Health budget hot potato a looming threat to South Australia’s ageing population

Media Release 31st March 2016

Leading seniors advocate COTA SA has warned that the Federal Government's 2014 cuts to health spending will soon bite older South Australians unless the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting on Friday achieves a constructive dialogue about how our health system should work and be funded.

COTA SA CEO Jane Mussared is urging both the Commonwealth and the States to work together on the issue, which she believes has become a budget hot potato.

"We will see a resumption of the blame game that last year's Leaders Forum promised to repair with significant implications for older people," Ms Mussared said.

"Currently 14 per cent of Australia's population is aged over 65, which is expected to increase to at least 21 per cent by 2041, and in South Australia, older people will soon represent a quarter of the population.

"Research shows that on average, 40 per cent of patients in our hospitals are aged between 65 and 85 years, with people aged over 85 five times more likely to be admitted to hospital, and for longer, than any other age group.

"Now is not the time to be cutting back spending in health. Instead we should be focused on creating a health system that works and that strikes the right balance between primary and acute care."

Ms Mussared says while the clinical pathways that form the basis of Transforming Health are important, it's critical that acute, primary, aged and community care are much better coordinated so that people get the right services, in the right place, at the right time.

"While COTA SA is broadly supportive of the need for Transforming Health, there's genuine concern that health keeps getting batted back and forth between State and Federal - like a sick patient that no one is willing to treat," she said.

"Families across the State are already experiencing the impact of last year's federal health cuts.

"The cuts are putting immense pressure on existing practice. The State Government is at the Commonwealth's mercy and being forced into making tough decisions due to the budget shortfall."

Ms Mussared says people are living longer and need to be confident that the services from preventative care and promotion right through to palliative care are available to them when they need it, and that they work together as if part of a virtual ‘team'.

"While we understand the need for changes to achieve efficiencies, we must understand the potential impact those changes will have on older people whose health needs may be complex. Older people tell us that the so-called health "system" often feels more like a collection of disconnected parts," Ms Mussared said.

"Health is too important to be sidetracked by a taxation debate. COTA SA is calling for COAG to provide leadership to create a continuous model of services in consultation with older people. It then must be funded adequately by both governments."

COTA SA's 2016-17 State Budget submission contained a number of proposals relating specifically to health, including funding for a pilot project to design and test a consumer-led, first of its kind trial of People Powered Health in SA to help close the gap between the funding required and the funding available for health.

Based on a model in the UK, it's estimated that the cost to manage patients with long-term conditions could be reduced by up to 20 per cent by adopting a new approach, which focuses on primary care and keeping people out of hospital.

"We'd also like to see the State Government develop a range of measurable KPIs that ensure the change in clinical outcomes and patient experience as a result of Transforming Health are monitored and utilised to inform the change process," Ms Mussared said.

"We want to be confident that we have a sustainable health system where all the parts are working together to achieve the best outcomes possible for the community."

COTA SA is the peak body representing the rights, needs and interests of older Australians, with 17,000 individual members and 250 organisation members.

For all interview requests, please contact:
Bec Tape - rtape@communikate.net.au|0438 806 983
Amber Fromm - amber@communikate.net.au | 0400 324 220

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