Dr Choong said the Department of Health’s decision to close Jewell House ” which provides affordable accommodation to people including those on Patient Assisted Travel Scheme (PATS) ” without defining an alternative ‘lacked foresight’.
‘These patients come from home, which is usually a long way away, to receive treatment here in Perth that is critical treatment, and now they have added to their burden that they have to look for accommodation,’ Dr Choong told the Express.
‘The big issue here is that if they don’t get accommodated, patients might put their treatment off because of the risk of a lack of accommodation. Are they just going to remain in hospital taking up beds when they could be accommodated comfortably elsewhere?’
Dr Choong said closure of Jewell House at the end of the year would put pressure on doctors, nurses and carers working with PATS patients.
‘It’s already so difficult to organise these patients and assist them to get treatment here in Perth when they’re so far away from their home,’ he said.
‘This just adds to the administrative burden that already exists to try and ensure the patients get the treatment they deserve.
‘Unfortunately the Government hasn’t really thought this through, so closing Jewell House on one hand without defining alternative accommodation is a decision that lacks foresight.’
Under the PATS, eligible patients requiring accommodation receive a subsidy of up to $60 per night or $75 a night if travelling with an approved escort.
South WA Country Health Service chief operating officer Tina Chinery said in the past five years, the number of PATS trips had grown by 46 per cent and the subsidies had increased by 78 per cent to $33.2 million in 2012-13, assisting with about 77,800 trips.
A spokeswoman for WA Health Minister Kim Hames said the future of Jewell House was part of master planning for Royal Perth Hospital, which had commenced, and the full details of the plan would be available in due course.
‘WA Country Health Service (WACHS) has had preliminary discussions with an aged care provider, who has vacant accommodation to identify potential accommodation options for country patients after Jewell House closes,’ she said.
‘WACHS is working to secure this before Jewel House closes, with consideration being given to transport and access requirements.’