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Pelvic mesh

Pelvic mesh, known as 'transvaginal' mesh, has been used in the treatment of pelvic organ prolapse and stress urinary incontinence since the ‘90s and the majority of women who have had surgical treatment continue to have a good long-term outcome; however, some women have experienced complications. As a result the State Government has established a number of strategies to support women concerned about pelvic mesh.

A multidisciplinary Pelvic Mesh Clinic is now available at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, providing comprehensive health care for women experiencing major complications related to pelvic mesh implants.

Clinical experts are available at the clinic to assist the patients with specialist surgical advice, pain management, continence management, pelvic floor physiotherapy, urogynaecology, psychology and urology assessment as required.

Referrals

A valid referral is required prior to receiving treatment at the clinic. Typically, referrals are arranged after seeing a GP for a pre-consultation assessment and any investigations.

Each referral will be reviewed to determine the clinical urgency of the woman’s condition and appointments will be scheduled based on clinical need. Those women assessed with less complex complications may be referred to a local gynaecology service.

Support line

The Pelvic Mesh Consumer Support Line 1800 66 MESH (1800 666 374) remains in operation for consumers requiring information about transvaginal mesh, operating between 9.00 am and 4.00 pm Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays).

Frequently asked questions

What support is available?

The SA Health Pelvic Mesh Consumer Support Line:

1800 66 MESH (1800 666 374)

9.00 am – 4.00 pm, Monday to Friday (except public holidays)

What is pelvic mesh?

Pelvic mesh, also known as transvaginal mesh as it is implanted in a surgical procedure via the vagina, is woven synthetic netting usually made from Polypropylene. Other synthetic meshes can be implanted via laparoscopic procedure for intra-abdominal approach.
Pelvic mesh is implanted into the pelvis for a variety of conditions, usually pelvic organ prolapse and stress urinary incontinence.

  • Pelvic organ prolapse - a condition where a woman’s vaginal walls and pelvic organs (uterus, bladder and bowel) lose natural support, which causes them to bulge down within, and sometimes outside of the vagina. Find out more
  • Stress urinary incontinence - a condition where the supporting tissues of the bladder neck and urethra lose their natural support, which causes an accidental loss of urine with physical activity such as coughing, sneezing or exercise. Find out more

These two conditions are different but both may occur in the same woman, and the surgeries for the two conditions may be performed together. The mesh used in each condition is made from the same material, but the nature of the operation for each condition is quite different.

In most cases:

  • The recommended first line treatment for either condition is with a physiotherapist trained in pelvic floor problems, except in severe prolapse as outlined above.
  • Women can safely choose to have no treatment and prefer to manage with pads or other treatment / aids.
  • Treatment is usually only recommended if prolapse or incontinence symptoms are bothersome, or there is an extremely large prolapse creating bladder blockage, kidney blockage, vaginal ulceration or pelvic pain. 
  • Women should consider conservative (non-surgical) treatment before considering surgical treatment.
  • Surgery for both prolapse and stress incontinence generally involve procedures that reinforce the weakened support tissues.
  • Many women choose to go on to surgery because they have not gained sufficient improvement with non-surgical treatments, and the condition is affecting their quality of life.

Support for country residents

Patients living in a rural or remote area that need to travel more than 100 kilometres to see a specialist may be eligible for support through the Patient Assistance Transport Scheme (PATS). 

For more information about PATS, visit www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/pats.

What other support is available?

I am waiting to go in for a pelvic procedure but I am scared now?

If you have any concerns about your upcoming surgical procedure you would benefit from speaking to your doctor / surgeon so that you are fully informed before your procedure and what medical device, if any are planned on being used in your procedure.

Contact the SA Health Pelvic Mesh Consumer Support Line on 1800 66 MESH (1800 666 374) if you require any assistance.

Can I get access to my medical records?

SA Health agencies

Each SA Health agency operates separately for the purposes of FOI legislation.

