City News

Elderly patients told to ‘fend for themselves’


Emily Contador-kellsal


NSW Labor is calling on the Baird Government to change its plans to make cuts to the pulmonary and cardiac rehabilitation in Sydney hospitals.
The state government plans to amend pulmonary Rehab at Balmain, Royal Prince Alfred, Canterbury, and Concord hospitals, effective December 19, but has the support of the Lung Foundation.
Patients who have been in the rehabilitation programs you are considered to be ‘well’ are having the program replaced with a “Self-Management Support Service”. The government is offering affected outpatients 10 free gym sessions as part of the transition.
The affected outpatients who suffer from chronic lung problems are largely pensioners in their 60s, 70s, and 80s.
Labor candidate for Balmain Verity Firth said this “self-management” is sugary language to coat a cruel and insensitive abolition of a long running, extremely successful government health program.
“This program has shown significant improvement in people who have chronic illnesses. It allows them to manage a chronic illness in a way that improves their quality of life, gives them regular social interaction and increased confidence.”
“It is such an important program, beloved by the people who use it.”
Dr Genevieve Wallace, the acting general manager of Balmain Hospital said the hospital is restructuring the service to ensure those who are stable and have completed post-acute rehab can move into the community,  leaving room in the program for those acutely unwell or recently discharged.
“That model of care, based on international best practice and developed in consultation with senior clinicians and consumers, ensures that the service is available to those most in need”
NSW Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord said the direction of health under the Liberals and Nationals is about putting patients second – after the financial bottom line.
“Health is not a business and this is the Liberals putting patients into the private sector.”
“The patients in the pulmonary lung rehabilitation at Balmain Hospital have been treated with the utmost disrespect. Giving an 80-year-old, 10 gym session passes and telling them to look after themselves is so wrong.”
Outpatients would be required to pay for a gym membership after the 10 free gym sessions.
Ms Firth said the patients would pay around $650 a year at the Audrey Hawkings Commnuity Centre where there is a 3-4 month waiting period and that a lot of those affected are fixed term pensioners, who simply cannot afford the program.
“One of the patients told me, that one of the other reasons why they’re worried about being forced to this community gym is that there’s no specialists there.”
Dr Wallace said encouraging patients to aim toward self-management is an important goal to instil confidence and strengthen their sense of wellbeing.
“In regard to those affected by the restructure, clients who are considered clinically well will continue to be offered their maintenance sessions until the end of this year.”
“The District has offered each of these well clients a voucher for 10 sessions of maintenance rehabilitation at Lungs In Action in Lilyfield, starting in January.”

“We have not closed the pulmonary rehab services in any of the hospitals.”

Miss Firth said the consequences of reducing the services are extreme.
“It’s a program that has been showed to work.”
“It’s about providing people with preventative health care, or maintenance health care, that allows them to get fit, manage their condition and live in their community, to be brutally honest, to live a longer life with a better quality of life.”

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