West Moreton backflips on closing child emergency unit
UPDATE 5PM: West Moreton Health has done a quick back flip on its decision to close the specialist paediatric unit at the Ipswich Hospital Emergency Department.
A day after the QT revealed the unit had been closed, it has been announced a $5 million funding boost has been given to the health service to staff the unit which will now be open, 24-hours a day, seven days a week, all year round.
The decision was made late yesterday afternoon during a meeting between West Moreton Hospital Health Service and Queensland Health.
The details are still being ironed out, but a spokesperson for the Queensland Health Department said the decision utilises unallocated funding within the existing health service agreement.
Part of the $5 million will also go towards reforming the emergency department's triage system by funding more short stay beds to free up space within the emergency department.
Health Minister Cameron Dick said both would be a permanent addition to the department.
"This will assist the Ipswich Hospital to manage the number of Emergency Department presentations by providing a short stay capacity prior to determining whether the patient is required to be admitted to hospital or discharged back into the community," Mr Dick said.
Yesterday the QT revealed a $6 million specialist emergency department facility for children at the Ipswich Hospital, built in 2014, had been closed due to a lack of funding.
Since the state-of-the-art facility was finished, no cash had been allocated to pay staff working in the section other than for short busy periods, namely during winter.
If West Moreton follows through with the new $5 million plan to fund the section, it will be the first time Ipswich families have had access to the facility, which has been operating in Logan on a full time basis for the past two years.
This financial year, West Moreton Hospital Health Service received a 4.4% funding increase taking its annual budget from $490.5 million - the final figure shown in the latest annual report - to $512.3 million.
**Correction: A previous version of this story said the $5 million had been found within West Moreton Hospital and Health Service budget, as was the advice from Queensland Health at the time. It has since been confirmed this was not correct and $5 million has been added to the overall 2016-2017 budget to fund the new facility.
IPSWICH Hospital is home to a $6 million state-of-the-art, purpose-built paediatrics emergency room, but for most of the year it sits idle collecting dust.
Since the facility was built in 2014, the only time it has been made available to the public on a daily basis is during the winter months when the State Government hands out additional funding.
On October 31, the facility closed after West Moreton decided again not to allocate part of its $512.3 million budget to staff the dedicated area; which includes a separate, child friendly waiting area, 12 emergency beds, six short stay beds and specialist staff.
West Moreton's Chief Executive Sue McKee said, despite the closure, the service was committed to providing the best possible care to paediatric patients.
"Since 2012 emergency department treatment spaces have increased from 28 to 47," Ms McKee said, in a written statement.
"Paediatric Services in ED will continue to be used to manage high demand periods."
A part-time facility open four months of the year during "high demand periods", is not what was promised by the Bligh government.
In 2009 they announced an expansion of paediatric services at Caboolture, Ipswich, Logan, Redcliffe and Redlands hospitals off the back of the South East Queensland Paediatric Planning Report.
The expansion, which in Ipswich's case was finished as part of the $128 million renovations, was marketed as offering "the best care for your child close to home".
That statement is true for Logan families, who since their expansion, have 24-hour access to specialist paediatric services in the emergency department all year round.
Children represent about 21% of all presentations to the Ipswich emergency department, according to West Moreton HHS.
The latest annual report shows in the 2015-2016 year there were 77,355 people treated at the Ipswich Hospital Emergency Department, meaning those presentations included about 16,200 kids.
West Moreton HHS would not provide statistics on child patients visiting the emergency department over the past three years, other than to say it had remained steady at about 21%.
The lack of focus on children is disappointing for mother Shannon Zografos, who is no stranger to hospitals.
Her son Atticus has a rare condition known as a stage three laryngeal cleft; it means liquid entering his mouth goes into his lungs, effectively choking him.
She is used to taking Atticus to see specialists in Brisbane, but Shannon also has a three-year-old and said she would rather make the trip into Brisbane with her daughter than go to the Ipswich Hospital, knowing the purpose-built paediatric facility was shut.
"Parents want services in their own region," Shannon said.
"If this service was open constantly I would be much more inclined to use it rather than going to Brisbane where I know those specially trained staff are readily available.
"It's disappointing because unfortunately we end up having to take kids into Lady Cilento and that puts more strain on our metro hospitals."
Disappointing was also the word used by Rural Health Advocate Justine Christerson, who has dedicated much of her adult life to helping people navigate the state's health system.
"I'm appalled that so much money was invested at the hospital to improve access to paediatric health services for people in the Ipswich area, but it's closed now," Ms Christerson, who was also recently endorsed as a candidate for the independent Glenn Lazarus political party, said.
"To not provide a safe haven for our children, some who are critically sick and don't need to be exposed to the adult side of ER, is disgusting."