Extra funds call for patient scheme
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.