It was March 2009 and I’d just moved to Melbourne to take up positions as a staff consultant in pain medicine and anaesthesia and as Director of Pain Services at The Alfred Hospital. I felt both privileged and excited.
While getting to know the complexities of the Australian health services I noticed that the pain epidemic that the rest of the world was experiencing was also occurring here. In Australia the figures of those suffering pain and not having access to appropriate treatment are astounding! One in five Australians - yes, 20% of us - will suffer chronic pain at some point in our lives, including children and adolescents. Even more astounding is that up to 80% of people suffering chronic pain people will miss out on treatment that could improve their health and quality of life. This problem costs the Australian economy $34 billion/year.
I spent a few years getting to know the lay of the land and in this time I met Dr Tim Hucker, a fellow pain specialist and anaesthetist, who was also working at The Alfred Hospital.
We’d spoken often about the daily challenges that people in chronic pain face - challenges like sceptical friends, family, and employers; doctors with little or no training in pain-management; and long waits of up to a year to see specialists. We also discussed the negative effect that chronic pain has on quality of life and its difficulty to treat in some people. We noticed that were no clinics offering a truly complete and holistic approach to managing pain and focusing on the patient.
Tim and I shared ideals and ethics. We each had unique and complementary strengths, and worked well together. We were both dedicated to reducing pain and suffering while maintaining the focus on the person in pain and their family. We aimed never to forget that it was not just a pain condition we were treating, but a real person in pain. We were in the perfect position to do something significant for chronic pain.