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An open letter to Colin Barnett

Dear Mr Barnett,

You must be proud of your state. Western Australia has so much going for it. Per head of population it is the wealthiest state in Australia and is rapidly becoming one of the wealthiest states in the world with more than $170 billion worth of mining related projects still in the planning stages. No wonder you boasted the state “is doing pretty well” and saw fit to travel to China recently promoting WA’s strong economic relationship with the Asian superpower. It is without argument that no other state in Australia would benefit from Tony Abbott’s planned free trade agreement with China than your state.

Yes, Western Australia certainly is doing pretty well, as the above links testify. It’s a healthy state and it is about the grow even healthier over the next couple of years. And right now they are having money thrown at them:

Taxpayers will be stung with a hefty bill to fly WA-based ministers and Liberal MPs, spouses and children to Canberra on a luxury RAAF jet for next week’s opening of Parliament.

It’s nice that they can send the kids too. All that money with nothing better to spend it on, than to spend it on luxuries. But what about kids back home in hospital? Isn’t that a bit of a shame? Surely they could do with some help. Some families get treated to luxuries by your government whereas other kids and other families are subjected to the razor gang which your government sent in last year. Two of Perth’s largest hospitals were advised to cut $28 million worth of services despite the warning this had the potential to have a “disastrous” impact on patient care and clinical standards whilst another had been advised to shed 200 full-time jobs, including those of doctors and nurses. Again, it was warned that this would put patients at risk.

I’ve searched the internet and uncovered numerous press releases about cuts, warnings and risks over the last 12 months. You’re probably aware of the criticism. But there are some stories that don’t make it into the public domain. Those are the stories of children suffering and dying in a state that is “doing pretty well”. In a state, that with all its wealth and resources, takes money away from its hospitals.

Yes, people have suffered because of your cuts. I doubt you’ve heard from them. We have, and here is what they had to say:

From Kate

The scandal surrounding the new children’s hospital in Perth is beyond a joke. They have already cut 100 beds. The health care for children in WA shocking. Young children having chemo in corridors because there isn’t enough beds or chairs in outpatients. Children admitted for blood transfusions because of severe infections and then put coughing and spluttering into a cancer ward with kids undergoing chemo. Parents of the cancer kids pleading that the mother of the child needing the blood transfusion, stop her child coughing. Again because there are no beds. Kids getting shipped interstate because we don’t have enough specialists and equipment in WA. Emergency surgeries canceled because of no beds. Long waiting times. Yet we live in a so called rich mining state. My own son has been in and out the children’s hospital for 4 yrs. We are in crisis where pediatric health is concerned. Yet the WA government sees fit to give a $35 million discount on a piece of land that was sold by the state to Mr Packer, as just one example. So much money misspent or squandered. Yet much essential equipment for the hospital is provided by parents fund-raising. It is a scandal of epic proportion when you start to read what is happening to sick WA children.

There was another case today, poor 7 yr old girl has been fasted every day since Thursday for her PICC lines to go in and it has been canceled every day. So she has been without food and stressed waiting for the procedure only to have it repeatedly canceled. Everyday she is in a hospital bed means somebody else turned away. It’s shocking.

Wow, is that right about Mr Packer? He sure must be short of a few bucks for you to help him out to the tune of $35 million. Sorry, for the state’s tax payers to help him out.

Anyway, we continue:

From Clare

I am pro-extra beds for PCH as a concerned parent of a child with a life long blood disorder. Ellie was diagnosed at 2 1/2 with Hereditary Spherocytosis. We rocked up to Emergency after the GP didn’t like the urine sample we’d taken in but, after a barrage of blood tests and lots of serious doctor faces we were admitted to Ward 3B. No formal diagnosis was made until 2 days later. Ellie’s red blood cells are extremely fragile and the wrong shape so they break down in her body much quicker than normal. The byproducts of this cause her to ‘yellow’ – jaundice, become lethargic, dark yellow/orangey urine, swollen spleen and sore tummy. On that occasion we escaped a transfusion but when Ellie next got a virus her body went into overtime breaking down her red blood cells at an even faster rate. She was admitted and we went through the first transfusion – a traumatic experience for all. Suffice it to say that each time Ellie gets sick with a cough, cold, virus or infection she is likely to need a new influx of blood to helper body recover. The concerning flip side is that the beds we need to use are in Haemotology which share its beds with Oncology- the children receiving chemo – ward 3B. Dilemma – is Ellie sick enough to warrant us exposing all those immuno suppressed chemo kids for whom a cough cold or virus could, and do, kill them!!! Ellie got pneumonia in March and on our overnight stay were in a shared room with 3 kids having chemo. I will never forget the look of pleading in the eyes of a tired mum of a very ill child next to us receiving chemo, asking us to please stop Ellie from coughing. If only we could! Staff always try to get us in isolation rooms but only 1 visit in 4 has one been available. My husband and I have spent nights on the ward in sit up kitchen type chairs in order to stay with our toddler as even chairs are often all being used. We are in dire trouble if the same amount of beds are provided as the numbers of children are increasing on both sides of the ward. I find it unacceptable that I have to delay going and getting treatment for Ellie’s lifelong battle to be well because of the effect it may have on other children. Overcrowding at its best.

