Goulburn Valley Health’s Dr Arup Bhattacharya, a geriatrician and physician who specialises in movement and other neurological disorders, said a neuro nurse was critical to service sufferers, families and carers in the community.
He said environmental factors contributed to the high number of sufferers in the Goulburn Valley. He said Mildura — a town prominent in citrus and grape growing — had similar numbers.
‘‘More recently studies done have seen a link between Parkinson’s disease and the usage of herbicides and pesticides, but not fungicides,’’ Dr Bhattacharya said.
He said Parkinson’s disease was the second most common neurological disease after Alzheimer’s, with about one in 350 Australians affected by it.
Dr Bhattacharya said a trained neurological nurse, or a ‘‘movement disorder nurse’’, would provide local, consistent support and patients would no longer need to travel to Melbourne for care.
A nurse would deliver information about Parkinson’s to institutions and aged-care facilities in the region, educating staff about the disease.
‘‘Patients will have a local contact number for the nurse and it’s not always medical concerns they will need help with, the patient could just be having a bad day and want to talk,’’ Dr Bhattacharya said.
‘‘A recent study shows having a movement disorder nurse in the community will keep patients out of institutions for longer and prevent depression, which is a symptom of Parkinson’s.’’
Dr Bhattacharya said the region was not well serviced by neurological specialists and he introduced a Movement Disorder Clinic to GV Health to care for patients with Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders. He accepts referrals from general practitioners and will diagnose and prepare a management plan for new and follow-up clients.
He said although the disease had been identified for two centuries, there was still no cure and the cause was unknown.
‘‘Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disorder which affects the motor nervous system and alters co-ordination and movement,’’ he said.
Common symptoms include tremor (shaking, trembling), rigidity or stiffness of the muscles and bradykinesia (slowness of movement) which occurs because the brain is not able to control smooth and delicate movements.