More than 4,500 new patients have taken advantage of the increased financial assistance available to people in regional communities who need to travel long distances to receive specialist care.
Nationals Minister for Regional Health Bronnie Taylor said more than 1,000 additional patients per month have lodged claims under the Isolated Patients Travel and Accommodation Assistance Scheme (IPTAAS) since August 1, when the NSW Government’s $149.5 million funding boost came into effect.
“We know there were people in our regional and rural communities who were not seeking the care they needed because of the high cost of travel and accommodation,” Mrs Taylor said.
“With the increased subsidies now available, many of these people are now receiving life-changing treatment.
“This crucial program is helping to ensure that no matter where you live in NSW, you can access the healthcare you need.”
The subsidy for people requiring accommodation has almost doubled, while the government has also almost doubled the private vehicle subsidy rate from 22 cents to 40 cents per kilometre for patients who have to travel more than 100 kilometres for care.
Nationals Member for Coffs Harbour Gurmesh Singh said patients attending non-commercial clinical trials, high-risk foot clinics, highly specialised publicly funded dental health clinics and ocularists can now access funding thanks to the expansion.
“It is fantastic that as a government we are able to help reduce the financial burden of regional NSW patients and their families when travelling for treatment,” Mr Singh said.
“If you are paying travel and accommodation and you haven’t heard about this program I encourage you to check your eligibility as it could save you thousands of dollars.”
Armidale couple Pat and Robert Hanson thought they’d have to budget for large travel and accommodation costs when Robert learned he needed cancer treatment in Coffs Harbour.
“When Robert was diagnosed with cancer, it was a very stressful and overwhelming time as Robert’s treatment was going to be in Coffs Harbour, 180km away, and he needed six weeks of radiation treatment,” Mrs Hanson said.
“IPTAAS allowed us to travel and stay in Coffs Harbour for that time without needing Robert to drive back and forth, which was a huge relief. It covered our petrol and our accommodation at the hospital, saving us around $3,000.”
Community-based charity Can Assist provides financial support to cancer patients living in rural and regional areas to help access treatment and care.
“I can’t put into words the weight I see lifted when patients and our volunteers realise what the increase in IPTAAS rebates means for them,” Can Assist Executive Director Emma Phillips said.
The NSW Government is launching a comprehensive awareness campaign to promote the benefits of the expanded scheme, which will include flyers, fact sheets, an updated website and social media posts targeting existing, new and potential patients and their families and carers.
In addition, NSW Health is continuing to review and streamline the IPTAAS application processes to make it easier for patients to lodge claims.