Morrison government to boost number of bulk-billed MRI machines
MORE than 400,000 sick Australians will have quicker and cheaper access to scans for conditions such as cancer, heart disease and sporting injuries with the Morrison Government boosting the number of bulk-billed MRI machines.
Today, Prime Minister Scott Morrison will announce an extra 30 Medicare-licensed machines across Australia which will be delivered to areas of most need.
The first 10 locations will be available from November, including at St John of God Midland and Kalgoorlie Health Campus.
The $175 million investment trumps Labor’s plan to deliver 20 new MRI machines for hospitals and imaging centres in regional areas and the outer metropolitan suburbs, if elected.
There are currently 348 public MRI machines in Australia, 174 of which attract a full Medicare rebate and a further 174 that are partially licensed, meaning only some scans can be bulk billed.
Since 2013, only five additional licences have been issued by the Government. Health groups have called for the Federal Government to boost the number of licences for publicly-funded MRI machines after A Senate committee heard that patients were paying up to $800 for diagnostic imaging on any of the 160 private machines across Australia.
Patients who cannot afford to pay up to $800 private costs are forced to wait months in the public queue for scans which can prolong diagnosis and treatment.
Six months ago, Kellyville teenager Elie Nol received an MRI scan after pulling a muscle while doing gymnastics. He was suffering from headaches and nausea and was told he would have to wait up to eight weeks to receive a bulk-billed scan.
His father James decided to pay the out-of-pocket cost at Mt Druitt hospital to avoid the public queue. “It would have been nice if there was greater accessibility,” Elie said.
“I didn’t want to have to wait for a specialist, and then get a referral and then wait for an MRI.”
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the 30 extra MRI machines will mean there are 204 fully bulk-billing sites across Australia, a 17 per cent increase across Australia.
“Each of these sites has been identified as a location of critical patient need,’ Mr Hunt said.
The Government will open a competitive application process before deciding on the location of the remaining 20 MRI machines.
Yesterday, Labor unveiled 10 of the 20 sites where it would issue Medicare-subsidised MRI licences which included Mt Druitt, Katoomba and Bateman’s Bay in NSW, Redcliffe and Gladstone in Queensland, and the Monash Children’s Hospital in Melbourne.