Radiology head on how crucial MRI bulk-billing is for city
GLADSTONE residents are going to have access to bulk-billed Magnetic Resonance Imaging from March 1.
The Medicare-rebated service will allow more patients access to life-saving scans without having to travel to Bundaberg or Rockhampton.
Gladstone Central Queensland Radiology was one of about 20 successful MRI license applicants from a submission pool of more than 400.
Managing radiologist Geoff Clark said the license would provide an invaluable service to residents in an area where demand was high.
Dr Clark said the Gladstone community had "suffered a bit" for not having the option of MRI bulk-billing since it was discontinued in 2015.
"The advantage of being able to bulk-bill makes it so much easier for people in the community, to be able to do their scans for prostate, for breasts, for musculoskeletal injuries, for neuro-intervention," Dr Clark said.
"The demand has been here for a long time and as the town and the region grows it needs more and more higher level imaging, particularly for diagnoses."
He said MRI bulk-billing in Gladstone was particularly significant because of the city's varying demographics, especially the number of labour force workers who were prone to workplace injuries.
"And a lot of young people with sport injuries and a lot of ageing people so all those require higher quality imaging," Dr Clark said.
"This region should have the same kind of imaging available as in Brisbane so I think it's a great move."
Dr Clark said the MRI license could potentially attract more health specialists to Gladstone.
"It gives a bonus because if I'm another specialist in another speciality, to have that kind of quality imaging available easily in the community suddenly makes it easier to do things," he said.
"The Gladstone Hospital for example, some of those professionals like in orthopaedics would love to have that.
"I do training for the registrars which come up from South-East Queensland.
"I hope one day some of those will come here, appreciate the landscape of Central Queensland and the Gladstone region and would like to stay."
Dr Clark said the new license due to be active within five weeks would likely cause a spike in patient numbers as many would have long awaited an affordable scan.
He said the service was not just an advancement for the region's healthcare system, but also for Gladstone's healthcare providers.
"All the partners and all the people involved with us are Queensland trained, we're all local people," Dr Clark said.
Minister for Health Greg Hunt was in the city yesterday following the announcement of the private clinic's successful application, and said the case put forward was a compelling one.
"There are a series of criteria that were set out, firstly we've got a particular focus on communities with an area of need so that's a starting point," Mr Hunt said.
"Secondly, where there's a gap (and) Gladstone is the largest town in Queensland without and MRI license and that is a compelling and powerful argument.
"It was right at the top of the tree."
Mr Hunt said the clinic's recently installed state of the art 3 Tesla MRI machine also gave it an edge.
"This was the most compelling application because of the quality of the 3 Tesla imaging," Mr Hunt said.
"It's better healthcare, better diagnosis and better outcomes for patients."
However, Gladstone Central Queensland Radiology's MRI license came after two unsuccessful attempts in 2011 and 2013.
Last year, Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd indicated the service would be available towards the end of the year around November.
When asked about delays, he said it came down to logistical issues.
"I think basically because of the number of applications (submitted)," Mr O'Dowd said.
"We have to be pretty well scrutinised with all those applications and it does take time when you have to go through 400 plus applications.
"I was always pretty confident that Gladstone would get it but you're never too sure."
MRI is a common medical scan which gives a detailed view of the body's soft tissues including muscles, ligaments, brain tissue, discs and blood vessels.
It is used to diagnose and monitor a number of different medical conditions including cancer and trauma.