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Monday, 14 September 2009
Page: 9545

Mr HUNT (7:21 PM) —It is a great honour to be able to give personal and bipartisan support to the work of the member for Shortland on this motion. I want to begin with a human tale, in fact two. I will not name the people involved for reasons of privacy, but the story of stroke in our community is about the impact of a tragic condition on real people.

One is the mum of a young girl called Grace. This mum was in her early forties when she was struck by a stroke. She was not a smoker. To the best of my knowledge she may have had one or two glasses of wine a week. She kept herself well, healthy and fit. There was a time when her family thought they would lose her. Fortunately, due to the combination of the love of her husband, the strength of a friend and the skill of those in the stroke unit who helped take care of her, she has been able to make a tremendous recovery. That is an exemplar of what we are looking at here. I want to deal briefly with the problem, the prevention and the cure.

There is another story as well and that is of a young woman known to our family who was in her late twenties at the time, an athlete, a non-drinker and a non-smoker. What occurred in her situation was that during the week in which she finished her PhD thesis, she was also the victim of a stroke attack. For a long while we thought that this young woman would also be lost. There is nothing explicable; that is chance, human tragedy. Again, because of the strength of the individual, the support of her husband and the care, skill and professionalism of those in stroke units, there has been a very solid recovery. In each case there has been loss of quality of life. I do not want to pretend that there have been miracle recoveries, but there have been solid improvements which mean that there is a future. But there is a loss of amenity and there is suffering as a consequence.

Let me explain the problem. The problem is that in this country 60,000 people will suffer a stroke each year. The causes have been well documented during this debate. There is some genetic predisposition for stroke, and for that there is screening and work can be done. But many strokes result from lifestyle issues, and it is these things which we can address—through National Stroke Week, through the work of the National Stroke Foundation, through the work of the different health bodies in relation to healthy lifestyle, control of our intake of alcohol, reduction and hopefully eradication of the use of tobacco products, and exercise on an appropriate scale. These things can help us make a real difference on the side of prevention. That is a profound and important task and that is why the National Stroke Foundation’s launch of its ‘Face, Arms, Speech, Time’ campaign is extremely important—it helps people to identify the risk factors and helps them to respond so that they take responsibility for their own lives and for those around them.

That leads to the question of, where we cannot prevent, what we can do to help to cure. The research of the National Stroke Foundation is very clear that care in a stroke unit compared with general medical care can lead to a 20 per cent reduction in death, in the early days, and in disability, in the longer periods. This is an extremely important contribution. We need to spread these stroke units from within major hospitals and bring them to regional hospitals to give people the opportunity for early and immediate intervention at the moment of greatest need. That is our task. I thank the member for Shortland because, in bringing this motion to the House, she gives us a chance to cooperate in a bipartisan way on an issue of genuine bipartisan and national need.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr AJ Schultz)—Order! The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.