21 October 2022

Hospital needs children's ICU: review

| Lottie Twyford
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outside view of Canberra hospital emergency department

An external review conducted last year has found Canberra Hospital is now able to sustain a level-one paediatrics intensive care unit. Photo: File.

An intensive care paediatrics unit is needed at Canberra Hospital with the current “case mix”, a new review has found.

The external review from Resolve Health Advisory found Canberra Health Services could now sustain a level one paediatrics intensive care unit which would be used for stabilisation and short-term single-organ support of children.

However, the Territory could not yet support a higher level of paediatric intensive care unit.

CHS already has a well-established neonatal intensive care unit and intensive care unit to care for unwell babies and adults, but it found gaps when it comes to caring for children as the current high-care ward was only able to manage close observation and some forms of ventilation.

This level of paediatric intensive care service will be included as part of the Critical Services Building during the Canberra Hospital expansion.

Four paediatric ICU beds will be provided once this is open in 2024.

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Other issues raised by the review included a lack of formalised protocols for high acuity and deteriorating patients and limited formal arrangements in place with the Sydney Children’s Hospital Network.

It also found there was no suitable way of providing temporary organ support for children who needed to be stabilised and transported to hospitals in Sydney.

These concerns have been aired often in recent months following the deaths of children at Canberra Hospital or who had received care at the hospital.

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Ms Stephen-Smith tabled parts of the 2021 review in the ACT Legislative Assembly on Thursday afternoon (20 October).

The timing of this has raised eyebrows given the majority of the sitting day was taken up with passing the drug decriminalisation laws.

Not all parts of the document were made public.

Ms Stephen-Smith said work had begun on some of the key recommendations from the review and a working group was already looking at how a paediatric ICU could be provided at the hospital.

Leanne Castley

Opposition spokesperson for health Leanne Castley accused the Health Minister of having tried to sneak the “damning” review through the Assembly. Photo: Region.

The Opposition questioned the timing of the review’s release and accused Ms Stephen-Smith of having tried to sneak it through the Assembly with a “nothing-to-see approach”.

Canberra Liberals spokesperson for health Leanne Castley described its findings as “damning”.

“The government has dropped the ball and our children have borne the brunt,” she said.

“Despite the Minister continually stating everything is working as it should, this report clearly shows paediatric care in the ACT is not up to scratch and doesn’t even come close to what our children deserve.

“We knew it and we have called it out a number of times, as have many families and it is a disgrace that this government has only responded when they were shamed into taking action.”

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My daughter has had to take all of her kids to Westmead in Sydney, because that’s where the specialists in paediatrics are available, without long waits and exorbitant bills.

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