Our Say | Children’s Hospital needed in Macarthur

OUR KIDS MATTER TOO: The so-called Three Cities of Sydney plan, which doesn't take into account kids like my brave niece Niamh (left) who died in 2013, and (right) the inspirational Chloe Waud of John Therry High School.
OUR KIDS MATTER TOO: The so-called Three Cities of Sydney plan, which doesn't take into account kids like my brave niece Niamh (left) who died in 2013, and (right) the inspirational Chloe Waud of John Therry High School.

You might have seen the story about local girl Chloe Waud who needed life-saving surgery but was turned away from Westmead Children’s Hospital – twice – because of a lack of beds.

Grrrrr.

This shouldn’t happen to sick kids. Many of us also know her wonderful school teacher mum, Catherine Waud, and can only imagine the family’s frustrations.

But, on a wider planning level, it also unmasks the sham that is Sydney’s so-called “Three Cities” future.

Early this year, we saw a lot of pretty maps as our Premier declared the Greater Sydney sprawl will now be treated as three cities, each with its own self-contained services.

There’s the “Eastern Harbour City” (based on Sydney CBD), the “Central River City” (Parramatta) and…wait for it…“the Western Parkland City” (Macarthur, Penrith and Badgerys Creek airport).

Separate but equal. LOL.

The truth is our city is just a dumping ground for the other two cities, with a lack of accompanying infrastructure, from public transport to jobs. Sadly, the Waud family’s plight highlights yet another example…

The Eastern Harbour City has a kids’ hospital: Randwick. The Central River City has a kids’ hospital: Westmead. The Western Parkland City (where most young families actually live) has none. And no plans for any.

This state government – dominated by MPs from the other two cities – says  a children’s hospital isn’t needed in that third city. They won't even plan for an intensive care unit (ICU) for kids at Campbelltown Hospital.

Separate but equal. LOL.

My own family got a glimpse of this situation when my brave four-year-old niece, Niamh, was fighting brain cancer. Her parents, Samantha and Neal, were told to take her to Randwick on the other side of Sydney.

But when, amid an agony of brain operations, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, they brought Niamh home on “gate leave” for a long weekend they found themselves unable to return her to the hospital as promised, as there were no beds free.

“She had to be treated as an outpatient with us having to travel back and forth between Campbelltown and Randwick each day,” Samantha recalled.

She also copped the usual double standard. “At Randwick we couldn’t stay in Ronald McDonald House because Campbelltown is considered local. But, if you require any equipment you are considered out of area.”

Sadly, Niamh died. But Chloe, who suffers from Ullrich Congenital Muscular Dystrophy and Scoliosos, has finally had her spinal fusion surgery – with a lot of suffering and unnecessary pain that could have been avoided if we had the appropriate facilities in our region.

Campbelltown state MP Greg Warren, to his great credit has been loudly campaigning for a paediatric ICU at our hospital, but it has again been rejected by the Health Minister.

Macarthur’s federal MP, Mike Freelander, supports Greg. And, unlike the Health Minister, Dr Mike has been a local paediatrician for decades and says Campbelltown DOES need kids’ ICU. I’ll take his word for it.

The government says only about 150 local kids would need it. Well, my answer is that’s 150 good reasons. But Greg reckons that’s a dodgy stat anyway, and the real number is closer to 1000.

Macarthur will also cop most of Sydney’s growth over next 30 years, and kids from across southern NSW would also be able to use a Campbelltown ICU.

It just needs the decision-makers (who all live in the Eastern Harbour City and Central River City) to admit that the Western Parkland City is actually worthy.