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Liberal opposition slam SA government patient subsidy silence

SA Health Minister Chris Picton on the campaign trail

Prior to losing the recent South Australian State Election in a landslide, the government at the time, lead by Steven Marshall, had promised to double the Patient Assistance Transport Scheme (PATS) subsidy in South Australian regions.

The initiative aids members of the community who live in rural and regional areas and require transportation to and from critical healthcare services.

Country Liberal MPs now in the state opposition are questioning the stance taken by the newly-elected Labor government on the PATS initiative, after Labor’s election campaign which was heavily geared towards improving healthcare in the state.

When FlowNews24 asked freshly-appointed Labor Health Minister Chris Picton about whether it was matching the Liberals' pre-election commitment to boost PATS funding, the Minister said:

“The Malinauskas Government has already scrapped the Liberal's plan for a $662 million Basketball Stadium and is instead spending the money on fixing the health system.”
“This includes an investment of $100 million in country health.”
“This will provide more treatment and care closer to where people live, leading to less country people having to travel as often to Adelaide.”
“We will be delivering the commitments that we made to the people of South Australia at the election.”

Sam Telfer, who represents the Flinders electorate covering the western part of the state, was particularly damning of the government, telling Flow:

“Peter Malinauskas keeps saying that ‘Your prospects in life shouldn’t be determined by your postcode’, but already we are seeing that this is blatant political spin with no concept of reality.” “Our people in regional and remote SA, especially in Flinders, are having to spend significant amounts of their own money just to travel to get basic services, and the PATs system should be reflective of the lack of comparative services which are delivered to our regions.” “I’m imploring the new Health Minister Chris Picton listen to the people of our regions, and to boost the PATs travel subsidy scheme.”

Nick McBride, who was highly critical of the Liberals’ election campaign on Flow last month, doubled down on the comments his colleague Sam Telfer :

“I was extremely supportive of my party’s election commitment to double the PATS fuel subsidy from 16 cents to 32 cents per kilometre.”
“Cost of living pressures, including high fuel prices, is making travel to see specialists increasingly difficult.
“Doubling the fuel subsidy would be a small step forward to helping those patients access the care they need.”
“I am looking forward to the Labor Government following through on their election commitment to invest in regional health care, particularly in the Limestone Coast.”
“While this commitment is welcomed, it will take time to complete ... an increase in PATS now would be appreciated by many in my electorate.”

Tim Whetstone, member in the newly-shaped Chaffey in the east of the state including the Mallee and Riverland, also weighed in on the PATS debate:

“In Chaffey, there are many patients who are unable to afford the petrol to drive a car while they are being assessed by a specialist outside of the region.”
“Many country patients travelling to Adelaide for medical treatment are already experiencing physical and emotional stress, and financial pressure only worsens this situation.”
“I would urge the Labor Government to increase the PATS fuel reimbursement to reflect the recent cost of living increases for people living in our regional areas.”


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