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Monday, 4 December 2017
Page: 9485

Rural and Regional Health Services

Senator GEORGIOU ( Western Australia ) ( 14:33 ): My question is to Minister Fierravanti-Wells representing the Minister for Health. Minister, earlier this year, the Western Australian government allocated $3 million for an MRI machine for Kalgoorlie Regional Hospital. As you may know, the City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder is Australia's gold capital and produces up to 70 per cent of the nation's precious metal. With that in mind, can the minister please provide an update as to what specific action the federal government has taken to expedite a licence providing for the proposed MRI machine?

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South WalesMinister for International Development and the Pacific) (14:33): I thank Senator Georgiou for his question and for providing advance notice of it. The Minister for Health understands that there are increasing requests for expansion of MRI services, and that is why the minister has asked the Department of Health to undertake a review of the distribution and availability of MRI medical eligibility and provide further advice on options to expand the number of MRI licences. Part of this review is to consider increasing access in regional and remote, and within private and public settings.

There are currently 16 Medicare-eligible MRI machines with full eligibility and 16 Medicare-eligible MRI machines with partial eligibility in Western Australia. For the 2016-17 financial year, there were almost 94,000 MRI services provided in Western Australia at a cost to the government of over $36 million.

Expanding access to MRI is not inexpensive, with the average cost in Medicare benefits per fully eligible machine in 2016-17 estimated to be approximately $1.6 million. Senator Georgiou, Minister Hunt would be more than happy to provide an additional briefing on this matter.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Georgiou, a supplementary question.

Senator GEORGIOU (Western Australia) (14:35): Can the minister detail how many MRI licences for the purpose of Medicare rebates have been granted in Australia over the last three years, and in what proximity to a capital city?

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South WalesMinister for International Development and the Pacific) (14:35): In the last three years, there have been four MRI licences granted. They have been granted in Mount Gambier; at the Epworth hospital, Richmond; at Frankston; and at Maroondah. Mount Gambier is located 400 kilometres from the Adelaide CBD; Frankston is over 50 kilometres from the Melbourne CBD; Maroondah is over 30 kilometres from the Melbourne; and Epworth is located in the Melbourne CBD.

The PRESIDENT: A final supplementary question, Senator Georgiou.

Senator GEORGIOU (Western Australia) (14:36): Given there are already MRI machines in Bunbury, Albany and Geraldton, can the minister give an anticipated date as to when a licence will be approved for and provided to the Kalgoorlie Regional Hospital for a proposed MRI machine?

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South WalesMinister for International Development and the Pacific) (14:36): As I mentioned in my first response to Senator Georgiou, once the department has completed the review, advice will be provided to the Minister for Health on what options are available to expand the number of MRI licences. The minister will, in due course, consider the terms of that review.