ACT seniors seek budget boost for health and housing

National Seniors Australia is calling on the ACT Government to boost seniors’ health care, cut the cost of specialists’ fees, and provide better housing as part of the 2019-20 budget deliberations.

ACT National Seniors today released its budget submission, including recommendations for better bus and transport services, additional funding of hospices, and better assistance for community organisations supporting seniors.

ACT Policy Advisory Group Chair Dr Bill Donovan said health - especially growing waiting lists and the high costs of specialists - was the number one concern for older people.

Dr Donovan said waiting times for elective surgery remained too long.

“Research shows that people in the ACT are waiting longer compared to other major metropolitan hospitals,” Dr Donovan said. “We’re calling for more funding to cut waiting times for elective surgery and in-patient services.”

National Seniors believed high out-of-pocket specialist costs were caused by a lack of competition in the ACT specialist services sector.

“More specialists should be attracted to the ACT, which would boost competition and help drive down the cost of specialist services and the ACT’s high out-of-pocket costs,” Dr Donovan said.

The submission also called for cheaper essential public services, such as water and sewage, which were outstripping pensions and retirees’ incomes.

“There needs to be more transparent decision making and explanation around price increases,” Dr Donovan said. “In addition, concessions should be indexed in line with the rate of the aged pension and the impact of rates on unit title property owners reduced.”

Seniors also wanted better public transport to combat social isolation and loneliness. Research showed nearly 22 per cent of over-65s in the ACT had no face-to-face contact with family or friends (not living in the same household) in the past week.

“National Seniors wants more funding for public transport coverage so older people can get out and about and meet family and friends,” Dr Donovan said. “Bus services should be redesigned to service locations where older people live, such as retirement villages.”

Seniors were also impacted by increasing rents and limited affordable housing. According to CPI data, rents increased by 2.7 per cent, well above the national increase of 0.6 per cent, in the year to June 2018.

“Demand for homeless services will increase as the population ages and living costs rise. Innovative solutions for new seniors housing are needed to meet this demand,” Dr Donovan said.

“The old Belconnen Community Health building adjacent to Margaret Timpson Park could be redesigned to make it suitable for housing homeless seniors and others.”

The budget submission also recommended funding for additional hospices in Tuggeranong and Gungahlin to ensure people died with dignity, free of pain and distress. It also called for additional support for community organisations and the retention of the community contributions scheme.

The ACT National Seniors budget submission can be read here.

Dr Bill Donovan can be contacted on 0419 013 963 for comment.

Media contact: Lynda Schekoske 0488 047 380 or 07 3233 9134.

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