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Thursday, 30 April 1987
Page: 2402

(Question No. 5131)

Mr Wright asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 23 February 1987:

(1) What are the terms of agreement with the Queensland Government relating to the transfer of the Isolated Patients Assistance Scheme to that State.

(2) Has his attention be drawn to growing public concern that the Queensland Government has greatly reduced the benefits to isolated patients.

(3) Is it a fact that the Government provided a significant increase in funding when the transfer of the scheme took place.

(4) Does the Government have any powers to require the Queensland Government to ensure that the service provided previously by his Department to isolated patients is retained in terms of quality and financial benefit to Queensland isolated patients.

(5) Is it a fact that the Queensland Government has (a) increased the patient's contributions, (b) placed a special condition on the payment for accommodation and (c) virtually removed all repayments of taxi fare costs to the health institution.

(6) Will he investigate the problems in Queensland with the view to holding discussions with the Queensland Health Minister in an endeavour to improve the benefits now being given to isolated patients by the Queensland Government.

(7) What sum has the Government given the Queensland Government to run the Isolated Patients Assistance Scheme.

(8) Is he able to say what the cost of the scheme will save the Queensland Government in its first full year of operation.

Dr Blewett —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) The Isolated Patients Travel and Accommodation Assistance Scheme (IPTAAS) was abolished as from 1 January 1987. The Commonwealth Government has provided funding to the States and Territories for the provision of patient transport assistance arrangements. As I stated in my Second Reading Speech on the Health Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) of 1986, the new arrangements are a matter for each State and Territory to determine, having regard to its own distribution of specialist services and the specific needs of its own rural population.

(2) I have received some representations on behalf of Queensland residents who are concerned at the reduced level of benefits available for patient transport from the Queensland Government.

(3) Funds to the States and Territories for the period 1 January to 30 June 1987 totalled $10.868 million with Queensland receiving $3.193 million. Funds were apportioned on the basis of IPTAAS benefits paid in 1985/86 and the full year equivalent represents a 26% increase. Future funding will be indexed on the same basis as the indexation for identified health grants.

(4) Notwithstanding the previous Commonwealth involvement in the field of patient transport through IPTAAS, the fact remains that patient transport assistance is a State responsibility-being part of their overall responsibility for health services generally. Accordingly, the Commonwealth Government's funding for the provision of patient transport assistance by the Queensland Government has been included in the Special Revenue Assistance Grants on an unconditional basis. It is not intended to impose conditions on these funds either now or in the future. However, in view of the generous level of funding provided by the Government, there are no valid reasons why the Queensland Government should reduce the level of services to isolated patients either in terms of quality of financial benefits.

(5) In establishing the Patient Transit Scheme (PTS), the Queensland Government has, in some instances, reduced the level of benefit from that which applied under IPTAAS:

(a) The IPTAAS patient contribution towards travel was $30 irrespective of the number of people accompanying the patient. Queensland's PTS requires patients to contribute $40 towards their travel costs and, where an escort for a patient over 16 years is certified, another $40 per person.

(b) Whereas IPTAAS provided $10 per night in benefits where accommodation was obtained privately, this assistance is not available under PTS. An accommodation allowance under PTS of $30 per night is restricted to:

Health Care, Health Benefits and Pensioner Health Benefits Card Holders, their dependents and escorts;

patients under 16 years and their escorts; and

other patients and escorts who have to be accommodated for more than eight nights in any one year.

(c) I understand PTS does not cover miscellaneous travel expenses (such as taxi fares) at the treatment centre.

On the other hand, PTS is more flexible than IPTAAS in that:

there is no 200 kilometre minimum restriction on distance travelled before assistance is payable;

assistance is available prior to travel; and

claims can be made more easily through local public hospitals.

(6) The matter of the provision of patient transport assistance is one to be determined by individual States and Territories. I advised the Queensland Minister for Health prior to the cessation of IPTAAS there would be no formal monitoring of the patient transport assistance arrangements.

(7) See answer to (3).

(8) I have no details on the likely costing of the Queensland Government's PTS.