Last year I needed to travel from Wangaratta to Melbourne for oral surgery. The surgeon was adamant that someone accompany me home.
My sister agreed to help but became ill. So I called an aunty who lived in Melbourne. I asked her to meet me after my surgery and drop me at Southern Cross Station. She agreed, but then had second thoughts. She thought it might not be a good idea for me to travel home alone. She suggested I use a Red Cross car instead.
Red Cross cars
The Red Cross Patient Transport Service assists people with transport to specialist medical appointments. The service is free and operates throughout Victoria.
Red Cross cars are driven by volunteers, not paid paramedics. So patients may be required to provide a carer to look after them during the trip. The service does not take bookings directly from patients. Only the medical centre the patient is visiting can make the booking. The patient needs to confirm the booking two days before the trip.
Luckily for me, a car was already heading back to Wangaratta on the day of my appointment. They were happy to pick me up as well. The surgery left me groggy and with some bleeding. So I was glad I did not have to wait at the station and endure a long train ride. Instead I relaxed in the Red Cross car. Happy with the service, I gave the driver a donation for the Red Cross.
To find out if the Red Cross car service operates in your area call (03) 8327 7868.
Victorian Patient Transport Assistant Scheme
The Victorian Department of Health has a Victorian Patient Transport Assistance Scheme (VPTAS). It is for rural Victorians who have no choice but to travel long distances for medical appointments.
VPTAS covers travel and a small part of accommodation costs. If a patient requires an escort, the escort's costs are similarly covered. The patient needs to have a heathcare, pensioner or veteran's card. A single trip needs to be over 100 kilometres. Or the patient must travel more than 500 kilometres per week for five weeks.
The scheme provides a full concession fare reimbursement for public transport. If a private car is used the scheme pays 17 cents for each kilometre travelled. Air travel is also covered if the journey exceeds 350 kilometres. VTPAS claim forms are available online and from the Department of Health.
If I had known about VPTAS earlier I could have had my train fare to the surgery reimbursed.
Some councils and health services have community car programs. For example, the Indigo Shire has cars with volunteer drivers for use within the shire. The cars are available for people with disabilities. They need to be booked two days in advance.
The East Wimmera Health Service has a community car based in St Arnaud. People can use the car to travel to appointments as far away as Melbourne. The car costs 15 cents a kilometre but that can be claimed back through VTPAS. Many other councils and health services have community cars or similar services.