Ambulance costs can be painful

If you don’t have private health insurance and need to call an emergency ambulance, you’ll likely have to pay a hefty fee that could leave you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars out of pocket.

But National Seniors General Manager Insurance, Chris Grice, says there are ways to protect yourself from “ambulance bill shock”.

“If you live in Queensland or Tasmania, the good news is your state automatically covers you for emergency  pre-hospital ambulance treatment Australia-wide,” Mr Grice said.

Waiting times stable at hospital emergency departments

Hospitals are mostly coping with increased numbers of people visiting emergency departments, with little change in waiting times compared with previous years.

New data released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIWH) in its report Emergency Department Care 2015-16 Australian hospital statistics, shows there were 7.5 million presentations to emergency departments across Australia (excluding the ACT).

This was more than 20,000 presentations a day.

Free vaccine to benefit some seniors at risk of shingles

A vaccine for the debilitating shingles virus is now available free of charge for people aged 70 to 79 years.

The Zostavax vaccine, which normally costs around $250, is provided under the National Immunisation Program (NIP) from 1 November 2016 to older people who are often most at risk of contracting the painful rash associated with shingles, or herpes zoster virus.

Changes to discharge summaries needed, say researchers

The University of Sydney has called for an overhaul of discharge summaries, saying patients are leaving hospital without proper knowledge of their condition.

The research says a simply-worded letter would immediately improve patients’ knowledge and understanding of their in-hospital tests and post-discharge recommendations.

Published in the Internal Medical Journal, the study found that while patients knew why they went into hospital, they had very little understanding of the tests performed while there and recommendations for what to do when they go home.

Shocks spark warning

More than 120 cases of electric shock including two fatalities in the past three months have prompted a warning from NSW Ambulance to be careful when using electrical appliances, particularly around the home.

Since January 1, paramedics responded to at least 123 calls for electric shock/electrocution.

NSW Ambulance inspector Giles Buchanan said danger commonly lurked about the home, with most incidents treated by paramedics involving shocks from faulty appliances and power cords.

Call for federal takeover of health

While it backs the basic principles of the Prime Minister's health reform package, National Seniors believes it does not go far enough.

National Seniors Australia will share its concerns with the Prime Minister and the Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, early next week.

Seniors want the Federal Government to take over the entire health system from the States.

National Seniors believes that a partial federal intervention will be insufficient to revive the very inadequate and inefficient system of health services that currently does not meet the needs of Australians.

Health a decider in election

Research commissioned by National Seniors shows that one in five voters aged over 50 could change their vote over the issue of health.

The survey shows that 20 per cent of both Labor and Coalition voters were prepared to switch their vote to another party because of health policy. This equates to over 600,000 votes.

In a separate online poll, 46 per cent of seniors supported the government’s healthcare reforms, with 29 per cent opposing them.

More details on health reforms needed

Older Australians have stressed the need for more information on how Local Hospital Networks will deliver the Government's health reforms.

Commenting on the reforms announced by the Prime Minister this week, National Seniors chief executive Michael O'Neill said the majority of hospital patients are over 55.

“Seniors welcome any move to introduce national standards, make hospitals more efficient and improve patient outcomes. We hope these reforms deliver real improvements, such as shorter waiting

times for patients,’’ he said.

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