The National Disability Insurance Scheme was introduced to improve the lives of Australians with a disability, help them to gain independence and make their own choices.
Brisbane member Renae O’Hara said the scheme had failed in all three aspects by not allowing funding to be used for personal support workers during hospital stays, assigning that responsibility instead to state health staff.
Renae, who has high level quadriplegia from a spinal cord injury, said her regular hospital stays were made even worse by relying on often overworked nursing staff to look after her day-to-day needs.
“Due to my high-level injury, I require a carer for 8 to 11 hours a day for help with anything from eating, showering, grooming, stretches and going to the bathroom,” she said.
“When each nurse has several patients to look after, there just isn’t the time to get the support you need.
“My carers know my routine and complex situation and can help with things that nurses may not have the time or knowledge for.
“I’m already receiving the NDIS funding for those personal support hours, why can’t I use them in hospital?
“It’s gotten so bad I’ve found myself letting medical conditions worsen because I’d rather stay home with my carers who I know and trust to provide intimate care.
“There’s very little privacy in living with a spinal cord injury – can’t I at least have a say over who helps me use the bathroom?”
Renae receives specialist personal support from Spinal Life Australia, which is advocating for the NDIS to fund personal support workers when people are admitted to hospital.
“Many people who have spinal cord injuries have well-established and complex personal hygiene routines which require specific levels of assistance,” Executive Manager – Member Services Ross Duncan said.
“We believe NDIS funded support workers would lead to better outcomes for participants during hospital admissions, not just for people with spinal cord damage but for many Australians with complex disabilities.”
Ross said the NDIS recently reached an agreement with state health services to offer funding for disability-related health supports from October 2019 and hoped this agreement would include support worker funding in hospital setting in the future.