AT A LOSS: The MRI machine at Central Queensland Radiology in Gladstone.
AT A LOSS: The MRI machine at Central Queensland Radiology in Gladstone. Mike Richards GLA230518GMRI

Butcher slams Coalition over lack of bulk-billed MRI

GLADSTONE MP Glenn Butcher has slammed the Federal Government for the ongoing lack of a bulk-billed Magnetic Resonance Imaging service in Gladstone.

Gladstone has two MRI machines but neither have a licence for a Medicare rebate.

This means outpatients who can't afford the full cost - about $200 - need to travel to Rockhampton or forego the scan.

There were 347 licensed machines across Australia in December, according to the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists.

Gladstone has been without one since Central Queensland Medical Imaging transferred its licence to its fixed site in Rockhampton several years ago.

In a fiery speech to Queensland Parliament last week, Mr Butcher said he had hoped the Federal Budget would include funding for more Medicare licences.

"Alas, access to quality medical services and facilities isn't high on the agenda for the Coalition," he said.

"There is no getting around it, this Coalition Government wants the people of Gladstone to work longer, to pay out of their own pockets... to pay for their own MRIs, and to pay their own healthcare.

"But don't worry, if you're a multinational business paying no tax, the Coalition Government in Australia has got your back."



Yesterday Mr Butcher elaborated and asked why people should have to go to Rockhampton for services that used to be available in Gladstone.

"We're desperate for this - I work my butt off to ensure these things are available here," he said.

"If you're driving to Rocky you're paying for petrol... if your child has to get it done, your parent has to take the day off.

"(If patients) don't get a scan done, their condition worsens and they end up in emergency, which is 10 times the cost."

Mr Butcher said if the Federal Government was not able to dictate where businesses used their Medicare licences, it should expand the number of licences it issues.

Gladstone's Noel Swain applied to the Federal Government for one of those licences in 2013.

The request was knocked back.

The Central Queensland Radiology manager said his company, based near the GP Super Clinic, now provides the service at a loss in Gladstone.

"We charge about a couple of hundred dollars," he said.

"But that is significantly less than what it's worth and none of it is covered by Medicare or private health insurance.

"We would welcome any reform that provides a licence for a rebateable magnet in the area."


MRI: Noel Swain, Central Queensland Radiology.
VITAL SERVICE: Central Queensland Radiology regional manager Noel Swain runs his MRI service at a loss. Mike Richards GLA230518MRIS Mike Richards GLA230518MRIS

Mr Swain said Gladstone patients were being disadvantaged and it was not fair that there were three licensed MRIs in Rockhampton.

"Considering what Gladstone contributes in GDP to the area, you would think we would have one," he said.

Responding to Mr Butcher's comments yesterday, Flynn MP Ken O'Dowd said he was completely in favour of a bulk-billing MRI service in Gladstone.

"That has always been my position and will continue," he said.

"However there is nothing to prevent medical practitioners operating a non Medicare-eligible unit.

"It is private enterprises', including private hospitals', prerogative to make this choice.

"Patients have choice of multiple MRI services in Gladstone, we can not dictate if these provided are bulk-billing."

"As recently as last week I had the Minister for Rural Health, Senator Bridget McKenzie, with me in Calliope and Tannum Sands focusing on health, doctors and nurses for the Gladstone Region and beyond."

Mr O'Dowd said some people were quick to forget Gladstone Hospital, which does not have an MRI machine, was operated by the Queensland Government.