Cancer Council SA is calling on the next State Government to commit to increase the Patient Assistance Transport Scheme (PATS) accommodation rate ahead of the March State Election to ease the financial burden on regional South Australians.
PATS plays a vital role in providing subsidised accommodation and transport for regional and remote South Australians travelling to Adelaide for cancer treatment.
The last PATS accommodation rate increase was announced in 2014, nearly 8 years ago, despite continued annual increases in CPI across this period averaging around 1.8 per cent for Adelaide.
Cancer Council SA recognises and welcomes the Liberal Party’s announcement of an increase to the PATS fuel subsidy but notes that the accommodation rate remains the lowest in Australia.
This announced increase will support those who drive to Adelaide for their treatment, but an accommodation subsidy increase will assist every South Australian forced to travel to Adelaide.
For Kim Tucker from Millicent, Cancer Council SA’s supportive accommodation has been his lifeline for the past three years.
In 2019, Kim was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML). Based in regional South Australia, Kim needed to travel to Adelaide to receive treatment, which ultimately saved his life.
He spent over 100 days at the Royal Adelaide Hospital where he received several rounds of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. When he was not at the RAH, he stayed at Cancer Council SA’s Lodges.
“I underwent treatment for almost four months at the RAH. It wasn’t feasible for me to travel to and from the South East in between treatment, so Cancer Council SA’s lodges became my second home.”
Following his first round of treatment, Kim went back home for six months and relocated to Hobart to be closer to his partner. In March 2021, he relapsed. He has been staying at the lodges ever since.
“I’ve been staying at Cancer Council SA for the past nine months. I’ve spent around 18 months here in total. If I didn’t have the support from Cancer Council SA’s Lodges, I don’t know what I would do. I wouldn’t be able to go home, so would probably need to rent a house so I could be close to treatment, which would be incredibly hard to pay for when I couldn’t work.”
“Support from Cancer Council SA really is invaluable for people like me,” he said.
Kim is just one of the thousands of South Australians who rely on the PATS subsidy to supplement their accommodation costs when in the city for life-saving cancer treatment.
Cancer Council SA Chief Executive Kerry Rowlands said that while the subsidy provides vital support, the payments are not in line with current costs of living.
“The current Patient Assistance Transport Scheme payments of $40 per night for singles and $80 per night for couples doesn’t reflect the cost of commercial accommodation in the state, nor the increases to the cost of living,” she said.
“South Australia’s PATS accommodation rate remains the lowest of any state, risking many rural patients being left out of pocket.”
Cancer Council SA, together with other local South Australian charities, are asking the next State Government to increase the Patient Assistance Transport Scheme for accommodation from $40 a night to $100 for singles and from $80 a night to $115 for couples.
Ms Rowlands said the increase will provide vital support for regional South Australians like Kim who must remain in Adelaide for treatment for weeks at a time.
“PATS rates have remained unchanged since the last increase committed to in 2014, despite the cost of living gradually rising in Adelaide, which is why we’re calling on the next State Government to commit to a PATS increase ahead of the March State Election,” she said.
“We believe patients shouldn’t have to pay more to access treatment, simply because of where they live.”
With the next State Election only weeks away, Cancer Council SA is calling on the next State Government to invest in three key policies to achieve a cancer free future for all South Australians.
In addition to increasing the PATS subsidy, Cancer Council SA is advocating for:
- $2 million investment into local cancer research every year for the next three years through the Cancer Council Beat Cancer Project.
- Contribution of $400,000 over four years to fund a Tackling Tobacco Pilot Program in South Australia to help reduce the smoking rate in at-risk communities.
Ms Rowlands said that all three asks are targeted, backed by evidence and cost-effective.
“Cancer is one of the leading causes of death and disease in South Australia, with more than 11,400 people losing their life every year.”
“It’s a sobering statistic, but one that highlights why it’s vital for the next State Government to invest in programs and services that reduce the burden of cancer for all South Australians today, and for generations to come,” she said.
To read more about Cancer Council SA’s Election Priorities download our 2022 Election Document here.