providing quality clinical care. This is another example, I think, of Ms Castley’s irresponsibility in putting the headline ahead of the interests of children, young people and families in our community.

Despite the fact that Ms Castley did not have an opportunity to update her talking points, I hope that today’s briefing did provide Ms Castley with both some further information and some reassurance that Canberra Hospital takes the emergency treatment of children and young people very seriously and that the fact that the space itself was closed for 42 per cent of the time between 1 April and 31 July and for a quarter of the time between 1 August and 8 October did not compromise that clinical care and it was in fact done to provide the safest possible care.

Even that updated information in my amendment indicating that the amount of time that that space is not being used—the footprint of the emergency department is being

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