Pain Clinic fears are eased

THE Lismore Pain Clinic, under threat of closure since late last year, has been given areprieve with the North Coast Area Health Service adopting a proposal by the clinic’s management to keep it open.

Its director, Dr Frank Wagner, yesterday hailed the health services about-face as a victory for patients and the local community who had been vocal in their opposition to any downgrading of the clinic.

“We are really happy,” he said.

“We didn’t expect (area health service chief executive Chris Crawford) to back down. It just goes to show that the input by the community, patients and medical staff forced him to consider alternative plans.”

The Northern Star reported in November that the future of the multidisciplinary pain management unit at Lismore Base Hospital was under a cloud with Mr Crawford saying it was under-utilised and not cost effective.

Yesterday, Mr Crawfordannounced the clinic would be retained, but its model changed following a submission from Lismore Base Hospital management.

“This is a win-win outcome with more patients being treated and more revenue raised each year,” he said.

Under the new model, the number of patients would jump by about 50 per cent.

The clinic would also generate more income by using a new Medicare rebate ‘enabling the service to move closer to being self-sufficient’, Mr Crawford said.

Dr Wagner said the success of the new model would beassessed in six months.

“At least we will be able to see patients who booked in last year,” he said.

The clinic was reviewed as part of the local health services attempts to cut its annual budget by $30 million, which was demanded by the then-Rees Labor Government.

News of the Pain Clinic review sparked outrage, with this newspaper inundated with letters and phone calls from furious former and current patients, politicians and the general public.

Patients are only admitted to the clinic after all medical avenues to stopping their pain have been exhausted.

They are seen by a range of health care professionals, including physiotherapists and psychiatrists.

A 2007 report found chronic pain cost the community around $34 billion, which inc-ludes productivity costs and $7 billion attributed to health system costs.

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