"My experience with PATS"

About: Patient Assisted Travel Scheme - WACHS Goldfields

(as a parent/guardian),

As a back story, my young child has a long and complicated medical history that started when my child was 4 months old. We have had 4 flights with the Royal Flying Doctors Services and some very long stays in one hospital and a recent stay in the children’s hospital. My child has had a stem cell transplant to treat a genetic condition and requires visits to the children’s hospital every 3 months for appointments with immunology and the transplant team on oncology.

This hospitalisation started at our local hospital and we were treated very well and professionally by the doctor and the nursing staff, we were kept in for the night and flown out the following day. We were treated at the children’s hospital and released a few days later. After a few days in Perth we were readmitted to the children’s hospital and in surgery the next morning. All of this was done with me trying to manage a very traumatised child that is incredibly reactive and upset with any kind of medical procedure, it doesn’t matter how big or small. Once we were discharged it was suggested to us we stay in Perth for a follow up appointment several days later.

When we were done with our follow up and given the ok to come home I requested a PATS form be filled out so that we could make our way home. The doctor filled the form out requesting a flight due to my child being medically unfit to take a 10-hour bus ride home. I called PATS in Esperance to ask them to organise our flights and was met with, what can only be described as, combative opposition. I was treated like I was trying to rip off the system and that there was not a good enough reason to be given flights home. I asked what exactly I had to have on the form to have it approved and was treated again like I was trying to do the wrong thing.

I ended up going to the social worker in the hospital on the direction of the clinic I was seeing and they began the process of trying to work it out with the person in the office. I left it in their hands after 4 hours of waiting at the hospital to find out if I was going to have to organise my own travel or not. I called PATS and asked how they had got along, and again I was met with an attitude that was quiet aggressively unhelpful and combative. I have been through a lot with my child over the years, I have had to fight to be heard with doctors and nurses along the way, but nobody has made me feel as disempowered and dismissed as this member of staff. I ended up in tears on the phone and just giving up completely. Fortunately, I have the means to pay for those tickets myself due to REX airline having cheap seats available, but this trip has been very expensive and I was not asking for anything that we are not eligible for.

My question is, what is PATS if it is not a service that is there to help vulnerable patients and their families at difficult times? Why does there have to be this horrible fight to get travel home in an appropriate way when the doctor has advised it. And since when is it a requirement for the PATS officer to have the run down on the exact reason you are in the care of a hospital? Isn’t that patient confidentiality? Isn’t a doctor’s word enough! Very very disappointed. I will be pursuing reimbursement from someone who has a greater authority and hopefully more compassion.

Responses

Response from Peter Tredinnick, A/Regional Director, Regional Office, WACHS Goldfields

picture of Peter Tredinnick

Dear blackbirdhz74,

I would firstly like to offer you my sincere apologies for your recent experience with the PATS Service in Esperance. Your story was difficult to read and I am genuinely sorry that we have let you down in this way.

Our health service prides itself on staff being respectful and compassionate during every interaction with patients and their families and carers. These qualities are essential when people, and particularly parents of children that are unwell, are at their most scared and vulnerable.

Sometimes a PATS officer does need to seek approval for a PATS application if there is a lack of information provided. This can mean seeking medical advice from a clinician, which might be the Regional Medical Director or the Senior Medical Officer. If this does happen, I would like to assure you that the information that is provided is treated with the strictest confidentiality.

We would really like the opportunity to speak with you and to assure you that we are listening. I would be very grateful if you could contact Margaret Smillie, Acting Operations Manager in Esperance. Please feel free to call Margaret at your convenience on 0417 254 097 so that we can learn more and understand about what happened.

Thank you very much for taking the time to share your experience with us. As a result of your story, I will be taking the opportunity to remind our staff of the importance of demonstrating kindness, understanding and empathy each and every time.

Yours Sincerely

Peter Tredinnick

A/Regional Director

WACHS Goldfields

  • {{helpful}} {{helpful == 1 ? "person thinks" : "people think"}} this response is helpful

Update posted by blackbirdhz74 (a parent/guardian)

Thank you so much for your reply. I appreciate your response immensely and will call the number you have provided to see if I can sort this issue out. I really dislike speaking up about these experiences, but after having been confronted with things in the past that have made me feel this way, I feel it is necessary to speak up.

There are so many people out there without the means to support their decisions and the advice of their doctors if the departments that are in place let them down. So many of those people are either not aware of or are under too much pressure already to pursue some kind of balance to the situation.

I have had so many positive and uplifting moments within some very high pressure and scary medical situations that I know that it is possible to feel supported and cared for by the people who have chosen a career that works alongside those of us who are not fortunate enough to have the privilege of good health. I just don’t ever think it is necessary to play the power card of saying no and then giving no helpful or insightful advice to help someone achieve a positive outcome. Especially when they are already going through a difficult and traumatic experience.

Updates, changes and questions related to this story

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