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Thursday, 14 August 2003
Page: 18626

Mr JOHN COBB (9:55 AM) —Last week, Mrs Joan Fenner from Dubbo contacted my office. She was in the unfortunate situation of having to have an MRI scan, on her doctor's recommendation. When she had had these scans previously, she had gone to Sydney to Concord Hospital with her husband. She had been flown there, had her scan, stayed in the hospital and then come back. This time they went to Orange, where there is now an MRI machine—and has been for some two years—and it cost her $500. Whenever she had gone to Concord Hospital in the past, the travel, accommodation, taxis and everything was included.

I looked into this matter and it seems that MRI scans on soft tissue, as in Mrs Fenner's case, are not covered by Medicare; but when the scans are done in a public hospital they are covered under state obligations—the travel, the scan and the spouse's travel are all covered. Mrs Fenner was not bringing this to our attention because of herself; her husband was well able to take her to Sydney. She was doing it for those people who are single and are not in the happy situation of having a partner who can look after them. Her concern is for those people on their own, and I think it is something we have to look at. It does seem crazy to use public money—be it through a state or a federal government—to fly a person of older years from Dubbo, over the top of Orange, to Sydney, for a cost of $1,500 to $2,000 for two people when it costs $500 to do the procedure in Orange.

Part of the reason for this is that the state government does not cover the cost of an MRI scan, in any situation, in a private hospital—and the MRI machine in Orange is in a private hospital. Even though the Commonwealth cover all bone scan costs under Medicare, they do not cover soft tissue. I think we have to look at this at both federal and state levels. It does not make sense for the state government or the Commonwealth government to put all that money into taking someone to Sydney, over the top of Orange, from Dubbo. For single people who do not have the luxury of a partner to escort them, whether it costs them money or whether it does not is something I think we have to get together on and certainly improve. The Commonwealth have lifted the amount of money that they put into MRI scans from $20 million to $100 million in recent years. I think perhaps we need to sit down with the state governments and work out a better way of doing it.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. I.R. Causley)—Order! In accordance with standing order 275A the time for members' statements has concluded.