In Health

Western Australia Minister for Health Kim Hames

Health Minister Warns Of Paralysis Risk

Victor P Taffa

The number of spinal injuries relating to water activities in Western Australia has hit a record of 30 in the past year, prompting Health Minister Kim Hames to warn of the dangers of diving and swimming accidents during hot weather.

The Royal Perth Hospital (RPH) Trauma Registry recorded 30 spinal injuries during 2009, up from 21 the previous year.

Dr. Hames said with another hot week ahead, it was important people took extra care around water.

“What is most concerning is that we believe one-third of those patients had sustained their injuries from an accident involving alcohol.” Dr. Hames said.




“This shows a split-second of carelessness can lead to a lifetime in a wheelchair. With another week of 30-plus temperatures ahead of us, these figures are a sobering and timely reminder to take care when enjoying Perth’s beautiful waterways.”

In the last 10 years the number of patients with spinal injuries due to water-related accidents doubled from 15 to 30.

The Minister said he was concerned people were becoming complacent when enjoying WA’s climate, as the rate of injury was increasing faster than the population.

Head of Trauma Services at RPH, Dr. Sudhakar Rao, said 2009 saw the biggest increase in their records in the number of diving accidents.

“People need to be aware that diving accidents can cause severe spinal injuries. Four out of every five patients injured in diving accidents or who are hospitalised after being dumped by waves at the beach have significant spinal injuries.” Dr. Rao said.

“These spinal injuries range from severe ligament injury (sprain) to unstable spinal column fractures. Too often the end result is complete paraplegia or quadriplegia (paralysis).”

Dr. Hames said the State Government was dedicated to maintaining the excellent services currently provided through the Sir George Bedbrook Spinal Unit at Shenton Park.

A new $255 Million State Rehabilitation Centre was set to be built on the site of the new Fiona Stanley Hospital to replace RPH’s ageing Shenton Park facility.

“As a Government, we can pour any amount of resources into treating and supporting people who have sustained a serious injury, but there is no better treatment than prevention. ” the Minister said.

“Please be careful this week and have a safe end to summer.”


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