1. What is a "Stoma"?

A Stoma is an artificially created opening in the abdominal wall for the evacuation of the contents of the gastrointestinal tract or urine when normal function is no longer possible. People with a stoma usually wear a disposable bag (known as an appliance) over the stoma attached to the abdomen to catch output.

2. What are the different types of stoma?

The most common types of stoma are Colostomy (where the stoma is formed from the large intestine), Ileostomy (where the stoma is formed from the small intestine), and Urostomy also known as an Ileil Conduit (for the evacuation of urine from the kidneys). Other types of stoma include a Mace, Mitronoff and Chait button.

3. Is stoma surgery permanent?

Depending on the reason for the surgery, a stoma may be permanent or it may be only temporary to allow the bowel to heal before the stoma is reversed. Your surgeon should be able to provide you with an expected  period for which you will have your stoma.

4. What if I am having trouble with my stoma?

If you have concerns or are experiencing problems with your stoma, contact your Stomal Therapy Nurse or General Practitioner. In case of emergency, please contact the Emergency Department of your nearest hospital

5. What is the Australian Stoma Appliance Scheme?

The Stoma Appliance Scheme is a specialised pharmaceutical benefits programme administered through the Commonwealth Department of Health. The scheme provides subsidised ostomy appliances to Australian Medicare card holders who meet the Departments eligibility criteria. Ostomates wishing to access subsidised appliances through the Stoma Appliance Scheme must be a member of one of the 21 National Associations located throughout Australia and pay a compulsory annual Stoma Appliance Scheme Access (SAS) Fee. The SAS Access Fee is payable once per financial year upon lodgement of the first request for supply of ostomy products through the scheme for that financial year. The fee is to be paid to the Stoma Association where a member usually obtains their stoma-related products.

See here for more information about the Stoma Appliance Scheme.

6. Who is eligible to register with the Stoma Appliance Scheme?

The Stoma Appliance Scheme provides assistance to Medicare eligible Australians who have a temporary or permanent artificial body opening (whether surgically created or otherwise) for the evacuation of faeces or urine where normal function is no longer possible.

7. Where do I get subsidised ostomy supplies?

Subsidised ostomy supplies are available through the Stoma Appliance Scheme from one of the 21 Stoma Associations located around Australia. To receive subsidised supplies, you must hold a Stoma Appliance Scheme entitlement card and be a financial member of an association.

8. What products am I entitled to?

The Stoma Appliance Scheme schedule lists products which have been approved by the Department of Health to be issued to eligible members. The schedule determines the maximum quantity that can be issued to an eligible member each month, the price of the product, and if there are any product restrictions.

If you require a product that is not listed on the schedule, you will need to pay the full price for it. It will not be subsidised by the government.

9. What will it cost me to get my supplies?

Registrants of the Stoma Appliance Scheme pay a compulsory Stoma Appliance Scheme (SAS) Access Fee to their association of choice to access a generous quantity of ostomy appliances through the Stoma Appliance Scheme. The access fee is set by each stoma association and is payable to the stoma association where the member (usually) obtains their stoma-related products. The fee shall be payable once per financial year.

The fee is compulsory but stoma associations shall make provision for the fee to be paid by instalment in the case of financial hardship. The fee can also be pro-rated where a member joins the association part way through a year.

Other costs may include postage/packaging and handling if having your order posted and any ancillary items not covered by the Stoma Appliance Scheme

10. What do I do if I need more appliances than maximum Stoma Appliance Scheme allowance?

There are provisions under the Stoma Appliance Scheme to receive additional stoma appliances for up to 6 months when the standard monthly allocation does not meet your needs.

For more information, contact your association.

11. What if I need stoma appliances when I am on holidays?

If you are travelling within Australia and are a financial member of an association, you may obtain supplies from any association by producing your Stoma Appliance Entitlement Card. You will need to check the ordering requirements of each association to ensure that the correct supplies are available when you need them.

When travelling overseas, you may obtain up to 6 months supplies in advance.  Contact your association for more information about obtaining bulk supplies when travelling overseas.

12. How do I dispose of used appliances?

  • Empty the appliance if possible into the toilet
  • Place the appliance in a plastic bag and secure the end
  • Wrap in newspaper and place in the bin with other rubbish

PLEASE NOTE: Appliances are never to be flushed down the toilet!

13. Should I tell my friends and family about my stoma?

Whether or not you should tell your friends and family about your stoma surgery is an individual choice. Some people like to keep their condition private whilst others are quite open about it. Either way, it is important to remember that stoma surgery is life saving surgery and is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about.

14. Can I go swimming with a stoma?

Most persons with a stoma can swim without fear of appliance leakage. Some ostomy suppliers offer a bag intended to be used during activities such as swimming but all appliances can be worn in water. Those people using an appliance with a filter may like to cover the filter with a stick on cover. Some of the newer filters are waterproof which means that a filter cover is no longer necessary

15. Can I travel with my stoma?

Having a stoma should not stop you from travelling and many of our members travel internationally on a regular basis. It is a good idea to keep a good supply of appliances in your carryon luggage, just in case your checked luggage is misplaced. Remember to precut any appliances before you go as you wont be able to take scissors onto the plane with you. If travelling internationally, contact the Association to arrange a Travel Certificate which explains your condition in several languages to assist with any Customs enquiries. For those members travelling for extended periods of time, Australia does have reciprocal health agreements in place with some countries which may cover ostomy supplies. See here for more details about Reciprocal Health Agreements