Rebates to ease NSW rural patients' burden

·2-min read

A cancer charity says rural patients will no longer have to consider forgoing treatment or selling their homes, as the NSW government increases payments for medical travel.

The government will fund $149.5 million for changes to the Isolated Patients Travel and Accommodation Scheme, which supports rural people who travel long distances for healthcare that's unavailable locally.

Under the changes to be included in Tuesday's state budget, mileage payments will increase from 22 cents to 40 cents per kilometre for patients who drive more than 100km.

Payments for one week of accommodation have increased by 75 per cent, from $43 to $75 a night, with a $120 flat rate for people spending more than a week away from home.

"If we as a government can do one thing to support people and their families during a time of great emotional and financial distress, this is it," Regional Health Minister Bronnie Taylor said in a statement on Monday.

The need to overhaul the scheme was a central focus of the state inquiry into rural and regional healthcare.

Its final report recommended increasing the rebates and making the application process easier, following evidence from distressed patients and their families that they had been forced to leave their jobs to travel for treatment.

Cancer charity Can Assist executive director Emma Phillips said some patients have had to consider selling their homes or going without treatment because of the cost of travel.

Many rural patients have to turn to charities to avoid making these sacrifices, Ms Phillips said.

"The costs are not just accommodation - it's your food, communications, living away from home, and the drain that puts on you," Ms Phillips told AAP.

"So this really is a significant win, not just for cancer patients, but for anyone in the country who is trying to access specialised services for their health."

Margaret Dalmau, manager of Lilier Lodge cancer accommodation in Wagga Wagga, said the increased rebates reflected the real cost of staying away from home.

"It means patients now have money to put food on the table and to pay their bills," Ms Dalmau said.

"They can concentrate on their treatment and getting well, rather than all this extraneous stuff that's happening around them."

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