Page 4841 - Week 13 - Wednesday, 11 November 2009

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maternity services. The problem is not with the visiting hours policy. Whilst I do accept there have been issues raised by an individual who has come through our system and been unhappy with that—we will look at that and how we can address those concerns if we are able to—the policy sets out a good way to manage individual needs within a large maternity hospital. It is ideal, if a support person stays, that that happen in a single room. However, if a single room is not available, there is flexibility in the policy to allow that to occur.

In relation to the management of contact tracing for TB cases, I can advise the Assembly that ACT Health adheres to the stringent World Health Organisation policy on contact tracing and screening for tuberculosis. The person with tuberculosis was not aware of the infection at the time. Indeed, the person’s TB diagnosis was made after the period of contact, and that person has since commenced appropriate treatment. ACT Health contacted people who had prolonged contact with this person at TCH and elsewhere, and they are being managed in line with those routine protocols. These protocols include screening for high-risk contacts to determine whether they have been exposed to the disease, and all contacts have also been offered information and ongoing support regarding their exposure. Most of the patients involved have already had a great deal of ongoing support from the thoracic medicine unit at the Canberra Hospital.

Unfortunately, the close contacts of the individual case included newborn babies. Babies are more vulnerable to tuberculosis, and the infants, along with all the other confirmed contacts, have been screened and are being provided with ongoing care and treatment as necessary. All the infants have seen a paediatrician and are being managed in line with the strict protocols in place. As a mum, again, I can empathise with the anxiety that the parents of these babies are feeling, but I do know that they are receiving excellent clinical advice and management, and I hope that this goes some way to dealing with their anxiety to a very small degree.

I would say also that there is no alternative to the path that was taken. There was no way that we could prevent these babies from having the treatment they needed. Whilst I understand that concerns have been raised around the treatment regime that has been given to those babies, there is no alternative. It is not as if we would have been in a position to say, “Well, we don’t need to treat you because you’re anxious about the harm that it will cause your baby.” These issues have been worked through, and whilst we are very sad that people have been placed in this position, the response has focused on the need to provide the best clinical advice and care to the families involved.

I would say as we move forward, though, that part of the decisions around the way the new women’s and children’s hospital will be built will be that labour, birthing, recovery and postnatal care will be provided within the one room. Under that approach, women would have their babies and recover in a single room—as these will all be single rooms—before being discharged home. Some of those decisions have very much been taken around infection control and privacy for individuals. We expect that 80 to 85 per cent of births in the women’s and children’s hospital will be done within that model of care, and the remaining women will recover in the new hospital’s postnatal ward, which is planned to have around 76 per cent single rooms. So the new

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