SUBJECTS: Endometriosis, Pelvic Pain
MIKKI SILVERMAN, CHIEF COMMERCIAL OFFICER AND DIRECTOR OF EVOCA WOMEN’S HEALTH: Welcome everybody. My name's Mikki Silverman and I'm an executive at ForHealth and I'm also the director of our Avoca Women's Health Service. We are joined here today by the Melbourne Eastern PHN, Noelle, and Janine, thank you for joining us. We're also joined by one of our fabulous doctors here, and actually the clinical lead of our Endometriosis and Pelvic Pain Clinic, Dr Prabhu thank you. And also one of our patients, Bakht Cheema, who will tell her story a little bit later.
I'd of course, like to welcome the Hon. Ged Kearney, who is the Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care. Thanks for joining us.
I'll start by acknowledging the traditional owners of this land, the Wurundjeri people and pay my respects to elders’ past, present, and emerging.
At ForHealth our mission is accessible healthcare. We particularly focus on the lower socioeconomic areas.
Today is Medicare's 40th anniversary. Medicare is a system that personally makes me very proud to be an Australian. There is no way to underplay the impact that Medicare has had on our mission here at ForHealth. I think it's important for us to take a moment just to recognize the impact that Medicare has had on generations of Australians.
The Albanese Government made a landmark investment into Medicare. I think it's truly setting the platform for a stronger and healthier Australia. We've seen the tripling of the bulk billing incentive. We've seen the innovation of the Medicare Urgent Care Clinics, and of course we've seen the launch of these Endometriosis and Pelvic Pain Clinics.
And we do know that endometriosis is a silent epidemic in this country, with more than one in five women experiencing endometriosis or pelvic pain. We know it can often be a crippling condition that can severely, impact involvement in community life from school to work to being social. That's why the creation of these clinics is just so important.
The diagnosis can often be misdiagnosed. Especially it might depend on the postcode in which you live, and that's because access to high quality women's health is difficult in certain postcodes. That’s why it's so important to have the clinic.
Bakht will tell her story about how her condition was misdiagnosed for quite a long time. And it was through coming to this clinic here and seeing Dr. Prabhu and the multidisciplinary team here, that she was able to have a proper diagnosis. I believe her symptoms really reduced in only a matter of months.
Just before I finish, I'd also like to say that we are incredibly honoured to run the PPCC at Epping Plaza Medical and Dental. I believe since we've opened, we've seen 12,000 patients here and diverted almost 7,000 ED visits. So, it's a real honour to be running the clinic here.
I will now hand over to the Hon Ged Kearney to address us. So, thank you. Thank you.
GED KEARNEY, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGED CARE: Well, good morning, everybody. It's such a pleasure to be here. Epping Plaza Medical and Dental. An amazing centre that serves the people of the northern suburbs of Melbourne so well. We've just heard that they have the PPCC here, which has diverted so many patients away from the ED - getting the urgent care they need right here.
We also have something that I am very proud of. We have a federally funded Endometriosis and Pelvic Pain clinic. This is one of 22 clinics that we've opened up right around Australia. We have four right here in Victoria. And this one here in Epping is servicing the women of the northern suburbs of Melbourne.
We just heard Mikki say about endometriosis, that up to one in five women could suffer with this condition. It is a crippling condition that affects everyday life. It affects your sex life. It affects your ability to go to work. It can affect relationships. And the worst thing is that you can be in absolutely awful crippling pain. And one of the saddest things about this is that unfortunately, so many women, young women, when they present even with this condition are told “women just have to put up with pain. It's just part of a woman's life”. Or they're accused of drug shopping or just wanting to get drugs. They're accused of doctor hopping. They've been accused of being hysterical. These are all things that women are very used to experiencing when they present with something like pelvic pain.
Well, I say no more to that. We have wonderful clinics here with great doctors, wonderful nurses, fabulous health professionals, physiotherapist, all sorts of people that understand the condition.
When women come to one of our endometriosis and pelvic pain clinics, I know that they will be heard, they will be believed, and they will be treated appropriately and get the care they deserve.
These are wonderful clinics right around the country. We are very proud of them, and we are exceptionally proud of the one here in Melbourne's north, my hometown.
Thanks to everyone. Thanks to the PHN. Thanks to ForHealth who are hosting the clinic. It has been wonderful to work with them. Thanks to Avoca. Thanks to all of the health professionals that are pulling this together and everyone that makes it work.
But most of all, thank you to the wonderful women out there who have suffered in silence for so long and don't have to anymore. They can come here to these clinics and, as I said, they can be heard, they can be seen, they can be believed, and they can get treatment.
Thanks very much everyone.
DR VIDYA PRABHU, CLINICAL LEAD ENDOMETRIOSIS AND PELVIC PAIN CLINIC, EPPING PLAZA MEDICAL & DENTAL CENTRE: I would like to start by acknowledging traditional owners of the land we stand on and pay my respect to elders’ past, present, and emerging. I thank the Assistant Minister for coming to the clinic.
Endometriosis, as we are aware by now, is a complex health condition. As Mikki mentioned, one in every five women in the reproductive age group do have endometriosis, which means it's not uncommon.
To get a diagnosis of endometriosis, it can range anywhere from five to eight years. A patient who is symptomatic to get diagnosed can take up to eight years to be getting the diagnosis, which is quite frustrating for these patients because they would've gone to so many health professionals complaining of their symptoms to be told that it's just normal pain, just put up with it. Or the worst things that I hear from patients are, they're told to get married and the patient's symptoms will go away. Which is bizarre - there's no clinical evidence for it.
By the time the patient gets to a gynaecologist, it would be five to eight years. I'm told that at the local hospital to get an initial appointment from the referral for an endometriosis appointment is around 18 months. That’s another 18 months of waiting.
What we are doing different here as part of Endometriosis and Pelvic Pain Clinic? We timely triage these patients here. Which means the patients who have suspected endometriosis or pelvic pain, they come into the clinic, they see our lovely nurse, and she does an initial assessment, and then they're passed on to the GPs who are involved within this clinic.
From there on, we have clinical pathways established with the local pelvic physiotherapist, who is a specialized women's health physio, and a women's health psychologist who then assesses these patients on a need’s basis.
Since it's a complex condition, they do receive a multifaceted treatment, which they want. And most of my patients, what they tell me is they feel that this is the first time they feel that they have been heard, and it looks like we care for these patients.
Healthcare is a basic right for everyone. It's not a privilege. So, I don't think anybody should feel that getting some basic healthcare is a privilege, whereas it's their right.
I'm really thankful to be a part of a network which has these women's health clinics across the country where we are able to educate our patients and empower these women to be able to look after their health.
I would take this opportunity to request the Minister to provide ongoing support and more research, more funding into clinics like this because patients need us. And the only way we can bridge that gap between primary care and tertiary care is setting up these clinics.
SUBJECTS: Endometriosis, Pelvic Pain