Media Release published by The Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell
Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell has said recent changes to South Australia’s PATS scheme are welcome but an increase in fuel and accommodation subsidies are “long overdue”.
The Patient Assistance Transport Scheme (PATS) is designed to subsidise travel and accommodation cost for South Australians who need to travel more than 100km to see medical specialists
Recently announced changes to PATS include expanding subsidies to include eligible family members or carers travelling to support a person in an emergency situation and amending the distance travelled from set calculations to actual kilometres travelled.
For the first time, Airbnb’s will also be included in the eligibility criteria for accommodation and an additional subsidy will be provided to rural patients needing to travel more than 100kms to reach an airport.
A review of the scheme was announced following a PATS forum in February 2019, held by Mr Bell and attended by more than 100 Mount Gambier residents.
Mr Bell said a national approach would result in a fairer and more efficient system for regional Australians.
“In Queensland’s scheme, the reimbursement is 30 cents per kilometre and $60 per night for accommodation, while in South Australia, it’s 16 cents per kilometre and $40 a night for accommodation,” he said.
“I challenge anyone to travel to Adelaide and stay overnight at those prices. I’d say a fair and reasonable subsidy for accommodation is $100 per night, while the Australian Tax Office states the average rate for travel is 72 cents a kilometre.
Mr Bell said the subsidies had not been raised since a State Government funding commitment of $3million in 2014.
“We’ve been campaigning on this since 2014 and I’ll continue to advocate on behalf of those in my community who are accessing the scheme, often through difficult circumstances,” he said.
“Nobody is using the PATS scheme to make money, they’re using it to get the same access to specialist services that metropolitan residents have and often take for granted.
“I know of people in their 80s who are travelling to Adelaide for specialist appointments and then travelling back on the same day because they cannot afford to stay overnight. It’s a long stint on the road and it’s quite dangerous.”
Mr Bell congratulated the local residents who had attended the forum and voiced their concerns.
“Statistics show the Limestone Coast community are by region, the biggest users of the PATS scheme in South Australia.”
“People should not be penalised for where they choose to live, so either increase the rebate or invest in more specialist services for the regions,” he said.
“It’s time for the PATS scheme to be brought up-to-date to reflect the changing times in which we live.”
For more information on the changes, visit the SA Health website at https://bit.ly/31ZK5bF.