Under-pressure child health services get funding boost

Child development services in Western Australia will be expanded, with the state government acknowledging unprecedented levels of demand. 

The Labor government on Tuesday announced a $39 million investment would be included in the 2024/25 state budget to be handed down on May 9. 

The funding will go towards boosting clinical staffing, including pediatricians, clinical nurse specialists, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, psychologists and audiologists, in metro and regional areas.

It also includes money for the leasing of additional temporary accommodation to allow staff to see more families.

Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson said the Child Development Service had experienced an unprecedented surge in demand. 

She said referrals to service pediatricians had risen by 132 per cent in the past decade. 

"Demand growth for (the service) has been far exceeding what you would expect for our population," Ms Sanderson said, adding funding would lead to a "major uplift" in staff.

It was revealed in March that more than 9700 children were waiting to access a pediatrician in metropolitan Perth.

The interim report of a parliamentary committee, released in November, found the service was not meeting its self-imposed target median waiting time of six months or less. 

The report said wait times were unacceptably long and could result in children's problems becoming more serious and difficult to address. 

The state government will provide a comprehensive response to the committee's recommendations once the final report is tabled on April 18. 

The state government has noted previously announced measures to address demand, including a refreshed recruitment drive and expanded Saturday opening hours at some sites. 

Ms Sanderson pointed out the service looked after kids across 2.5 million sq km and said staff were doing a "great job". 

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