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Monday, 14 September 2009
Page: 9539


Ms HALL (6:55 PM) —This week is National Stroke Awareness Week. Stroke is one of those diseases that I think Australians, and for that matter people through the world, do not understand fully. They do not know the signs and do not know the correct treatment and the correct way to react at the time of having a stroke. Stroke is the second greatest killer after coronary disease and a leading cause of disability. In 2009 Australians will suffer around 60,000 new and recurrent strokes—that is one every 10 minutes. One in five people having a first-ever stroke will die within one month, and one in three will die within a year. The number of strokes will increase each year due to the ageing of the population unless something is done to reduce the incidence of stroke. With the increased incidence of stroke comes an increased cost to our community. It comes in the necessity to have more beds in aged-care facilities. It also comes in the form of a greater reliance on family and carers, a cost in terms of loss of production and the simple human cost associated with people suffering strokes.

The FAST test is an easy way to recognise and remember the signs of stroke. Using the FAST test involves asking three simple questions. Face: check the person’s face. Has the person’s mouth drooped? Arms: can they lift both their arms? Speech: is their speech slurred? Do they understand you? If the answer creates any concern, then it is time. Time is critical. If you see any of these signs, call 000 straight away.

In the next 10 years more than half a million people will suffer a stroke. Stroke kills more women than breast cancer. About 88 per cent of stroke survivors live at home, and most have a severe disability or some kind of disability. Close to 20 per cent of all strokes occur in people under 50 years of age. Stroke costs Australia approximately $2.14 billion per year. So it causes enormous disability and it increases the demand for aged care facilities and it puts an enormous burden on carers. Once a person suffers a stroke some of the things that they need to do is undertake lifestyle change: look at their diet, level of exercise, level of alcohol intake and smoking. These are all behaviours that impact on a person’s ability to recover from a stroke and to ensure that they do not have future strokes.

In the time that I have remaining I would like to share with the House details of a research project that has been conducted by the Hunter Medical Research Institute’s Stroke Research Group. The group has developed a system for fast-tracking stoke treatment which could benefit thousands of Australians who suffer from strokes and save millions of dollars. The system is called Pre-hospital Acute Stroke Triage, or PAST, Protocol. It reduces pre-hospital and emergency department delays to allow more stroke patients to receive brain-saving thrombolysis, or clot-bursting treatment, within a three-hour window of having a stroke.

A three-hour treatment period is a very important time period. By reversing the crippling effects of the stroke we can enable more people to return to their families, their homes and their jobs. This also reduces the demand on nursing home beds, in-hospital rehabilitation programs and healthcare dollars. This is a unique system. If the PAST protocol were implemented nationally an additional 2,500 people could receive the thrombolysis treatment. This is a unique process that has been developed in the Hunter and it is one that really benefits stroke patients throughout Australia. This is Stroke Awareness Week. Let us be aware of stroke. (Time expired)