ALEX JAMES, HOST: Endometriosis is a painful and potentially debilitating condition that affects thousands of Australians. But the average wait time for a diagnosis is nearly seven years and accessing treatments particularly in regional areas can be difficult. From today, Central West residents will have access to specialised treatment for endometriosis and pelvic pain at one of 20 dedicated clinics being opened up around the country. Emma McBride is Assistant Minister for Rural and Regional Health and Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, thank you for joining us this morning.
EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: Good to be with you.
JAMES: So you came to Orange to mark the opening of one of these new endometriosis and pelvic pain clinics across the country? What would the clinic actually do?
MCBRIDE: We know that endometriosis impacts about one in nine Australian women and typically it takes seven years or more for diagnosis. Endometriosis presents in a very individualised ways with symptoms that vary in severity and impact on the individual. And what we want to make sure is that consistently around Australia, but particularly in the most regional and remote parts of Australia, that people get timely access to diagnosis so they can have early intervention, treatment and care to reduce the impact of endometriosis or other health disorders on themselves. We know it can have an impact on your education, your work, your fertility, your general quality of life, and it has a big impact on the economy. It's estimated to cost the economy about $6 billion. So we want to make sure that around Australia, wherever you live that women and girls can get that early diagnosis, the right kind of treatment and care, so that they this has less impact on them, and that we can make sure that this happens consistently.
JAMES: So early diagnosis then, the that's the focus for these clinics?
MCBRIDE: With these clinics the focus will be on diagnosis. It will also be on the right kind of treatment and care. We know that for these type of conditions that you need specialist care and particularly at the centre in Orange, I know that they have a physiotherapist and pelvic physiotherapists are particularly important in the treatment and management of endometriosis. So, this funding across Australia will go to the recruitment of specialist staff for example nurse practitioners, physios with an expertise in in pelvic pain, it'll also go towards improving equipment. So there's a right kind of treatment space which might be a pelvic physio treatment space, and we'll also go towards the resources to upskill staff but also for the patients that they're treating.
JAMES: So speaking of I mean, we know historically here in the regions we have trouble with, we have trouble getting staff to begin with in the medical sector, general practitioners in particular, but specialists as well, and then we have trouble keeping staff. Is there a plan within this from the Albanese Government to keep staff keep specialists in the regions in these new centres?
MCBRIDE: So this investment, which is a $16.4 million over four years across the 20 centres, will mean an average of $700,000 for a particular centre and we know that that boost in resources will mean that they can recruit specialist staff and retain specialist staff, because it's so important that people have continuity of care. Through this process, we've identified clinics through the Primary Health Networks that have an interest and a specialisation. already. So it will mean that we're boosting those specialist services so that they can expand the services they provide so that women and girls can get the treatment earlier.
JAMES: Why is this been a priority for the Albanese government?
MCBRIDE: We know that there has been a significant underinvestment in women's health, and this is long overdue. We see that particularly in the regions where a woman, we saw a report recently from the Royal Flying Doctor Service where a woman, in the most remote parts of Australia has a life expectancy 19 years shorter than her counterpart in a major city. We want to make sure that this traditional underinvestment from research through to the clinic is turned around. As part of that we stood up a National Medical Advisory Council for Women to look at all of those systemic and historic barriers that have affected the care of women. We know for example, many medical studies are based on a 70 kilo man. So, we need to work from the research and the lab to the bedside to make sure that all of those systemic and structural barriers that have impacted the care of women and girls are removed.
JAMES: You're hearing from the Assistant Minister for Rural and Regional Health Emma McBride who is also the Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention here on ABC Central West. We're 14 minutes away from eight o'clock. Minister as I mentioned, you know, double here, you're also the Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, Central West as you would know, it's been through more than its fair share of natural disasters over the past few years with everything from the Black Summer Bushfires to deadly flash floods, what ongoing support is available for people who have been through disasters?
MCBRIDE: Just recently we launched the National Disaster Mental Health and Wellbeing Framework, because we know that there is often a focus on that initial rescue and recovery, but what we also know from a mental health or wellbeing perspective, that it's in the longer run, where they symptoms often emerge and where distress can be heightened. So what we want to make sure is that consistently communities get the right kind of support and care in the disaster itself and in its aftermath, and so we're working through Primary Health Networks around Australia, we're working with the National Emergency Management Agency to make sure that consistently people get that support and care. And we know and we've seen what is often most effective is local responses, community led, place based, where people have that confidence and trust and those connections and that's something were determined to support. Also locally we are going to be standing up Head to Health services in Dubbo and Bathurst, and Head to Health services are ones where you don't need a prior appointment. You don't need a referral, where you can walk in and get information, advice, treatment and care. And we're rolling these out around Australia and making sure that communities like yours, that have been particularly impacted, are able to access these services.
JAMES: How are you going to manage that service though? Because if there's no referral process, if people are able to just walk in, there is a possibility that those services will they most likely will be inundated with people. And that will put pressure on the staff and what we've seen here is when there's enough pressure on staff, staff leave, they go somewhere else where there's more support. So how are you going to make sure that those are long term services and that they'll be well staffed?
MCBRIDE: I've seen these up and running around Australia, there's 12 already. And from the ones that I visited, what it means is that someone can walk in, in distress, rather than turning up to an emergency department, and that they can be triaged Often that's why a peer worker, someone with their own leaved or living experience of mental ill health, and with that, through that triage process, it might be that the right treatment and care is provided through that Head to Health, or it might be that they're linked in with a nearby service that is fit for that person at that time. So, that very careful triage process will mean that someone is linked in with the right type of care at the right time for then and ongoing.
JAMES: Look we're more than likely headed into another El Nino we heard that yesterday. That the, not Bureau of Meteorology, but the international organisation declared that that's where we're at already. We know that the impact of drought and other natural disasters could have on regional Australians. What are you planning now to make sure that we're well supported as we head into those times.
MCBRIDE: And we've seen just in the last 12 months over almost 65% of local government areas across Australia have been impacted including by monsoonal floods. So I'm working very closely with Minister Murray Watt, the Minister for Emergency Management, we're working with the National Emergency Management Agency, and an example, a practical example recently is with the Black Dog Institute, where we've introduced the National Emergency Worker Support Service, and this support services for a frontline worker, it might be a paramedic, it could be a fiery, where they can then access psychological treatment and care confidentially with specialist practitioners who are trained in disaster recovery. So we're trying to work with everyone from the first responders through to the communities to build resilience to make sure that in that rescue and recovery, there's the right kind of support and care but also in the aftermath, because we know, and evidence shows us, that sometimes the aftermath, the psychological distress can have just as big an impact as the initial national disaster or natural event.
JAMES: Minister appreciate your time this morning, thanks for joining us.
MCBRIDE: Great to be with you.