MOTION: Lymphoedema Services

Today Mark spoke in support of the motion calling on the State Government to implement a garment subsidy scheme and provide dedicated treatment services for all lymphoedema sufferers. 


That this council—

1. Acknowledges that this year's state budget failed to make provision for a garment subsidy scheme and dedicated treatment services for lymphoedema sufferers within SA Health;

2. Notes that South Australia continues to be the only jurisdiction without a garment subsidy scheme;

3. Recognises that lymphoedema sufferers in South Australia are disadvantaged compared with sufferers in other jurisdictions; and

4. Calls on the state government to implement a garment subsidy scheme and provide dedicated treatment services for all lymphoedema sufferers as a matter of urgency

I rise today on behalf of the Greens to support this motion, and I thank the Hon. Connie Bonaros for bringing it to us. Lymphoedema is a chronic condition where excess fluid causes disfiguring swelling in one or more parts of the body. Lymphoedema is a progressive condition that is restrictive, painful and debilitating, and it requires ongoing treatment. It can also have severe impacts on a person's psychological, social and financial wellbeing. Lymphoedema can affect men, women and children and has a number of causes. What honourable members may not be aware of is that the onset of lymphoedema can occur within months of damage to the lymphatic system, but it can also occur years afterwards.

The Hon. Connie Bonaros has previously shared with us in this place the impact that lymphoedema has had on the lives of Monique, Lachlan and Alison. I want to share one more story today, and that is the story of a constituent of mine, June. June developed lymphoedema, following breast surgery in 2000. She recognised the symptoms and subsequently had laser treatment and lymphatic massage for five years. Because she had it in a mild form, her treatment eventually resulted in the loss of swelling.

June is one of the lucky ones; however, she is only too aware that her lymphoedema could return and as such she follows a regime of care, including exercise, self-massage and she wears compression sleeves and gloves when travelling distances, particularly when flying. June takes other precautionary measures such as wearing protective gloves for activities such as gardening. She is careful not to scratch or cut herself or be bitten by insects. Any infection or injury to her hands or arms could cause the lymphoedema to return. As June's lymphoedema physiotherapist said to her, 'You will do this forever.'

According to the Australasian Lymphoma Association, and as the motion notes, 'South Australia continues to be the only jurisdiction without a garment subsidy scheme.' This must change. The garments, which help control swelling, are tailor made and may need to be replaced as often as every three months. This amounts to a significant financial outlay, which not everyone can afford.

I was provided with a letter yesterday from the Minister for Health, which I understand will be tabled, read or referred to later, and in it the Minister says that his department:

…through Wellbeing SA, is currently in the process of establishing a South Australian garment scheme for people who have lymphoedema.

This is very good news. The wheels are finally in motion to remove the disadvantages that South Australians living with lymphoedema are facing. The Minister's letter goes on:

An advisory group has been convened involving health professionals from research and clinical practice, and individuals who can provide insight and lived experience from organisations such as the Lymphoedema Support Group of South Australia and the Australasian Lymphology Association.

But wait—there is more good news. A second letter has now been provided to me from the office of the federal Minister for Health, which says:

The Australian government will be providing $10 million over five years to assist with subsidies for the provision of compression garments to eligible Australians with lymphoedema.

The letter notes that this sum is intended to complement and extend the existing compression garment schemes in states and territories, rather than replace them. I commend the Minister in this place for his actions, as well as the actions of his federal counterpart in Canberra and I look forward to the day when South Australians living with lymphoedema can access a compression garment scheme; however, a dedicated treatment program must follow.

Earlier this year, during Lymphoedema Awareness Month, many of us in this place wore blue ribbons to show our support for those living with this debilitating condition. I have dug mine out for the occasion and am wearing it proudly today. I think it is time in this motion to show our support once more. With these words, the Greens are very happy to support the motion.