lymphoedema compression garment Subsidy

Tuesday July 21, 2020

Speech delivered in Parliament

Mr BELL (Mount Gambier) (15:33): In 2018, I met two very passionate and dedicated women—Dulcie Hoggan and Pam Moulden—both part of the Mount Gambier Breast Cancer Awareness Group. Both these women developed a condition called lymphoedema after treatment for breast cancer. Lymphoedema is a condition that hits you when you are down, both physically and mentally. It is a chronic, lifelong condition that can develop after various types of cancer and requires the use of bulky compression garments to make daily life more comfortable.

The cost of these garments, which have to be completely updated every three to six months, can range anywhere up to $3,000 a year—a significant cost burden on people who are recovering from cancer. Over a lifetime, this can add up to tens of thousands of dollars. This sometimes means that many patients do not replace the garments when they need to, which can lead to health implications, such as skin infections and, more seriously, cellulitis.

An international study conducted by International Lymphoedema Framework in Australia found that one of the key issues to improve the treatment and management of the condition was addressing the high cost of compression garments. At the time I met Dulcie and Pam, South Australia was the only state in Australia not to have a garment subsidy in place. I was motivated by their personal stories and that of Monique Bareham, President of the Lymphoedema Support Group of South Australia, who also has the condition and has advocated for a subsidy scheme for many years.

In 2018, I spoke on the issue in parliament with a private member's motion, and told the stories of Pam and Dulcie, and called on the state government to establish a subsidy scheme. In 2019, an advisory group was established to help develop a subsidy model for South Australia. Last week, the news people had been waiting for—a compression garment scheme for South Australia—was finally announced by the Minister for Health, Stephen Wade.

The state government has committed $2.5 million towards the scheme, which will allow individuals to receive up to two sets of ready-to-wear or custom-made garments every six months. This was a real team effort, made possible by the continued advocacy of passionate people like Dulcie, Pam and Monique, as well as Sam Duluk (member for Waite).

Sadly, Pam passed away before this scheme was announced; however, her advocacy is now reflected in the thousands of South Australians able to access the scheme that will give a better life to those suffering from this condition. One of the most satisfying parts of being a local member is being able to represent your electorate, those who have a certain need, and being able to speak out on their behalf and advocate in parliament for a change.

I thank the state government, and in particular the Minister for Health, Stephen Wade, for recognising the importance of this issue and making sure that this contribution will create a better life for South Australians living with lymphoedema. I really just wanted to commend the state government, and in particular the health minister, for recognising this as an important issue, taking the time to meet with affected South Australians and lobbying through cabinet and the Treasurer to secure $2.5 million from the government for this very important cause.