Wait times for Western Australian primary school children accessing critical child health development services through the Department of Health are still unacceptably high.
Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Learning, Donna Faragher, said many children were having to wait nearly a school year or more to just attend a first appointment with a paediatrician, clinical psychologist, or speech pathologist.
“Every time I ask a question in Parliament about wait times for children accessing critical child development services, the outcome is the same. The figures provided are unacceptably high.
“The median wait time to access a paediatrician through the metropolitan Child Development Service is now 16.4 months, 12 months to see a clinical psychologist, 8.7 months to see a speech pathologist and 9.2 months to see a physiotherapist.
“Across the WA Country Health Service, wait times to access occupational therapy, physiotherapy and speech pathology have also increased across nearly all health regions for children in country WA.
“I also know from parents, health professionals and school staff that many children and their families are experiencing far longer wait times to access paediatric and allied health services than the median figures provided by the McGowan Government suggest,” said Mrs Faragher.
Mrs Faragher said the long wait times were not the fault of the hardworking specialists and staff working throughout metropolitan and country WA and it was clear more investment, resources and new initiatives to help address this issue was required.
“It is incredibly disappointing the metropolitan Child Development Service only received a minimal funding increase of less than $1.5 million in 2021/22, particularly when the Service put forward a business case for additional funding of $2.5 million well before the release of the State Budget last year.
“Answers provided in Parliament also show the number of clinicians, by FTE, currently employed in the MCDS and WACHS to provide assessment, early intervention and treatment services to children have not increased significantly and in some cases have actually decreased.
“Equally, the McGowan Government could be implementing other initiatives that may assist in ensuring more children receive support like trialling the provision of speech pathology and other allied health services directly into schools.
“Children need to be able to access paediatric and allied health services when they need it most and this must be a priority for the McGowan Government,” said Mrs Faragher.