Patient Assistance Scheme Transport

Patient Assistance Scheme Transport

Mr WHETSTONE (Chaffey) (12:52): I too rise to support the motion and also the amendment put forward by the member for Morphett today. PATS is obviously a very important part of the health system for people who live in the regions and who are seeking medical treatment. It was brought to my attention in my first term as the member representing the people of Chaffey that the reimbursement process has serious flaws.

Mr WHETSTONE (Chaffey) (12:52): I too rise to support the motion and also the amendment put forward by the member for Morphett today. PATS is obviously a very important part of the health system for people who live in the regions and who are seeking medical treatment. It was brought to my attention in my first term as the member representing the people of Chaffey that the reimbursement process has serious flaws.

 

 

It has serious shortcomings with the way in which those people are, I guess, put in a position of having to seek medical treatment and the hardship that they go through to undertake that treatment. In many cases, as the member for Stuart has said, we have seen the shortcomings in country health over a number of years. Those shortcomings continue to manifest and cause people some serious angst when seeking medical treatment.

 

The burden of needing medical treatment and having to travel is one of the issues, but it is what the people from the regions have to go through to get to a place of medical help and undertake that treatment, which primarily means having to travel to Adelaide. I see that the constituents of the member for Mount Gambier have the luxury of deciding whether they travel to Victoria for help or whether they travel to Adelaide.

 

It all comes at a price, and that price might be, potentially, taking time off work, having to take a carer with you, and the cost of travel. Since the last review in 2001 on the reimbursement, particularly with the fuel reimbursement, looking at 2001, the cost of fuel was about 90¢ a litre. If we look at what the price of fuel is today, it is around $1.55 and we are receiving about a 16¢ rebate. So, I think that that is one of the issues. Obviously, the cost of accommodation—$30 a night is such that hardly anyone is going to profiteer when it comes to reimbursement.

 

I did hear the member for Morphett talk about primary health care, particularly in the regions. If only the government weighed up more of a long-term strategy rather than trying to appease people for the short-term gain. Why are we not looking at increasing our health care in the regions, rather than trying to centralise a lot of procedures when people do have to travel to Adelaide?

 

I will use the sad example of cancer treatment, and it is ongoing—whether it is the diagnosis, having to visit doctors to set up that medical procedure, and particularly having to make multiple trips down to Adelaide for treatment, whether it be chemotherapy, radiation treatment or ongoing treatment for people.

 

When they are travelling and having to take time off work, they are going through a very emotional time, particularly with cancer treatment, and that is an extremely challenging time, not just for the patient but for the family, and usually that carer that travels with the patient is a family member. So, again, it is the hardship that they are going through but it is also the emotional strain that they are encountering over that time.

 

Looking at the upgrade of regional hospitals is something I will also touch on, because we are lucky enough that the regional hospital in the Riverland is undergoing a facelift at the moment, increasing the amount of facilities in that hospital. But, sadly, we had a $41 million upgrade which was then reviewed down to a $36 million upgrade with, potentially, no less facilities with that reannouncement. The chemotherapy unit, for instance, has been put in place, but it does not have any furniture. We have a chemotherapy unit without the ingredients for people to sit down and be treated.

 

Mr Pengilly: No chairs.

 

Mr WHETSTONE: No chairs. I think I spoke in this place a short time ago about when I went out on a

fundraising exercise to raise money for a chemotherapy chair. We have seen people, out of the goodness of their hearts, bequeath money to the hospital to put in chairs. We have seen the Lions Club in the Riverland up in Berri raising money through a calendar program for another chair.

Where are this government's priorities? They need to be looking at the primary health care within the regions so that people do not have to travel to help with their health procedures and it is not going to cost the government. They really need to look at the cost benefit of putting the chairs, for example, in that chemotherapy unit without having to have people travel to Adelaide and then claim back on PATS. That is another way that people will be able to utilise the PATS facility without increasing the budget particularly with PATS.

Again, I revert back to the cost of living and just exactly what people are having to go through to travel from the regions down to the city and go through that very hard time. I have a number friends at the moment who are travelling from Chaffey or the Riverland down to Adelaide to undergo cancer treatment, and I am seeing what they are going through. It really does pull at the heartstrings, just looking from the outside in at what those families are going through: the hardship, the time that they are taking off work, the time that their carers are taking off work to go with them, and the cost. But, it is also to the detriment of their business, so it is having a flow-on effect.

The member for Stuart has said that he approached the previous health minister with a review of Country Health. That was actually going to happen, but it never did, so that is a very sad indictment on the current state government that does have 26 seats, 25 in metropolitan or almost metropolitan Adelaide. One seat, in Giles—

 

The Hon. L.R. Breuer: I can carry the load, as can my colleagues from the country!

 

Mr WHETSTONE: You can carry the load, member for Giles, so stand strong on the review and stand strong on lobbying for more money to be put back into PATS. I seek leave to continue my remarks.

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