Kelly in the Media

Amputee requests for prosthetics in South Australia rejected under scheme’s tighter rules

Wednesday 30 November 2016

By Lauren Waldhuter, ABC

Amputees have had their requests for prosthetics rejected after the South Australian Government abruptly tightened rules for its artificial limb scheme.

The SA Amputee Limbs Scheme (SAALS) provides multiple types of prosthetic limbs to amputees, including waterproof and occupational limbs, as signed off on by doctors.

But its $2.7-million budget has been stretched and providers have been told new amputees will only be supplied with one general-purpose prosthesis.

Paralympic gold medal cyclist Dan Polson was supplied with prosthetics through the scheme after he had his foot amputated as a child.

He said his latest request for a waterproof prosthetic was denied.

“We’ve been told that if you haven’t had one of those types of legs made previously that you will not be eligible,” Mr Polson said.

“My concerns are that this is a group of people that are pretty easily swept under the carpet, but they’re certainly a group of people that would be able to contribute to society if they have better access to artificial limbs.

“Certainly there’s people out there that wouldn’t be able to afford to get the limbs that they need.”

Clients already being turned away

Private provider Stephen Cox was shocked by the announcement and said he was already turning away new clients.

Standard prosthetics cost between $3,000 and $6,000 and Mr Cox said that price was out of reach for some people.

“We didn’t have any private conversations about such heavy handed cuts,” he said.

“A lot of our patients are quite active and they might be working, they might need an occupational specific limb and they might do a lot of recreational activities.”

He said the different prosthetic types allowed amputees to participate in the community.

“It’s been suggested to us that instead of providing wet application prosthesis that people may use a plastic bag-type device,” Mr Cox said.

“The limbs scheme runs on a very small budget compared to other areas of health and disability. It would only take a relatively small amount of money to re-instate these prosthetic services that people need.”

Some 675 people accessed services through the scheme in 2015-16, including for new limbs and repairs.

More money being spent to ‘meet basic demand’

SA Department of Communities and Social Inclusion deputy chief executive Lois Boswell said an extra $400,000 was being spent to meet basic demand.

“Obviously anything that restricts services is not ideal, but it’s what you have to do to make sure everyone gets the services they need,” she said.

“As has been said very clearly to prescribers, if there’s a special need we will make special considerations.

“We want people to be able to get back to work and get on with their lives.”

Dignity for Disability MLC Kelly Vincent said the amputee services should receive more funding, not less.

“We simply can’t ask people who are amputees, particularly those who are very recent, to go without these services and supports to help them regain their lives, regain their independence, regain their employment opportunities,” she said

“This is going to have a very severe impact on the lives of people who have had an amputation.”

Ms Vincent said she raised the issue with the Health Minister in Parliament but was yet to receive a response.

The State Government said the changes were in line with schemes interstate and were needed to ensure every amputee could be supplied with a prosthesis.

More prosthetic limbs will be covered under the National Disability Insurance Scheme, which is due to be fully rolled out in South Australia from 2018.