Mothballed children's unit still shut at Ipswich Hospital

STILL WAITING: Ipswich residents still waiting for $6 million specialist paedeatric unit to open permanently, despite promise from State Government.
STILL WAITING: Ipswich residents still waiting for $6 million specialist paedeatric unit to open permanently, despite promise from State Government. Contributed

A SIX-million-dollar paediatric emergency room at Ipswich Hospital is still closed.

It has been three weeks since the State Government 'stepped in' and forced Ipswich Hospital to re-open the mothballed facility inside the Emergency Department.

Yet parents still can't access the facility.

Now Queensland Health says Ipswich residents won't see any changes at the hospital's ED until 2017 and its avoided answering specific follow up questions from the QT for more than two weeks.

Next year, 10 beds will be added to the emergency department, along with new staff. That includes "paediatric trained staff", although Queensland Health wouldn't say how many, doctors, nurses, administration and operational staff.

The beds will be used to treat both adults and children.

While Queensland Health says the extra resources are expected to reduce waiting times across the department, it's not the dedicated children's facility with specialist paediatric staff that was promised; a service Logan residents have had access to for the past two years.

Earlier this month the QT published a front page story revealing the specialist children's facility, including 12 dedicated beds and a separate 'child-friendly' waiting room, had gone largely unused and unfunded since it was built in 2014.

On October 31, the facility closed after West Moreton decided again not to allocate part of its $512.3 million budget to staff the dedicated area.

Last year more than 16,000 children were treated at the Ipswich Hospital emergency department, but the only time the facility, earmarked by the Bligh Government as of "highest priority", had been open was during the winter months when West Moreton Hospital Health Service used additional funding from the State Government.

The day after the QT's story was published, a sudden meeting was called with West Moreton Hospital Health Service's Chief Executive Sue McKee.

At the time a spokesperson for Queensland Health said, during that meeting, the two agencies reached an agreement that would see $5 million put towards opening the facility seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

The back flip assured Ipswich residents they would have access to the same services available at nearby Logan Hospital where a similar purpose-built facility has been in full-time operation since it opened in 2014 and twice Queensland Health has said "a specific waiting and play area is available for children and their parents while attending the Emergency Department".

Yet parents using the facility are still waiting in the general Emergency Department which, on Thursday last week mid-morning, was completely full.

One mum said she had rushed one of her two children to the hospital about a month ago and had been pleased to wait in the comfortable, purpose-built area with other children.

Last week she had to go back with her daughter and instead waited in the general, full, emergency room because the paediatric facility was closed.

Regardless, West Moreton Chief Executive Sue McKee said no critically ill child would go untreated at Ipswich Hospital.

She said the changes were "about ensuring that every patient gets the most appropriate care whether they are a child of an adult".

Topics:  ipswich hospital

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