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Monday, 17 August 2009
Page: 8089

Ms HALL (7:35 PM) —I second the motion moved by the member for Ballarat and, in doing so, I would like to stamp my contribution on this debate by thanking Peg Hatherley from Buff Point who I met with on 8 May this year. It was Peg that brought to my attention the plight of people suffering from post-polio syndrome, or late effects of polio as she likes to refer to it. Present with Peg were Neil Von Schill and a local GP, all people that had suffered from polio earlier in their lives and now were experiencing symptoms associated with the late effects of polio.

It was from this meeting that I arranged for them to come and talk to the Standing Committee on Health and Ageing. On that day they were here, they met and spoke with a number of members. It was interesting to learn just how many people had relatives and friends who had actually been affected by polio. My own grandfather suffered from polio and my memories of him are of a little man that always wore callipers.

The issues associated with post-polio syndrome are quite enormous. Peg is a person who has been quite debilitated through her life because of suffering from polio at a younger age. As she has aged, the effects have become much worse and she has become much more debilitated. It took a long time for people to actually recognise what the problem was. By using Peg as an example, it emphasises the problem that sufferers of late effects of polio have.

Whilst polio is now a disease that has been virtually forgotten by our community and health professionals, it is still present but in a very different form. It was in the late 1950s that the immunisation program became widespread throughout Australia, but very few health professionals and even doctors have experience in dealing with people who have suffered from polio at that acute stage. Just recently, as has already been stated in the House, many people that have had polio have developed symptoms later in their lives.

Whilst previously polio it was considered that once you recover from the acute stage of polio, whatever your residual disability was, that was deemed to be the level of your recovery. What has subsequently happened is that there has been a slow degenerative process associated with it.

In a previous life, I worked as a rehabilitation counsellor for people with disabilities and that was the first time I had contact with a person who was actually suffering from post-polio syndrome as it was called at that time. The one aspect that was most debilitating for him was the fact that he suffered from really acute depression. That is one of the many symptoms that are associated with post-polio or late effect polio syndrome, along with fatigue, muscle weakness, pain and a general and rapid decline in physical ability.

I think it is time that parliaments and governments of all persuasions acknowledged the fact that more people suffer a disability from polio than from any other disease. We need to assess its impact and ensure that the right education is provided so that people can not only recognise it but also put in place the right sort of support for those suffering from the late effects of polio. Education is a key factor but we should also do everything in our power to look at supporting Polio Australia so that one body has overall responsibility. Once again I commend the member for Ballarat for bringing this important motion to the attention of the House.