Opposition Leader Mia Davies said it was vital for the McGowan Government to increase funding for the Patient Assisted Travel Scheme, especially as cost-of-living pressures were biting regional West Australians’ back-pockets.
“It’s a miserly Government that refuses to support country patients who are forced to travel when the McGowan Government hands down what we know will be an eye-watering, multi-billion-dollar surplus,” Ms Davies said.
“PATS provides much needed support to people living in regional and remote areas who need specialist medical care, and boosting the scheme is the right thing to do to with fuel prices on the rise and cost of living increases making it hard to make ends meet.”
Ms Davies said the Minister for Health had dismissed questions by the Opposition earlier in the year on this topic, saying the Government was doing more than enough to support regional people access health services.
“The Minister callously stated it was a bit rich for us to seek an increase in PATS, while claiming Labor supports regional communities,” Ms Davies said.
Shadow Minister for Regional Health Martin Aldridge said the scheme was crucial to ensure the health divide between regional and metropolitan West Australians continues to be recognised and addressed.
“The current Minister for Health was a member of the parliamentary inquiry in 2015 that found the fuel subsidy offered by the scheme to be ‘inadequate’ and it is incumbent on her to now act,” Mr Aldridge said.
“The first two recommendations of the committee supported an increase to the subsidy and an annual review to ensure that it reflects the current costs of land travel in our regions.
“There is no better time for a major investment in PATS. Country people recognise that not every service can be delivered in every regional location, however they need support to ensure that services are accessible and without significant financial impediment.”
The current fuel subsidy is 16 cents per kilometre travelled. By comparison a public servant travelling on official business is ordinarily entitled to a rate as much as 98.6 cents per kilometre.