Experts believe a Statewide overhaul in the delivery of early childhood intervention services is needed to tackle unacceptable waiting times for essential child development therapies.
Answers provided to Opposition spokeswoman for early childhood Linda Savage in State Parliament on Tuesday revealed children are waiting 14.5 months to see a paediatrician at the State's Child Development Service - more than double the maximum wait time doctors recommend.
Children are waiting 10.9 months to see a speech pathologist, up from 9.4 months at the same time last year. Wait times have also increased for occupational therapists and physiotherapists.
Perth paediatrician Elizabeth Green, who has worked as a specialist for more than 20 years in the public and private sectors, said 14.5 months was "far too long" for a child to wait to see a paediatrician.
The longer the wait, the harder it was to deal with their issue, Dr Green said. "It's unacceptable. You have got such a narrow time frame to intervene effectively in early childhood to make a difference to emotional, social and academic development."
Though she believes specialists working at State Child Development Centres are doing a good job, given there is a severe shortage of specialists working in child development, she said there needed to be a major overhaul in providing services to reduce waiting times.
Dr Green wants more government-funded positions for specialists in schools, more positions for paediatric trainees at the centres, more child health nurses and better co-operation between the public and private sectors.
More subsidies for specialists working in the private sector were needed because it was currently "not financially viable" to operate a private practice.
WA's Commissioner for Children and Young People Michelle Scott said the State Government had reduced waiting lists through a $50 million funding boost in 2010-2011, but she was concerned waiting times had crept up again.
"With more than 30,000 babies now born in WA every year, our services for children and parents must continue to expand to keep up with the growing birth rate," she said.Acting Health Minister Troy Buswell said the Government was implementing a number of strategies to address waiting times.
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