Shorten pledges $500M to cut hospital wait times

In his latest attempt to secure election votes, Bill Shorten pledged $500 million to reduce waiting times in emergency departments across the nation. Source: Getty

The election is just weeks away and Labor leader Bill Shorten is pulling out the big guns in an attempt to secure votes.

On Sunday, the Opposition Leader announced via The Sydney Morning Herald a $500 million pledge to reduce waiting times across Australian hospitals.

Shorten promised that if elected, Labor would invest $250 million on emergency department upgrades and $250 million on more health professionals to speed up waiting times in emergency departments across the nation.

Half the investment would come from Labor’s proposed $2.8 billion Better Hospitals Fund, which aims to reduce emergency department and elective surgery waiting times. As part of that fund, Labor says it will dedicate $250 million to blitz elective surgery waiting lists in public hospitals, in addition to a $500 million commitment to slash public hospital waiting lists for cancer patients.

“Chloe and I know what it’s like to sit inside the emergency department, holding your child in the middle of the night,” Shorten said in a statement on Sunday morning. “Most parents know what that’s like, and every parent fears it. There’s nothing more nerve wracking, exhausting or dispiriting.”

Read more: ‘A depressing picture’: Report shows public hospital wait times increasing

He called Australian nurses and doctors “absolute heroes” and “the best in the world” and said because of that, they deserved the best resources in the world.

“This is what people pay their taxes to Canberra for. I don’t want to give it to multinationals in bigger loopholes, I want to build better hospitals and cut waiting times,” he added. “This is what our hard decisions have been about. Delivering better services to every Australian.”

The announcement follows the release of the Australian Medical Association’s Public Hospital Report Card last month, which showed Australians are waiting longer than ever for care at public hospitals and that hospitals are failing to cope with ever-increasing patient demand.

The AMA said public hospitals need clear and transparent long-term funding arrangements and that emergency times for “urgent” patients had gone backwards in all Australian states and territories since last year’s report.

Figures showed that in 2016-17, public hospitals provided more than 6.5 million episodes of admitted public hospital treatment, close to 8 million presentations to accident and emergency departments and approximately 36.7 million non-admitted patient service events, including 16.2 million services in allied health or clinical nurse specialist clinics.

The 2019 report shows that there’s a 24-year low of hospital beds per 1,000 people aged 65 years and older and just 64 per cent of urgent presentations seen within the recommended 30-minute timeframe in 2017-18.

Read more: ‘Free blood tests for older Aussies’: Shorten vows to increase bulk billing

More than a third of patients who presented to an emergency department in need of urgent treatment waited longer than clinically recommended and one in five patients who need elective surgery within 90 days are waiting longer than clinically-recommended in three of Australia’s eight states and territories.

Who will you vote for at the next election? What issues do you think the major parties should be focusing on?

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