Patients face transport barriers, confusion in Mid Murray district

Mid Murray Support Service adminstrator Bev Forgan and coordinator Annette
Mid Murray Support Service adminstrator Bev Forgan and coordinator Annette "Wink" Dempsey have called for a rethink of transport services in the district. Photo: Peri Strathearn.

Elderly Mid Murray residents and those living with disability are being left in the lurch by shortcomings in local transport services, an operator says.

Mid Murray Support Service (MMSS) coordinator Annette "Wink" Dempsey has called for a rethink of services in the district, based on consultation with residents about their needs.

Her organisation maintains four cars and roster of a volunteers to help disadvantaged locals get to medical appointments, go shopping or visit family and friends.

The Red Cross and Mannum's hospital also run separate services with different eligibility criteria, while the Patient Assistance Transport Scheme (PATS) provides rebates to people who need to drive more than 100 kilometres to appointments.

The system could be confusing for passengers, Ms Dempsey said.

For example, MMSS was not allowed to cater to residents of aged care facilities, and for PATS purposes the 100km threshold was measured from Adelaide's general post office rather than the relevant hospital.

In other cases, she said, the system had proven completely unfit for purpose.

Passengers - even those aged in their 80s - were often asked to find accommodation in Adelaide or stay overnight in hospital if their appointments could not be squeezed into a four-hour window in the middle of the day, as drivers could not afford to wait around all day.

That only contributed to overcrowding in hospitals, Ms Dempsey said, and did not promote the best outcomes for patients.

"The best place for you is in your own bed, not on your own," she said.

"For a quality service, (staying in Adelaide) should be a last resort.

"Looking out the window and seeing their neighbour's rubbish bin is not going to improve their wellbeing."

If local transport services were re-assessed, Ms Dempsey also hoped her passengers might gain access to a card Red Cross passengers received which gave them priority access to medical appointments between 10am and 2pm.

If MMSS passengers had access to the same privilege, she said, patients would be able to carpool, which would reduce demand for her service by a third.

"It's not the fact we don't have access to any transport - we do," she said.

"What we don't have is enough appropriate transport for the community we're serving: people with a disability, the aged and the vulnerable."