Over 1000 call on WA Labor to fix PATS and improve regional health

Shadow Minister for Regional Health Martin Aldridge MLC has today tabled a petition in Parliament, supported by over 1,000 WA residents, calling for urgent action to improve the Patient Assisted Travel Scheme (PATS).

Mr Aldridge extended his gratitude to the many regional residents who supported the petition and called on the Cook Labor Government to improve regional healthcare access.

“WA Labor often claim to support all West Australians to access quality healthcare, no matter where they live – but those who have signed the petition calling for PATS to be fixed know this is not always the case,” Mr Aldridge said.

“Each year, more than 35,000 regional residents utilise PATS to travel hundreds, if not thousands of kilometres from their homes, families, and communities to access specialist services, give birth, access cancer treatment or dialysis services.

“And each time, regional residents are left significantly out of pocket to access essential health services which are not available in their own communities.”

Mr Aldridge said a review by the Opposition of nationwide PATS fuel subsidies found the 16 cent per kilometre subsidy in WA was the lowest in Australia, and well below the rates offered by New South Wales (40c/km) and South Australia (32c/km).

“Regional patients are being short-changed by the most miserly PATS subsidies in Australia, while at the same time, the Cook Labor Government continues to post multi-billion-dollar budget surpluses.

“At a time when many are doing it tough with cost-of-living pressures, it’s shameful a State as prosperous as WA won’t put their hands in their pocket to ensure people have the financial support needed to access health services not available locally.”

Mr Aldridge also highlighted the recent WA Council of Social Services State Budget submission, which labelled the PATS system as slow, difficult to navigate, and placed an undue burden on residents to pay for their own transport and accommodation up front.

“Given the cost-of-living crisis many are experiencing under the Cook Labor Government, this is not always a viable option for residents who may lack the savings or income needed to access accommodation in Perth, sometimes for weeks at a time,” Mr Aldridge said.

As well as increasing fuel and accommodation subsidies to better reflect contemporary costs, the
petition also called for the taxi voucher system to be expanded, improvements to processing times, and the extension of PATS to include dental and allied health.

“Many of these issues were identified by the Health Minister when she co-authored a comprehensive review of PATS in 2015, yet very little action has occurred to improve the scheme, despite Labor being in power for over six years,” Mr Aldridge said.