I work in an area that despite extraordinary figures of prevalence (urinary incontinence 1 in 3 women leak urine; faecal incontinence 1 in 10 women soil or lose gas; 27% have pelvic pain including dyspareunia (painful sex); and the doosey of prevalence 50% of women over the age of 50 have prolapse) – it’s an area where the silence surrounding these most personal issues is at times almost deafening, mostly because of the shame, loss of dignity and the most personal nature of these issues. Yes things have improved significantly in the media, but still women find it hard to divulge.
But what about the area of disability? How’s the silence going in those areas?
I had to see a patient on July 1 who is deaf and requires a deaf translator for her physiotherapy appointment. My secretary tried to book a translator via NABS (the National Ausland Booking Service) and was told that as of July 1 there was no longer funding for translation services for Physiotherapy and other Allied Health appointments. When I rang the CEO of NABS she reported that they had had $1 million slashed from their funding as of 1/7/16. Something to do with the NDIS.
Did we hear anything about that in the last week of the election? Or anytime in the month from when NABS were notified by the Commonwealth? (Yes apparently one month’s notice is enough to plan and budget for a service that is so essential for deaf people.) Well I didn’t; the clients didn’t; my mother didn’t and she reads the newspaper from cover to cover!
Why? Well I reckon disability is a soft target. It’s pretty difficult for someone who is deaf and therefore not able to speak to complain and get up in arms about the funding cut. So what happened?
A 47 year old woman had to have her 70 plus (I wasn’t rude enough to ask her age) year old Mum come and translate for me and my patient- about some pretty personal stuff. How is that right? And what about my own liability having a non-professional translator translate for me? What if there is a malpractice call against me? (hypothetically speaking- her mum was fabulous and there was no risk in that situation of that happening).
Our practice also sees men with urinary incontinence, erectile dysfunction and pelvic pain- many men suffer these conditions and yet there is possibly even more silence amongst men in pubs, in mainstream media or general conversations because ……..well mostly because men’s health is a bit like that. Men don’t always prioritize their health and wives tend to be considered a little naggy if pushing for a health check or investigating some unusual symptoms. So often the problems have escalated and are more serious by the time they are addressed.
Whilst the silence is deafening around men’s health, it too is starting to get traction through organizations such as Andrology Australia, a unique program described as a ‘centre without walls’ that operates nationally and brings together health and education experts and organizations from across Australia to develop collaborative strategies to raise the awareness of male reproductive health disorders and their associations with chronic disease.
And yet in the last month Andrology Australia has received funding notice also. This invaluable service provides educational material on Men’s Health topics- yes one of those silent issues again. After 16 years (and 59 editions of The Healthy Male) as the only national body providing evidenced-based information, best practice support and education, and policy advice in the area of male reproductive health and associated conditions, the Federal Government has withdrawn ongoing funding for the program.
Andrology Australia is lobbying the government hard to reverse this decision for the sake of the health of Australian men.
Well now after this latest 2016 election, we have a perilous situation. All politicians will be on notice (hope none of the male ones get a men’s health illness….) and may be more responsive to public campaigns objecting to bad decisions that affect soft targets. I wonder how many health programmes that have received funding cuts could be funded if politicians could no longer double dip with their living away from home allowances- it’s not an insignificant amount of money when they pay ‘rent’ to their wife who owns the negatively geared house and then also claim the nearly $300 per night allowance for living away from home?
Keep on your toes and get upset when soft targets are hit.
Postscript to this blog. I was rung on Friday by NABS CEO and she let me know they were re-instating Physiotherapy and other Allied Health to be funded. I asked how could they afford to do that? And she said “I don’t know but we’ll take it one day at a time”. Now that is a perilous way to have to run an organization.