No fun waiting in pain
SUE Cashin is a woman in pain facing a long wait for relief.
The Meeniyan resident suffers from osteoarthritis, a degenerative condition crippling joints, and urgently needs her right knee replaced.
After a four year wait, Ms Cashin was recently told she faces the prospect of another 20 months before her name rises to the top of the surgical waiting list.
She had held private health insurance for 30 years, but was unable to afford the premiums for hospital cover after her first marriage breakdown.
Ms Cashin must simply ride out the delays so many face in the public health system, but takes heart in having extra insurance that covers ongoing physiotherapy costs.
It’s a situation she describes as “ridiculous”.
“Years ago, when you wanted an operation you got an operation,” Ms Cashin said.
“If I could just have an hour without pain it would be good, but I can’t remember even when I’ve had half an hour without pain. It’s just relentless and when you are told you have to wait so much longer, it’s very hard.”
Victorian Health Services Performance Data showed that at December 31, 2011, people needing knee replacements faced an average wait of 117 days in the public health system.
In the 2009-2010 financial year, there were 1192 hospital admissions for osteoarthritis treatment from people living in the South Gippsland Shire Council area, according to the Victorian Admitted Episodes Data Set (VAED): Financial Year 2009-10.
Ms Cashin said her arthritic knee has been exacerbated by numerous injuries. Performing poorly, the knee has affected the functioning of her foot, ankle, hip and lower back.
“I have not been able to walk without a walker (aide) for the best part of the last five years and I’ve just turned 60,” she said.
“Being my driving leg, it restricts my driving. That’s difficult when my family lives in New South Wales.”
Public transport is hard to negotiate with a walking aide and luggage.
Ms Cashin said she is not alone in waiting for surgery.
“It’s so cruel. You should not have to live in pain and be on pain medications that are no good for you,” she said.
Ms Cashin encounters difficulty doing housework and is planning to seek home care to cope. To distract herself, she volunteers at Koorooman House aged care hostel at Leongatha Memorial Hospital, and writes short stories and poems as a member of the Milpara Creative Writers Group at Korumburra.
“It really annoys me when these politicians have their jaunts overseas. I’m not against helping boat people and I am sympathetic to their plight, but there are issues in Australia that need addressing as well,” she said.
“Surely the theatres and beds are not full 24/7? Surely the waiting list does not need to be as long? If you are in pain, even a day or a month is a long time.”
The former nurse survives financially on compensation after sustaining an injury while lifting at work.
Peter Ryan, Deputy Premier and Gippsland South MLA, described Ms Cashin’s ongoing wait as “a ridiculous situation to be in”.
He promised to act to improve her prospects.
Mr Ryan said the State Government was working towards reducing public hospital waiting lists.
“We are always looking to address that. There would be country hospitals where it is not such a factor but in a metropolitan sense, it certainly is and we are looking at adding resources to ensure that list is reduced,” he said.
“We have promised to get another 100 beds into the system and to increase the workforce.”
Arthritis Victoria chief executive officer Linda Martin said Victorians waiting for a joint replacement need better support from the public health system.
“This includes enhanced access to conservative treatment – treatment aimed at preventing a condition from becoming worse – while patients are on the surgery waiting list,” she said.
“Conservative treatment can include participating in appropriate physical activity programs such as warm water exercise, joint strengthening exercises such as physiotherapy, tai chi and weight reduction programs.”
Ms Martin said joint replacement surgery was becoming more popular and is expected to become more so as the population ages.
“We know that people waiting for joint replacement surgery experience poorer health and greater psychological distress,” she said.
“Osteoarthritis is one of the biggest causes of disability in Australia. Of the expenditure on arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions in 2004-05, nearly one-third ($1.2 billion) was attributed to osteoarthritis, most of which (75 per cent) was due to hospital costs mainly related to knee and hip replacements.”
Dial for help
ARTHRITIS Victoria’s Rheumatology Help Line puts people in contact with the Arthritis Victoria nurse who can provide:
• general medical information regarding musculoskeletal conditions and commonly prescribed treatments, including access to information sheets and other resources;
• support and advice regarding the diagnosis of a musculoskeletal condition;
• assistance in navigating the complex health, disability and social services systems;
• information on local community services; and
• information and support to health professionals providing care for people with MSK conditions.
The Arthritis Victoria Rheumatology Help Line operates between 10am and 3pm Monday to Friday. You can contact this service by calling 1800 263 265 or email email@example.com
Unfortunately the State Government ceased funding the Rheumatology Help Line at the end of March. Arthritis Victoria is desperately trying to find funding to continue this essential service.
Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=3788