Ex­tra funds call for pa­tient scheme

Pilbara News - - News - ■ Peter de Krui­jff

The State Op­po­si­tion has at­tacked the Bar­nett Gov­ern­ment for not tak­ing di­rect ac­tion to im­me­di­ately pro­vide ad­di­tional funds for ac­com­mo­da­tion and fuel costs in line with the rec­om­men­da­tions made in a bi­par­ti­san re­port on the Pa­tient As­sisted Travel Scheme.

The scheme is funded by Roy­al­ties for Re­gions and cov­ers some of the costs of long-dis­tance travel for re­gional peo­ple who need ac­cess to spe­cial­ist med­i­cal ser­vices.

An in­quiry started into the scheme last year and a re­port tabled on June 16.

Last week, the Gov­ern­ment re­sponded to the re­port’s rec­om­men­da­tions and agreed to re­view as­pects of the scheme more fre­quently, but sug­gested ad­di­tional fund­ing to­wards ac­com­mo­da­tion, fuel, and home vis­its for those un­der­tak­ing long-term treat­ment would need to be con­sid­ered against “other com­pet­ing de­mands for Gov­ern­ment fund­ing”.

The same re­sponse was given to a sug­ges­tion to cover costs for pa­tient es­corts for preg­nant women as well as pro­vid­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion as­sis­tance for women three weeks be­fore their due date.

La­bor Mem­ber for Min­ing and Pas­toral Stephen Daw­son said it was an un­der­whelm­ing and dis­ap­point­ing re­sponse.

“It’s com­mon knowl­edge PATS is a great scheme, but there are de­fi­cien­cies and things that need to be fixed,” he said. “The Gov­ern­ment should use R4R to fix the PATS scheme now.

“A lot of peo­ple need to travel un­der the PATS scheme — they don’t get the level of sup­port they need, the fact they only get $60 a night ac­com­mo­da­tion al­lowance is not good enough.”

A spokes­woman for the Min­is­ter for Health’s of­fice said new fund­ing pro­pos­als were con­sid­ered as part of de­lib­er­a­tions for the State Bud­get.

“Where ini­tia­tives are pro­gressed for Bud­get fund­ing, part of the de­ci­sion-mak­ing process is whether the Roy­al­ties for Re­gions pro­gram will pro­vide all or part of that fund­ing,” she said. “The next pro­pos­als will be put for­ward for the 2016-17 State Bud­get.”

Ac­cord­ing to the State Gov­ern­ment, the num­ber of sub­sidised trips un­der the scheme has grown from 53,215 in 2008-09 to 93,312 trips in 2014-15, and pay­ments of $31 mil­lion in 2014-15 were nearly dou­ble that given out in 2007-08.

Mr Daw­son said there was money wait­ing in R4R right now and wait­ing un­til the next Bud­get meant it would be another year be­fore peo­ple would get the level of sup­port and ser­vice they need.

It’s com­mon knowl­edge PATS is a great scheme but there are de­fi­cien­cies and things that need to be fixed.

Stephen Daw­son

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