The recent state budget has left South Australians needing eye treatment in a public hospital in a precarious position, and the situation will only get worse, according to the Macular Disease Foundation Australia (MDFA).
“The situation developing in South Australia is dire. Many patients are already waiting up to 24 months for appointments for sight-threatening eye conditions such as macular degeneration and diabetic macular edema and now two hospitals in Adelaide are no longer taking new patients for treatment for these conditions. Without urgent attention this will lead to people unnecessarily losing their sight,” explained Julie Heraghty, CEO of the Foundation.
“Furthermore, the situation will only deteriorate without decisive action. The old Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH) currently has 24 outpatient treatment rooms. The move to the new RAH will result in this number being slashed to 11,” she said.
The decision by Government to earmark the old RAH site for the building of a new school has appeared to close the door on a proposal to establish a much needed SA Eye Hospital in the McEwin building on this site. This facility would have had sufficient capacity for the foreseeable future. The Foundation recognises and respects the needs of public education but is highly concerned at the inability of government to meet the present and future eye health needs of South Australians.
“Given the government’s decision for the old site, there is now an even greater need for the Minister for Health to work with stakeholders to provide adequate capacity at the new RAH. One must question why South Australian taxpayers are funding a superb new facility where current plans do not provide sufficient capacity to cater for future needs. Moreover, given that the Queen Elizabeth and Lyell McEwin Hospitals cannot cope with existing demand, it is simply impractical to shift substantial additional load onto them,” stated Ms Heraghty.
“The Foundation calls on the Minister to urgently address the existing and future inadequacies in eye health in the state. The eye health clinicians and staff in South Australia are some of the best in the world. These people and their patients deserve to have the facilities, services and patient focused care that ensures the best chance of saving sight.”
Changes in federal funding cannot be used as an excuse. The eye health capacity crisis in South Australia has existed for several years – long before the federal government proposed cuts to the state’s health budget. The South Australian Government must accept the responsibility to ensure that its citizens have timely access and affordability to sight saving treatment.