Long wait for speech experts
The State Government must do more to ensure the 39 children on the waiting list to see a speech pathologist in Tom Price have access to essential services, according to the Labor Member for Mining and Pastoral Stephen Dawson.
There is an active caseload of 108 children who are eligible to access Government-funded speech pathology services in Tom Price.
In Parliament last month, Mr Dawson questioned the parliamentary secretary representing the Minister for Health about the accessibility of speech pathology services in the Pilbara.
In her reply, Alyssa Hayden revealed speech pathology services in Tom Price had experienced difficulties recruiting and retaining staff.
Consequently, she said coverage for urgent referrals had been provided by the nearest speech pathologist in Newman, more than three hours drive from Tom Price.
She added that the longest waiting time to access speech pathology services in Tom Price was 132 days.
Mr Dawson said it was “unacceptable” for a child to have to wait more than four months to access services.
“By the time patients are getting access some of these services, it’s actually too late for your children,” he said.
“These kinds of early intervention services can have such a big influence on a child’s future and involvement in a classroom.
“With more affordable housing and a less heated economic environment, the Government should be able to attract and keep specialist medical staff.”
Pilbara Population Health WA Country Health Service acting director Deanna Exeter said the waiting times for speech pathology services across the region had fallen from three to two months in the past year.
She said the number of children on the list had decreased since this time last year from 258 to 205, serviced by eight full-time speech pathology staff throughout the region.
Ms Exeter said priority for services was given to children aged from birth to three, the age group where the greatest impact was achieved.