Advocates for the sector will step up pressure on the state government to increase the subsidy in the state budget, while the survey recommended expanding the program’s eligibility criteria.
The inquest heard that patients were unable to access the program because they had private health insurance or were undergoing medical trials, and that payment for accommodation “does not come close ” the cost of commercial service providers.
“The reimbursement rates per kilometer and for accommodation are totally unsatisfactory,” the report said. “Reimbursement rates for accommodation are also grossly inadequate and need to be reviewed.”
Regional Health Minister Bronnie Taylor said Thursday that increasing transportation and accommodation support was a priority following the investigation.
“The NSW Government has listened and accepts that more needs to be done to improve patient care,” she said. “It’s all on the table when it comes to improving health outcomes in rural and regional New South Wales.”
Patient Chris Newman, who is staying at Macquarie Homestay for a month while receiving radiotherapy in Dubbo, said the grant would make little difference in a commercial motel.
“It would have been impossible to pay,” he said. “I’m retired and there’s no way we could have afforded hotel accommodation and all that for a month.”
From his home in Coolah, 150 kilometers away, Newman faced a round trip of more than three hours if he had not secured a room with the nonprofit. He said more services like this were urgently needed.
“Coming here is almost like a home away from home. We’re actually going to donate to them when we leave,” he said, adding that the grant hasn’t kept up with the cost of living.
Macquarie Homestay accommodates 17 patients in en-suite bedrooms and has a shared living room and kitchen. Crowfoot said he was planning an expansion to accommodate 63 patients.
He has requested federal funding to build 26 new units, but Crowfoot is calling for greater support from local and state governments, philanthropists and the business community.
The site is turning away up to 100 patients per month at peak times, such is the demand for the service from patients from a third of the state.
“It’s not ‘build it, and they will come’. It’s “build it because they’re here and they need it,” Crowfoot said.
He is a member of a task force advising Health Minister Brad Hazzard on the needs of the isolated patient scheme after the minister pledged last year to review it.
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