Focus on travel and accommodation costs for cancer patients in NSW
Cancer Council NSW, through its pre-budget submission to the NSW Government, recently urged it to improve support for cancer patients, particularly in relation to ‘access to care for those in rural and regional NSW and to support the emotional and financial wellbeing of people with cancer across the state’.
Cancer Council NSW’s submission details four recommendations to address some of the most pressing needs for people facing cancer at this time of unprecedented uncertainty and distress. The recommendations are:
- provide funding to increase access to cancer-specific counsellors
- provide funding to increase access to financial counsellors for people with cancer
- increase the subsidy rates for the Isolated Patients Transport and Accommodation Scheme (IPTAAS)
- expand IPTAAS eligibility criteria and include people with cancer travelling for clinical trials.
CCNSW emphasised that ‘[by] increasing funding in these areas, the NSW Government can ensure that people with cancer who are falling through the gaps, can get the support they need. Everyone in NSW should be able to access cancer care when and where they need it. However, for those living in regional communities, the financial cost of travelling and being away from home can be so high that it stops them accessing treatment.’
CCNSW CEO Professor Sarah Hosking said that ‘We know that a cancer diagnosis costs a household at least $43,000 and one-in-five people with cancer living in regional NSW skip care because of out-of-pocket expenses. The Isolated Patients Transport and Accommodation Scheme offers people with cancer in regional NSW a financial subsidy to offset the cost of travelling to treatment but excludes some patients and leaves others with huge bills for accommodation and transport.’
To ensure that people affected by cancer living in regional NSW can access the care they need, IPTAAS subsidy rates need to increase, and its eligibility criteria needs to be expanded, especially to allow access to clinical trials. ‘Evidence clearly demonstrates that the chance of dying from cancer increases with distance from major centres. Little progress has been made in the past 20 years to close this gap and we are concerned that the impacts of the pandemic will worsen these inequalities,’ concluded Professor Hosking.
IPTAAS, and the need for it to be reviewed regularly to ensure that it provides adequate financial support for the travel and accommodation expenses of those needing to travel to receive treatment for their cancer, has been a long-running and ongoing advocacy area for Cancer Voices NSW. It is pleasing to see that CCNSW also continues to advocate on behalf of cancer patients on the issue.
Information in this article courtesy of Cancer Council NSW.