PATIENTS could have greater access to Tamworth hospital’s $2.5 million MRI machine if Hunter New England Health is granted one of 30 new Medicare licences announced at the weekend.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said in a doorstop interview on Sunday that 10 new locations would receive Medicare licences for their machines.
Tamworth Rural Referral Hospital is not one of them, but a HNEH Local Health District spokesperson told The Leader it was looking into one of 20 remaining licences, open to applications from today.
If successful, the hospital will be able to provide more scans, bulk-billed.
The Leader revealed this month that, without a Medicare licence, the hospital was doing only about 10 scans a week on inpatients only.
This meant people requiring MRIs were having to either wait, or pay out-of-pocket to private providers.
“We are pleased to hear that the federal government has invited applications for additional Medicare licences for MRI,” the health district spokesperson said.
“Since the MRI at Tamworth hospital was commissioned in February 2018, Hunter New England Local Health District and NSW Health have been advocating for a Medicare licence.
“The District is currently reviewing the application criteria ... to determine its eligibility for the new licences.”
Member for Tamworth Kevin Anderson said he’d been in touch with HNEH chief executive Michael Di Rienzo about the matter, and would like to see Tamworth at “the front of the queue”.
“It would save people from having to travel, it would save people some money, and it would ultimately provide a very, very high-level diagnostic service to the community,” he said.
Mr Hunt said the funding was worth $175 million and would benefit people needing scans for medical conditions such as cancer, stroke, heart and other illnesses.
“Not only will our new Medicare support ensure patients get the most appropriate treatment and save money, it will also cut down the amount of time patients have to spend travelling to get a scan,” he said.
Applications are open to medical practices and hospital radiology departments.
Criteria include service location, the area’s patient catchment and socioeconomic status, and availability of MRI machines nearby.
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