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Tuesday, 17 March 1987
Page: 837

(Question No. 1556)


Senator Peter Baume asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 2 December 1986:

(1) Can the Minister for Health indicate where and when the installation of the 5 MRI machines, which he has said will be installed in each of 5 States in Australia, will take place.

(2) (a) What is the purpose of the evaluation of the MRI program, which he has announced;

(b) what evaluation protocols are being used;

(c) who devised the protocols;

(d) who is responsible for the evaluation;

(e) what is the cost of the evaluation; and

(f) when will each of the evaluations be completed.

(3) Are any further machines to be installed in Australia under current Commonwealth/State arrangements in (a) 1986; (b) 1987; (c) 1988; or (d) prior to the completion of the time in which the first 5 machines will be evaluated.

(4) If this is so in relation to Sydney, where will such a MRI facility be located.

(5) If the answer to question (4) is ``yes'' in relation to the second installation, can the Minister say whether any further machines will be installed in NSW.

(6) Will the Minister incorporate the experience of the privately funded MRI unit at 251-281 New South Head Road, Edgecliff, which has been contributing to the Royal Australasian College of Radiologists evaluation of costs and clinical efficacy, into the national evaluation program for MRI facilities.

(7) Given that the current medical benefit for MRI is set at $235 and is limited to 5 facilities, would the Minister consider extending the benefit to other facilities which have come into operation in 1987 either (a) before; or (b) after the completion of the period of evaluation for the units attracting benefits.

(8) Is the Minister satisfied that the current benefit covers the professional component and maintenance costs within the technical component of the fee charged; if he is not, what proportion is not being covered.


Senator Tate —The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) The responsibility for carrying out the installation of the five MRI machines lies with the respective State governments. I am advised that the actual or anticipated dates of installation are as follows:

New South Wales-Royal North Shore Hospital-August 1986

Victoria-Royal Melbourne Hospital-August 1986

South Australia-Royal Adelaide Hospital-February 1987

Queensland-Princess Alexandra Hospital-Third Quarter 1987

Western Australia-Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital-Third Quarter 1987.

(2) (a) The purpose of the MRI evaluation is to define the appropriate uses and the costs of this expensive technology.

(b) A ``minimum data set'' protocol for the collection of data for each patient examined at the five MRI units has been developed. Data collection according to this protocol is under way in Sydney and Melbourne. Additional protocols are expected to be developed for data collection on specific patients. A cost data collection protocol has also been developed.

(c) The minimum data set has been devised by the MRI Technical Committee of the National Health Technology Advisory Panel (NHTAP). The Committee comprises representatives of the NHTAP, the hospitals participating in the evaluation and the Royal Australasian College of Radiologists (RACR). The cost collection protocol was developed by Coopers Lybrand in consultation with the MRI Technical Committee and the hospitals concerned.

(d) The NHTAP has overall responsibility for the evaluation.

(e) The evaluation is being supported by the Commonwealth through a Health Program Grant to each participating hospital of $200 000. The grants will total $1m over the life of the Program. In addition, administrative support services are being provided by the Department of Health. The States are also making some contribution through the provision of facilities at hospitals.

(f) Data collection will proceed for two years at each hospital. The full evaluation will not be completed until the third quarter of 1989, two years after installation of the fifth unit, but the NHTAP expects to release interim reports before that time.

(3) (a)-(d) While the possible need for additional machines has always been recognised, there are no firm plans for the installation of further machines under current Commonwealth/State financial arrangements.

(4) The question of location of any health facilities in individual States is a matter for consideration by the relevant State government.

(5) Not applicable.

(6) Given the complex nature and timing of the MRI evaluation program it is not intended that data from the privately funded unit of Edgecliff, or other MRI units, should be incorporated with data from the MRI evaluation program. However, any data provided by the Edgecliff unit will be made available to the NHTAP and taken into account in the development of recommendations on the use of MRI in Australia.

(7) (a) and (b) The Commonwealth will await the advice of the NHTAP Technical Committee before making any decisions on the possible extension of financing arrangements.

(8) Yes. The Schedule fee was derived from figures for the professional and operating expenses, including maintenance, supplied by State health authorities.