Page 3313 - Week 10 - Friday, 26 August 2005

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On a more serious note and closer to home, I want to pay tribute to the essential services provided by parents in the paediatric wards in Canberra hospitals and elsewhere. Members have been very indulgent to me this week because I have a son in hospital. My experience of the paediatrics ward in Canberra Hospital over 20-odd years has always been a very good one. The thing that has always struck me is that parents supplement the very overstretched resources in paediatric wards. Kids are always high maintenance and, when they are sick, they are even more so. Parents are essential to the smooth running of the paediatric wards. In saying that, I want to highlight the conditions in which the parents exist in the paediatric ward. Things have improved but, when I first spent time in paediatric wards 20-odd years ago, you got a reasonably comfy armchair to sleep in—sitting up—overnight. We now get fold-out beds.

That is a vast improvement but that is basically where the comforts stop at the moment. There are some parents who literally cannot leave their children’s bedside because they have toddlers who are very distressed by their circumstances. It came to my attention that the lady attending to the child next to my son had not eaten for most of the day because she could not leave. For those parents who stay overnight there is no breakfast provided. There is a place to make tea and coffee and they said, “Sometimes there’s cereal there,” but it is not there as a general rule. I think this is a small price the hospital could pay for the great services provided by parents.

I also ask the minister to look into why the Ronald McDonald family room, set aside and established in about February this year, has been closed since 28 June. It is the only place where parents can go and chill out if their children are asleep, where there is a comfortable place to put their feet up. There is not very much room in a two-bed ward with a fold-out bed and a couple of armchairs! I think the minister needs to address why this very small facility that makes life a little easier for parents who are there for several days at a time—sometimes up to a fortnight, in cases where children have extensive treatment—has been closed. They are spending hours and hours and often night after night there. There should be more facilities available to parents. I am not raising this on my own behalf. I have not been sleeping there most nights. My son does not require that level of attention, but I have been asked by parents there to raise this in the Assembly because the level of service is not good enough for the service they provide.

Homeless people

MS MacDONALD (Brindabella) (10.39): On Tuesday morning I officially launched the “great sock giveaway” for the Canberra Emergency Accommodation Service. My husband asked, “Why socks? What is this about? Why are you giving socks away?” I believe the idea for the giveaway came from a staff member, when she passed a homeless man who was holding a sign with different articles he was hoping people could donate to him, one of those being socks.

The staff member took socks to the man and discussed with him the difficulty homeless people face in relation to foot care. Something many of us take for granted is being able to put on a clean, dry pair of socks to keep our feet warm and comfortable. For some of those in our community, however, this is a luxury. According to the Needs analysis for homelessness in the ACT report there are anywhere from 120 to 315 people in the ACT sleeping rough each night. The socks will help provide some relief against the elements

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