Tamworth Hospital patient claims MRI denied over lack of government funding

TIGHT BUDGET: Tamworth Hospital's $2.5 million MRI machine. Photo: Peter Hardin
TIGHT BUDGET: Tamworth Hospital's $2.5 million MRI machine. Photo: Peter Hardin

A PATIENT at Tamworth Hospital claims she went without an MRI due to a lack of government funding.

Experiencing dizziness, severe migraines, blurred vision and tingling in her face, Sheridan Bradley was admitted to hospital on September 8.

Referred for a CT scan and an MRI as an inpatient, Ms Bradley said she was told she wouldn’t be getting the scan she needed.

“The nurse said, ‘Well that’s not going to happen because they’re only funded for two procedures a day and that’s only Monday to Friday – they don’t work weekends,” she said.

“I just assumed that now we had it the service would be available for whoever needed it whenever they needed it.

“I just wanted some answers, I still do.”

The federal government controls Medicare licences for MRI units and a number of new hospitals have MRIs with no licence, which means only inpatients can access the service.

Tamworth Hospital general manager Catharine Death said it’s not the case that the hospital is limited to two scans per day, but there is an assessment process and on average the requirement is 10 scans per week.

“Each day the MRIs are clinically assessed and the higher priority MRIs are done that day, if they’re not a higher priority they can sometimes be pushed back later in the week,” she said.

“But certainly any patient that requires an MRI has been getting an MRI, there’s no reduction in that.

“While we continue to try to get our [Medicare] licence we will continue to limit it to the critical MRIs required for inpatients.”

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Ms Bradley was told to go to a privately operated MRI unit at a cost of $600, but a cancellation at the hospital opened another appointment.

There is an unequal distribution of Medicare MRI licenses across public facilities particularly in regional areas, a NSW Health spokesman said, and Tamworth Hospital is pushing to have its licence granted.

Ms Bradley was given a CT scan on the Sunday but said that was only because others needed one too.

“If it had of just been for me I wouldn’t have had the CT scan either,” she said.

“When they had the handover at 7 o’clock in the morning I actually heard them say, ‘Well if it’s her plus two others that’s okay, that justifies the cost.’” 

Dr Death refuted the claim and said CT technicians are called in regardless of cost.

“If it’s two in the morning we’ll call them in if we need to – it does just help if you have a cluster of people, it obviously does make it more cost effective,” she said.