Hydrotherapy closure puts new burden on volunteers

John Thistleton 1 October 2019 17
Hydrotherapy pool's have become more popular

Hydrotherapy has become more popular since codeine became prescription only. Photo: Supplied.

Pain relief for arthritis sufferers in Canberra’s inner south will be more expensive and difficult to find at the end of next month as another hydrotherapy pool closes in the ACT.

At the end of November, Canberra Hospital’s hydrotherapy pool will close and health bureaucrats, consultants and Arthritis ACT have been unable to find an alternative pool. Meanwhile, volunteers at existing pools have seen a spike in demand from disabled people and arthritis sufferers.

Demand for hydrotherapy as pain relief has been rising since February last year when codeine became prescription-only, according to Arthritis ACT chief executive Rebecca Davey.

“We have seen an absolute spike in demand for anything that helps people deal with pain ever since then. They have taken drugs that help off the shelves in pharmacies and that is a good thing, but you have to have other treatment,” Ms Davey says.

“Hydrotherapy is an amazing treatment for pain relief. Most people get up to two days’ pain relief from a hydrotherapy pool session, and this is much better for them than popping pills but it has to be affordable, considering people could previously buy a packet of codeine for $6 or $7 for a few days’ pain relief.

“There are quite a few private businesses that run hydrotherapy, but they’re out of reach of people with lower incomes, especially if they need to go to the pool three or four times a week. You are looking at $18 an hour up to $80 an hour. Just because you don’t have the money, shouldn’t mean you don’t have access to good quality health care.”

Ms Davey said many of the new clients accessing hydrotherapy for pain relief have mental health issues and are having to come to terms with new therapies instead of using painkillers. This is also making it more difficult for staff.

“They are needier. [The volunteers] love getting out and helping, but when you have 14, 15 or 16 people turning up for a pool session, all wanting a piece of you, the volunteers are getting tired,” she said.

“To run a program like we have with paid staff is horrendously expensive,” she says. “The government was going to have to do that, they never have, it has always been a peer-led volunteer program,” she says. Volunteers with first aid and pool rescue training are providing half the sessions.

Ms Davey notes there is a significant cost if patients can’t access hydrotherapy.

“They develop more health issues like diabetes, obesity, heart disease, all the big-ticket items we are meant to be fighting. You are on a rapid trajectory of those conditions coming to the fore. People become socially isolated. If they need to work, their incomes drop. They become a strain on the health budget, they end up in hospital needing joint replacements, they have longer stays and rehab beds as well,” she said.

The government is advertising for a hydrotherapy pool for the inner south, but even if a private operator opened, it would be unlikely sessions would be accessible for low-income people.

Petitions, government back-peddling and consultants’ reports have continued this year as the deadline for the pool’s closure draws nearer.

Suggestions that southside hydrotherapy pool users travel is becoming more impractical as northside pools are now crowded.

“It’s not as though people are too precious to travel, it is capacity,” Ms Davey says. “More and more people are wanting and needing to use hydrotherapy. We just don’t have enough facilities in Canberra to do it,” Ms Davey said.

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17 Responses to Hydrotherapy closure puts new burden on volunteers
Dave Lenihan Dave Lenihan 2:27 pm 04 Oct 19

Hey, at least the tram is going to go to Commonwealth Park.

Jane Stubbs Jane Stubbs 7:54 pm 03 Oct 19

Obviously those making decisions do not know the agony of arthritis when it flares.

Colin Wilson Colin Wilson 10:47 pm 02 Oct 19

Why is it that people who require medication have to suffer because of junkies!

Vee Churchill Vee Churchill 6:16 pm 02 Oct 19

This is not a step forward for people who rely on these services to try and manage their pain and health conditions.

Natalie Porter Natalie Porter 12:31 pm 02 Oct 19

Soon they will move all major service to the northside

    Vickie O'Malley Vickie O'Malley 9:24 am 04 Oct 19

    Natalie Ferris that seems to be the plan.

Vickie O'Malley Vickie O'Malley 12:21 pm 02 Oct 19

I dont know who makes these stupid decisions but its clearly someone who doesn't need the facilities.

Narelle Ford Narelle Ford 12:20 pm 02 Oct 19

The article says sufferers get two days relief from a hydro therapy session and it’s better than them popping pills. Does that mean sufferers are now restricted in going away because they won’t be near a pool and will be in greater pain?

Melissa Liddon Melissa Liddon 11:12 am 02 Oct 19

First the hydrotherapy pool in Hughes closed, and now the only pool that provided a free hydrotherapy program through ACT health. There’s this massive push for those of us with arthritis to utilise allied health services and pain management services, yet those services are either being removed, or are drastically underfunded with lengthy waiting lists. Public rheumatologists and pain management clinics have waitlists in excess of 18 months.

    Estelle Mana Estelle Mana 8:13 pm 02 Oct 19

    Melissa Liddon when did they closed the one in hughes pls melissa. last month was still operating

    Melissa Liddon Melissa Liddon 6:42 am 03 Oct 19

    Estelle Mana the last I heard was a message from their fb page months ago saying they were shutting down. I used to go there a couple of years ago. If they’ve opened again that’s great, but I hadn’t heard.

    Melissa Liddon Melissa Liddon 6:46 am 03 Oct 19

    Just looked and it’s been taken over by Hartley lifecare. I wasn’t aware of that.

    Vic Franklin Vic Franklin 9:38 am 03 Oct 19

    Too right Melissa Liddon!

    Jess Lucia Jess Lucia 12:13 am 04 Oct 19

    Melissa Liddon yep been waiting 2 years to get just my initial appointment with the pain clinic. I’ve been told it’s 3-4 year wait.

    Melissa Liddon Melissa Liddon 9:16 am 04 Oct 19

    Jess Lucia it’s ridiculous isn’t it?

    Melissa Liddon Melissa Liddon 9:16 am 04 Oct 19

    Jess Lucia it’s ridiculous isn’t it?

Suz Watson Locke Suz Watson Locke 10:06 am 02 Oct 19

This is a ludicrous decision. As someone who uses hydrotherapy to manage my arthritis it goes to show the decision makers do not understand

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