Election 2013 Western Australia March 9

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Health Matters

Health check for every pre-primary child

Liberal Statement

A re-elected Liberal Government will appoint an additional 155 full-time equivalent (FTE) school nurses to provide health care to WA’s school-aged children, Premier Colin Barnett said today.

Mr Barnett said the $57.2million investment would improve access to health care for children who need it most, and guarantee children access to a health assessment upon starting school.

“This will mean every Western Australian child will get a health assessment when they get to pre-primary,” he said.

“We are ensuring that kids don’t fall through the cracks and aim to detect problems with hearing or speech or eyesight early so that children have the best opportunity to be healthy and ready to learn when they start school.

“Sick kids aren’t in a position to learn - often, avoidable and easily treated illnesses can dramatically impact on both a child’s well-being and ability to learn. Additionally, a range of behavioural issues can stem from treatable disorders, for example auditory dysfunction.”

Health Minister Kim Hames said the investment was part of the Liberals’ plan to deliver quality frontline education and health services throughout the State.

“This is another major investment into the health of our children, adding to $49.7million invested to employ more child health specialists, such as speech pathologists in 2010; a $58.5million increase of the State’s community health nurse workforce last year; and a $48.7million investment in 16 new Child and Parent Centres,” Dr Hames said.

“Combined with this new commitment, that is an investment of more than $214million into securing the future health of Western Australian children.”

Dr Hames said, of the new nurses, 110.6 FTE will be located in the metropolitan area and 45 will be based in regional WA, bringing the total to 332.6, or an increase of 87 per cent.

“This investment in nurses for regional schools will particularly help address the high rate of glue ear which is causing hearing loss to a great many WA children,” he said.

“Many childhood health problems are curable and manageable when they are identified early. The knock-on effect of intervention from a professional during early years means better educational and social outcomes for WA kids.”

Dr Hames said entry school assessments would evaluate vision, hearing, speech, fine and gross motor skills, language development and social adjustment. If a nurse finds a child has a health issue in one of these areas, the child will be referred for intervention and a health care plan.

An example might be a child found to have difficulty with speech may be referred to a speech pathologist for assistance.

“Most entry-level health assessments will be done during a child’s pre-primary year, although it may occur in kindergarten or year one,” he said.

“These checks will extend to children who attend non-government primary schools, to ensure all children and parents have access to free, public health care.”

School nurses will also provide ongoing support through school years for children who need it. In older children and adolescents, school nurses often provide health care to those experiencing mental health problems such as anxiety, depression and body and weight issues.

“Nurses also provide schools and communities with health education and promotion strategies to ensure parents take up the opportunity for free, public health care for their children.”

The number of specialised nurses who assist children with intensive health needs such as tube feeding, special medications and airway maintenance during school will also be increased.

“This is a commitment to some of the most vulnerable people in Western Australia: school students who need extra support to achieve their potential educational outcomes,” the Minister said.

The funding includes nine clinical nurse managers who will provide experienced support to front-line school nurses. Three will be located in regional areas, and six in the metropolitan area.


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