I would like to share my experience with the medical care facilities in the ACT in the hope that some change in focus begins to occur. My three year old son was referred for a hearing test and paediatrician consult for a speech delay last week. Upon calling the ACT health number for a hearing test I was told that the first available was in July. Only one other centre in the ACT does them. I called the other centre and booked in for the first available appointment which is in April. I called the paediatrician and booked the first available appointment – also in April. Feeling more and more concerned over the quality of care and the length of delay in the ACT (based upon previous experience with my child) I found the name of a paediatric allergies specialist in Sydney (the best in Sydney I am told) and rang for an appointment. I was able to book in within a week (even though this specialist only does consultations two days per week).
BTW – I am told that paediatricians don’t exist in cities anymore, they are all specialised.
We visited the first specialist in Sydney yesterday. It cost $130, the Canberra general paediatrician was going to cost ~$200. The doctor said he needed to be operated on by winter or there would be a high risk of a permanent speech delay. We were referred that day to (the best in Sydney according to the doctor) an ear nose and throat child specialist. They squeezed us in, did a hearing test on the spot, booked in surgery for 1 months time.
What amazes me is that if I had just booked into the first hearing test provided by the ACT government in July, a permanent speech delay would have been likely. The ACT offices could not give me any information about where else I could go for a hearing test. They just told me to go on the waiting list. How many people can’t afford the private costs and are therefore have children who are delayed – causing how many other associated problems?! The countless number of doctors in Canberra that my child had seen had never spotted the mass of related symptoms. The long term abnormal wax build up in his ears was never noticed or spotted. Luckily we have a fantastic GP (who is hard to get into because the secret is out about how good they are) or the relationship between symptoms may have been spotted too late.
Why is the health minister concentrating on the sale of cigarettes and not the lack of quality, timely health services for children in the ACT? The priorities seem to be a little off to me. The time spent organising something so costly and ridiculous would be better spent bettering our health services. If you have to go to a major city to get decent health care, then referrals and information should be given to ensure delays do not cause longer ongoing problems (and their associated costs) to the ACT down the line.
As a parent with a child at risk due to the lack of care in the ACT, it makes me extremely angry. I would advise any parents with children needing specialist care to go directly to Sydney and not waste your time here. We made appointments and saw the two top related child specialists in Sydney faster than it would have taken me to book into my GP here.