The State Government has increased the fuel subsidy for country residents who frequently travel long distances for specialist medical treatment.
Health Minister Jim McGinty said that from tomorrow, the Patient Assisted Travel Scheme (PATS) fuel subsidy for frequent travellers would rise by 2c to 15c per kilometre, giving those Western Australians the second highest subsidy in the nation.
“People who frequently need to travel for their medical treatment do not need the extra burden of escalating fuel costs,” Mr McGinty said.
“The 15 per cent increase in the subsidy will help people with chronic medical conditions who are often under a great deal of physical and emotional strain because of the constant travel.”
Mr McGinty said the initiative would also assist people with a one-off condition who needed to make several trips to a specialist for treatment.
"We are very sympathetic to the plight of country patients, and increasing the fuel subsidy for those most affected by rising petrol price is a simple way of easing the financial pressure at such a vulnerable time," he said.
From Monday, the PATS fuel subsidy will increase from 13c to 15c per kilometre for country patients who travel more than 100 kilometres for treatment more than four times a year.
Mr McGinty also said the current system of providing a pre-travel subsidy to people requiring payment in advance would be expanded from January 1 2006.
“Many people need assistance at the bowser when they set off and simply can’t afford to wait to be reimbursed,” Mr McGinty said.
Over the next few months, the Government will also look at more efficient ways of paying the subsidy to patients in advance, such as electronic funds transfers.
Mr McGinty said the Government spent $13million per year on PATS, and estimated the subsidy increase would cost approximately $90,000.
The PATS increase follows the investment of an extra $58.8million to redevelop four major country hospitals across WA into regional resource centres.
"These regional resource centres in Albany, Broome, Geraldton, Kalgoorlie, Port Hedland and Bunbury will provide the latest clinical facilities and specialised health care closer to where people live, reducing the need for patients to travel to Perth."
Minister's office: 9220 5000