I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Emergency Services, representing the Minister for Health, questions about anaphylactic and allergy services for children.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Honourable members may not be familiar with anaphylactic shock, which is a severe form of allergic reaction and is potentially life-threatening.
The Australian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy Incorporated, which is the peak body for allergists and immunologists in Australia, has a very helpful web site which states that anaphylaxis should be treated as a medical emergency requiring immediate treatment. It can be triggered by a number of fairly common allergens including, most commonly, peanuts, but it can also be other forms of food, the administration of medications or even bee stings.
As we all know through the popular press, the incidence of other allergy-driven conditions, such as asthma, are on the increase. Allergies, as a general condition, are increasing and allergy rates which are determined by sensitivity to nuts are doubling in each generation—approximately every 30 years.
Food allergies affect some 3 per cent of the population, and I am told by people within this field that some 1 in 200 South Australian children have already had an anaphylactic episode, which is a potential warning or precursor to a more severe episode which may lead to death.
The only services available for children within the public system are through the Women’s and Children’s Hospital;
however, there are no appointments for new referrals in 2005.
I also note from the budget papers in reference to the Women’s and Children’s Hospital, and understanding that allergy is largely dealt with through the outpatients system, that the estimated result for 2004-05 is identical to the 2005-06 target—that is, $231 522. That does not indicate an increase in those services. My questions are:
1. Is the minister concerned that the books have been closed at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital for these services?
2. What is the government going to do about this budgetary situation to assist children who are potentially at risk of dying of an allergic reaction?
The Hon. CARMEL ZOLLO (Minister for Emergency Services): The honourable member has asked very specific questions relating to a particular service at a hospital, so I will get some advice from the Minister for Health in another place and bring back a response.
Monday 7 November 2005
In reply to Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (1 June).
The Hon. CARMEL ZOLLO: The Minister for Health has provided the following information:
1. The Women’s and Children’s Hospital have not closed its books to public allergy patients. Priority one patients, that is patients with severe allergic reactions, have their referrals reviewed by the consultant in charge of the Allergy Clinic and they are assigned an appointment for the clinic based on this clinical assessment.
Less urgent patients with significant allergy problems, but which are not life threatening, are offered alternative options of external services available within the community.
2. The budget allocation to the Children, Youth and Women’s Health Service includes provision for increased resources to the Allergy Service at theWomen’s and Children’s Hospital. This will result in improved services, decreasedwaiting time for children with significant allergy, increased education and training of primary practitioners so that a better service response can be provided to allergy sufferers from within their local communities.