SOUTH East residents will have the opportunity to attend a Q&A style session with South Australia’s top Patient Assistance Transport Scheme (PATS) experts at a public forum next month.
Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell will host PATS manager Alexis Nicholson and chief finance officer Steve Brown for the forum, the first to be held in regional South Australia, with up to 150 people expected to attend.
The State Government scheme provides financial assistance to regional South Australians towards the cost of travel and accommodation when patients are required to travel to see medical specialists.
Mr Bell said he organised the forum because there was a need for greater clarity around the scheme’s guidelines.
“The financial assistance provided by the Patient Assisted Transport Scheme is incredibly important to regional patients accessing medical treatment away from home,” he said.
“There are many misconceptions about what is covered under PATS and there also have been changes to the scheme in recent years which people may not be aware of.
“This forum will give people the opportunity not only to educate themselves about the scheme but also have their say about the pros and cons of the current system.”
Should the forum uncover issues or gaps within the current system, Mr Bell said he would raise them with Health Minister Stephen Wade.
“The last review of the PATS scheme was in 2013,” he said.
“It is time to see if it is benefitting our regional communities the way it is designed to do and whether changes need to be made.”
Mr Bell said common questions about the scheme included whether patients could travel interstate for treatment, accessing specialists outside their region, or whether taxi services can be reimbursed. “We will ask people to presubmit questions to ensure a greater scope of topics are covered and attendees will be able to get the answers they need directly from two of the state’s top PATS experts,” he said.
Mount Gambier’s Margie Winterfield accessed the service a number of years ago and said she found the guidelines “confusing”.
“I do not think too many people would find it easy to understand what is covered and what is not,” she said.
“It’s not fair - country people should be able to choose their own doctor.”
Ms Nicholson said both her and Mr Brown were looking forward to hearing what the Mount Gambier community had to say.
“We are excited to be attending the Mount Gambier forum to meet the community and explain the PATS guidelines and also, hearing any feedback the community wishes to provide.”
The forum will be held at the Mount Gambier Bowling Club February 18 from 6pm.
Mr Bell said residents can RSVP for the forum, or submit a question by emailing mtgambier@parliament. sa.gov.au, or by visiting the Mount Gambier electorate office.