Inadequate compensation leaving regional patients at risk and in financial stress

The WA Liberals have called for an urgent review of the Patient Assisted Transfer Scheme (PATS), following a dramatic reduction in health services in rural and regional Western Australia under the Labor Government.

Shadow Health Minister Libby Mettam said it was shocking to learn that families living in Carnarvon, where the Government had suspended maternity services at the local hospital, were significantly out of pocket after travelling to Perth to have their babies.

Since January 2021, health services have been reduced at hospitals in Carnarvon, Narrogin, Wyndham, Bridgetown and Manjimup forcing more people to travel to Perth or regional centres for treatment and seek financial assistance from the PATS.

Ms Mettam said that when the State Government reduced services, which it said was made necessary because of staff shortages, it gave an assurance that regional patients would be “fully supported and funded” to receive treatment in other centres.

“That was just another Labor lie because the Cook Government now says the PATS is intended only to assist with travel, not fully cover the cost of travel,” Ms Mettam said.

“It’s grossly unfair to not provide regional health services and to then expect families to have to pay out of their own pockets when they need to access the same services that metropolitan patients take for granted.”

North West Central MP Merome Beard delivered a grievance motion in Parliament today outlining what she said were the “woeful inadequacies” of PATS subsidies for regional patients.

“In February 2022, the Cook Labor government closed the maternity services at Carnarvon Health Campus and since then,163 mothers and their families have had to travel hundreds of kilometres to have their babies,” Ms Beard said.

“I have had mothers come to me who have experienced significant shortfalls in the coverage of their out-of-pocket expenses and experiencing stress through difficult administration of the scheme.”

PATS will subsidise commercial accommodation up to $102.75 per night for the patient and an additional $15 for an approved escort.

In WA, PATS provides a fuel subsidy to eligible patients of just 16 cents per kilometre, compared to NSW where the subsidy is 40 cents per kilometre.

“It’s unconscionable that mothers, already grappling with the physical and emotional tolls of pregnancy and childbirth, are further burdened with exorbitant costs, logistical hurdles and at times inadequate pre and post natal care,” Ms Beard said.

“No mother should be forced into the impossible choice between accessing essential healthcare and maintaining financial stability.”

Case Studies

Tina Harvey
Despite her careful planning and proactive booking of accommodation at 14 weeks pregnant, the unforeseen need to access specialised medical care has depleted Tina’s family’s savings. Airfares and accommodation have cost the family to date $6000, leaving them in a precarious financial position.

Tina remains unsure how much, or when, she will be reimbursed from the PATS. The burden of these costs, coupled with impending expenses associated with welcoming a new family member, leaves the family with little to no financial cushion.

Bianca Ferreira
Experiencing a high-risk pregnancy, after a previous stillbirth, Bianca Ferreir submitted her PATS request for self-contained accommodation in Perth well ahead of her expected delivery date.

However, after what the Minister for Health’s office described as an “unfortunate failure in communication between staff” Bianca was left with her urgent needs unaddressed for an extended period and facing unacceptable delays in accessing crucial assistance and prenatal care.

As Bianca navigated the complexities of her high-risk pregnancy, the failure to address her accommodation and transport needs in a timely manner only served to deepen her distress, leaving her feeling isolated and overwhelmed.