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Borneo: Lower infant mortality causes rise in ASD; 'long waiting lists for services'

Sept 11, 2023, Borneo Bulletin: Paediatric services stretched from rising demand, challenges

SE Asia

Rising demand and expectations for paediatric care have resulted in longer waiting lists, said the chairperson for the Paediatric Symposium 2023 yesterday.

The symposium chairperson Dr Hajah Mawarni binti Abdul Hamid in her opening speech said that challenges in parenting faced by families have left less time for children.

She also noted that autism occurs in about one in 48 children, and the survival of pre-term and most critically-ill children are now expected rather than the exception.
“As a result, we now have nearly 800 referrals per year to the Child Development Centre, while the number of doctors, nurses and allied health professionals did not increase to match the demand for our services. Expectations on the other hand, have risen significantly.

“We now have long waiting lists for our services,” she said, adding that “While it is not as bad as other countries, where the time to see a developmental paediatrician can be as long as two years, the waiting list to see a doctor here ranges between a few days and seven months.

“The time to get a multidisciplinary team assessment for an autism diagnosis however, may be a lot longer. We are aware that these many months of waiting can be agonising both for the parents and the health professionals in addressing the challenges….

About 75 per cent of referrals are children with speech and language delays, said the doctor.

“Speech and language delays can be due to many things,” she said. “Many cases may be due to a simple developmental language delay.”
However for some, the delay is a symptom of intellectual impairment or neurodevelopmental issues, she said. “Whatever the underlying cause however, early intervention is key, and children should not wait for a diagnosis before it is started.”

She said the reason for convening the symposium yesterday was to reach out to everyone “in contact with children” to help detect developmental problems early, but also to help initiate early intervention.

She noted there was a great deal of information on child development issues in form of posters on display, which can be downloaded alongside information on Child Development Centre services.

“We are hopeful that by sharing this information, you can also share with the parents you see, so that they can be better engaged and empowered to help their own children at home,” she said.

“We know that having a child with developmental delay or disability can be stressful for parents. Stressed-out parents may not be the best parents towards their children,” she said. The symposium at the Ministry of Health (MoH) yesterday was spearheaded by the Child Development Centre and focused on topics important to children’s healthcare.

Several lectures were delivered by local specialists and invited speakers covering topics such as early brain development and children’s mental health.

Some 250 participants, including doctors, nurses and allied health professionals, attended. Permanent Secretary at the MoH Haji Maswadi bin Haji Mohsin was the guest of honour. – James Kon.


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