Being ill is no fun without play

WHEN four-year-old Beth Cooper-Wares has to go to hospital for regular blood transfusions, there is one thing that makes her laugh despite the pain: Play therapy.

The Jiggi girl has a condition which means her bones are brittle. On top of the transfusions about every two months, she also spends a lot of time in hospital recovering from broken bones, sometimes for as long as six weeks.

On Saturday, Beth's mum Katie and about 15 other families gathered near Lismore Base Hospital to show their support for the children's ward play therapist.

The North Coast Area Health Service has cut back the position from full-time to 20 hours a week, leaving parents like Ms Cooper-Wares frustrated.

“The play therapist is just wonderful. She distracts Beth when she's in pain and helps to take her mind of it,” she said.

“But the past two times we've been there, there hasn't been a play therapist there at all.

“It's tougher for the parents and the kids.

“You'd rather your child was at home and well, but if they have to be in hospital, you want it to be as pleasant for them as possible.”

She said the play therapist helped kids with homework, played games, explained procedures, and 'helped the hospital not be a scary place for kids'.

East Lismore Community Preschool teacher Libby Roxburgh said it was disappointing to see the position cut back.

“We take groups of preschoolers to the hospital and the play therapist gives them a tour, so if they ever have to go to hospital it's not so scary,” she said.

A spokesperson from the health service was unavailable for comment over the weekend.

However, last week the service defended its actions, saying the departure of the play group leader had provided an opportunity to review the group, leading to an increase in the remaining playgroup organiser's hours to 20 a week.

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