Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell is concerned PATS offices may close across regional South Australia, following the circulation of a survey to users of the scheme by SA Health.
The Patient Assistance Transport Scheme (PATS) provides travel and accommodation subsidies to South Australians required to travel over 100km to access medical specialists.
Due to COVID restrictions, regional PATS offices, including Mount Gambier, Riverland, Port Lincoln, Whyalla and Port Augusta, were closed to the public for most of 2020.
This month, SA Health initiated a survey requesting people who had utilised the scheme during 2020 fill in a questionnaire detailing how they had accessed the scheme during that time. Mr Bell said the motive behind the survey could be to determine whether regional offices could be closed.
“One of the biggest sources of complaints to my office is the loss of face-to-face services from our State Government,” he said. “When it comes to navigating a complex system like PATS, some people like to deal with a real person, not a computer or voice on the end of a telephone line.”
Residents in the Limestone Coast region are one of the biggest users of the scheme, Mr Bell said and collectively, their voices could determine the future of the Mount Gambier office.
“Your feedback may affect how SA Health determines the future of regional PATS offices,” he said. “If you use PATS, I encourage you to complete the survey, as having your say about the future of State Government services is very important.”
If the regional offices were to close, Mr Bell believed it would be a disappointing decision for many across regional South Australia. “More and more services are becoming online-only, which is a bit of a one-size fits all approach,” he said.
“People should be able to use the method that best suits them and some people just need a little help and personal contact.”
Visit www.pats.sa.gov.au/pats-survey/ to complete the survey online by May 5 or pick up a copy at the Mount Gambier Electorate Office.