Health care must be improved

THE current overnight accommodation allowance for sick people travelling from the regions to larger centres for treatment is contributing to the health gap between city and regional Queenslanders, Member for Gregory Vaughan Johnson said.

“The current payment is $30 for overnight accommodation,” Mr Johnson said.

“I challenge the Minister for Health to find somewhere at that rate, close to a large hospital in Brisbane, where he would be happy for a frail or elderly relative to stay for an extended period of time.

“Practically every month we have a new report on the higher death rates and poorer outcomes for people in regional areas.

“Most recently it was prostate cancer and another report showing higher rates of diabetic amputations in the bush, but it holds true across gender and age and illness.

“The outcomes for chronic disease are worse if you live outside the metropolitan areas.

“Diagnosis tends to come at a more advanced stage and the availability for acute care is limited without travel.

“Many treatments involve a lengthy stay near a hospital in a city. Often a carer has to be accommodated as well because the treatments are incapacitating for the patient.

“Then there is the whole area of access to follow-up care.

“This is vital in achieving positive long-term management for many chronic diseases and so, for city dwellers, it is often free.

“But people outside the cities can find themselves forced to fund transport and accommodation and time off work if they are to receive this follow-up care.”

Mr Johnson said the long-standing Patient Travel Subsidy Scheme was intended to help overcome this situation, but had been grossly underfunded for some time.

“The level of payment would be comic if it wasn’t so insulting and, sadly, deadly,” he said.

“The low payments mean that country people often feel forced to go without and so it becomes a hidden problem, but it shows up in the health statistics time and again.

“It is just unfair and neglectful, especially given that Queensland is Australia’s most decentralised state and this government should be governing for the welfare of all Queenslanders.”

Mr Johnson said he had tabled a question in parliament asking the Health Minister Geoff Wilson to urgently increase the amount paid to patients as a travel subsidy and to increase it by a very substantial amount.

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