There's an epidemic sweeping Australia and it's not COVID-19.
With more than 420,000 Australians, mostly over the age of 65 and many in the aged care system, affected annually, chronic wounds cause pain and disfigurement and can result in amputation, disability and death. The annual financial cost to Australia's aged and healthcare budgets is estimated at around $3 billion.
The typical patient also faces out-of-pocket costs of $4,000 each year.
Peak body for wound prevention and management, Wounds Australia has used the Federal Government's pre-Budget submission process to call for all political parties to commit to solutions that solve the 'hidden epidemic' of chronic wounds.
Its 2022-23 Budget Submission and recently released '11 Point Plan to fight Chronic Wounds' deliver a blueprint for politicians during the next term of Parliament.
Wounds Australia Chairwoman Hayley Ryan said the high cost of treating patients suffering from chronic wounds demanded new policies and programs.
"Chronic wound sufferers are prevented from working, studying and activities others take for granted. The social stigma and mental health impacts are also severe.
"But it doesn't have to be this way."
Wounds Australia's key initiatives include:
- a National Wound Services Scheme to subsidise products for people with venous leg ulcers or diabetic foot ulcers, over 65s and government concession card holders
- a national public health campaign on warning signs and where to seek help
- wound care modules in medical, health and aged care degrees and qualifications
- Medicare funding for the treatment of chronic wounds in primary health care.
"Despite horrifying facts and figures, chronic wounds are a largely unknown and unrecognised epidemic in Australia. This lack of knowledge leads to delays in treatment, which can escalate to amputations and even death," said Ms Ryan.
"Shortcomings in the training of healthcare professionals compound problems as tertiary education courses and degrees, including medicine, nursing and pharmaceutical degrees, do not currently have wound care modules.
"As the Federal Election approaches it is essential every candidate is aware of the devasting impacts chronic wounds have on their constituents.
"There are approximately 2900 voters in each federal electorate suffering from a chronic wound, with 2400 of them aged 65 or more. This figure does not include the families and carers supporting them.
"The solution to chronic wounds is bleeding obvious!
"Real action, driven by evidence-based solutions is long overdue. Urgency, leadership and political will is needed now.
As the Federal Election approaches it is essential every candidate is aware of the devasting impacts chronic wounds have on their constituents.
"The health, quality of life and dignity for hundreds of thousands depends on it."
The Wounds Australia 11 Point Plan to solve Chronic Wounds is available online here