CROWDED HOUSE: More than 100 people attended a question and answer session with the state’s top Patient Assistance Transport Scheme experts at this week’s public forum.
THE STATE Government’s Patients Assistance Transport Scheme (PATS)
would receive a “five out of 10” rating from independent Troy Bell, with the local MP calling on all regional parliamentarians to take action on the issue.
Following a public PATS forum held earlier this week, Mr Bell highlighted several major issues around the scheme’s ability to reflect the individual circumstances of patients.
The State Government scheme provides financial support to regional South Australians towards the cost of travel and accommodation when patients are required to travel to see medical specialists.
Almost three-quarters of the scheme’s 43,700 claims in the last financial year - 70pc - came from the South East region.
While Mr Bell said the forum had provided clarity to some attendees, he stressed there were “major improvements to be made” to the scheme for it to properly serve the needs of local residences.
A patient’s right to choose their own specialist, the scheme’s ability to tie in with NDIS funding and why dental services are not recognised were among the issues raised by the night’s 100 attendees.
According to PATS manager Alexis Nicholson, the scheme was established primarily to support care provided in hospitals, with dental being considered “more of a primary health care”.
She told the crowd while dental was equally as important as other health conditions, “it is not what PATS was designed to do”.
Community members quizzed guest speakers on why Airbnb, taxis and Uber were not recognised under the scheme.
Ms Nicholson said the Airbnb criteria was currently under review, but highlighted potential issues with extending the accommodation criteria to the online homestay system.
She said the scheme did not provide subsidies for taxis and Uber as it only covered travel from an individuals place of residence to treatment locations.
The scheme’s stagnating fuel subsidy came under question, with local resident Brenton Telford querying why the scheme’s 16c/km rate has not risen in line with the travel subsidies of other State Government schemes and agencies.
In response, Ms Nicholson said the fuel subsidy was currently under review.
Mr Bell said while progress had been made since a review of the scheme in 2013, there were important issues needed to be addressed with administrative heads such as Health Minister Stephen Wade, whose senior advisor was in attendance.
“If you have got a disability that is health related, you can use your NDIS package for mowing the lawns and support, why cannot you use it for travel and accommodation to see the specialist directly linked to your disability?” he said.
Mr Bell thanked those community members who aired personal stories, saying PATS had been one of the major issues during his parliamentary term.
“There was over a 100 people here tonight and most of them have been into my office at some stage during the last few years, so I know their issues well,” he said.
“I’m really glad that people spoke out and raised their issue in a respectful and thoughtful way.”
Mr Bell said he would be opening up a continuing dialogue with Minister Wade and also encouraged other regional MPs to take up the issue.