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Thursday, 25 May 1972
Page: 2150

Senator CAVANAGH asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation:

(1)   When civilians apply to the Repatriation Department for the manufacture of an artificial limb, are they advised of other persons, or organisations, in the State also performing such treatment and of some from whom the patient may be entitled to financial assistance in purchase.

(2)   Is it normal for limb makers, other than the Repatriation Department, to supply geriatric mid-thigh amputees with a limb containing a mechanical device to assist in knee extension; if so, (a) are such devices universally accepted and prescribed in other countries and is this device greatly desirable in limbs for older people, (b) in view of the increasing age of Repatriation Department patients, would they be better provided for with the use of such a device rather than the normally supplied north-western type of knee locking joints, and (c) how many above-knee legs has the Department supplied with the north-western knee joint and how many with a mechanical knee joint during the last 2 years.


Minister for Repatriation has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1)   A private patient who is not sponsored by a Government Department or philanthropic organisation is required to produce certification from his own doctor that he cannot be satisfactorily fitted by a private limb-maker before the Repatriation Department can undertake the provision of a limb or appliance. Where it comes to notice that financial difficulties may be experienced in meeting the cost of a limb, the patient is advised of the organisations through which financial assistance may be sought.

(2)   Details of the prescriptions fulfilled by Australian limb-makers, other than the Repatriation Department, are not known. It is understood, however, that knee units incorporating a mechanical device to assist in knee extension are provided where this is considered appropriate.

Similarly, it is understood that these devices are used in other countries, but that this use is by no means universal. It will be appreciated that in prosthetics, as in so many other professional areas, approaches differ. The best expert advice available to the Repatriation Department is that, while a device to assist in knee extension would be helpful in certain individual cases, it is not a general requirement, irrespective of the age of the patient. In any individual case where this assistance is indicated on clinical grounds, it is provided. Generally speaking, however, the swing-phase controltype of knee unit (of which the North-Western University design is an example) is considered to best meet the needs of most Repatriation patients.

All knee joints supplied by the Repatriation Department are mechanical. During thelast 2 years 897 mechanical knee joints have been used and of these 855 were of North-Western University design.

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