Health Minister must act with almost 10,000 children now waiting to see paediatrician

The Cook Labor Government can’t continue to ignore the urgent need to properly resource child development services in Western Australia with new figures highlighting nearly 10,000 children are waiting to access a paediatrician in metropolitan Perth.

Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education Donna Faragher said these latest figures, revealed in response to questions asked in the Legislative Council this week, demanded an immediate response from the Cook Labor Government.

“These figures reveal 9,762 children are currently waiting to see a paediatrician and 4,288 children are waiting to see a speech pathologist through the metropolitan Child Development Service (MCDS),” Mrs Faragher said.

“Of those 9,762 children waiting for a paediatric appointment, 8,308 are primary-school aged, representing another significant jump from last year’s figure of 6,120 (February 2023).

“The median wait time for primary school-aged children to see a paediatrician has also ballooned out from 17.8 months in February last year to 21.3 months in February 2024,” Mrs Faragher said.

“Families waiting to access these services for their children are absolutely frustrated and have every right to ask what it will take for the Cook Labor Government to act and properly fund this critical child health area.

“We know the Health Department’s Child and Adolescent Health Service has repeatedly applied unsuccessfully for additional funding with the Cook Government only able to find an extra $300,000, up from $35.7 million to ‘approximately $36 million’, to support the MCDS within their multi-billion budget surplus in 2023-24.”

Mrs Faragher said the first major report of the bipartisan Select Committee into Child Development Services released in November last year made clear findings and recommendations about what can be done immediately to reduce unacceptable wait times and expand service provision.

“The Health Minister’s one-page response to the Committee’s report was beyond underwhelming, giving no indication of extra funding or any meaningful response to its various findings and recommendations.

“If nearly 10,000 children on a wait list to access a paediatrician and over 4,200 children on a wait list to see a speech pathologist is not enough to push this government into action then I do not know what is.

“The system is at crisis point and it is inexcusable that the Cook Labor Government continues to ignore this fact,” Mrs Faragher said.