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Patient transport subsidies remain the same in Queensland despite rising oil prices

Queenslanders forced to travel long distances for medical treatment are relying on government travel subsidies that have not been updated for a decade — when fuel was up to 50 cents a liter less expensive.

Despite rising costs, Queensland Health said it had no immediate plans to increase the subsidy.

Patients can apply to be paid part of their travel costs through the Patient Transport Subsidy Scheme (PTSS), which allows them to claim 30 cents per kilometer travelled.

Patients and medical transport groups said they were about $40 out of pocket for every $100 spent on travel.

Patients struggling

Gympie Medical Transport Service director Sally Carkeet said her not-for-profit service drove patients to major hospitals between Hervey Bay and Brisbane.

She believes the subsidy should increase to 80 cents per kilometer to offset increases in fuel, car maintenance and insurance costs, saying many patients cannot afford to travel.

“[Some] clients travel to have radium treatment every day for six-weeks. That money becomes a real issue,” Ms Carkeet said.

“People are flat-out trying to feed themselves, without worrying about how they’re going to get to their next doctor’s appointment, 100 kilometers away.

Denise Pearce (middle) uses the Gympie Medical Transport Service to get to appointments.(Supplied: Gympie Medical Transport Service)

“It’s a fundamental right and there should be support for that.”

Gympie client Irene Downing has relied on medical transport services since her husband died in 2014.

Ms Downing has had bowel cancer and two heart surgeries, with many of her appointments scheduled at Prince Charles Hospital in Brisbane, or at the Sunshine Coast University Hospital.

She said she would travel 320km and 200km respectively for each appointment.

“I think the government could do more to take the pressure off people who are sick and can’t afford expensive travel,” Ms Downing said.

“Rebates can take up to three-months to return, after forking out $1,000.

“If you go regularly, it’s very hard financially.”

‘confusing’ process

Ms Carkeet said she believed patients were discouraged from making PTSS claims because the process was difficult to navigate.

“There’s a lot of excessive paperwork, and then there’s the long wait for funds,” she said.

“Meanwhile patients are needing to travel multiple times, some 30 times in six weeks, due to their illness.

“So, they run out of money and can’t go.

“It’s up to us to find a way.”

four cars in car park
Ms Carkeet says each car in the Gympie Medical Transport Service travels 90-120 hours per month.(Supplied: Gympie Medical Transport Service)

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