Calls to reinstate Esperance paediatric diabetes clinics

Photo: File Image.
Photo: File Image.

Local families and Nationals Member for the Agricultural Region Colin de Grussa are calling on the state government to revert its decision to withdraw paediatric diabetes clinical outreach services from Esperance.

On February 14, the Child and Adolescent Health Service announced the diabetes clinics would be pulled from Esperance after providing the specialist service to local families since 2013.

As part of the service, children with type one and two diabetes, as well as children with endocrine issues were visited four times a year by a multi-disciplinary team from Perth Children's Hospital, who provided a number of services not accessible at local practices.

Earlier this year, families were informed of the closure and offered the choice to travel about 700 kilometres to Perth Children's Hospital to attend the Kalgoorlie outreach service or transition to a local practitioner.

Child and Adolescent Health Service chief executive Dr Aresh Anwar said the number of patients using the service in Esperance had been in decline over recent years and by December 2019, had reduced to fewer than 10.

"Given the significant resourcing required, the service did not meet eligibility for regional clinics," he said.

"After extensive consideration and discussion, the decision was made to stop a regular diabetes outreach clinic to Esperance. The clinical team met with families at the final clinic where options for ongoing care were discussed to ensure that we continued to provide the support they need."

Melinda Smith's daughter Ella, 14, was diagnosed with diabetes seven years ago and had used the clinic since it was first rolled out in Esperance. She said the loss of the comprehensive service would be felt by families.

"With specialists coming here you build up a rapport with them, they get to know your child and you get to know them, I don't know if that is going to be the case with the Perth clinics because the department is so big," Mrs Smith said.

"To get them back here would be fantastic. It worked so well and it is just such a pity. We just do what we have to do, but it will definitely affect people and kids if they can't really afford it."

Mrs Smith said in order to drive to Perth to access the clinic, she had to take at least three days off work and remove Ella from school every three months.

As diabetes remains the fastest growing chronic condition in Australia, Mrs Smith said she was worried other families would struggle to cover the costs of travel and accommodation which might result in their children going without.

"We do get a Patient Assisted Travel Scheme payment but it is only for the cost of fuel money, so if you wanted to fly you'd be paying out of pocket which would affect quite a few of the families," she said.

The Patient Assisted Travel Scheme provides a subsidy towards the cost of travel and accommodation for eligible country residents travelling long distances to seek certain specialist services.

Following an address in parliament last week, Mr de Grussa called on the state government to reinstate the service and stop the "ongoing dilution of vital services to regional communities".

He questioned why an identical service had been opened in the Metropolitan area in January.

"Cutting this vital service simply makes no sense. The Labor Government has already shown that the clinics work, by virtue of rolling them out in other locations," he said.

"So why have they withdrawn the service from Esperance, knowing it has the potential to result in poor long term health outcomes at greater cost to the health system, while imposing a substantial cost impost on vulnerable regional families?"

Dr Anwar assured families affected by the change that Perth Children's Hospital was committed to providing the "best possible care".

"We provide our services to children and families across the state, via face-to-face consultations and when needed, using teleconferencing and telephones," he said.