Children suffering from potentially fatal allergic reactions are being denied specialist treatment for up to eight months because of a severe State Government funding shortage.
The Women’s and Children’s Hospital and the Flinders Medical Centre are the only public health services in the State for people suffering from anaphylaxis which is the most severe type of allergic reaction and which can result in death.
Liberal Legislative Councillor Michelle Lensink has been told that children needing initial specialist appointments are being turned away from the WCH because the ‘appointment books are full for the rest of 2005’.
And the situation is mirrored at the Flinders Medical Centre, which treats children and adults.
“One in 200 South Australian children have had an anaphylactic attack, and allergy rates are doubling every 30 years,” Ms Lensink said.
“These children are at risk of dying if they do not have their allergies correctly diagnosed and suitable treatments prescribed.
“The Women’s and Children’s Hospital and Flinders Medical Centre anaphylactic departments are under-resourced and over-worked with an increasing number of people who require urgent specialist attention. But the Rann Government has failed to give the departments the additional funds they need to keep up with demand.”
Ms Lensink said the most common allergy triggers were insects, foods such as nuts and medicines.
“A referral to an allergy specialist is the first step in being able to manage an allergy,” she said.
“But having to wait a year just to see a specialist could prove fatal.”
Ms Lensink called on the Rann Government to urgently inject additional funding for the treatment of severe allergic reactions in South Australia.
“Health Minister Lea Stevens cannot sit back and ignore the problem. Her dismissal of the issue could result in serious allergy attacks among young children,” she said.
Di Edwards of Coromandel Valley knows only too well the importance of early diagnosis when it comes to allergies.
Her 15-month old daughter Tara has life-threatening allergies to nuts, egg and wheat, as well as less severe allergies to dairy and soy products.
“It is utterly unacceptable for children to have to be put at risk of a severe attack by having to wait a year for a specialist appointment,” Mrs Edwards said.
“If dollars are the issue to the Premier, he might consider that when children aren’t diagnosed, they can end up in hospital Intensive Care Units, costing the government much more money in the long term, let alone the risk they are put to while they wait.
Mrs Edwards, who is the SA Co-ordinator of Anaphylaxis Australia Incorporated, said the issue would continue to grow unless additional funds were provided immediately.
“The current allergy services in South Australia are so under-resourced, that it is a serious concern,” she said.
“The current services are struggling to provide even basic clinical care. As allergies are on the rise, and the health system is already unable to cope, how will the State be able to manage severe allergies in the future?
“The situation is truly becoming dire for our allergy kids.”
For additional information about allergic reactions, visit www.allergyfacts.org.au or phone 1300 728 000