Report

‘Staying alive’: transport to treatment for people living with a chronic disease

15 Feb 2015
Description

Non-emergency health transport makes a significant difference to the lives of people living with cancer or undergoing treatment for chronic kidney disease in NSW. For many of these people it is a lifeline, reducing the burden of travel and improving access to healthcare services.

However, there are gaps in the current system which result in inequities in access to these services for those who need it most. This includes people with limited financial means, fewer public transport options, and those who fall outside of specified criteria to access the services they need, within accruing a significant financial burden themselves. The NSW Health Transport for Health Policy 2006-2011 has itself noted: “current public transport services and private transport are often not available or accessible to a significant number of people living in NSW.” Notwithstanding this growing realisation, the level of unmet need for non-emergency health transport services in NSW is currently not known.

In response to this gap in the evidence-base, this report examines the level of need for community transport services for people with cancer or chronic kidney disease. The findings are based on a national survey of health professionals engaged in cancer and kidney disease care during the period between May 2014 and July 2014, from which data pertaining to NSW was extracted.

Disparities in access to transport have significant implications for people living with cancer or undergoing treatment for kidney disease. This situation is exacerbated by changes and transitional arrangements across Aged Care and Disability Programs at State and Commonwealth levels. There are significant concerns, which have been raised by NCOSS and other groups, about the acknowledged gap in health related transport funding models and funding commitment. Recent changes to the Isolated Patients Travel and Accommodation Assistance Scheme (IPTAAS) by the NSW Government will make a significant difference to remedying this issue in the interim.

This report reveals that:

  • 77% of respondents in dialysis units, and 81% of respondents in cancer centres, reported that their patients experienced some level of difficulty accessing transport to and from treatment;
  • Whilst free parking was available at 80% of dialysis units, 66% indicated that there were not enough parking spaces to meet demand; and
  • The greatest burden of unmet non-emergency transport needs was borne by older people (77%) people on low incomes (74%), people living in rural and regional areas (66%), people with a disability (44%), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (29%), and people from culturally diverse backgrounds (21%). 
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2015
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