The Weatherill Labor Government has the wrong priorities for health, continuing to waste millions of dollars on consultants and a bloated bureaucracy whilst neglecting important services such as the Patient Assistance Transport Scheme (PATS).
Health Minister Jack Snelling this week ruled out increased funding for PATS, a subsidy program that provides money to pay for some travel, escort and accommodation costs when rural and remote South Australians travel over 100 kilometres to see a specialist.
“MPs are reporting PATS funding is a major issue for regional South Australians,” said Shadow Health Minister Rob Lucas.
“The financial pressure of having to pay for travel and accommodation while accessing treatment is an additional burden for country people dealing with the physical and emotional stress a serious illness or injury brings.
“Some families are paying hundreds of dollars for regular visits to access health services in Adelaide.
”Individual payments have not been increased since 2001 and reimbursements have not kept pace with a massive increase in the cost of living.
“For example, the accommodation rebate is currently $30, but motel accommodation generally costs at least $90 per night.
“The travel allowance rebate is still 16 cents per kilometre, but the cost of fuel has risen significantly. To put this figure in perspective, you can claim nearly five times that amount, 74 cents per kilometre, through the Australian Taxation Office when travelling for business.
“PATS is a good idea, and country people are appreciative of the scheme, but it is time for Minister Snelling to acknowledge its funding needs greater priority.”
Mr Lucas said there were numerous examples of current Government expenditure that would be better spent on frontline services for struggling South Australian families.
“The Weatherill Labor Government committed $10 million over four years to a budget reform unit, and spent $3.6 million on consultancies last financial year, including $1.7 million to help fix errors created by the bungled introduction of the Oracle system,” said Mr Lucas.
“Why does the Weatherill Labor Government need to waste millions of dollars on expensive consultancies when there are more than 100 Health Department employees earning between $150,000 and $440,000, most of whom are sitting in offices in Adelaide?
“This is yet more evidence of a city-centric Government that is out of touch with the needs of regional South Australians.”