TAMWORTH Hospital staff want the federal government to cough up a Medicare licence for its $2.5 million MRI machine.
The first-class diagnostic tool is funded to scan just ten people each week, and anyone who is not an inpatient is forced to pay out-of-pocket at a private operator.
“The granting of a Medicare Licence for the MRI machine would allow for the scanning of all patients requiring an MRI, not just those admitted for care,” Tamworth Hospital general manager Catharine Death said.
“Since the MRI was commissioned in February 2018, Hunter New England Local Health District has been advocating for a Medicare Licence.”
Dr Death said the licence doesn’t affect the level of service hospital staff provide to patients, but without it they can only scan those who have been admitted to hospital.
Anyone with a referral from their doctor will have to visit one of two private providers in Tamworth.
The installment of the top-of-the-line machine was the result of a hefty lobbying effort by the community and Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson is pushing HNEH to have the federal government solve the issue.
The distribution of Medicare MRI licences is unequal across private and public facilities, particularly in regional areas a NSW Health spokesman said.
“NSW has a limited number of public Medicare-licensed MRIs,” he said.
“Limiting the number and location of public Medicare-eligible MRI services may limit access for clinically appropriate patients.”
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard has written twice to Minister for Health Greg Hunt requesting increased MRI Medicare eligibility for public hospitals.
Mr Hunt refused to respond to The Leader on the impact of limited licenses for patients who can’t afford to go to private units, or whether he was concerned regional patients went without MRI scans due to a lack of Medicare eligibility.
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