The Nationals WA will ensure access to specialist medical care is more equitable for regional West Australians by boosting the Patient Assisted Travel Scheme (PATS) to bring it in line with patient, community and health sector expectations.
The $58 million commitment announced by Leader Mia Davies with candidate for Kalgoorlie Rowena Olsen in the Goldfields capital today means patients living in regions without immediate access to specialists have less worry about paying bills and more time to focus on treatment and recovery.
Ms Davies said her party’s commitment came in response to calls to improve and modernise the scheme – including through evidence given during a 2015 parliamentary inquiry – which provides travel assistance to roughly 40,000 regional patients a year.
“Time and again we hear reports of reimbursement taking months, patients and carers being forced to drive instead of fly and the application, assessment and payment system being clunky,” she said.
“Our proposal increases travel and accommodation subsidies in line with contemporary costs, introduces more flexibility to eligibility requirements and modernises the scheme to make it more streamline for users.
“All patients, no matter where they live, deserve the right to access our world class healthcare system and receive the specialist medical advice, treatment and recovery pathways they need in a timely manner.”
The 2015 inquiry by the Public Administration Committee made 21 recommendations including increasing subsidy levels for fuel and accommodation, winding back strict travel criteria, digitising the system and making it more accessible for pregnant women, childbirth and dental patients.
Health spokesperson Martin Aldridge said The Nationals WA policy would invest $58 million bringing many of the Public Administration Committee’s report recommendations to reality.
“Key issues highlighted five years ago are still burning issues today. They would have been very easy and relatively low cost for Government to fix over several years, but they have chosen not to. Instead Labor see fit to spend $50 million on a pedestrian footbridge over patient’s health,” he said.
“The Nationals WA are committed to making changes so regional patients, many who are still coming to terms with their diagnoses, have less to worry about and more time to focus on getting better.
“We’ll introduce greater flexibility for expecting mums to claim assistance, fairer subsidies for fuel and accommodation, inclusion of allied health and dentistry for PATS refunds and a speedier electronic claims process – whether an app for your phone or through an online portal.
“The Nationals are the only party committed to improving regional health outcomes and making the experience for those needing specialist treatment as smooth and painless as possible.”