Exclusive: Newshub reveals significant win for cancer patients battling 'postcode healthcare'

Newshub can reveal a significant win for Kiwis battling 'Postcode healthcare'.

To help meet rising petrol costs for patients who need to travel for treatment, the Government will lift the "mileage rate" it pays them and the accommodation rate will also be boosted to offset the rising cost of living.

No one likes the so-called "cancer journey" but when you have to spend hours on the road getting to and from treatment it's particularly brutal.

"We would have to travel up three days a week…. after potentially, some days, four doses of chemotherapy, so she's vomiting up all the way home," Richard Blair said.

Blair's four-year-old daughter Addison has leukemia. 

They spend up to three hours in Auckland traffic getting to and from Starship. He applies for a petrol subsidy under the National Travel Assistance Scheme (NTA) - but doesn't help much.

He said they receive 28 cents per km which gets them about one-third of the way.

Under the NTA scheme currently, people can claim mileage at 28 cents a kilometre and accommodation - if they live far enough away - at $100 a night. 

The scheme hasn't been updated since 2009 and with today's petrol prices and cost of living, it doesn't come close.

Justin Robertson's son Tae has a cancerous tumour. They regularly travel from their home in Dargaville to Starship - a three-hour drive.

Justin said their expenditure on fuel is roughly $4000 but they have only received $900 from the NTA.

"You shouldn't have to be stressed petrol to Auckland to get treatment. That's the last thing you should be thinking about," Justin said. 

"Post-code cancer sucks, it really does."

At least 40,000 people claim the NTA each year and now Te Whatu Ora Health New Zealand has promised, on Paddy Gower Has Issues, to overhaul the system.

Justin (top left), Tae, Richard and Addison.
Justin (top left), Tae, Richard and Addison. Photo credit: Newshub.

Te Whatu Ora director Rachel Haggerty said the current system is "inadequate" and "has to change".

"Different people travel to different places and we need to make sure that what we're paying reflects what it's going to cost and how we doing that, are we actually paying directly rather than paying the individual through a reimbursement model," she said.  

"There's all sorts of things that we can look at, things like petrol vouchers, and some of those things will take a lot of time lags for people to get money back."

Haggerty said they are also looking at whether they can make the process of applying for the NTA easier.

Currently, Kiwis applying for assistance have to have a form signed at reception while they are at the hospital with their child and then post it.

Haggerty said Te Whatu Ora is looking into whether they can make the application process electronic and done from home. 

She said over the next several months, Te Whatu Ora is doing the work that's needed to be done and will look at rolling out a new program in 2024. 

"[It's] really important to people [to make] sure that no matter who you are and where you live, you can get the treatment that you need," Haggerty said.

So while the cancer journey will still be tough, at least the journey to the hospital won't cause extra anxiety.