From Chris

We are working with a small group who are trying to raise awareness about the importance of including more mental health beds at the new PCH. You may be aware that there are only going to be 20 psychiatric beds available at the hospital, and it will become the only hospital that admits adolescent psychiatric patients. A number of these beds will be in a secure ward – so less than 20 beds available to our young people who are in desperate need. The most recent statistics I have been able to find tell us that 23% of the total burden of disease and injury experienced by Australian children and young people aged 0 – 14 years was due to mental disorders, the largest burden of disease for this age group. We also know suicide is the leading cause of death in people under 25. Twenty beds is not enough.

My personal connection with this issue began when my daughter was sent home from PMH due to lack of beds, and due to a ‘short stay’ policy – even though she clearly stated that she didn’t feel safe enough in her mental well being to return home. That night she took an overdose and we nearly lost her.

I have had experience personally with the state run mental health system. Unfortunately my daughter has needed admission on a number of occasions as she suffers PTSD, depression and anxiety.

She has been admitted to PMH adolescent psychiatric unit (ward 4H) and Bentley adolescent unit (BAU).

In our experience we have found staff committed and caring, but completely overwhelmed by the enormity of the mental health crisis that exists. We found that there were rarely the same staff members in consecutive admissions, so it is always a matter of repeating information to new nurses and doctors.

The 2 most distressing things that we have had to experience as a direct result of the mental health system are as follows:

Firstly, when my daughter was 13 there were no beds available in 4H so she was sent to BAU. BAU is a secure facility (so young people are locked in for their own safety) My daughter has no issue with drugs or alcohol, and her mental illness is a direct result from trauma. She is amazingly strong and resilient but has found great difficulty in coping with her distress at times. Being in BAU meant that my daughter was in secure care with males and females up to the age of 18 with serious psychological issues, as well as drug and alcohol issues. It is a terrifying experience, and my daughter was only exposed to this because there were no beds in 4H, which would have been an appropriate facility for her. During this time she saw many young people experiencing psychosis and saw a girl try to kill herself.

Secondly, on another occasion my daughter was sent home from 4H after clearly expressing that she didn’t feel safe and in control of her mental health. She asked that they allow her to stay but the doctor insisted she go home. There was no bed available. My daughter came home and shortly after took an overdose. We nearly lost her as a direct result of her being sent home.

I have had other young people share similar stories. A friend of our family lost their daughter after she was released from hospital, after clearly stating she was not safe to leave – the young girl left hospital, walked out and committed suicide by walking in front of a train.

Another young person has told me that she has friends who have been turned away from the hospitals, although they are in dire need, and others who have spent up to a week sleeping in the emergency department because there are no beds available (while I know personally of people who have not been admitted in times of need I don’t know anyone who has slept in ED for extended periods – I only have reported evidence of this).

Here are three other stories as told by parents

My brave little man Joshua fought Stage IV Neuroblastoma like a little warrior for two long and agonising years. During our time at PMH, Josh was waiting in outpatients, sharing rooms and being infected with other children’s bugs and moved around due to lack of space. During a mega dose chemotherapy and stem cell rescue Josh got too sick to open his eyes or speak to me. My Josh has since died.

My Julia was sent home from emergency 6 times after an undiagnosed stroke due to lack of availability for an MRI. The subsequent strokes stole her ability to walk and talk, and very nearly took her life as well.

Having spent 3 years as Aid Worker in the Romania Orphanages I find unbelievable that this is happening in Perth.

From A

I am a nurse who currently works at PMH and regularly experiences the vented frustration of parents of paediatric patients due to waiting time, theatre delays, etc. My ward should have been renovated just prior to the approval of the new Perth Children’s Hospital being given; but instead has had only minimal, cosmetic improvements made since the decision to build the new hospital came about. Let us not have missed out in vain, please!!

