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Tuesday, 23 October 2018
Page: 10849

Mr VASTA (Bonner) (18:41): I've always made the issues that are important to my constituents my priority. One of the most important is access to health care. For my constituents on Bonner's bayside affordable access to MRIs has been an issue for some time. A few weeks ago I had a very informative meeting with the CEO of Queensland X-Ray, Dr Robert Clarke. I met with Dr Clarke to discuss the fact that Bonner is one of the most underserviced primary health care networks for MRIs in Australia. There are only 0.5 Medicare-eligible MRIs per 100,000 of the population. This represents the equal third most-underserviced area in the country. My constituents in Wynnum and surrounding areas have to drive around 20 kilometres to attend the nearest fully-funded MRI unit in inner metropolitan Brisbane, and that's about a 40-minute drive for potentially lifesaving scans for cancer, stroke, heart and other medical conditions. In most instances there are extremely long waitlists for Medicare-eligible outpatient scans. The latest show that patients can expect a 70-day wait for an appointment at the PA Hospital.

Dr Clarke and I agreed that a full Medicare licence is needed for the MRI unit at their Wynnum practice. A full MRI licence will allow them to charge MRI services to Medicare, significantly reducing the cost of MRI scans to patients. This would help alleviate the burden on other providers. Also, if Queensland X-Ray Wynnum were to receive an MRI licence, they would commit to provide same-day bulk-billed appointments. This would help provide affordable and equitable health care to people who need it the most in Bonner. The health and wellbeing of my constituents is paramount, so tonight I'm throwing my full support behind Queensland X-Ray's Wynnum campaign for a full MRI licence.

The government has invited applications for up to 20 additional MRI licences across the country. This will be a highly competitive public application process. No doubt there will be many others applying for consideration for a licence and there will be a number of representatives going into bat for them. I'm prepared to fight to the end to secure a full licence for my bayside constituents. I've already met with Minister Hunt and explained to him the facts that I'm sharing with you tonight. I want to thank the minister for his time and hearing out the stories from my constituents, who would benefit so much if the MRI at their local practice were fully subsidised.

The government has already announced 10 locations that will receive Medicare-subsidised MRIs from 1 November this year. The total 30 sites that will receive subsidised MRIs will provide more than 400,000 Australians with access to lifesaving scans, with a total investment of $175 million. It's all part of this government's commitment to providing high-quality health services when and where they are needed. Our commitment to 30 additional sites will bring the total number of fully Medicare eligible MRI machines in Australia to 204. That represents a more than 17 per cent increase across Australia. That comes on top of our boost earlier this year to Medicare support for a new MRI scan for prostate cancer checks, helping 26,000 men each year, as well as the new Medicare listing for 3D breast cancer checks, helping 240,000 women each year.

We've guaranteed Medicare spending, which is increasing each and every year, and I'm campaigning hard on behalf of my constituents and asking for strong consideration to be given for a full Medicare MRI licence for my bayside constituents. I'm hoping to provide a positive update in the future, but rest assured I'll be fighting every step of the way to deliver life-saving, affordable and accessible MRI services for my constituents.