26 June 2023

ACT Budget: Plans for Paediatric Hospital in the Home service part of clinical funding across health

| Claire Fenwicke
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A girl receives an injection

Paediatric services have received an injection of cash in the upcoming 2023-24 ACT Budget. Photo: File.

Paediatric services are set to be expanded across the ACT, including the establishment of a Paediatric Hospital in the Home program, with an injection of $43.6 million into frontline services.

The money is part of the $200 million public health services package, which has already been announced ahead of the 2023-24 ACT Budget.

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said this section of the package focused on clinical services, with the aim to make more outpatient services available, allow more elective surgeries to occur and deliver new services.

A key highlight is $15.8 million into paediatric services at Canberra Hospital to help expand the paediatric nursing workforce and develop a clinical model for a Paediatric Hospital in the Home service to allow children and young people who need continuous acute care to be able to go home earlier or stay at home while receiving care.

“It’s fantastic for kids who can be in their home environment to be getting the food from their families, hanging out with their brothers or sisters if they have them,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.

“It’s also great for parents and carers … often [they] will spend most of the time in a shared care arrangement at the hospital with their child who’s in the paediatric unit, and that places a lot of strain on them.”

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Canberra Health Services Women Youth and Children Acting Executive Director Sue Pilkington said while the program was still in the development stages, it would look at strengthening the role of GPs in shared care arrangements, examine the connections still needed to hospital and explore types of care delivery such as telehealth.

“We know [people] benefit from being at home,” she said.

For children in particular, Ms Pilkington said this means they “can still participate in school and all of their other activities and their friendships”.

“It’s also about relieving that pressure and that stress on families, so I think that’s really important.”

Consultation has already begun with clinicians, similar programs interstate and with families who are regularly in the paediatric unit.

There’s no timing on when the plan will be delivered but Ms Pilkington said they wanted it to “progress quickly”.

The $15.8 million will also help upskill paediatric and emergency department staff in preparation for the opening of the Critical Services Building, as well as establish a new Paediatric Gender Service to deliver age-appropriate gender care for children up to 15 years of age.

The existing paediatric weight management program will also be expanded to reduce waitlists and waiting times.

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More than $14 million has also been set aside to boost resourcing for the North Canberra Hospital to add four more inpatient beds, as well as bring in more allied health and weekend support to better coordinate care in the Emergency Department.

An additional $6.7 million will go towards addressing the impact of the pandemic and the Calvary theatre fire on elective surgeries over the past two years.

The need for additional specialist medical and paediatric outpatient appointments will be addressed with $6.75 million over the next four years to increase the number of appointments to 2,500 for the next two years, growing to 5,000 additional appointments a year from 2025-26.

Ms Stephen-Smith said all this money reflected the government’s commitment to grow specialist appointments and elective surgeries.

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