Limestone Coast nurse praises crucial health subsidy

VITAL RESOURCE: Alison Napper, a Lymphoedema Practitioner based in Naracoorte, welcomes the Compression Garment Subsidy Scheme.

VITAL RESOURCE: Alison Napper, a Lymphoedema Practitioner based in Naracoorte, welcomes the Compression Garment Subsidy Scheme.

A South East registered nurse and health practitioner is grateful a vital service needed for the recovery and care of her clients has finally been added to the national subsidised scheme list.

Alison Napper, a Lymphoedema Practitioner, welcomes the $2.5million committed earlier this year to the care of South Australians diagnosed with lymphoedema who require therapeutic compression garments.

The much-needed outcome means greater access to garments which apply pressure to the body to keep lymph moving in the right direction.

"Going forward, people deemed eligible for the subsidy will now be funded for up to two garments over six months on a needs basis," Ms Napper told Naracoorte Herald.

The roll out also follows several years of lobbying by South East services, putting SA in line with other states who already have access to the subsidised service.

What does the therapist role mean?

Ms Napper completed the Lymphoedema Practitioner training in 2012 at the Royal Brisbane Women's Hospital.

"I was originally approached by the Naracoorte Breast Cancer Support Group when I was backfilling the women's health nurse role to assist them with setting up a Lymphoedema service," she said.

"I felt that there was a great need for this particularly in the Limestone Coast area as at that stage there was nothing available locally to assist people suffering with Lymphoedema."

Prior to this, people would travel to Adelaide to access treatment which Mrs Napper said undid half the benefit of treatment.

With the assistance of the former Naracoorte Breast Cancer Support Group and a generous donation from the Lucindale Lion's Club and South East Regional Health Service (now Limestone Coast Local Health Network) they were able to set up a clinic and train two health professionals as Lymphoedema Practitioners.

Mrs Napper now works alongside private physiotherapist Emma Schulz.

Professional background

Ms Napper has worked as a senior community health nurse since 2006, living in rural South Australia most of her life and has worked in both acute and community nursing and private practice.

"I have post graduate qualifications in child adolescent and family health, immunisation and lymphoedema.

She is based at Naracoorte Country Health Connect (Community Health) and sees clients from all over the Limestone Coast, from Bordertown to Mount Gambier.

Referrals are received from specialists, gp's, other health professionals as well as self-referral.

"The Compression Garment Subsidy Scheme is some really good news," she said.

"I have quietly been involved in the lobbying for the scheme in association with Country Health SA and the SA Lymphoedema Association.

"It will assist a lot of clients particularly those that have Lymphoedema as a residual of some cancer treatments. It will not necessarily cover all garments and causes of Lymphoedema."

She encourages the public to check out the SA Health website subsidy scheme web page frequently asked questions.

Importantly, she said the news about the subsidy scheme is slowly getting out there.

"The scheme was initially announced at the beginning of July and I have had quite a few enquiries. I think for those that do qualify it is a great relief as the purchase of compression garments is a major financial hurdle and it will certainly benefit those that need garments most," she added.

State support

Lymphoedema Group of SA president Monique Bareham, who had been lobbying the government for the investment, further welcomed the outcome.

Ms Bareham said the "immediate and ongoing" support would assist many people in the state including clients in the South East.

In February 2019 the support group and stakeholders had raised the issue with the federal health minister Greg Hunt and advocate Barker MP Tony Pasin at a health forum held in Mount Gambier.

"While the federal government had announced $10 million for subsidised specialist compression garments the following May (2020), we still needed SA to get on board," Mr Pasin said.

He added how it marks a significant step towards a nationally consistent approach to an important issue.

Funding for the service is expected to roll out over the next two years.