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Wednesday, 24 August 1994
Page: 220

Senator CHAMARETTE —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Human Services and Health. Is it true that the costs of Medicare payouts for ultrasound scanning in pregnancy in the financial year 1990-91 exceeded $65 million and that this was $10 million more than all obstetrical services? Has the cost of ultrasound scanning continued to outstrip the total cost of maternity services in the years since? Is the minister aware that the World Health Organisation has recently recommended that ultrasound scanning in pregnancy should be restricted because there is no benefit from routine scanning of all pregnant women and there is real possibility of a serious risk? What steps has the minister taken, or is the minister considering taking, to redirect money misspent on ultrasound scanning toward areas where it is better spent?

Senator CROWLEY —Until 1993 there was no separate data under Medicare benefits for ultrasound used for pregnancy apart from ultrasound generally. Until this last year we have not had data that separated one use of ultrasound from any other use. I am not able to confirm or disagree with the figures Senator Chamarette gave. We should soon be able to get some figures on the cost of ultrasound used in pregnancy. When those figures are available we will make sure they are provided to her.

  The concern about ultrasound has been raised with the government. In response to the concern as to whether ultrasound is an appropriate diagnostic tool, the Australian Health Technology Advisory Committee, which is a standing committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council, has established a working party to review diagnostic ultrasound.

  The working party is examining a whole range of ultrasound devices that are available in Australia and their patterns of use in Australia, the scientific evidence available on the use of ultrasound as a diagnostic tool, and its appropriate role in patient management. That committee is just beginning its work. When it has a report to offer we will make sure that Senator Chamarette is kept advised of it.