Election 2013 Western Australia March 9

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Announcements by Janet Woollard

Woollard Stunned By Government's Short-Sighted Allergy Decision

Woollard Statement January 11

Independent Member for Alfred Cove Dr Janet Woollard has vowed to put pressure on the State Government to reverse its decision to cut face-to-face, hands-on training of teachers and other school staff in the use of life-saving anaphylaxis injectors in favour of a cheaper, on-line training system.

Dr Woollard said the government decision was short-sighted and dangerous and anaphylactic children’s lives were at risk if school staff didn’t know how to recognise an allergic reaction and properly use the auto-injectors, known as ‘EpiPens’ and ‘Anapens’.

“As a trained nurse with many years’ experience, I know that student nurses are given practical instruction on how to give injections,” Dr Woollard said.

“We have to have face-to-face training by trained nurses. This is what experts see as best practice. WA is now stepping sideways or even backwards in provision of an online course.

“Four to eight per cent of children starting school are at risk of a life-threatening allergic reaction, known as anaphylaxis, according to the president of the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA), Associate Professor Richard Loh, a Perth-based allergist and immunologist.

“That’s about one in 15 children in our schools and child care facilities daily facing the threat of a serious allergic reaction.”

Dr Woollard has organised an information evening at her electorate office on 22 January from 7pm – 9pm at which A/Prof Loh will discuss the dangers and prevalence of anaphylaxis and the need to train more health professionals to deal with it.

Dr Woollard said she hoped to form an advocacy group to keep pressure on the government to continue to provide best practice training for school and childcare staff in the use of auto-injectors, and to keep each school and child care facility in the state stocked with at least one auto-injector for emergency use.

“They save lives,” Dr Woollard said.

The auto-injector treats anaphylactic shock by administering a dose of adrenaline, a naturally occurring hormone, which reverses the severe allergic reaction and can be lifesaving.

Dr Woollard said she was aware of a case in Victoria and another in NSW where a teacher or child care worker used the auto-injector upside down and the life-saving adrenaline was injected into themselves, not the child. Tragically, both children died.

 “Anaphylaxis is becoming the scourge of the 21st Century,” Dr Woollard said.

“We know that one in 10 Australian children under the age of one has a confirmed food allergy,” she said.

“There has been a disturbing increase in the rate of life threatening allergic reactions over the past 20 years,” Dr Woollard said.

ASCIA President A/Prof Richard Loh says a measure of the increase in allergic diseases is that in 1993 the department he works in might see eight to ten patients a week. Now, they see over 100 patients in a week.

“There are six main food allergens – cow’s milk, soy milk, eggs, wheat, fish, and peanuts,” A/Prof Loh said.

“Insect stings are another trigger for anaphylactic reactions.”

Professor Loh says a shortage of specialist allergists and immunologists is looming in Australia.

He says paediatricians and GPs may require additional training in allergies and immunology to fill the growing shortage of four-year-trained allergy specialists.

A/Prof Loh says ASCIA is gravely concerned that waiting times for children to see a specialist are blowing out dangerously.

Dr Woollard said her inquiries had established unacceptable wait times for children in Western Australia to see a specialist allergist and the State Government needs to address this as a matter of urgency.

“Category 1 patients, those most at risk, who should be seen within a month, are waiting two months,” she said.

 “For those in category 2, people who need treatment for their allergy, and should be seen in three months, are lucky to get in before six months.

“Others with a common allergy that’s uncomfortable yet still affects quality of life, but is not life threatening, have been known to wait up to 14 months,” Dr Woollard said.

Maria Said, President of Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia, a national patient support organisation agrees.

 “Two months is an extremely long time to wait if your child has had a potentially life threatening allergic reaction. Often, it is related to food and you don’t know what is safe to feed to your child,” she said.

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