Cancer Council Queensland has called on the State Government to overhaul the Patient Travel Subsidy Scheme, following a scathing report by the Queensland Ombudsman.
Cancer Council CEO, Ms Chris McMillan, said hundreds of cancer patients were being short-changed by the scheme.
“Regional Queenslanders affected by cancer are constantly doing battle against this bureaucratic process and a hostile subsidy system,” she said.
“Thousands of regional Queenslanders who need to travel to metropolitan centres for treatment are left in psychological and often financial distress as a consequence of administration failures under the Patient Travel Subsidy Scheme.
“The Ombudsman’s findings are similar to our own observations about the scheme – whereby inconsistent and inequitable decision-making results in unfair outcomes, undermining equitable treatment of patients accessing the PTSS, hampering patient-friendly processes, and delaying or denying reimbursement which then results in patients and families incurring considerable expenses and experiencing financial hardship and distress.”
Ms McMillan said the Cancer Council would use the report to fast-track its discussions with the Minister about supporting regional Queenslanders affected by cancer.
“We have advocated tirelessly on this issue over many years, fighting every step of the way with regional patients, carers, and families who have been short-changed by the health system.
“At least 350 regional Queenslanders die from cancer each year simply because they live outside a metropolitan centre – this simply has to stop.
“Fixing the Patient Travel Subsidy Scheme is key to addressing cancer survival and ensuring equity for all Queenslanders, all cancers.
“There are a range of options for improving administration of the scheme, including direct agreements between the State Government and organisations such as Cancer Council Queensland to ensure fairness, efficiency, and more compassionate patient care.
“Regional Queensland is the backbone of our economy – we simply must do more to support regional communities with accessing world-class health care so that our friends in the bush can realise their full potential and enjoy the same standards of health and wellbeing that we take for granted in the city.
“We welcome the Ombudsman’s recommendation that the Director-General must urgently take steps to develop a plan – for delivery within three months – to guarantee equitable access to the PTSS by patients across the state, underpinned by consistent decision-making.
“Equally importantly, Queensland Health and Hospital and Health Services must ensure PTSS policy and procedures are clear and easy to use, enabling adequate governance and better coordination between the department, HHSs and hospitals, and organisations such as our own, improving data collection and reporting about PTSS usage and statistics.
“We call on the State Government to rapidly reform the PTSS to ensure it is patient-friendly and easy to access, to end the tragic toll whereby our regional family members and friends are dying unnecessarily from diseases such as cancer.
“We call on the Queensland Government to overhaul the PTSS and help us close the gap in regional cancer survival.”
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