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Tuesday, 16 June 2009
Page: 6170


Mr CHESTER (8:40 PM) —I rise this evening to lend my support to an initiative being driven by a small medical clinic in Sale. This program provides valuable assistance to young Gippslanders who are managing the complications associated with type 1 diabetes. Dr Peter Goss from Gippsland Paediatrics has been instrumental in delivering a program that has so far provided 42 young people across Gippsland with the quality of life that they had not known since being diagnosed with diabetes. The program has seen Gippsland Paediatrics supply more than 60 per cent of child and adolescent type 1 diabetes patients in their care with their own insulin pump therapy program. This figure represents twice the percentage of children and adolescents on insulin pump therapy programs in any given metropolitan clinic throughout Australia. It is a medical milestone in its own right, but more important is the improvement to the quality of life for local children which was previously well below the levels of quality of life experienced by urban children with the same ailment.

Another major revelation of the work conducted by Dr Goss and his team at Gippsland Paediatrics has been the resulting levels of control in the management of the disease. Using the insulin pump therapy program, Dr Goss and his team have achieved results which are better than published international standards. It is a major achievement for a small clinic like Gippsland Paediatrics to become a national and international leader in insulin pump therapy. That is why I have taken the opportunity to speak to the House today. I wish to commend the great work of Dr Goss and his team at Gippsland Paediatrics and also to take up his point that insulin pumps are badly underutilised in Australia and must be made more accessible to children and adolescents.

As Dr Goss points out, the current sponsorship policy is heavily reliant upon donations from service groups to make up the funding shortfalls for individuals. A large proportion of the insulin pump therapy program conducted by Gippsland Paediatrics has been funded by local charity organisations, and I publicly salute them for their work. These organisations have recognised the benefits associated with insulin pump therapy for children and have fundraised to help families meet the costs associated with the program. Without their work, many children would miss out. Currently, the government offers $2,500 towards an $8,000 insulin pump and the families of children with type 1 diabetes are expected to pick up the tab for the remaining $5,500. I have previously written to the Minister for Health and Ageing seeking her support on this issue and outlining the results of Dr Goss’s work, and I am hopeful that the minister will see the merits of the program.

Just last Friday, I had the opportunity to meet parents at the Gippsland Paediatrics clinic and discuss the benefits of this program with them. Along with meeting Dr Goss and his outstanding team, I met 10-year-old Tobias Hall, who had only started on the insulin pump therapy program one month before. Tobias is a keen footballer—in fact, his father, Darren, was an exceptional footballer and coach in the Sale district. Tobias told me that he feels normal now. Since he started the program, he does not have to worry about eating at certain times or if he wants to go for a kick of the footy with his mates or a dip at the local swimming pool. Similarly, Emily Wise, a 13-year-old who recently commenced insulin pump therapy, and her mother, Jo, cannot believe the improvements the program has made to their life in such a short period of time. Jo told me that she used to go on school camps with Emily, such was the severity of her condition, but that Emily has now become largely independent and has grown in both stature and self-confidence.

When young patients and their doctors highlight the amazing success of this program, it is up to us to find ways to help more young Australians in the same manner. I urge the minister to take a close look at the documents I have provided and the recommendations made by Dr Goss during his recent speech to the National Rural Health Conference in Cairns. Dr Goss pointed out that the impact of type 1 diabetes is significant, with life expectancy reduced by up to 15 years, that over 50 per cent of patients with type 1 diabetes will develop severe health complications after 20 years as a result of the disease and that maintaining optimal glycaemic control minimises the risk of complications. So there is an urgency involved with addressing the discriminatory lack of access, by rural children in particular, to the available optimal diabetes services. Insulin pump therapy is going to be at least part of the answer in the future.

The Gippsland Paediatrics team is leading the way and the results have been published for all to see, but what is not published are the smiles on the faces of the young people and their parents who are now in a much better position to manage the disease. I commend Dr Goss and his team for their work and urge the government to see what support they can offer in the future.