HUNTER amputees can wait up to six months for prosthetic limbs to be approved through the NDIS, by which time they are often ready for a new one, a local family says.
A congenital condition led eight-year-old Emilee Pratt to receive her first prosthetic leg a week before her first birthday. Since then, the active Edgeworth amputee has required a new prosthesis every six-to-eight months to accommodate her growth.
But while that process used to take about two weeks, through the NDIS she has waited up to six months for a prosthetic leg to be approved.
“Prior to the NDIS, it all used to go through Enable Health, and the turn-around time was roughly two weeks,” Emilee’s mother, Kylie Pratt, said.
“With the NDIS, by the time she is getting her leg, she is ready for a new one, or she will be without a leg for an extended period of time.”
Emilee was all smiles when she received her latest prosthesis on Thursday, four months after getting her latest prescription from Westmead’s children’s hospital.
“When she outgrows a leg, it is like trying to squeeze your feet into a pair of shoes that are a couple of sizes too small,” Mrs Pratt said. “The leg prior to this one took six months to get approved.
“This time it has been just over four months, and it has only been four months because I have kicked and screamed and carried on.”
Mrs Pratt said the prescription used to go straight to Enable Health, who would send an approval to the prosthetic clinic. The NDIS had become the middle man.
For the past month, Emilee had hardly worn her prosthetic leg. It was too small, and too painful.
“It digs in and if she has a fall, it cuts her skin. It also puts pressure on the end of her stump,” Mrs Pratt said.
“She has had to use her crutches all the time, which puts her at different risks.”
Their frustrations peaked last week when one of Emilee’s crutches slipped and she “face-planted” onto a metal ramp at school.
Mrs Pratt said they did not want anyone else with a disability go through the exhaustive process each time.
“I know there are processes, but it is frustrating. My eight year old is in pain, and can’t walk because her leg is too small, and we’re just waiting for a person in an office to say, ‘That’s fine.’ Her comment to me the other day was, ‘I’m eight, not 88, what do they expect me to do? Sit and watch TV all day?’”
A National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) spokesperson said there had been a high demand for “assistive technology” in the Hunter Region, which had resulted in delays. They had engaged additional staff to assist with the demand.
“The NDIA regrets any inconvenience or concern these delays may have caused,” she said.
Mrs Pratt said having to have an amputation was traumatic enough.
“People shouldn’t have to go through all this every time to get a prosthetic limb too,” she said.