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Medicare-funded physio for continence



The peak body for Australian physiotherapists has called for the introduction of a specific Medicare item for continence physiotherapy to help the four-million-plus Australians living with incontinence.

In its pre-budget submission, the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) said the cost of incontinence on the Australian population was estimated to be over $66 billion and growing.

APA President Marcus Dripps said a continence management program funded through the Medicare Benefits Scheme could help address the economic impact of incontinence.

“Medicare support for the management of incontinence is crucial, it will help millions of Australians to reclaim their quality of life,” Mr Dripps said.

People with incontinence invariably suffer unnecessarily in silence and often withdraw from participation in their work and communities, he said.

The Continence Foundation of Australia, the peak body for continence promotion, management and advocacy, reports over 4.8 million Australians experience bladder or bowel control problems.

It estimated that by 2030, the number of Australians living with incontinence will grow to 6.4 million. 

The APA is calling on the government to consider the burden of disease relating to conditions, as well as the treatment efficacy and cost effectiveness of interventions, and direct funding accordingly.

Using findings of a Deloitte Access Economics report, the APA submission said the total financial cost of incontinence, excluding burden of disease, in 2010 was estimated to be $42.9 billion, or $9,014 per person with the condition. 

The monetary value of the burden of disease in that same year was $23.8 billion bringing the overall cost of incontinence to $66.7 billion, or $14,014 per person with incontinence, it said

The APA said its data analysis found physiotherapy treatment costs the patient approximately $500, whereas surgical management costs between $7820 and $10260. 

“Without a specific Medicare item for physiotherapy management of continence issues, many patients end up being significantly out of pocket,” Mr Dripps said. 

“Access to timely treatment can also lead to long-term, significant savings to the Australian health system.”

Referring to research published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health study, Mr Dripps said physiotherapy techniques can help people achieve continence without the need surgery and with equal success rates.

The study found physiotherapy helped up to 84 per cent of women suffering from stress urinary incontinence achieve continence, with patients needing on average five physiotherapy treatments to effectively alleviate their incontinence, he said.

Download the APA budget submission (pdf) here

If you need support for living with incontinence, visit the Continence Foundation of Australia for information and continence resources. 

Or contact the National Continence Helpline on 1800 33 00 66 or via helpline@continence.org.au Monday to Friday, between 8.00am and 8.00pm Australian Eastern Standard Time.



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