NSW Government will invest $149.5M to improve the Isolated Patient and Accommodation Assistance Scheme. This is a major win for people affected by cancer in regional and rural communities and something our communities have long advocated for – it means cancer patients who need to travel from their homes in regional NSW to hospitals or treatment centres will be out of pocket thousands of dollars less.
Cancer patients in regional NSW often face huge out of pocket costs just to travel to treatment
While Isolated Patient and Accommodation Assistance Scheme (IPTAAS) was set up by the NSW Government to help people in regional areas who need to travel long distances for treatment, the scheme has been letting people with cancer down.
In the past, IPTAAS had provided people with cancer as little as $43 a night for accommodation and 22cents/km for travel.
And people who need to access potentially lifesaving clinical travel, were denied access altogether.
The changes announced will significantly increase the rate of travel and accommodation subsidies available
Fuel rebate increased from 22 cents/km to 40 cents/km.
Accommodation subsidy increased from $43/night to $75/night and up to $120/night for stays over seven nights.
And for the first time, people undertaking ground-breaking clinical trials will have access to these subsidies.
Thank you to our communities for your advocacy
These are major improvements that have been years in the making, and it all started with our communities. Together we advocated to Government using research and stories, mobilising our communities and supporters. We shared stories like Paul’s who was diagnosed with head and neck cancer in 2018. Living in Wagga Wagga the chemotherapy and radiation treatment that Paul required was not available at his local hospital, so he had to travel to Sydney to access treatment.
Paul had travelled more than 4,500kms between his home and various hospitals across NSW before his treatment had even started. The treatment itself required Paul to stay in a serviced apartment close to the hospital in Sydney for eight weeks
After Cancer Council NSW informed Paul of IPTAAS, he received $6,000 in subsidies for accommodation. However, this still left Paul out of pocket more than $7,000 for accommodation alone. These stories of people who faced financial hardship because they couldn’t afford treatment or were not able to access life-saving clinical trials helped build understanding of why change was needed moving people to support our advocacy.
We will continue to advocate for change
This has been a major win. And we know that further improvements are still needed so we will continue to advocate for change. Changes to the application process to make it easier, changes to the restrictive distance criteria for assistance that still excludes people in need and improving awareness of the scheme among health care providers.
As we head to the NSW election in March 2023, we will be asking candidates to commit to improving cancer care and support and reducing cancer deaths. And we will once again be calling on you, our community to help because we have seen what is possible when we advocate together.