Mayor Cr Neville Kschenka is leading the push for better access to dialysis for Narrandera Shire residents.
“The current service requiring patients to travel to Griffith up to three times a week is just not good enough. I strongly encourage Murrumbidgee Local Health District (MLHD) to provide these services locally so residents do not have to travel, especially for residents of aged care facilities,” Mayor Kschenka said.
Council operates a community transport service to the residents of Narrandera, Leeton and Murrumbidgee Shires living independently and safely at home. The service is funded by the Federal Government through Transport NSW under the Commonwealth Home Support Programs (CHSP) and is subject to their operational rules.
Mayor Kschenka said, “During 2021/2022 our Community Transport team provided over 10,000 trips, taking residents to medical and social appointments to areas as far as Griffith, Wagga Wagga and Albury.”
"This includes taking residents of Narrandera, Yanco and Leeton to Griffith for dialysis three times a week. The vehicle leaves Narrandera at 5.45am and returns at 3.30pm. The $10 charge for this service is largely subsidised due to the high frequency of travel, compared to the standard cost of $38 for a trip to Griffith.”
Transport NSW’s contract outlines how the service must operate to continue providing services to the community. The details include an eligibility criteria specifying who can access this funding. The contract states that permanent residents of aged care facilities are not eligible to access funding under the CHSP as the purpose of the program is to provide entry level support to older persons who need assistance while continuing to live independently.
Based on these guidelines, once a person moves into permanent residential care, they are no longer eligible to access this funding. Therefore, any service Council provides to an aged care facility resident must be at full cost. When Council has been approached in the past a cost estimate has been provided.
The community transport service is run by Council staff with the incredible help of volunteer drivers. The volunteers are dedicated to helping the clients but are not formally trained to provide high-level care.
Residents of aged care facilities often require a higher level of care than their families can easily provide. When transporting an elderly frail resident to a medical appointment a carer needs to accompany the client, which must be provided by the client or the client’s family, especially if that medical appointment is in Griffith or Wagga. Community Transport staff and volunteers are not trained to provide this level of care and it is unreasonable to ask a volunteer driver to accept the risk of transporting an elderly frail resident without assistance.
Over the past 20 years there have been many attempts to have dialysis services provided locally by MLHD, without success. When the issue came before Council again late 2021 submissions were made to MLHD, Teloca, the local member and the Minister for Health.
“We are working with other councils in the region facing similar circumstances on a submission to the Minister for Rural Health Hon. Bronnie Taylor, who I have raised the issue with previously, and the Minister for Health in a number of forums.”
“Council will continue to press for a local dialysis service for the residents of Narrandera Shire,” Mayor Kschenka concluded.