A SENATE Inquiry has recommended better access to diagnostic imaging equipment after hearing patient neglect could have deadly consequences.
The committee said it was “particularly concerned by reports that children are being subjected to the radiation of CT scans due to issues associated with the accessibility of MRI machines”.
Evidence from Children’s Healthcare Australasia has indicated for every 1000 CT scans a new case of cancer is created in a child.
Top of the Inquiry’s 14 recommendations released this month is the call to “immediately implement an application process with clear, objective and transparent assessment criteria to permit hospitals and radiology practices to apply for licences for MRI machines”.
The committee also recommended a review of the Medicare benefits MRI referral pathway and rebates system.
MRI scans are used to detect and diagnose conditions that affect soft tissue, such as tumours, but only attract a Medicare rebate if they are performed on an eligible MRI machine.
The Inquiry was told WA has one of the lowest numbers of MRI machines per capita in the country.
Shadow Federal Health Minister Catherine King, Swan Hills MLA Jessica Shaw and federal Labor candidates Lauren Palmer (Hasluck) and Kim Travers (Pearce) visited St John of God Public and Private Hospital in Midland on Monday to hear about the impact on patients struggling to access MRI scans.
Ms Shaw said access to the scans under Medicare had become a lottery of location and no new Medicare MRI licences had been granted in WA since the Liberal Government was elected at the 2013 Federal Election.
“The new Midland hospital has only one partial MRI licence, meaning outpatients and private patients have to pay large out-of-pocket fees or travel across Perth to hospitals where scans are subsidised,” she said.
She urged action on the recommendations to allow Midland hospital to apply for a full Medicare MRI licence.
In a submission to the Inquiry, Perth Radiological Clinic said at Midland hospital only public inpatients could access an MRI at no cost, whereas private patients had to pay out-of-pocket because the hospital has a partial MRI licence.
No new full MRI licences have been granted in Perth in the past decade despite the city’s population increasing by about 40 per cent, or 700,000 people, since 2007.
There are no fully licensed MRI facilities in the north-eastern suburbs, which means people from the region must travel to Fremantle, Joondalup or Perth to access services under Medicare.
Health Minister Greg Hunt was contacted for comment.