Country South Australians travelling long distances for medical specialist appointments will be given more flexibility to plan their trips under changes to the Patient Assistance Transport Scheme (PATS) announced today.
Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade said the Marshall Liberal Government has listened to feedback from regional MPs and the broader community and is introducing more flexibility, common sense and compassion into the way PATS operates.
“Until now PATS has limited the number of nights people can stay in Adelaide before or after a medical specialist appointment and still be eligible for a PATS subsidy,” Minister Wade said.
“In hundreds of cases each year, country South Australians have effectively been penalised for consolidating multiple medical appointments into one trip, combining trips with other non-medical appointments or for spending extra time in Adelaide recuperating before undertaking what in some instances is a very long drive home.
“After listening to feedback, we have removed the limitation that disqualified people from receiving a PATS subsidy if they stayed more than two additional nights in commercial accommodation or more than five additional nights with family and friends.
“We have also lifted the restriction that required patients to travel directly to and from their appointment.
“We understand that it makes sense for regional patients to coordinate medical specialist appointments with personal or business appointments, so we have amended the guidelines to allow this to occur.”
From today, anyone eligible for a PATS subsidy who decides to extend their trip won’t be disqualified from receiving their payment.
They’ll continue to receive a subsidy payment to help defray their travel costs and, if they stay in commercial accommodation, a subsidy for any nights covered under PATS.
The Marshall Liberal Government has also made changes to the scheme to strengthen continuity of care for terminally ill patients.
PATS will now support people with a terminal condition who are seeing a medical specialist to continue to see that specialist, even if another specialist becomes available nearer to where they live.
“This change, which will initially apply to patients with a life expectancy of 12 months or less, will negate the need for someone to change their treating medical specialist during a challenging time for patients and families,” Minister Wade said.
“The Marshall Liberal Government is committed to improving PATS.
“The changes announced today are the first steps in reducing red tape and making the scheme more accessible for country people, but there is more to be done.
“We have heard the concerns of regional patients and families and are committed to ensuring regional South Australians can benefit from the same access to healthcare as metropolitan patients.”
Manager of Patient Assistance Transport Scheme within the Rural Support Service at SA Health, Bill Slattery, said receiving treatment away from home is a challenging time for patients and their families.
“These changes are being introduced to improve the patient journey and strengthen the support available through PATS,” Mr Slattery said.
For information on the PATS and how it can be accessed, visit www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/pats