There are wonderful things about living in a regional or rural area however local access to specialised medical care is not always available and navigating a system several hours away from your local community can be daunting. Below are some tips that may help.
Find out all the options for accessing the specialists and tests you need. Questions you may wish to ask are;
- Are there any specialists that travel to towns local to me?
- Can my GP share some of my care with specialists in major cities?
- If I have to travel some distance, is there an option to see more than one specialist on the same day or in the same location?
- Can my routine cancer screening tests be arranged on the same day or the day before my specialist appointment?
- Can any cancer screening tests be performed more locally?
- What is the difference in attending a clinic that can coordinate all my care versus attending individual specialists?
Travelling to a location you have not been to before or are unfamiliar with can be stressful. Here are some tips to help you.
Check public transport options and their timetables or find out how long it might take to drive. Doing this before you schedule the appointment means you will know whether a suggested appointment time or date will be possible for you. Ask what would happen if there is a hiccup and you are delayed arriving, will you still be able to be seen or will you have to come back?
If you are travelling by public transport, ask if the specialists tends to run on time or are usually run behind so you can book the right return travel. When you arrive make sure you tell the receptionist and doctor know you are relying on public transport and if you need to leave by a certain time to catch your return transport.
If you are driving, you might want to research the best way to finding the location, is there local parking that is reliably accessible and provides ample time for you, especially if the specialist is running late? How much will petrol and parking cost?
Costs associated with travelling
It can be costly to travel for medical appointments. Below are some other tips which may help with the costs involved.
Find out if there are any patient travel assistant schemes that you are eligible for that could reimburse some of your costs? Find out how much will they reimburse, what paperwork is required and who has to complete the paperwork?
If you are accessing care in a hospital and you need to stay in local accommodation, you might want to ask if they have an arrangement with local accommodation providers that charge low cost rates for patients.
Do you have family members that need to see the same type of specialists? Some families try and coordinate their care so they can travel together to help with the driving or cost of driving, parking and/or accommodation.
It can be stressful attending specialist appointment in an unknown location. Thinking about whether you know someone who lives in the city that you can ask to stay with the night before or on the day of the appointment can help. You may want to ask them if they could take you to the appointment, even if it just for the first appointment, to relieve the stress of you finding your way.
Where to get more advice?
In addition to the Pink Hope community there are people and services available to help you. These include your;
- Specialist/Specialist service
- Hospital social work department
- Local Cancer Council