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Physiotherapists Call for Action on Incontinence

This week (24 – 30 June) is World Continence Week and physiotherapists are calling for public awareness of the personal and public cost of incontinence.

With one person in every four suffering incontinence, almost five millions Australians, the total financial cost to the country is $117 million every day and $42.9 billion every year.

According to an Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health Study* physiotherapy techniques can help up to 84 per cent of those suffering from stress urinary incontinence (SUI) to achieve continence.

The study found that most SUI patients only needed five physiotherapy treatments on average to effectively alleviate their incontinence and avoid painful, invasive surgery. The Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) believes that while some patients will ultimately require surgical intervention, physiotherapy should be the first line of treatment.

“Australians should have access to a continence management program from an appropriately qualified physiotherapist, funded through the Medicare Benefits Scheme,’ APA National President Marcus Dripps said. “Data analysis by the APA found that comprehensive physiotherapy treatment costs each patient approximately $500, while surgical management costs between $7820 and $10260.”

Currently there are no specific Medicare items for continence physiotherapy and only limited ways in which patients can access public funds for this type of treatment.

“Without a specific Medicare item for physiotherapy management of continence issues, the tax -payers and the patients are simply paying too much,” Mr Dripps added.

“‘The APA believes that the Department of Health and Ageing and Medicare should have mechanisms in place to consider the burden of disease relating to conditions, as well as the treatment efficacy and cost effectiveness of any interventions. “Funding should be directed towards appropriate treatments based on these considerations. “Access to timely physiotherapy treatment will lead to long -term, significant savings to the Australian health system. Medicare support for the management of incontinence is crucial, it will help millions of Australians to reclaim their quality of life,” Mr Dripps explained.

The APA is calling for people to go to; share the video, and ask local Members of Parliament to make a change to the Medicare Schedule that will transform the lives of almost five million Australians.

* Neumann, P.B., et al., The costs and benefits of physiotherapy as first-line treatment for female stress urinary incontinence. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 2005. 29(5): p. 416-421.

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Alana Lowes

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