Man denied key painkilling medicine
A BUNDABERG man who suffers from debilitating spinal pain has been denied use of the medication he had been taking for years.
The fallout comes as the region's only pain specialist at the Bundaberg Hospital retired last year, with no other local options available to patients.
David Thomas was paralysed 11 years ago due to arthritis and extensive degenerative spinal disease, and was originally prescribed Tramadol to relieve his pain.
Tramadol is an opioid pain medication used to treat moderate to moderately severe pain.
It is one of the only strong pain-relieving drugs that Mr Thomas can take because of his allergies to other medications such as methadone and morphine.
David's wife Jackie said he was referred to the pain specialist at the Bundaberg Hospital for injections of Tramadol in 2014.
She said Mr Thomas initially had trouble gaining the prescription because the drug was for "short-term" use only.
Long-term use of the drug can lead to addiction.
"We went to Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt with the issue and he helped us," Mrs Thomas said.
"His office told us the CEO of Bundaberg Hospital signed off on the approval of the drug for David to relieve his pain."
Since the local pain specialist is no longer available, Mr Thomas now has to travel to the Sunshine Coast to visit the pain clinic.
Sunshine Coast doctors have refused to give Tramadol to Mr Thomas.
"All Bundaberg patients, including David, were told we would be referred to Nambour Pain Clinic instead," Mrs Thomas said.
"David is on a 12-month waiting list and the clinic told us they won't be prescribing Tramadol because it wasn't doing him any good and he was addicted to them."
Mr Thomas disputed the claims and told the NewsMail, if he was addicted, he would be "climbing the walls".
"I have been without it for three months and it hasn't affected me mentally," he said. "I need it for the pain and the pain alone.
"I can't have anything else because of my allergies and I have days where I can't move at all because I am in so much pain.
"If euthanasia was legal, I would have no hesitation in taking that option."
Doctors have given Mr Thomas paracetamol to take while he waits for his first visit to the Nambour Pain Clinic.
The couple said they were at their wit's end.
Other pain management options available
A Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service spokesperson said pain could be managed by GPs or a referral to Nambour Hospital.
"SCHHS is able to provide specialist chronic pain management services for Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service, and provides a best-practice, evidence-based multi-displinary approach that includes psychology, physiotherapy and occupational therapy," the spokesperson said.
"Its focus is not on medical intervention but rather on improving people's quality of life and ability to work.
"The prescription of medicine or development of a treatment plan is the responsibility of a clinician or multidisciplinary team.
"Our chief executive, or any other senior manager, does not intervene in these issues because it would not be appropriate."
The spokesperson said private persistent pain management specialist Dr Martin Carter, before retiring last year, provided a limited service of two pain clinics per month for a small number of WBHHS patients.
"His remaining patients have since been referred to the Sunshine Coast or to their GPs.
"Patients who are travelling to the Sunshine Coast for treatment have access to the patient travel subsidy scheme.
"Alternatively, if clinically appropriate, patients can access the Sunshine Coast chronic pain management service via Telehealth."
MP says families are concerned
After the retirement of a long-serving pain specialist at Bundaberg Hospital, multiple patients have been told they now had to travel to the Sunshine Coast for help.
Member for Burnett Stephen Bennett said he had been approached by up to four or five families struggling with the concept of travelling to the Nambour Pain Clinic.
He said the only specialist at Bundaberg Hospital had recently retired, leaving patients with no local option to help manage their pain.
"There is a number of people with high needs who depend on their pain medication," he said.
"Now the requirement is that they have to travel to Nambour and when they do that the medication comes at a considerably reduced rate rather than the expensive cost from their GP.
"It is a significant issue because the problem is the travel, it can be very difficult to travel especially for those in pain."
Mr Bennett said he had approached the Bundaberg Hospital and had been working with CEO Adrian Pennington to find a solution.
"The CEO has heard our concerns and seemed generally sympathetic," he said.
"There is word that the hospital is considering teleconference communications with those patients."