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Thursday, 27 March 2003
Page: 13841


Mr MURPHY (5:32 PM) —I was here on Tuesday during the debate on the Health Insurance Amendment (Diagnostic Imaging, Radiation Oncology and Other Measures) Bill 2002, to let the House know, on behalf of my constituents of Lowe, about the need for the provision by the federal government for a licence for Concord Hospital to get an MRI machine. On 11 February this year, the New South Wales health minister, Mr Craig Knowles, acceded to the wishes of the Labor candidate for Drummoyne in the recent state election to pay for the cost of an MRI machine and for the installation of that machine, subject to Senator Kay Patterson providing a licence for an MRI machine for Concord Hospital. This is a very important issue for my electorate, and it is one that I have been campaigning for for almost 12 months. Last year, I was approached by the head of the radiology department of Concord Repatriation General Hospital about the need for an MRI machine, which is a very important diagnostic tool, for Concord Hospital.

For your information, the Concord Repatriation General Hospital, which is in the heart of my electorate of Lowe, is a major teaching hospital of the University of Sydney and has been denied an MRI licence by Senator Patterson. I have asked her two questions on notice, and I have been given the smoke and mirrors response that it is not possible to indicate when Concord Hospital would be entitled to an MRI machine. That is not good enough for a major teaching hospital of the University of Sydney, when the minister has confirmed in her answers to my questions in this House that nine of the 13 teaching hospitals, or 70 per cent, provide Medicare eligible MRI services. In my electorate, the constituents that I represent presently have to travel from Concord Hospital to Westmead Hospital, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital or Royal North Shore Hospital. It is clearly unacceptable for patients to have to be transported from Concord Hospital to those hospitals because the government will not give an MRI licence to Concord Hospital.

I remember when Dr Wooldridge was under siege with the scan scam; we all remember that. Selected and privileged radiologists were tipped off with regard to the lucrative rebate that was available if they purchased an MRI machine in a very short period of time. It is not good enough for the government to look after selected radiologists but not provide an MRI machine or a licence so that one can be installed at Concord Hospital, which is in the heart of the inner west. It is a very important diagnostic tool, as I have said. I have tabled two petitions in this House, in addition to the questions that I have put to the minister, and I have a further question which has still not been answered. I put question No. 1503 to the minister to draw her attention to the press release of Minister Craig Knowles—the health minister of New South Wales—which guarantees that he will provide the funding for the purchase and installation of an MRI machine for Concord Hospital.

This is a very serious issue for my electorate. Concord Hospital desperately needs an MRI licence, desperately needs the MRI machine. My constituents, and certainly the people of the inner west, need to know that the federal health minister will grant the licence. I would like to ask the parliamentary secretary here tonight whether she would go back to Senator Patterson and ask her to expedite the request that is coming from Concord Hospital to provide that licence on behalf of my constituents. Close to 3,000 of them signed the petition, and there are more petitions being signed as I speak. This is something I am going to continue to campaign on; I have been going 12 months now. The government should know that the New South Wales health department is prepared to pay for the cost and the installation of it. All we want is the licence from the health minister. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.