Federal health cuts strip funding from dementia service

SUPPORT for dementia patients and their families on the Far North Coast is at risk of being withdrawn because of health spending cuts.

The Commonwealth Government will no longer fund the Northern New South Wales Local Health District's Ballina-based Dementia Outreach Service from July 1.

Margaret Pickup is the main carer for her mother, who suffers from dementia, and fears the program will be relegated to the private sector and its quality of care will deteriorate.

"The service has been vital in supporting both mum and myself," Ms Pickup said.

"While I have concerns for having my needs as a carer met, I have greater concern for the men and women in their 70s, 80s and 90s who are the primary carer for their spouse with dementia.

"All these carers have health needs of their own which they tend to neglect because of the demands placed on them in their caring roles.

"The one bright light for dementia carers has been the Dementia Outreach Service where carers receive both individual and group support from the staff."

Ms Pickup said members of a dementia carers' group she belongs to were devastated the service would no longer operate.

"It has been the one thing that has kept them grounded," she said. "All the carers have felt greater confidence in their care roles because they knew they had a safety net in the Dementia Outreach Service.

"Now they feel they have been abandoned at a time of great need and I fear for their wellbeing."

Northern NSW Local Health District chief Chris Crawford said he had made a submission to Page MP Kevin Hogan calling for the service to continue.

"If the Commonwealth decides to continue to fund dementia specific services, then NNSW LHD would certainly consider applying to continue to provide dementia-specific services on the Far North Coast," Mr Crawford said.

The contract for the service is expected to go out to tender next month, with "for-profit" organisations taking over as preferred providers.

Carers are worried their loved ones will become just another line in a ledger under the new system.

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