Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care doorstop - 8 March 2024

Read the transcript from Assistant Minister Kearney's doorstop on endometriosis and pelvic pain clinics.

The Hon Ged Kearney MP
Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care

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MANDY HUTCHINSON, CEO BENDIGO COMMUNITY HEALTH SERVICE: Well, I'm here today to introduce some pretty amazing women as we open the BCHS Endometriosis and Pain Clinic for Bendigo and for the city of Greater Bendigo and indeed for the region. We're really excited about the opening of this clinic and the opportunity it's going to afford women in our community to access really important care.
 
GED KEARNEY, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGED CARE: Good morning everyone. My name is Ged Kearney. I'm the Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care. It's a great pleasure to be here with my wonderful colleague, Lisa Chesters, the local member for Bendigo and the fabulous people from Bendigo Community Health Service.

When I became Assistant Minister for Health, a lot of women told me that they had a lot of trouble getting adequate care for endometriosis and pelvic pain.
 
We know one in nine women, possibly one in seven women have endometriosis and some form of pelvic pain condition.
 
They have unfortunately not got the best out of the health system. They have been treated, dismissed. They've been told that their pain is just a woman's lot and to suck it up because you get periods and that's what happens. They've been accused of drug shopping because every month they get excruciating abdominal pain and need pain relief for that. And unfortunately some health professionals have accused them of faking it to get drugs, which is just terrible. And dare I say it, they've been accused of being drama queens and even hysterical.
 
I'm so pleased that the Albanese Labor Government has decided to put a stop to that. We have invested $58 million into a whole suite of packages for endometriosis and pelvic pain and part of that is allocating $700,000 to this wonderful health service to provide service to the women of this region.
 
This is somewhere that women will come, where they will be heard, where they will be believed and they'll get the treatment that they need.
 
I'm going to hand over to Lisa who will talk a little bit more about this wonderful place.
  
LISA CHESTERS, MEMBER FOR BENDIGO: Thank you, Ged. And it's so wonderful to have Ged here on International Women's Day to open this clinic and it hasn't been lost on Maree Edwards and I today as we've gone round to celebrate International Women's Day in our electorate. When we say where we're going to be today at midday, there's always a cheer because one in nine women, statistically we know have endometriosis. And that's a lot of tears when you think about how many, many women in our community and quite often they're suffering in silence with this condition. People get that it's an issue and that's why I'm really proud to be part of the government that is helping fund the good work already happening.
 
I do want acknowledge Bendigo Community Health. They have a women's clinic here, they've had it for years, but now they're getting that federal government sponsorship and support and funding to expand their services.
 
They're seeing more women, more consults, and as the education grows and young women understand more about the condition that they have, they're having more and more people contacting them for support. They're also doing an amazing job reaching out to local GPs and local nurses and helping to spread the education and awareness.
 
This is a great day for women in our region. It's a great day for community health services and it's a great day for the hardworking team here who for so long have been doing this work and now they've got that extra funding boost from us at the federal level.
 
It's the first in regional Victoria to officially be opened. So that's always exciting and it's a demonstration to that at that federal level, we're not just focused on metro, we acknowledge that we have to support all women across our state and across our country. 22 announced and opened and a lot more work to do.
 
So well done to Mandy and the team and I'll hand over to Maree Edwards, my colleague.
  
MAREE EDWARDS, MEMBER FOR BENDIGO WEST: Thanks everyone. Nice to see you all this morning and happy International Women's Day. Thank you Ged for being here and it's wonderful to join Lisa as well. The Bendigo Community Health Service is very well known and respected across our region for the services that they provide, particularly to women. And I'm really pleased that at all levels of government, we are now focused on women's health and that includes a focus on endometriosis, on menopause and issues where women know that they have not been afforded the same attention as perhaps men when it comes to their health.
 
We have in the Victorian state government have just announced that we are commencing a consultation process to enable women to contribute to what we want to know is women's voices around their health. And everyone knows that there's a gender pain gap when it comes to women. And I think that's something that we should really focus on. We are rolling out 20 women's health services across Victoria in conjunction with the federal government and at local government level.
 
 If everyone is working towards the same outcomes, we will see better delivery of health service for women right across Victoria but indeed across the country. And I think that's a fantastic outcome for everyone.
 
JOURNALIST: Why Bendigo? Is this an area of demand? Is this something that is really needed here?
 
CHESTERS: The fantastic team here at Bendigo Community Health put forward an amazing bid submission. So the federal government advertised and invited health services to pitch how they would run an endometriosis and pelvic pain clinic. And their application was outstanding. I was so excited when I heard that Bendigo had been successful because I've been a patient here and I knew the amazing work that they did. But in the separations, you can't influence a bid. I was pretty sure that they would be successful because of the amazing work that they do. And it is a great opportunity for other health services to look at what's happening here. And that's something that our community health services do quite well. They share their experience, they share their knowledge. So it is the team on the ground and their bid, which is why we're the first.
 
JOURNALIST: And where else might these be popping up across Regional Victoria
 
KEARNEY: At the moment we have four in Victoria. There is one here in Bendigo. We will be evaluating the services over the next two years, each of the 22 endometriosis clinics. They have a different model of care that is very specific for their community. We'll be examining those models of care very closely, seeing which ones we think will work. And then we will at a later date - after the evaluation - be having a look at the program.
  
JOURNALIST: Do you have any ideas of what that's going to look like in the community as yet?
  
KEARNEY: Not yet. No. We are very early stages. We are just opening the clinics. We are really pleased with how they're going. They've been embraced by the community. And the really great thing, as Lisa says is that we formed an amazing community of practice. All the 22 endometriosis and pelvic pain clinics are working together. They talk to each other, they share in their expertise. Look, to be honest, we hope that a time comes when we don't need them. When every primary healthcare centre in the country understands how to treat endometriosis and pelvic pain and that women will get even treatment right across the country.
 
But right now we are building that expertise and that clinical specialised practice that we are trying to share across the country.
 
JOURNALIST: And will there be a space for women who deal with other types of pain as well? Chronic pain conditions for example?
 
KEARNEY: My understanding is that this clinic has been very well established for a long time. That they have great expertise in helping women, particularly with sexual and reproductive health. The allocation of our funding is for pelvic pain as well as endometriosis. So they have a physiotherapist, they have all other types of specialists working here who will be able to help women with chronic pain.
 
JOURNALIST: Will women be able to be diagnosed with endometriosis here or is it only treatment?
 
KEARNEY: There will be a diagnosis. The specialist doctors, they have specialist nurses, they have a range of health professionals here who will be able to diagnose. Yes. Part of the suite of endometriosis funding that the government has allocated is extra funding for MRIs that can diagnose endometriosis. And that's an important part of the whole package.
 
JOURNALIST: And do you have an understanding of what this will do for wait times for women who are already suffering from endometriosis? Waiting for surgery, waiting for treatment?
 
KEARNEY: We know it takes, on average nine long years to be diagnosed. I've spoken to women who have not been diagnosed until they've been well into their forties and they've suffered with endometriosis all their life. So just the fact that we have a dedicated endometriosis clinic - or four in Victoria - we hope that the word will spread, that women will know about them. Other GPs, I believe are already referring women here for that specialist care. So we are hoping that it will bring that diagnostic time way down and women won't have to suffer.

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