Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (17:34): (1903) My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Health, and the action I am seeking relates to endometriosis. Endometriosis is an under-recognised disease that affects the wellbeing of so many. It is an inflammatory condition that most commonly strikes the reproductive organs, but it is also frequently found in the bowel and in the bladder. By the age of 44, one in nine women in Australia have been diagnosed with endometriosis. In many cases it starts in teenagers, and they experience a range of very painful pelvic symptoms. For most of them it takes nearly 10 years for that diagnosis to occur.
There are 35 000 endometriosis-related hospitalisations each year in Australia. The Australian government estimates the disease costs close to $10 billion a year. Two-thirds of that is in lost productivity, the rest is in health care. But our current health system lacks proper care pathways and evidence-based approaches to that delivery of care.
A trial underway at Barwon Health is already reducing hospitalisations via an interdisciplinary approach incorporating cognitive behaviour therapy, pelvic physiotherapy, yoga and education. Last week I was fortunate enough to visit the Julia Argyrou Endometriosis Centre at the Epworth. Now, they are not just delivering holistic patient-centred care for those with endometriosis, they are dedicated to actually finding a cure. The week before, I went to the women’s hospital and met with their researchers and saw the great work that they are doing in trying to work out ways to minimise the symptoms but also to treat endometriosis, and I think all of us want to find a way to stop the suffering. But it is time for this good work to stop working in silos, so the action I seek from the minister is that they develop and implement a Victorian endometriosis policy and strategy.
Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
Adjournment matter 11/5/22
Thank you for your question and your ongoing advocacy on women’s sexual and reproductive health.
The Andrews Labor Government supports a focus on endometriosis as this is a significant and often debilitating women’s health issue. This chronic condition has significant personal and societal costs. While there is no known cause or cure for endometriosis, a range of treatment options are available. Earlier diagnosis of chronic conditions such as endometriosis that affect women’s sexual function and health, fertility and reproductive wellbeing is critical.
Since 2017 the Andrews Labor Government has provided funding to support a focus on women’s sexual and reproductive health as identified under the Victorian Women’s Reproductive Health Key Priorities 2017 – 20. This includes funding for Jean Hailes Foundation to develop resources to raise women’s and health professionals’ awareness about endometriosis, including information in other community languages. As part of this investment the government has also established eight women’s sexual and reproductive health hubs, four in metropolitan Melbourne and four in regional Victoria. Between these eight hubs and their satellite clinics there are now twenty sites available across the state for women to access for screening, treatment, support and care.
In the 2021-22 budget, the government allocated further funding to expand the existing women’s hubs and establish three new regional hubs bringing the total to 11. The hubs provide access to contraception methods, pregnancy options including medical termination of pregnancy, sexually transmissible infections testing and treatment as well as a range of other women’s health services such as chronic reproductive health issues.
The Government is currently finalising the Victorian sexual and reproductive health and viral hepatitis strategy 2022-2030. The strategy includes the Victorian Women’s sexual and reproductive health plan 2022-2030 which sets the overarching direction for access to information, services, workforce capacity and collaboration and addressing such conditions as endometriosis is a key element of the new plan.
The Government is also currently preparing a renewed gender equality strategy, aimed at improving health outcomes for all Victorian women, including in the areas of mental health, and sexual and reproductive health.
The Victorian Department of Education and Training supports schools to ‘champion’ menstrual health by providing resources and guidance on how to promote positive menstrual health in schools. The department is consulting with experts and key stakeholders on opportunities to include information on pelvic pain, including endometriosis, in an upcoming update to the department’s menstrual health resources.
The Hon. Mary-Anne Thomas MP
Minister for Health
Minister for Ambulance Services