A vital transport and social engagement service assisting the elderly, socially isolated, and younger people with disabilities is facing the prospect of turning away clients in need due to a shortfall in State Government funding.

TransitCare provides critical community transport services to regional areas, including Ingham and Charters Towers, allowing patients to live independently in their own homes while remaining connected to their communities and essential health services.

TransitCare CEO Mr Terry O’Toole said that in the last financial year, due to demand their organisation had provided 4,000 more trips than they were contracted to complete.

“The funding required to cover these additional trips would amount to $154,000, which is chicken feed in comparison to the funds being dished out in the recent State Budget but for whatever reason, we can’t get our funding amount increased,” Mr. O’Toole said.

“We have in good faith delivered services over and above as we believe the needs of Queenslanders should always come first when using taxpayer funded grants. We are the glue that holds communities together and facilitates the most vulnerable getting to medical appointments and places of employment.

“Moving forward, we will continue the delivery of contracted services, but sadly will be unable to deliver beyond what we are contractually required, and funded, to do.

“The Labor Government’s 50 cent fares will deliver little to the regions and nothing to those with mobility issues in smaller towns such as Ingham and Charters Towers. Certain people in these areas are entirely dependent on services like ours in order to travel to and from Townsville. They deserve better”

Ingham Hospital Community Advisory Network Chair Mr Peter Smith said with Ingham’s aging population the need for specialist medical services was increasing, and those services were nearly always in Townsville.

“Many patients in need of specialist medical services no longer have a driver’s licence, meaning that a service providing transport for these people is necessary,” Mr Smith said.

“When TransitCare came to Ingham, they gave assurances that they would provide this service, but now it seems they can no longer provide a service to all who need it and new clients cannot get a place.

“There is no guarantee of transport, and for many older people they cannot understand the changes. An established consistent pattern of service provides comfort and certainty.”

Hinchinbrook MP and Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) Deputy Leader Nick Dametto said community transport services such as TransitCare were a lifeline for countless residents in small towns such as Ingham.

“This vital service helps to provide equitable access to healthcare for so many regional Queenslanders. It’s time the State Government realised that there is more to providing sufficient health care than just keeping hospital doors open, you must ensure patients can get there as well and we shouldn’t be disadvantaged based on our geographic location.

“Without services such as TransitCare, many people in regional Queensland will be left stranded, unable to access essential healthcare and other services. This is unacceptable.

“The Hinchinbrook electorate has the highest aging population per capita compared to anywhere else in Queensland. Losing a service such as this will be crippling to our smaller Hinchinbrook communities.

“I have written to the Minister for Communities to raise this issue with her although I understand the Minister is already aware but is yet to provide any sort of comprehensive response.

“It seems while the Government was handing out 50 cent public transport fares, they forgot our small towns don’t even have a public bus service.

“Our regional communities deserve better; they need to be assured that this vital service will continue to be funded.”