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(Australia) Autism/ADHD assessments delayed 18 mos/'tsunami'/40 percent increase

Mar 14, 2023, ABC News: Concerns for children living with autism and ADHD as paediatrician wait lists increase

Parents say they are becoming increasingly desperate as they try to find paediatricians and specialists with the capacity to help children with ADHD and autism.

KEY POINTS: • Parents of children with ADHD and autism are unable to book paediatricians due to long wait lists • Paediatricians and GPs say they are overwhelmed by children needing help • Perth parents say they are facing an 18-month wait to see a public paediatrician Paediatricians and GPs say they are being overwhelmed by children needing help — describing the situation as a "tsunami"….

In Perth, parents say they are facing an 18-month wait to see a public paediatrician, but wait times are estimated to be longer in regional and remote areas.


Royal Australasian College of Physicians president Jacqueline Small said public and private paediatricians were facing a huge demand.

"Paediatricians are having to close their books, they just can't keep up with the load, there has been an overwhelming burden, as a result of, through, and after COVID," she said.

"It's really been like a tsunami hitting our health system," she said.

"It's far worse than what they've seen before."

Dr Small — who is a paediatrician — said there were increasing numbers of children with autism, developmental delays, language problems, and mental health problems, even before the pandemic.

She said the college had recommended several measures, including a national task force to help children catch up after the pandemic.

WA Health Minister Amber Jade Sanderson said since 2020, there had been a 40 per cent increase in the number of new children seen by a developmental paediatrician.

Ms Sanderson said an inquiry was being carried out into early childhood services.

She said an additional 14 speech pathologists were trained in autism spectrum disorder diagnosis, as well as five clinical psychologists, increasing the number of assessments carried out….

Bunbury GP Brenda Murrison said GPs were seeing the rising demand for specialist services every day.

"You're often writing a begging letter, about multiple children at the same time who might be on your case-load, that they can't be referred to the people they need to see quick enough," she said.

Dr Murrison said she was aware the Royal College of GPs was working on a proposal to allow GPs to prescribe medication for ADHD.

"But that's only going to help a small number of children — not those that are waiting to be seen for autism, or bed wetting or school refusal," she said.


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