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"Lack of information and confusion on PATS"

About: GPs in the Durack Electoral District Patient Assisted Travel Scheme - WACHS Midwest

(as the patient),

I've relatively recently discovered this wonderful benefit offered to rural people for assistance in paying for medical costs due to living away from services. 

Unfortunately I have found out about this well into my third pregnancy. No doctor had advised we were eligible in previous pregnancies. I only found out about it when asking advice on a Facebook group as we were looking at needing to relocate to a city 5 hours away due to high-risk complications. Some members in the group asked why we were not eligible for PAT's. I then asked our doctor who I believe brushed it aside and said oh yes, you're eligible, don't worry we'll do all the paperwork after you have the baby. 

Fast forward a couple of months and our baby is now 12 weeks old. The doctor charged us for the privilege of filling out the forms that should have been done at the beginning. Incorrectly as it turns out. Now we have been going backwards and forwards with the lovely ladies at our local hospital trying to figure out a way out of this mess. There is confusion as to what is covered and apparently may only cover for 4 visits to the city and not the birth, or maybe the birth? We had to relocate and live out of a hotel for 5 weeks (4 weeks before baby arrived and 5 days after in accordance with hospital rules). Our credit cards were maxed out and we were lucky the dog kennel allowed us to pay in payment plans. 

We are now told if we try claiming for the birth with the 5 week stay in there, the entire claim might be refused and could cost us even more money, let alone the waste of time, stress and energy this has caused. We are feeling alone, completely frustrated and uncertain as to what to do from here.

This service is fantastic but why are patients not being advised that they are eligible? 

Why are we being told we should be checking the doctors and making sure they do their job right, then being charged when they don't? 

Why is a service that is supposed to help alleviate some of the financial burden so difficult to get? 

Are doctors told not to offer this information to save the government money? 

Responses

Response from Michele Young, Coordinator Executive Services, Executive Services, WACHS - Midwest We have made a change

picture of Michele Young

Dear jupitermp99,

Firstly congratulations on the birth of your baby and thank you for taking the time to share your experience on Patient Opinion. I was saddened to read your story and so very sorry that the process of accessing the Patient Assisted Travel Scheme (PATS) has been so complicated for you, particularly when you had concerns around your pregnancy and the health of your baby.

PATS provides assistance for country Western Australian residents and their approved escorts who are required to travel more than 100km (one way) to access the nearest eligible medical specialist services, including Telehealth services. Referral to the nearest medical specialist is a PATS eligibility requirement. I have included the link to the PATS website for further information http://www.wacountry.health.wa.gov.au/index.php?id=pats

Please be reassured that we take your feedback seriously and we really would like to see where we can help. I have spoken to Karen Street the PATS Regional Coordinator who would like an opportunity to speak to you regarding your concerns so that we can understand what has occurred, identify your location and importantly work with you to determine exactly what you are eligible for. To allow us an opportunity to do this we would be grateful if you could contact us directly to discuss the issues you have raised and get some further details. Karen Street, PATS Regional Coordinator can be contacted on 9956 1962 or 0427 479 297 or Karen.Street@health.wa.gov.au - your call would be very welcome.

As an immediate action based on your feedback I will arrange some information and communications around PATS to be distributed through local news letters and social media to assist in letting the community know about this initiative. Our organisation the WA Country Health Service Midwest has a Facebook page called My Healthy Midwest – here is the link https://www.facebook.com/myhealthymidwest/ This page is used to inform and keep our community up to date around our services, initiatives, health happenings, events and important health information across the Midwest region. Information regarding PATS will be posted on this page. If you have an opportunity and are happy to assist us in sharing important health messages, it would be great if you can let your friends and family know that this page is available.

Thank you again for getting in touch, we really appreciate your feedback and the opportunity to help. I wish you and your family all the very best and I look forward to hearing from you very soon.

Kind regards

Michele

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