Mount Gambier residents will have the opportunity to attend a Q&A style session with South Australia’s top PATS experts at a public forum next month, hosted by MP Troy Bell.
Up to 150 people are expected to attend the forum, the first to be held in regional South Australia, which will be attended by PATS Manager Alexis Nicholson and Chief Finance Officer Steve Brown.
The State Government’s Patient Assisted Transport Scheme (PATS) provides financial assistance to regional South Australians towards the cost of travel and accommodation when patients are required to travel to see medical specialists.
Mount Gambier MP Troy Bell said he organised the forum because there was a need for greater clarity around the scheme’s guidelines.
“The financial assistance provided by the Patient Assisted Transport Scheme is incredibly important to regional patients accessing medical treatment away from home,” he said.
“There are many misconceptions about what is covered under PATS and there also have been changes to the scheme in recent years which people may not be aware of.
“This forum will give people the opportunity not only to educate themselves about the scheme but also have their say about the pros and cons of the current system.”
Should the forum uncover issues or gaps within the current system, Mr Bell said he would be raising them with the Minister for Health, Stephen Wade.
“The last review of the PATS scheme was in 2013,” he said, “and it’s time to see if it is benefitting our regional communities the way it is designed to do and whether changes need to be made.”
Mr Bell said common questions about the scheme included whether patients could travel interstate for treatment, accessing specialists outside their region, or whether taxi services can be reimbursed.
“We will be asking people to pre-submit questions to ensure a greater scope of topics are covered and attendees will be able to get the answers they need directly from two of the state’s top PATS experts,” he said.
Mount Gambier’s Margie Winterfield accessed the service a number of years ago and said she found the guidelines ‘confusing’.
“I don’t think too many people would find it easy to understand what is covered and what is not,” she said.
“It’s not fair - country people should be able to choose their own doctor.”
Ms Nicholson said both her and Mr Brown were looking forward to hearing what the Mount Gambier community had to say.
“We are excited to be attending the Mount Gambier forum to meet the community and explain the PATS guidelines and also, hearing any feedback the community wishes to provide.”
The forum will be held at the Mount Gambier Bowling Club at Commercial St West on 18 February from 6pm.
Mr Bell said residents can RSVP for the forum, or submit a question by emailing email@example.com, or by visiting the Mount Gambier electorate office.
The forum will be held from 5.30pm on February 18 at the Mount Gambier Bowling Club on Commercial St West.