Rural patients given a shot for travel

More good news from Health Minister Tony Ryall on the rural health front: he has announced an increase in the mileage allowance that patients can claim under the National Travel Assistance (NTA) policy. It’s the first increase in 20 years.

He’s on the job, too, looking into rural doctors’ and nurses’ concerns about rural ambulance services.

Dr Carol Horgan, chief executive of Dunstan Hospital near Clyde in Central Otago, was among those who raised the matter at the Rural General Practitioners Network conference in Wellington over the weekend.

According to Radio New Zealand:

Dr Horgan says patients with acute conditions often need to be transferred to Dunedin but staff are regularly told there is no ambulance available.

She says no-one has died because of a lack of ambulance services, but she does not know whether that is due to management or luck.

Dr Horgan says St John provides transport only when patients are moved meaning nurses are forced to spend hours away from their ward duties to travel with patients.

St John Ambulance told Radio NZ it has staff and volunteer shortages across the country, faces a $10 million funding shortfall every year, and can only offer services as far as funding allows.

Ryall says the issue is being reviewed. Here’s hoping for action.

Ryall has acted already on the National Travel Assistance policy, a scheme appying to patients who are referred by a specialist to another specialist and the patient must travel long distances, or travel frequently, for appointments.

Alf thanks Ele at Homepaddock for alerting him to Ryall’s announcement.

Ryall has issued a media statement:

“The amount that patients can claim under the scheme hasn’t been reviewed for more than 20 years, so I’m pleased to be announcing an increase, from 20 cents to 28 cents per kilometre.

“The maximum accommodation rate for eligible clients has also been increased to $100 per night for all of New Zealand.”

Ryall knows the increases won’t cover all the actual costs of travel and accommodation for patients.

“The NTA support has always been a help rather than a reimbursement. But in tough financial times every bit extra will help, especially for people who have health issues that are not easy to manage close to home.”

Information about who is eligible for travel assistance is available from the Ministry of Health’s website.

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