NSW Health Minister vows to improve struggling gender services


NSW Health Minister Ryan Park and trans teen Noah O'Brien who died waiting for care.
Images: 7News (left), Supplied (right), NSW Health (back)

NSW Health Minister Ryan Park has pledged a review to improve the state’s gender care services, as advocates urge the government to focus on “rigorous evidence over opinions” after an ABC Four Corners investigation.

On Monday night, ABC’s Four Corners program canvassed the issues many gender diverse young people face trying to get help in the state.

Warning: distressing content

The program focused on the main gender-affirming clinic for adolescents in Sydney, the gender clinic at Westmead children’s hospital.

But Four Corners reported young people face long waiting lists. The clinic is struggling and has only seen three new patients this year. In 2022, they saw 88.

The program attributed this to staff resignations following the hospital’s endorsement of disputed research later “weaponised by anti-trans activists”.

Trans young people and parents bravely shared with Four Corners their personal struggles of seeking care.

Responding to the program, NSW Health Minister Ryan Park acknowledged provision of services is not working and must improve.

Park said on Tuesday it was “extremely disappointing” and “concerning” to hear people had struggled to access care.

“We’re not enabling people to access this level of healthcare as frequently as they need it,” Park told ABC Radio.

“NSW needs to be leading this and needs to be at the forefront.”

Park said two new advisory bodies would guide a new gender care framework.

Park said NSW Health would also finally establish a long-delayed clinic in Sydney’s south-east within nine months.

Four Corners reported Noah O’Brien, a 14-year-old trans boy, tragically died by suicide while waiting for gender-affirming care at Westmead Children’s Hospital.

“That is a very very sad situation and my heart goes out to the family,” Park told ABC Radio.

“I am very sorry they have had a system that let them down.”

A spokesperson for the Sydney Children’s Hospital Network expressed “our sincere condolences to Noah’s family” and welcomed the review.

If you need someone to talk to, help is available from QLife on 1800 184 527 or online at QLife.org.au, Lifeline on 13 11 14, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.

Focus on ‘rigorous evidence over opinions’

But trans advocates criticised Four Corners for including Professor Dianna Kenny, an “ambassador” for Binary Australia, and Dr Jillian Spencer, who opposes all medical intervention for trans children.

In response, peak body LGBTIQ+ Health Australia (LHA) said “harmful misinformation” endangers the lives and mental health of trans and gender diverse people.

“Unfounded claims perpetuate stigma and isolation, disregarding the overwhelming consensus within the medical and psychological communities,” CEO Nicky Bath said.

NSW must prioritise “rigorous evidence over opinions” to ensure trans and gender diverse young people “have access to the care they need, at the right time, where they live.”

The peak body said Australia has an insufficient number of gender-affirming care providers.

“The clinicians and allied health providers that work in this space operate in hostile environments. They are poorly funded. And they’re continuously inappropriately critiqued,” Bath said.

“Affirming care services that include peer support need to be adequately funded for the work they do.

Access to gender affirming care saves lives

LGBTIQ+ Health Australia CEO Nicky Bath said studies consistently show that denying access to gender-affirming care negatively impacts mental health.

“Depression, anxiety, self-harm, and suicidality rates are a result of barriers to care, discrimination, and stigma,” Bath said.

“Access to appropriate and affirming healthcare, including gender-affirming care, saves lives and improves mental health outcomes.”

LHA urged investment in multidisciplinary care, including peer and social support and ethical research, to improve services and reduce waiting lists.

Advice from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) declares providing gender-affirming care to children experiencing gender dysphoria is a “national priority.”

For the latest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Jordan Hirst
Jordan Hirst

Jordan Hirst is an experienced journalist and content creator with a career spanning over a decade at QNews. Since 2012, the Brisbane local has covered an enormous range of topics and subjects in-depth affecting the LGBTIQA+ community, both in Australia and overseas. Today, the Brisbane-based journalist covers everything from current affairs, politics and health to sport and entertainment.

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