Our ward is amongst the busiest in the hospital and we regularly have to discharge our patients in a hurried manner, to quickly accommodate the next. This is mostly done flawlessly, however it puts an enormous amount of pressure on the amazing nursing staff – who are at the forefront of patient care and as previously mentioned, are often on the receiving end of parent and patient frustration as a result of the bed numbers available to the children of Perth currently.

It would be such a wasted opportunity to continue caring for Perth’s sick and injured kids in this fashion, (despite the aesthetically pleasing value of a new facility) when we do actually move.

As much as it is suggested that other floors may be added when the State Government’s budget allows, the inconvenience for all hospital staff involved, as well as the disruption to patient care during such an extension would be enormous!

Perth’s population is growing at a staggering rate and paediatric hospital admissions have increased accordingly.

It is utterly beyond comprehension how only an extra 27 beds are meant to accommodate such demand for treatment amongst the children of Western Australia.

You can read more stories here from parents fighting for better quality care for their children. Please brace yourself before reading these stories of young children dying in a state that’s doing pretty well. So well, that you can take money away from the services to treat them. This is Western Australia’s shame. It is your shame. I’m sure you’ll feel the same sadness in your heart when you read those stories as I did.

It is damning for you that people should take their plea to the internet over such an important issue and one that you appear to have ignored. How can you ignore sick, dying children in your own state? Change.org has also taken to the internet, petitioning you for 2 new floors and 100 more beds for the new WA Children’s Hospital. Here is what they say:

With the aging Princess Margaret Hospital already at capacity WA needs a new children’s hospital to serve our growing state.

But the Barnett Government is only delivering 27 new beds. Doctors and parents all agree that the new hospital needs 2 new floors and 100 more beds to serve our growing State.

Send Colin Barnett a message; our growing state needs a children’s hospital where doctors can properly treat our sick children now and in the future.

What’s the use of building a brand new children’s hospital without enough beds?

Let’s future proof our new Perth Children’s Hospital by adding two new floors.

Please listen to this. Please do something about it. Australia is watching.

And in the meantime . . . children are suffering. Mr Barnett, you have to power to do something.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Taylor


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  1. Brian

    Always the same with these LNP grubs. We live in a society not just a bloody economy,fool.

  2. JohnB

    How do we get rid of these fascist corporate collaborating governments that have so little care for their own citizen’s welfare?
    How sick is it that they are applying themselves so diligently to removing taxes from already highly profitable multinationals and removing environmental protection regulations that ameliorate AGW, while cutting funds to hospitals and scientists.

    Can’t they see that they are facilitating a ‘dutch auction’ with other nations to facilitate the transfer of Australia’s wealth to multinationals at minimum benefit to Australian citizens?
    Perhaps they can, and are simply providing multinationals with a return on their sponsorship investment.

  3. Megan Armstrong

    Was this actually sent to Colin Barnett? If it was I’d be interested in reading the response.

  4. Paul Scahill

    I dont know where to place this comment so I will leave it up to the experts? I have for some considerable time watched the A.B.C. however, over the past few months I have become so disappointed with the A.B.C. and its presenters, tthat I believe they should bundle the whole lot of them up and send them off to Foxtel/Austar. It would appear as though they only present news items and viewpoints that attract LNP and the like. I am aware that a Howard ex “staffer” has taken over the operation of the A.B.C. recently which is probably the reason that nothing is A-Political but has an LNP slant. Today was the first day of question time in the 44th Parliament and I am afraid that the speaker Bronny appeared biased. Still if you cannot be biased towards your friends who can you be biased too. We watched Q & A (monday night) all big business, and of course Tony Jones, and he appears te one dude who supports the big end of town, completely. Thats my whinge for the moment.

  5. Alison White

    This is so sad, I feel that there is a definite trend, we are being nudged to the right wing as a society. I often wondered just how the Nazi’s had what seemed like popular support from their people…I imagine it must have been done in the same manner…a little nudge at a time. The people of Nazi Germany didn’t know when the line had been crossed because the line was ever moving by small degrees – they did not see the line until they looked back.. This austerity nonsense is utter rubbish – the ‘big end of town’ is doing very well – and they are using it as a means to an end – to make us realise we are worth less than them in every way. The stories told in this article are proof that the ordinary citizen is no longer valued by the new elites, the corporate rodents. My heart goes out to the children and parents in this article, for only circumstance differentiates us.

  6. Michael Taylor

    No, I haven’t sent it to him, Megan. But I really should email it to him. I too would be interested in his response. If he bothered to reply.

    I worked in government 13 years. When politicians receive these type of letters they generally get someone else to respond with a standard reply about how good they are. Plus of course, the regular “blame the previous government” mantra.

