NOT STANDING BY: Flynn MP Ken O'Dowd in 2016.
NOT STANDING BY: Flynn MP Ken O'Dowd in 2016. Paul Braven GLA250615LARCOM

SILENT FLIGHT: O'Dowd and Butcher trade blows over MRIs

THE mood on the next flight Ken O'Dowd and Glenn Butcher catch together might be a little frosty.

Flynn MP Ken O'Dowd yesterday shot back at Gladstone MP Glenn Butcher for attacking him on the issue of MRI bulk billing in State Parliament last Thursday - and for saying nothing about it when they caught a flight together on Sunday.

Neither of Gladstone's two MRI machines are licensed to receive Medicare rebates, and the number of licences is limited by the Federal Government.

Mr Butcher told the parliament the lack of a licensed MRI in town meant Gladstone patients had to travel to Rockhampton if they could not afford a $200 scan.

"Mr Butcher grandstands and jumps to his feet in Brisbane to show off in front of his Southern mates, yet when he sat next to me for the entire duration of a flight on Sunday morning from Gladstone to Brisbane, not one mention of health," Mr O'Dowd said.

"Not one mention of the budget, not one mention of MRIs and Gladstone Hospital.

"Not one word of this was uttered to me by the Member for Gladstone when he claims to be so deeply disappointed."

 

MRI: Noel Swain, Central Queensland Radiology.
VITAL: Central Queensland Radiology regional manager Noel Swain was unable to secure a bulk-billing licence for one of Gladstone's two MRI machines, so provides the service at a loss. Mike Richards GLA230518MRIS

Mr O'Dowd said the people of Gladstone did not want their representatives engaging in a "public stoush" but he could not stand by as a "cheap swipe" was taken without the right of reply.

"It's very disappointing that the State Member for Gladstone appears to be more focused on newspaper headlines and Facebook clicks than approaching me directly to work together on this issue," he said.

"I've raised the issue of MRI licences previously with the Minister for Health and will continue to... I will not let this issue get swept away."

Mr Butcher said he was pleased to hear Mr O'Dowd was also advocating for a bulk-billed MRI service for Gladstone as the granting of Medicare licences was a matter for the Federal Government.

"It is disheartening to hear that the Federal Member for Flynn thinks this matter would be best discussed during a one-hour flight from Brisbane when I have previously written to him (about MRIs) and never received a response," he said.

"If the Member for Flynn is committed to not letting the issue get swept away, then I am calling on him to seek a commitment from his government that this will be funded."

 

Gladstone MP Glenn Butcher during his speech to Parliament.
Gladstone MP Glenn Butcher during his speech to Parliament. Queensland Parliament

A representative from Mr Butcher's office said he last wrote to Mr O'Dowd on the issue of MRIs in 2016, at the same time as he wrote to then-Health Minister Sussan Ley about the issue.

He also wrote to the current Health Minister Greg Hunt early last year after Mr Hunt took over the role on January 24.

Mr O'Dowd's office yesterday released a letter from Mr Hunt showing that Mr O'Dowd had written to then-acting Health Minister Arthur Sinodinos about the issue on January 10 last year.

Mr Hunt said the transfer of Central Queensland Medical Imaging's MRI Medicare eligibility licence to Rockhampton in 2015 had been approved because it would provide the greatest regional patient accessibility and because the majority of specialists were located in Rockhampton.