HAVING an MRI machine onsite will be a great benefit to patients at Bathurst Hospital, but will it come at a cost?
In September, it was announced that the NSW Government would provide around $4 million to Bathurst Health Service to obtain MRI equipment, which had long been on the wish list.
Although welcoming the equipment, the Bathurst Health Services Action Group has raised questions about the viability of it, saying patients will be out of pocket if the appropriate licensing isn't obtained.
"The Commonwealth Government has to give a licence to run the MRI otherwise if it gets installed, everybody that uses it pays full-tilt and there's no Medicare rebates whatsoever. So, it has to have a federal government licence to actually run properly and I haven't heard anything about that coming through," group spokesperson Warren Aubin said.
"It's fantastic to think that the state government has made a MRI available for our hospital. It's absolutely fantastic, but now I'm chasing the plan of when it's going to get put in and when are we going to get the licence from the federal government."
Western NSW Local Health District (WNSWLHD) chief executive Scott McLachlan recently told the Western Advocate that construction would soon start on the facility for the MRI machine, confirming the location in a new statement last week.
"The MRI is going to be located as an extension of the existing Imaging Department, with construction expected to start in the next four months," he said.
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The machine won't become available for about 12 months, and the hospital is yet to obtain a licence for it despite trying.
"Following this announcement, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard wrote to the Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt asking for the Federal Government to grant a full Medicare Benefit Schedule licence for the Bathurst MRI," Mr McLachlan said.
"Unfortunately, Bathurst has to date been unsuccessful in securing a licence from the Federal Government.
"The Western NSW Local Health District will continue to seek future Medicare eligible licensing opportunities for the new Bathurst Hospital MRI with the Federal Government.
"However, importantly, Bathurst patients will no longer need to be transferred to private providers or other hospitals for MRIs. On average, between one to two inpatients per day are transferred to the private providers or Orange for their MRIs."
Member for Bathurst Paul Toole, who announced the funding for the MRI machine last year, said that it would be up to the federal government to provide the licensing.
"We're building the machine, but we also need the federal government to provide the MRI licence so that people can get their Medicare rebate," he said.
"I know that the Health Minister, Brad Hazzard, has written to the federal minister already requesting a licence for the MRI machine, which has not been forthcoming."
Mr Toole said it was essential that the licence be provided to the hospital to ensure patients could access the machine without the high costs.
In addition to providing more resources for patients, the MRI service will also create jobs for medical professionals.
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