Prime Minister Tony Abbott: Increase the public funding for patients requiring DBS for Parkinson's
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Parkinson's disease is a progressively degenerative neurological disorder which affects the control of body movements. Symptoms result from the progressive degeneration of neuronal cells located in the brain. This causes a deficiency in the availability of dopamine; a chemical neurotransmitter (messenger) necessary for the production of smooth controlled movements.
The presentation of symptoms varies greatly between individuals diagnosed and no two people will be affected in the same way. The three symptoms used for diagnostic purposes are tremor, rigidity or stiffness of the muscles and Bradykinesia (slowness of movement).
Living with Parkinson’s requires continual re-adjustment as the disease slowly progresses through to severe disability. Depending on the level of impairment, daily activities such as getting dressed, driving and eating may become more challenging.
Medical treatment can help control symptoms and improve function but it requires careful management to minimise potential side effects. DBS is used only for patients whose symptoms cannot be adequately controlled with medications, or whose medications have severe side effects. The procedure does not cure Parkinson's, but it can help manage some of its symptoms and subsequently improve the patient’s quality of life.
DBS involves a team of clinicians including a neurologist, neurosurgeon, anaesthetist, psychiatrist, neuropsychologist, and a Parkinson’s disease nurse, working together to perform the four-hour operation.
In 2006 the Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC) recommended that public funding be provided for DBS patients with Parkinson's disease. This was endorsed by the Minister of Health and Ageing on 24 August 2006.
In 2007 the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) hit, and superannuation funds were the great losers. For Parkinson's sufferers who are typically older Australians, aged 65+, these people are more likely to have reduced superannuation funds due to losses incurred as a direct result of the GFC.
Medicare covers some of the costs of the procedure for some patients. The resulting gap payments can be upwards of $14,000 and for an elderly Australian the cost of DBS may mean selling a house or having to live without the surgery.
To the new Minister for Health, I encourage you to review the costs of Deep Brain Stimulation in order to increase the accessibility of this surgical procedure for sufferers of severe Parkinson's Disease.
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