Queensland Health accused of failing school kids
The Queensland Health Department has been accused of letting down children by not having nurses in primary schools to detect health problems.
Children affected included those with learning-related problems and children in remote regions, according to critics of the state department.
School health programs were failing to diagnose children with health problems that affected their ability to learn, according to Queensland Nurses’ Union secretary Beth Mohle.
Ms Mohle said children with health problems were suffering because multiple programs were administered throughout Queensland and a thorough system review was needed across-the-board.
She said the nurses’ union wanted one program in place checking young kids’ abilities to learn and routine checks should be done at crucial stages of development.
“Schools should have a system in place with kids getting systematically checked in grades one and four,” Ms Mohle said.
“If you had a child health nurse in these primary schools you would stop a lot of these kids from slipping through the cracks.”
She said the program in high schools where all students had access to a school nurse was more effective and efficient.
A retired academic psychologist who publishes a series of blogs on political and social issues, Dr John Ray, blasted Queensland Health’s actions on children’s health.
He said since 1911 Queensland had sent specially-trained nurses to schools to test children’s hearing and vision as well as looking out for other health problems.
Dr Ray said that to save some money the 100-year-old program was being cancelled, with GPs being given a small sum to test anyone who came in for it.
“Many Aborigines won’t be alert to the problems concerned and in any case will rarely have the confidence to approach local GPs about such problems,” he said.
“The people who need the assistance of school nurses the most are now having it taken away from them.”
He said children in remote areas would continue to suffer unless school health nurses conducted checks, especially as GPs were overstretched.
He said it was indigenous children who benefit most from seeing a school nurse as they suffer highly from vision and hearing problems.
In a written response to Newsbytes, Queensland Health deputy director-general Michael Cleary said there were programs in place targeting remote regions of Queensland.
“Through the National Partnership Agreement for Health Services, the Commonwealth funds checks by Queensland Health of four-year-old children in communities on Cape York Peninsula because there are fewer private providers available in the region,” Dr Cleary said.
“Queensland Health is also investing $2.1 million a year in the Deadly Ears program in 12 remote regions and communities throughout Queensland that has screened, repaired damage and restored hearing to more than 3500 indigenous children.”
He also said a parents in Queensland could use ‘The Healthy Kids Check’ available under Medicare from GPs and to check for problems with children’s health.