How we’re making cancer care fairer for regional and rural Australians
We know that people with cancer living outside metropolitan areas experience poorer outcomes compared to people in cities. According to Cancer Council NSW research, 1 in 5 people affected by cancer in regional and rural NSW skip appointments because of the huge out of pocket costs involved with traveling to treatment in urban areas.
This is why we have long advocated for action to ensure that everyone in NSW has the same opportunities to access the care they need – regardless of where they live.
In 2022, we celebrated a major win when the NSW Government announced $149.5m to improve the Isolated Patient Transport and Accommodation Assistance Scheme (IPTAAS) – the government scheme that provides financial support for people in regional NSW who need to travel to get healthcare.
This is a gamechanger for cancer patients in regional and rural NSW.
IPTAAS was originally set up by the NSW Government to help people in regional and rural areas to get to treatment. However, the scheme had been letting people with cancer down.
Until this announcement was made, IPTAAS had provided people affected by cancer with as little as $43 a night for accommodation and 22 cents/km for travel – less than what a politician could claim for travel.
Fuel rebate has increased from 22c/km.
Accommodation rebate up from $43/night.
The changes announced will almost double the amount of financial assistance previously provided. The fuel rebate will lift from 22 cents/km to 40 cents/km. The accommodation subsidy will go 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.
It will empower cancer patients to get through treatment
We spoke with Ryan Channells, a cancer survivor from northern NSW, to learn just how beneficial this policy change will be for people living away from metropolitan areas: “When I had cancer, the financial burden was freaking me out more than the cancer itself”.
“A big part of getting through cancer treatment is remaining positive and putting mind over matter. The last thing you need is to also worry about money. For me, travelling from near Port Macquarie to Sydney was stressful and expensive. It was always at the back of my mind that I didn’t want to die and leave my family behind with a financial burden.
“When I was going through treatment, IPTAAS didn’t help me much. Now, it will make a massive difference for patients.”
The Cancer Council NSW community campaigned for this change for years
Using research and stories, we mobilised our communities and supporters and advocated to the Government for years to effect this change.
Nearly 200 supporters wrote to their Members of Parliament – and some volunteers also met with their Members of Parliament.
The stories of people who faced financial hardship because they couldn’t afford treatment or were not able to access ground-breaking clinical trials that could save their lives, were shared and moved people to support our advocacy.
There’s still more work to be done
We are still advocating for further improvements to IPTAAS to make the system more equitable for people affected by cancer living in regional and rural areas. For example, we believe:
The application process can be made easier
The restrictive distance criteria for assistance should be changed as it still excludes people in need
Awareness of the IPTAAS scheme needs to be raised among health care providers.
As we head to the NSW election in March 2023, we will be calling on the NSW Government, Members of Parliament and candidates to improve cancer care and support and reduce cancer deaths all across NSW.
We need your help because we have seen what is possible when a community comes together. To join our movement, visit the Here For Change campaign online.