EVERYONE understands MRI is a sophisticated and expensive technology and governments need to ensure public funding for the service is both fair and financially responsible.
But if as Swan Hills MLA Jessica Shaw claims the north-east metropolitan is the only area in Perth that does not have a fully funded MRI unit then it is good news federal Health Minister Greg Hunt recently requested a review be undertaken into the provision of MRI licences across the country.
According to Perth Radiological Clinic the scanners in the Midland area are only licensed to do 20 per cent of possible MRI investigations, most of which are those GPs request.
Of the MRI investigations that Medicare recognises, 80 per cent require a specialist referral and must be performed on a full Medicare licensed scanner, which the St John of God Midland Public and Private Hospital does not have.
Swan Hills MLA Jessica Shaw and East Metropolitan MLC Matthew Swinbourn have called on the Turnbull Government to act urgently and issue a full MRI licence.
A Perth Radiological Clinic spokeswoman said the clinic raised the same concern at the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs which met in Perth last week.
She said the clinic urged the committee to make a recommendation for a special case for the north-east metropolitan area.
A federal Department of Health spokeswoman said since its introduction on the Medicare Benefits Schedule MRI had been carefully managed through the granting of Medicare eligibility to MRI units at specified locations.
“These controls help support the provision of high quality, safe and cost-effective health care for all Australians both as patients and taxpayers,’ she said.
She said the St John of God Midland Perth Radiological Clinic has partial Medicare eligibility.
“Allocation of partial Medicare eligibility was a decision of the then government,’’ she said.
“There are currently no application processes open for further allocation of MRI Medicare eligibility.’’
She said public in-patients at the Midland Hospital would have no fee, but private patients and outpatients would not be eligible for a Medicare rebate.
Ms Shaw said it was unacceptable Ellenbrook and Perth Hills residents did not have full Medicare access to MRI services at the local SJOG Midland Public Hospital.
“My constituents have to pay up to $1000 per scan for some services at the SJOG Midland Public Hospital,’’ she said.
“If they are able to travel to Royal Perth, Fremantle or Sir Charles Gairdner Hospitals, or the Joondalup Health Campus, those same scans would be covered by Medicare.
“A lot of people in this area are doing it tough – many of them simply can’t afford to pay for these services.
“I’m worried that they might put off treatment for cancer, injuries or diabetes.
“They may also be reliant on public transport and not able to easily access other hospitals.”
Mr Swinbourn said he understood the extra cost to provide a fully-funded service would be about $500,000 a year.
“The MRI service is already on the site, it is able to be accessed by all patients, and 24-hour services are able to be provided if needed,’’ he said.
By Anita McInnes