War widow forced to live with broken back

WAR widow Nan Bennett, 90, who is suffering from a broken back has been refused treatment that could end her pain, although she has received it three times before and even offered to pay for it herself.

Mrs Bennett is well-known to people in St George and Sutherland Shire as as marriage celebrant, performing many weddings over the years at Confetti Gardens, in the grounds of her Blakehurst home.

She broke her back for the fifth time last month and was taken to St George Private Hospital.

On three of the previous occasions she was treated with vertebroplasty, a system of cementing bone fractures that provided her with immediate relief.

The fourth time, the break was left to heal naturally but she had to spend 10 weeks in hospital.

But during her latest stay in hospital she was told that she could not get vertebroplasty because the federal government had delisted it as a "permitted therapy".

Mrs Bennett offered to pay for it herself but was still refused treatment.

"It worked like magic for me three times before," she said.

"I was screaming in agony and the minute they gave me the cement it relieved the pain.

"After that I was cured. There was no pain at all. There is no cutting. They drill it in and pump in the cement.

"My vertebrae was crushed like an eggshell.

"I am still in dreadful pain; the cement would make it better but I was told that I couldn't have it.

"The federal government has stopped anything to do with the cement. It is expensive but I am happy to pay.

"It means that there is no other form of treatment.

"The doctors said my back would get better but probably I will have it for a while; when the spasms come they are excruciating.

"I can't see the sense in not releasing some of this treatment so I can be an active citizen rather than [an] invalid."

A Health Department spokeswoman said that vertebroplasty had not been Medicare-funded since November 1, 2011.

"This followed a review of the scientific evidence by the Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC) which found that vertebroplasty provided no additional benefit to patients compared with conventional treatments for back pain following fracture."

Further information on this review (reference 27.1) was available at msac.gov.au.

"In relation to Mrs Bennett being unable to receive vertebroplasty, although offering to pay for the treatment herself, the Commonwealth government does not determine what services hospitals may offer," the spokeswoman said.

"It is up to hospitals (public and private) to determine the services that they provide; and not all hospitals have every service."

Do you suffer from back pain? Have you had vertebroplasty treatment?

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