  7. CMMC

    They are not governing, they are behaving like psychopathic middle-class brats building a bonfire around civil society.

  8. doctorrob54

    It is heartbreaking Michael,like all correspondence you folk put out it’s clear and easy to understand,I’m with Chrissie on this,might be pointless but sending it to Barnett won’t hurt.Cheers.

  9. Chrissie Lundy

    Please email this to Barnett, Michael Taylor.

  10. Alyssa

    Brilliant! Thank you for taking the time to write and share this! Let’s hope it gets the attention it deserves and helps make the change our kids deserve 🙂

  11. Pauline

    It seems to be a trend of all government departments. Instead of getting right the first time, they build a health department building, then proceed to spend twice as much, as it cost to. Uild in the first place, making it usable instead of building it correctly in the beginning. But still they do not learn. They employ fancy pants designers and architects to build these buildings, when if they had a group of people that actually work at the coal face give them advice on what works and what is absolute rubbish, they would probably build a better hospital at a cheaper cost in the long run and it would be functional and probably last longer before it need modification.
    Come on Colin Barnett, why don’t you be a trail blazer and get something right the first time. Instead of being the norm and building something that will need modification before it is barely 12 months old.

  12. Alison Lodge

    Are you serious! Well done bloody good job Mr Barnett! Money & Power is blinding isnt it, but I guess you cant see that Mr Barnett? Please explain how you rationalise the cost of family trips to government pomp & ceremony over the needs of the state? Will your and other government family become ill or develop a fatal condition or, heaven forbid, feel hard done by if they are not afforded this vital life sustaining luxury. Please, YOU HAVE GOT TO do what is right and this isnt right.

  13. Sue Clark

    Please email it Michael – its no good us all ranting if he isnt getting any pressure x

  14. Sandie

    I hope that Colin Barnett has a very sick grandchild that has to be treated in a corridor and see how he likes it. The government spends (wastes) money on Bell Towers, redesigning Riverside drive etc. this money would do more good employing specialist doctors to help the kids who will be our future .

  15. Andrea Charlton

    Hi there, thanks for sharing this, I had no idea in Canberra what a challenge Perth parents were facing. Why not consider starting an internet petition – you could collect signatures from parents all over Australia – heck, all over the world. We’re all facing a future under an unapologetic Economic Rationalist government – it is up to us to make the cost of that rationallism visible, audible, and impossible to ignore.

  16. Clare

    Michael, thank you for writing this and including stories shared with you verbatim. I’m sure this and any further exposure, serves to heighten awareness but I agree with several others that it would be an idea to send it straight to source or letters in the West etc? Thanks again

  17. Danny

    Short and sweet (or sour): I am a nurse at Royal Perth Hospital and our ward is having a xmas raffle to raise funds for equipment on our ward. Laughable as costs are phenomenal for all level of equipment, but It is our only guarantee of funds incoming. Colin = pathetic.

  18. sJc

    We may be a wealthy state, yay, but WA is the most expensive state in the country to live in – together these points may seem reasonable, if one neglects to consider that wages in this state are no higher than in any other. I love WA, but it is fast becoming a difficult place to survive in simply because of living costs, especially rent. In the current economic climate of WA, those of us stuck renting are highly unlikely to be able to buy a property any time soon, as there in no way we can save and pay rent.
    Congratulations on WA’s wealth as a state, how about doing something to help the residents?

  19. Sandie

    I quite agree, the Government don’t mind spending large amounts of money on things like the Bell Tower and other things. I refuse to go to the bell tower or take any visitors there, because of the wasted money when there are more important things

  20. Brent Double

    Oh thank , god Mr Barnett I think people are being way to harsh on u. They need to be blessing u for the cut and the killing spree , like my god your a convicted murderer, if we make u mad u like u have just gotten worst even throwing in perth ethic choices. But of course once people understand to show you compassion for your choices we can celebrate all the pics of your death and cheers on all the families with dead children and loved ones, and alone with the church we can hopefully calm u down, sorry to be rude just excited saw another mother sitting on the curb with her very sick child, apparently the mental health junkie need his/her pin holes attended too.

    Any mr Barnett go have fun hopefully soon we will just tell the truth show pictures and thrive on the facts of killing with u soon, the people of the riches state the place it cost your children 12 dollars for a sandwich ..

    But seriously the best was the carbon tax I love how youse all got a 16 percent pay rise ha which made that the tax was now a non profit tax ahhhh actually we lost out in the billions.

    Was stupid u tried to be a little bitch to the mining magnets and well they have the money to make u look stupid.

    Buy again.

