July 15, 2013

Lung Foundation Australia urges governments to save vital community health program

Lung Foundation Australia wants the state and federal governments to stop treating people’s health as a political football and ensure the ongoing sustainability of community-based lung health rehabilitation programs.

Lung Foundation Australia’s Elizabeth Harper said chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) was the second highest cause of avoidable hospitalisations.

Ms Harper said people with COPD were the frequent flyers of the health system and the evidence showed pulmonary rehabilitation was the solution.

She said the focus should be on expanding referrals to these programs, not cutting them back.

“International and national evidence shows pulmonary rehabilitation reduces hospitalisation and cuts the time people spend in hospital beds,” Ms Harper said.

“Everyone with symptomatic COPD should be entitled to access a pulmonary rehabilitation program to learn the skills they need to self-manage their disease and improve their quality of life,” she said.

“WA’s Community Physiotherapy Services form a vital part of the health continuum.

“We’re concerned if these services are stopped, then this group of patients will fall through the cracks as there are no other options available except for a limited number of hospital-based programs.

“This will cause long hospital waiting lists and, while people wait to access hospital-based programs, their health will worsen, meaning they are more likely to be hospitalised.

“The current uncertainty around the future of these programs disrupts patients’ care and risks losing skilled health professionals who will look for more secure employment elsewhere.

“Apart from stopping smoking, this is one of the most important actions a person can undertake to slow the deterioration of their disease.”

Ms Harper said Community Physiotherapy Services offered local rehabilitation services to appropriately screened, lower risk patients who can be effectively managed in their community.

“This reduces the demand on hospital-based services allowing them to concentrate on acute patients and those needing more advanced care such as oxygen or medical supervision,” she said.

“Locally available programs remove a barrier for people who need easily accessible support and who can be treated outside of the hospital system.

“The CPS pulmonary rehab program showed a more than 25 per cent drop in hospitalisation for participants during the first year of treatment.”

The current uncertainty affects the future of all Community Physiotherapy Services including programs designed to help respiratory, cardiac, stroke and Parkinson’s Disease patients.

ENDS

For media enquiries, please contact Damon Cavalchini on (07) 3251 3643, 0411 609 681 or damon@lungfoundation.com.au