Budget delivers relief to country cancer patients

Tuesday 6 May, 2014

Rural and regional patients experiencing financial distress will receive some relief under today’s state budget – a move welcomed by Cancer Council Victoria.

Promised in the 2014 State Budget is an extra $13.8 million for the Victorian Patient Transport Assistance Scheme, which will mean higher petrol and accommodation rebates for patients who travel long distances for medical treatment. The first allocation of additional funds ($3.3 million) will be made in 2014-15.

Detail on how this extra funding will alter the existing scheme is not yet available. A number of shortfalls were identified by an alliance of 30 health and allied agencies that formed last year to advocate for improvements to scheme.

Cancer Council Victoria chief executive Todd Harper said he hoped the extra money would bring Victoria closer in line to other states and territories that provide higher rebates.

“This scheme hadn’t been improved since 2007 and as a result we have fallen behind other states and territories,” Mr Harper said.

“The state government should be congratulated for taking action to help reduce the financial and emotional burden that someone with a serious illness is forced to bear. We hope this news will mean patients can concentrate on their health and the well-being of their family rather than paying the bills.”

Speaking on behalf of the Cancer Council’s Clinical Network, Albury-Wodonga medical oncologist Dr Craig Underhill said doctors had regularly heard stories of patients delaying or avoiding necessary medical treatment because of the time and expense involved.

“Doctors across the state will applaud this move if it helps ensure Victorians have better access to the best possible medical care – no matter where they live, and no matter how much they earn,” Dr Underhill said.

The Clinical Network comprises more than 600 cancer clinicians from around the state, and has been calling for improvements to the scheme for the past 18 months. In December, the Cancer Council and its Clinical Network were among 30 groups that formed an alliance to lobby for improvements to the scheme.

Key improvements being called for are:

  • Raising the petrol rebate from 17 cents per kilometre to 30 cents and accommodation rebate from $35 + GST per night to $70;
  • Indexing these travel rebates against the Consumer Price Index;
  • Reducing the distance threshold patients must meet in order to be eligible; and
  • Improving administration and awareness of the scheme.