  21. Jamie Hall

    Just imagine for a moment that the horrendous amount of money being spent on the stadium and that ugly blight on the foreshore called Elizabeth Quay was never approved, and not one cent was spent on its approval or construction. We know the foreshore defacement was in excess of a billion, so even half of that could probably pay for three extra floors on the new children’s hospital. With the other half, they could upgrade most of the Tier 3 rail lines in the country, saving both shire council budgets and lives by not requiring there to be an almost nonstop convoy of road trains on roads that are clearly not up to the task. If anyone wants to see an example of what I mean, by that, drive up Great Northern Highway, between New Norcia and Dalwallinu. Just after the railway crossing is a section of the highway known as the Bindi Bindi bends. I used to drive trucks to the Pilbara region a lot, and those bends are limited to 90km/h for a reason. Despite minor work to add an extra foot of tar either side of the road, road trains still have to be careful how they pass each other on this section. As a courtesy and a self-imposed safety process, truck drivers routinely radio to each other when they’re entering the bends, and from which direction. If any oversize loads come through, all traffic on the bends is stopped at either end until it passes

    The example I’ve listed is one of dozens of roads that requires urgent updating. It’s been partly by luck and partly by vigilance on the part of the truck drivers that there have been few crashes on many of these roads. I always vowed that if I ever got the chance, I’d kidnap the transport minister and take him through the Bindi Bindi bends to prove just how dangerous it can be. By all accounts, it appears he would be unwilling to accept the invitation to see it for himself. With the help of a few road train drivers passing me in the opposite direction, it would be very easy to show how bad things are from the cab. When Alannah Mactiernan was Planning Minister, she took a ride in the cab of a truck to see how bad things were with her own eyes. While she didn’t get all the black spots fixed, she did make some major improvements.

  22. Roswell

    But Jamie, surely it’s more important that Eagle’s and Docker’s fans have a seat at the footy than it is a sick or dying child have a bed in a hospital?

    Yes, I’m kidding.

  23. Michelle Rossouw

    I think it disgraceful that Barnett throws money at luxury items like a new footy stadium and new foreshore etc, when our hospitals are in desperate need of attention. They should be a priority, the nurses and Drs do so well with what they have, but it’s a struggle. Then the budget cuts affect education and health care??? What about our infrastructure that supports all the mining equipment transported on the Great Northern Highway, is long overdue for upgrades beyond the Metro borders, never mind waiting another 3 years for it.

  24. Michael Taylor

    An election or two ago I noticed that SA Labor were promising the Adelaide Oval upgrade and the Liberals an upgrade to the Royal Adelaide Hospital. Not living in SA, I didn’t need to vote. Whilst I’m Labor these days, I think on that occasion I might have swallowed my pride and voted Liberal. Whilst I love my footy and cricket, let’s face it, hospitals are far more important.

    Labor won, btw.

  25. Buff McMenis

    Add my name to it as well, please Michael. As usual you read my mind and although your language is far more restrained than my rather blue comments, it basically says the same thing! This government has been a classic learning-place for the Abbott disaster … and he’s learned his lessons well. Barnett is nothing but a bullying accountant and Troy Buswell of the adulterous, bra-snapping, chair-sniffing infamy is another … Treasurer of the State who seems to have “something” on the Premier because he retains his Ministerial post no matter what despicable behaviour he shows! The Elizabeth Quay development and Chevron should be take to a Judicial enquiry at least and this isn’t the only one!! Email this to him, Michael and add the names of all of us who suffer under this “regime”! I refuse to call it a government for the people .. it isn’t!

  26. Sandie

    the Eagles and Dockers have used the grounds where they are now for years, whats wrong with them staying there and ‘donating’ the money for new grounds to the sick kids and the new hospital

  27. Nicole Swallow

    Michael,, your amazing ,, your word and comments are spot on ,, this has to be one of the most disgusting things our so called government has ever done and to be honest it makes my sick to my teeth, i have children all born early ,, and like many stories here i have read i to and my children have suffered and one almost died because of the Lack of doctors and bedding ..not the doctors fault not the hospitals fault but it was the fault of our Government , I’m a rugby mad woman i love my sports to .. but you know what id give everything up just to get what we need for our children , its rubbish we don’t need all this crap, we need to step up and I’m prepared to do what ever help you need to do this , just email me any time ,, and thank you for taking the time to do this your the MAN

  28. laura

    Sadly the planning for the new children’s hospital was rushed (1/3 of the recommended time for planning) and poorly consulted because Mr Barnett wanted to break ground on the project prior to the March 9th election this year. This is the real reason we have an entirely inadequate new children’s hospital. Politics trumps human suffering again.

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