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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 4 Hansard (27 March) . . Page.. 938 ..

MR OSBORNE (continuing):

transferred there in the early hours of this morning. It is expected that that child will remain in the hospital until at least tomorrow.

Minister, obviously the family are left wondering what use their private health insurance is to them because, firstly they could not get into a private hospital and, secondly, the public hospital available to them had neither room in its paediatric ward for nearly seven hours or even a cot for their baby to be in. Have you been able to confirm the facts of this incident, as I gave them to you this morning?

MR MOORE: Thank you Mr Osborne for that question. My office contacted the hospital and has been provided with the following information. The availability of cots in the emergency department is variable, depending on the level of usage. Babies often remain in cots that are used to transfer patients to the ward-that is, that are not returned to emergency. Generally parents attend the emergency department with their child and often nurse the child, or lie with the child on a bed. If a cot is required and not immediately available, efforts are made to obtain one. In the absence of a cot, and where necessary, the safety of the child will be ensured by providing pillows around the child. So I would assume that this would apply to very small children.

The paediatric ward was full last night. The ward was nursing to capacity and, taking into consideration the acuity of patients, the hospital staff were nursing slightly beyond capacity as well. This is another instance of where our nurses go beyond what is required. This morning there were six children waiting to be bedded. Two of those were medical admissions and four were children with fractured arms. During the night one child was moved into the high dependency unit, which allowed for this child's admission to the ward.

When Mr Osborne approached me earlier, he raised an issue about formula and I think what he is seeking will be covered in the following explanation. Each morning the formula room makes up formula as required for the patients in the hospital over the next 24 hours. Additional supplies of formula are available on the ward to meet the needs of after hours admissions. It is understood that this child uses S26. S26 was not available in the ward but there were other interchangeable formulas of the same nutritional value. The mother chose not to take advantage of this and the S26 was then requested from the formula room and was available for the child from 9 am today. So the mother chose not to take advantage of that.

Mr Osborne also raised the issue of the National Capital Private Hospital. We have no say over whether or not the National Capital Private Hospital, or any other private hospital, should have a paediatric unit. But this does reflect that some people like to make choices about where they will go. This is why private hospitals exist, particularly with the injection of billions of dollars that the federal government has put in to encourage people to use private heath insurance and so forth.

We are concerned to make sure that a child's care always takes priority. From my reading of what I see, it is not an optimal situation. Sometimes our wards will get crowded but the nurses have worked to get a good solution in this particular case.

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