RESIDENTS’ health in the eastern suburbs is at risk without a fully licensed MRI service at Midland hospital.
Unlike other areas of metropolitan Perth, patients using the St John of God (SJOG) Public Hospital cannot access the full range of MRI services under Medicare.
Swan Hills MLA Jessica Shaw and East Metropolitan Region MLC Matthew Swinbourn are calling on the Federal Government to issue a full MRI licence.
Ms Shaw raised her concerns in State Parliament today while urging residents to sign a petition.
“It is completely unacceptable that people in Ellenbrook and the Hills do 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 public hospital.
“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.”
Ms Shaw said it would cost the Government an extra $500,000 a year to provide a full MRI service in Midland.
“A lot of people in this area are doing it tough – many of them simply can’t afford to pay for these services,” she said.
“I’m worried 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.
“Why does the East Metropolitan region always miss out? Things need to change.”
St John of God Midland hospital chief executive officer Michael Hogan said the hospital’s MRI scanner at Perth Radiological Clinic was partially funded by Medicare, meaning some patients must travel to a facility with a fully funded MRI or pay the gap.
“For regionally-based residents, it can be a great inconvenience having to travel to a facility, such as Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, that has a fully-funded MRI. It can also lead to delays in appointments and treatments,” he said.
He pointed out that patients admitted to Midland hospital do not pay out-of-pocket costs when they require an MRI test during their stay.
The three types of MRI scanners in WA are either fully-Medicare licensed, partially-Medicare licensed or unlicensed.
MRI scans as a diagnostic imaging tool are used as standard practice globally for many medical conditions.
A spokeswoman for Perth Radiological Clinic said the Government’s MRI licence scheme limited the number of MRI scanners that attract a Medicare rebate.
“Community patients from this area do not have access to a Medicare rebate for 80 per cent of approved Medicare MRI investigations if accessed locally,” she said.
Private in-patients at Midland hospital likewise do not have access to a Medicare rebate for 80 per cent of approved Medicare MRI investigations, she said, and nor will their Health Fund contribute towards the cost because the investigations are not covered by Medicare.
“This is very unfair when compared to a public in-patient who has full cover for MRI services when in hospital,” she said.
A spokesman for Health Minister Greg Hunt said the 2017 budget committed an additional $2 billion investment in diagnostic imaging over the next decade.
“As part of our rock solid commitment to Medicare, the Minister has requested a review be undertaken into the provision of MRI licences across the country,” he said.