From the Newsroom

Lismore Parkinson’s Support Group Convenor Di Lymbury (second from right) with Ann Stradley, a local resident living with Parkinson’s Disease, and the group’s co-patrons, Lismore MP Janelle Saffin and Jenny Dowell OAM. Image: Contributed.

Hope for valley’s Parkinson’s sufferers

Geoff Helisma|

Lismore Regional Parkinson’s Support Group has, for years, advocated the appointment of a specialist-trained Parkinson’s nurse, to service the Lismore and Clarence Valley areas within the Northern NSW Local Health District (LHD), which “is considering establishing a specialist Parkinson’s nurse in Lismore,” says Lismore MP Janelle Saffin.

Ms Saffin is the support group’s co-patron and said she “has strongly lobbied the government and NSW Health to base a specialist nurse locally to meet growing demand from support group members and for other residents newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease”.

The support group’s convenor, Di Lymbury, welcomed the possible appointment of a specialist nurse.

“We have advocated for such a long period for this position,” she said.

“Our members come from afar, from more isolated rural areas … and they do not have immediate access to neurologists and specialist services.

“When we first began advocating, there was not one neurologist in Lismore.

“This has changed, but the private specialists who visit are expensive, and access for many of our Parkinson’s community is still limited.

“We need this service; and those folk at Urbenville, Woodenbong, Tabulum, Copmanhurst, Yamba, and all the places in between would be well served by such an appointment.”

She said a specialist nurse can “refer patients to the specialist services they need”.

“Some people who suffer from Parkinson’s are not aware that some of their ailments are symptomatic Parkinson’s,” she said

“Research-based evidence shows that establishing trained Parkinson’s nurses in the health system results in fewer and shorter hospital stays; and it reduces stress, which has an enormous impact on a person’s illness.”

Coordinator of the Grafton support group, Cathy Eggins, said her group had long had “high hopes” that a specialist nurse would be appointed to service the Clarence Valley.

“That would be excellent; fantastic,” she said.

MS Saffin said she had “lobbied NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard and Northern NSW LHD Chief Executive Wayne Jones”.

She said she “welcomed Treasurer Dominic Perrottet’s $8.6-million budget package over four years, which includes funding to boost the number of specialist nurses state-wide”.

She cited advice provided by NSW Parliamentary Secretary for Health James Griffin to Mrs Lymbury – that Northern NSW LHD acting Chief Executive Lynne Weir will consider using the funding to establish a specialist Parkinson’s nurse in Lismore.

“Ms Weir acknowledges it is difficult to access medical specialist neurology services in rural areas due to limited number of these specialists working outside the metropolitan area,” Mr Griffin wrote.

“The LHD is focused on developing support and clinical care for people with Parkinson’s through specialist clinics with geriatricians.

“The LHD also provides services, such as allied health, through the brain injury and spinal cord service, which supports people with Parkinson’s to maintain their function and independence.”

There are specialist nurses at Ballina (services Ballina to Tweed) and Coffs Harbour, but our areas have completely missed out.

Toormina resident Graham Saxby, who coordinates the Coffs Harbour north support group said access to a specialist nurse had “immeasurably” improved the quality of his life.

“I had an early diagnosis with Parkinson’s,” he said.

“The specialist nurse led me to support groups and disability work support programs … makes personal visits and provides coordination between specialists.”