Eye surgery patient Eva Smith of Moruya believes that patients in the Eurobodalla are being discriminated against by NSW health authorities when it comes to choice.
Ms Smith, 60, was unable to get a rebate for the $75 she spent on getting transport between her home and Canberra Eye Hospital for a consultation on December 15 last year because she did not go to her nearest specialist.
The issue began in November 2011 when Ms Smith went to see an optometrist in Moruya to be fitted with glasses.
“My optometrist said ‘the first thing we will have to do is do something about that cataract’ and I said ‘I didn’t even know I had one!’,” she said.
Ms Smith then inquired about getting surgery to remove the cataract at a shire clinic.
“I was told that I could pay $4000 up front or wait 12 months,” she said.
“I couldn’t afford that and my eyesight was deteriorating so I couldn’t wait that long.”
She inquired about the Canberra Eye Hospital and found that she would have to wait eight to 10 months but the operation would be covered by Medicare.
She was transported between home and Canberra for her first consultation at the eye hospital on December 15, but when she applied for a reimbursement from the NSW Health Support Services under the Isolated Patient Travel and Accommodation Assistance Scheme (IPTAAS), the problems started.
“First I was told I couldn’t get a rebate because I had been referred by an optometrist rather than a doctor or ophthalmologist,” she said.
She then received correspondence from the Patient Transport Unit of Southern NSW Local Health District saying: “For patients to be eligible for the Scheme (IPTAAS), doctors are advised they must refer their patients to the nearest treating specialist. Unfortunately your application does not meet this criteria as the referral was not to the nearest treating specialist from the patient’s residential address. While patients have the right to attend the specialist of their choice, the Scheme does not apply in such circumstances.”
Strangely, the rejected claim form was inadvertently sent to Heath Support Services EnableNSW, which processed the request, and she received a $10.70 cheque in the mail.
Ms Smith underwent cataract surgery on April 10 and did not apply for a transport rebate.
She believed patients in regional areas were at a clear disadvantage compared with those in the city.
“My bitch is that on the South Coast you are dictated to about who you can see, and if you step out of the square, you are not covered,” she said.
“In a metropolitan area we would have a choice. It is supposed to be an isolated patients’ scheme, and aren’t we isolated here?”