JO PORTER, of Guyra in the New England Tablelands, was told more than three years ago that her son Will had been diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma, a rare but aggressive form of soft-tissue cancer.It was the beginning of an odyssey for the mother of two. Obliged to take leave without pay from her job at Liverpool Plains Council for five months, she struggled to pay the bills.The state government’s isolated patients transport and assistance scheme (ITAAS) reimbursed part of up to 10 $1000 return flights to Sydney but the mother was out-of-pocket by $250 each time.She and Will got accommodation in a hostel and at Ronald McDonald House. But when there were space problems, the two had to get accommodation in a private hotel at a cost of about $100 a night, of which the state aid scheme paid $45.When they no longer qualified for airfares, Ms Porter had to drive, at a reimbursement fee of 15 cents a kilometre, even though her petrol was costing $1.30 or $1.35 a litre.In the recent state budget, country politicians were only given a modest rise in their Sydney allowance – from $240 to $246 a night.But isolated patients got not a cent more: $33 a night allowance for a single person staying in Sydney and petrol reimbursement at 15 cents a litre.Anita Tang, the manager of policy and advocacy of the Cancer Council of NSW, said: “In Sydney, that is around the cost of a camp site or kennelling for your pet . . . Those who drive can expect a measly 15 cents for a litre of fuel – an amount more fitting of the 1970s.”Ms Porter, whose son has been cancer-free for three years, has been set her back thousands of dollars. Others in the same predicament have had to go to even more desperate measures to make ends meet.She said there was considerable paperwork to be completed and it took up to four months before she received reimbursement for each claim. “I would have got $750 back for a plane trip in three or four months,” she said.”But I might have made three more trips in that time.”Alison Peters, the director of the NSW Council of Social Service, said that now that treatment for chronic illnesses was more and more centralised, requiring more travel, some people in need of such treatment did not bother making the trip.
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