A new children’s health services plan to be developed over the next 12 months will focus on making more specialist care available in the ACT and supporting new parents.
The ACT Government will go to families and clinicians for input into the plan, which will cover the care of children from birth to 16 years of age and include ACT public health services and programs across the sector, from maintaining wellbeing to treatment in the community or in hospital, to rehabilitation and end-of-life care.
The Government said the plan would look at growing specialist paediatric services in the ACT so children would not need to travel interstate as much for care.
It would consider how to better support families so they can access the health services they need in Canberra and improve how that care is coordinated, particularly when they are also receiving specialist support from interstate.
The other main focus will be on the early years and improving services in areas such as breastfeeding support, perinatal mental health and early parenting support, as well as specific help for families with more complex needs, working particularly with the QEII Family Centre in Curtin, and its new service provider Tresillian.
The Government said the plan would look at ways to strengthen existing services and programs to support better outcomes, enhance patient and family experiences and improve access, as well as how to deliver smooth transitions of care to adult services where required.
Minister for Health and Wellbeing Meegan Fitzharris said the Healthcare Consumers Association had been engaging with children, young people and their families so they can play a key role in the development of the new plan.
“We know there are families in our community who have unfortunately had to navigate the healthcare system at a time when their child is very unwell. We want to learn from the experiences of these local families and provide them an opportunity to be part of and contribute to this important work,” Ms Fitzharris said.
“We want to understand how to improve our services here in Canberra and map out the journey experienced by paediatric patients and their families, particularly where there is a need to travel interstate for specialist care.
“As part of the consultation, there will also be an emphasis on hearing from the clinical paediatric workforce across Canberra on how we can improve access and better coordinate services in the community and in our hospitals and best plan for the future healthcare needs of children.”
Executive Director of the Health Care Consumers’ Association Darlene Cox said that when children became seriously unwell it was a very difficult time for families.
“Not only are you managing the regular pressures of family life, but you also have to learn about a complicated and disconnected system and travel between cities and treating teams. At the same time, you are building a body of knowledge and set of skills, so you can advocate for your child,” she said.
“This work will enable our local health system to learn from the experiences of families who have dealt with these challenges and bring about changes to make it easier for the families who will be faced with this in the future.”.