Tyranny of distance tests MP’s patients

MANY Clarence Valley residents visiting Coffs Harbour and Lismore for hospital treatment are being forced to travel long distances but are missing out on financial assistance.

State Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis said the Patients Travel and Accommodation Scheme needed to be reformed to make it more equitable.

He said the State Government had invested an extra $28 million into the scheme, allowing for an increase in subsidies, but more patients need to be able to access the payments.

"The remaining problem is that patients need to travel 100km one way cumulatively within a week to qualify," Mr Gulaptis said.

"That means Grafton patients travelling to Coffs Harbour just miss out, as do Lower Clarence patients travelling to Lismore.

"This is particularly worrying for cancer patients who need five to nine weeks of radiotherapy in Coffs Harbour or Lismore.

"A cancer diagnosis is challenging and debilitating enough without the added burden of travelling when you are feeling unwell and anxious about your treatment."

Mr Gulaptis said some cancer patients find it physically impossible to travel long distances, and he has suggested a sliding scale of payments be introduced.

"For example, if a person was within 50km of their place of treatment they would fail to qualify," he said about his proposal.

"If they were 60km away they would be eligible for 20% funding, people who were 70km away would receive 40% funding and so on until they reached 100km, at which point they would be eligible for the full subsidy.

"This would be a much fairer system for country patients and it would ensure they received the medical treatment they deserve."

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