Parkinson's patients lose 'vital link'

The federal government has confirmed it would not continue to fund specialist Parkinson's disease nurses, and would instead focus on "inclusive" programs.

Missing out: Ian Parr of Berry, who has Parkinson's disease, is appalled services are being cut. Picture: SYLVIA LIBER

Missing out: Ian Parr of Berry, who has Parkinson's disease, is appalled services are being cut. Picture: SYLVIA LIBER

While a trial program of specialist neurological nurses in the Shoalhaven had "proved successful", the government was taking a "broader approach", a spokesman for the Department of Health and Ageing said yesterday.

"This funding program ceased in June 2010 and everyone understood that this was a time-limited program," said the spokesman, referring to one-off funding of $220,000 to Parkinson's Australia in 2009.

"While the program proved successful, the government has taken a broader approach to dealing with the significant health burden experienced by individuals and families affected by chronic and complex conditions such as Parkinson's disease.

"The government's core programs and initiatives are now more inclusive, rather than disease-specific, with significant funding provided for Medicare, public hospitals, the subsidy of medicines through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and for research."

The Brain and Mind Research Institute had joined Parkinson's NSW in calling for the continuation of the program which formed a "link" between families and health and welfare providers.

Berry resident Ian Parr, who has used the service for the past three years, said the loss of specialist nurses to his community "can't be measured".

The 80-year-old said he was appalled that governments would not commit resources to make the services available across Australia.

The government spokesman said individual communities had the power to prioritise funds to best meet individual needs.

Medicare Locals was a national network of 61 community-based organisations working with local primary health care providers, hospitals, aged care providers and communities, the spokesman said.

"Each Medicare Local region has different primary health care needs, therefore decisions on priorities are made at the Medicare Local level," he said.

"Funding is provided to Medicare Locals to support a wide range of activities in order to meet the current and emerging primary health care needs within each Medicare Local community, including those people living with Parkinson's disease."

Parkinson's NSW was "disheartened" by the government's "sitting-on-the fence attitude towards such an important health resource".

Chief executive Miriam Dixon said all evidence favoured the benefits of specialist nurses, and ensuring their presence was maintained should be a high priority.


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