Australia’s peak body for the eye health and vision sector has called on the Federal Government to spend $67 million over the next 12 months to deliver 66,000 more public cataract surgeries and tackle extended wait times.
The proposal is one of the main pillars in Vision 2020 Australia’s recent submission to the 2021-22 Federal Budget that also recommends the development of more sustainable service models for cataract surgery ($1.2 million in 2021-22) and national protocols to improve access to surgery for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People ($9.6 million in 2021-22).
According to Vision 2020 Australia – which represents around 50 member organisations – in 2019-20 an estimated 74,150 additional public cataract surgeries were required to clear backlogs for public cataract surgery, including some 8,500 surgeries for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
As part of its cataract surgery plan, the organisation proposes delivering more than 66,000 additional cataract surgeries to help clear the backlog at a cost of $67.5 million in 2021-22. This should then be followed by annual spends of around $70 million until 2024-25.
“Clearing the long-term backlog of Australians waiting for cataract surgery will transform the lives of many Australians while delivering cost savings to government,” Vision 2020 Australia CEO Ms Judith Abbott said.
“People living in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities wait around 57% longer for cataract surgery than other Australians, with some people waiting years for surgery.”
The broader Vision 2020 Australia submission proposed spending around $411 million over the next four years.
While the cataract surgery proposals account for $320 million of this, the submission also recommended improving access to local eyecare for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by rolling out local case management and supporting community designed and led eyecare models ($27.8 million over four years).
And to tackle some of the highest blindness rates in the world in Papua New Guinea, it called for a targeted program of workforce, infrastructure, and outreach services ($26.2 million over four years).
For blind or low vision older Australians, Vision 2020 Australia asked the government to expand the list of aids and equipment they can access through the aged care system ($31.9 million over the next four years), and establish an innovative workforce support service for aged care workers who are caring for people with vision issues ($5.4 million over the next four years).
“We are proposing investment in a small number of high priority, high impact initiatives to prevent that occurring and ensure people living in both Australia and our nearest neighbour PNG have the gift of sight,” Abbott said.
“If older Australians who develop vision loss can get the support they need quickly and easily, they can be set up to live safely in the community and keep doing the things they love without relying on ongoing government services – that’s good for everybody.”
The full submission can be found here.