Tasmania’s emergency wait times need attention

National Seniors Australia is calling on the Tasmanian Government to address issues relating to health, housing, transport, employment and concessions in the 2019-20 Tasmanian Budget.

National Seniors released its budget submission today, including recommendations to meet national targets for hospital emergency waiting times, address homelessness among seniors, and conduct a review of public transport.

Tasmanian Policy Advisory Group Chair Mary Parsissons said health, especially growing waiting times in hospital emergency departments, was a worrying concern.

“While the government has done well addressing elective surgery waiting times, data shows that Tasmanians are waiting too long to be seen at emergency departments,” Ms Parsissons said.

“According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the median waiting time in emergency in 2017-18 was 27 minutes in Tasmania compared to only 19 minutes nationally.

“Only 66 per cent of people presenting to emergency in Tasmania were seen on time compared to 72 per cent nationally.”

Ms Parsissons said National Seniors also was concerned the oral health waiting list was beginning to inflate.

In the year from July 2017 to June 2018, the waiting list increased by 15 per cent from 9,078 to 10,462.

Given the generally poor level of oral health among Tasmanians and the growing evidence of the impact this had on general health, it was vital access to dental care was addressed.

Homelessness for older people was another concern and National Seniors called on the government to increase the supply of affordable housing before it worsened.

Ms Parsissons said homelessness among people aged 55 and older had grown 33 per cent over the past decade.

“Skyrocketing property prices and rents combined with a lack of affordable options are undermining the capacity of seniors to secure housing. We need innovative solutions to meet this demand,” Ms Parsissons said.

National Seniors also wanted better public transport to combat social isolation and loneliness and was calling on the government to review the public transport system to ensure it was affordable and accessible for those who needed it.

“While public transport in Hobart and Launceston is generally good, services on the urban fringe and in regional areas need to be carefully analysed to ensure they service locations where older people live,” Ms Parsissons said.

Tasmanian seniors deserved their own dedicated government minister, Ms Parsissons said. Seniors’ issues were not represented at ministerial level and National Seniors recommended the government expand the role of a current minister to include specific responsibility for seniors.

Also, National Seniors wanted seniors’ concessions to be retained and indexed according to changes in living costs, and for the government to fund a dedicated reskilling program for people over the age of 50.

National Seniors’ Tasmanian budget submission can be read here.

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