More than 45,000 people in rural and regional NSW are set to benefit from an expansion of the Isolated Patients Travel and Accommodation Assistance Scheme (IPTAAS), with the NSW Nationals in the state government investing an additional $149.5 million as part of the 2022-23 NSW Budget.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW Paul Toole said this funding will make sure people living in the bush won’t have to make the decision between getting the healthcare they need and other life necessities.
“Last year more than 26,000 people received assistance through this crucial program, and we expect that number to almost double thanks to these changes,” Mr Toole said.
“The NSW Government is not only ensuring more people in rural and regional NSW are eligible for the scheme, we are increasing the subsidies available, easing the financial burden on those who face the tyranny of distance to get the specialist care they need.”
For the first time, the scheme will be expanded with patients seeking non-commercial clinical trials, high risk foot clinics, highly specialised publicly funded dental health clinics and ocularists to be eligible for assistance.
The subsidy for people requiring accommodation will be almost doubled, while the NSW Government will also nearly double 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 Minister for Regional Health Bronnie Taylor said the announcement will see a huge weight lifted off so many patients who were previously unable to receive help.
“We know that when you have to travel for healthcare, the costs can quickly add up, and this can be a huge financial burden on patients and their families,” Mrs Taylor said.
“If we as Government can do one thing to support people and their families during a time of great emotional and financial distress, this is it.
“Under the changes, if you live in Deniliquin and require specialist foot care for diabetes, you’ll now be eligible for financial assistance towards the transport and accommodation costs of the 510 kilometre round trip to the Wagga Wagga High Risk Foot Clinic. Previously, this was not covered.”
The boost will put NSW well ahead of other states with how comprehensive and generous its patient travel subsidy scheme is.
The $149.5 million investment is part of the NSW Government’s $4.5 billion record commitment to the NSW Health workforce with 10,148 full time equivalent staff to be recruited over four years.