Applications for access to documents must be made in writing and lodged with the agency that holds the document. To apply for access to your personal medical records you can complete the Pelvic Procedure: Freedom of Information Application Form (PDF 342KB) or you can download an FOI form from the website of the site where the surgery was performed.

It is recommended that you read the Pelvic Procedure: Request for Access to Health Records fact sheet (PDF 238KB) before completing and lodging your application.

The SA Health Pelvic Mesh Consumer Support Line: 1800 66 MESH
(1800 666 374) can provide more information regarding accessing your medical records.

N.B. SA Health is supporting women in South Australia who are experiencing complications from pelvic mesh, and is waiving the FOI application fee and the associated charges.

Private health service

Australian Privacy Principle 12 in the Privacy Act deals with access to personal information (including health information). However, it doesn't set out any requirements for the way you should make an access request.

This means you can request access to your medical records simply by asking the health service provider holding the records. If the request is a complex one, for example the information comes from a number of different sources, it may be necessary to provide the request in writing. Your health service provider may need to establish your identity before providing you with access.

If you believe you have been unfairly denied access to your medical record by the ‘private health service’, you can make a complaint to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.

Can a health service provider refuse to give me access to my medical records because it would pose a threat to either my, or somebody else's life or health?

In some cases, an individual may need a representative to assist them in gaining access to their medical record. For instance, an individual may be unable to exercise their access rights because they lack the legal capacity to do so, but their guardian (if they have one) may seek access, if the guardian has the appropriate legal authority.

How can I make a request for access to my medical records?

When making an application for access to your medical records through the Freedom of Information process you will need to provide enough information to enable the correct documents to be identified.

Each SA Health agency operates separately for the purposes of Freedom of Information legislation.

Applications for access to documents must be made in writing and lodged with the agency that holds the document. To apply for access to your personal medical records you can complete the Pelvic Procedure: Freedom of Information Application Form (PDF 339KB) or you can download an FOI form from the website of the site where the surgery was performed.

It is recommended that you read the Pelvic Procedure: Request for Access to Health Records3 fact sheet before completing and lodging your application.

The SA Health Pelvic Mesh Consumer Support Line: 1800 66 MESH(1800 666 374) can provide more information regarding accessing your medical records.

N.B. SA Health is supporting women in South Australia who are experiencing complications from pelvic mesh, and is waiving the Freedom of Information application fee and the associated charges.

Private health services

Australian Privacy Principle 12 in the Privacy Act2 deals with access to personal information (including health information). However, it doesn't set out any requirements for the way you should make an access request.

This means you can request access to your medical records simply by asking the health service provider holding the records. If the request is a complex one, for example the information comes from a number of different sources, it may be necessary to provide the request in writing. Your health service provider may need to establish your identity before providing you with access.

If you believe you have been unfairly denied access to your medical record by the ‘private health service’, you can make a complaint to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner>.

Can a health service provider refuse to give me access to my medical records because it would pose a threat to either my, or somebody else's, life or health?

Generally, health service providers are required to give you access to your health information.

However, in some situations, health service providers may refuse to give access. For example, health service providers can deny access if they reasonably believe letting a patient see their records would pose a serious threat to the patient's life, health or safety, or the life, health or safety of someone else (such as a relative, the health service provider or their staff).

The threat must be significant, for example where there is a serious risk the patient may cause self-harm or harm to another person if they saw the information.

The threat can be to physical or mental health safety, but does not need to be imminent — it can be a serious threat that could occur sometime after access is granted.

If you believe you have been unfairly denied access to your medical record by an ‘SA Health agency’, for example a public hospital, you have the right to seek an internal review by the Principal Officer/Chief Executive of that agency. If access is still not granted then further rights to request a review exists, either to the Ombudsman, or to the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

If you believe you have been unfairly denied access to your medical record by the ‘private health service’, you can make a complaint to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.

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