East Metropolitan MLC Donna Faragher says the child services sector is at crisis point and the state government needs to act. Picture: Anita McInnes

AMA joins call for govt action on child services 

AMA WA paediatrician representative says it is absolutely clear from all indicators that meaningful action is needed in paediatric care.
April 4, 2024
Anita McInnes

THE AMA WA has weighed into the opposition’s call for the state government to properly resource child development services, which the Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson has agreed are being challenged like never before.

East Metropolitan MLC Donna Faragher said new figures highlighted nearly 10,000 children waiting to access a paediatrician and more than 4200 children were on a wait list to see a speech pathologist in metropolitan Perth.

In response Ms Sanderson said the service was being challenged like never before, at a time when there is a worldwide shortage of paediatricians. 

“As private paediatricians close their books to new patients, the state funded service does not turn new referrals away and in the past 10 years referrals to CDS paediatricians have risen by 132 per cent,’’ she said.

AMA (WA) paediatrician representative Stephen Oo said the state government was well aware of the crisis in access to paediatric care. 

“There is record demand in services, particularly in developmental paediatrics where this problem is proportionally worse, and it has prompted the formation of a Parliamentary Inquiry and the formation of a Select Committee into Child Development Services,’’ Dr Oo said. 

“This committee’s interim report was released in November 2023, making explicit that there has been a 52 per cent increase in referrals to child development services since 2013-14, and the last significant increase in staffing was in 2010. 

“It is absolutely clear from all indicators that meaningful action is needed.’’

Mrs Faragher, who is opposition Early Childhood Education spokeswoman, said the Health Department’s Child and Adolescent Health Service had repeatedly applied unsuccessfully for additional funding with the government only able to find an extra $300,000, up from $35.7m to ‘about $36m’, to support the metropolitan Child Development Service in 2023-24.

Mrs Faragher said the first report of the bipartisan select committee into Child Development Services made clear findings and recommendations about what could be done immediately to reduce unacceptable wait times and expand service provision.

Ms Sanderson said the government did not have many levers in the primary care space and new paediatricians could not be found or trained quickly, but they were committed to doing everything they could. 

“It’s why we stood up to the WA Health Workforce Summit and undertook a series of roundtable discussions, focusing on the workforce pipeline including medical specialists and the allied health workforce, and are resourcing the CDS to provide more autism spectrum disorder assessment appointments by doubling the number of paediatric registrars,’’ she said. 

“Patients are increasingly presenting with multiple conditions or diagnoses, or with complex social factors that impact care.”

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