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Blue Mountains News

Call for Affordable Medical Imaging Services

Source: Susan Templeman MP, Member For Macquarie
Posted: 26 Jul 2018
Patients are being forced to join lengthy waiting lists, face delays to their medical care or miss out on diagnosis altogether because there is no MRI machine in the Blue Mountains.

Federal Member for Macquarie, Susan Templeman MP and State Member for Blue Mountains, Trish Doyle have joined with Blue Mountains doctors and nurses to call on the Federal and State Governments to provide affordable medical imaging services to be a priority for Blue Mountains residents.

MRI services are used to detect and diagnose conditions that affect soft tissue, including tumours and cancer – and are critical in the early detection of many diseases such as dementia.

Ms Templeman said the lack of access to affordable MRI services was of particular concern for children and people over the age of 65.

“Local doctors have raised concerns about the delays their patients face in getting treatment because they have to go to Nepean Hospital and face long waiting lists to have an MRI,” Ms Templeman said.

“The Nepean machines are so fully booked that I’m regularly told people are getting appointments as early as 5am or as late as 10pm on a Friday night.

“A bipartisan Senate Inquiry earlier this year recognised that Western Sydney has a shortage of access to subsidised MRI scans,” she said.

“It also heard that a lack of affordable MRI services meant that children were at risk of being overexposed to the radiation of CT scans.

“We know that the risk of cancer increases with age, with 60 percent of cancers diagnosed after the age of 65,” Ms Templeman said. “According the last census, one in two residents in the Blue Mountains is aged 50 and over, and one in five is aged 65 and over.

“Particularly without access to a Medicare-funded MRI, people have few options,” she said. “Even if they are able to pay high out-of-pocket costs, there is no machine between Lithgow and Penrith.

“A Medicare subsidised MRI in Katoomba, would not only be of huge benefit to residents in the Blue Mountains, it would help take the pressure off the scarce resources available in Western Sydney,” she said.

Ms Doyle said the need for an MRI in Katoomba was clear, but the State Government would also need to come to the party by ensuring there were enough staff and supports to provide a proper service.

“Katoomba Hospital is already under the pump – as is Nepean – with Liberal Government staffing cuts,” she said.

“Sadly this Government has an ideological fixation with cutting services,” she said.

“And when you cut services, that impacts not only the health of workers but also the quality and level of care provided to patients by overworked, tired staff.

“Recruitment practices in the health system are extremely slow. This means casuals and permanent staff feel pressured to fill shifts by working overtime or double shifts.

“Cutting corners on staffing and supports has got to stop,” she said.

“We absolutely need an affordable MRI service in the Blue Mountains, but we need the Berejiklian Government to provide adequate staffing levels to support it,” she said.

Katoomba cardiologist, Dr John England, said he’s seeing patients missing out.

“Often a CT scan has to be validated by an MRI before treatment can begin,” Dr England said.

“MRIs are a great tool for problem solving – whether it’s a complex brain issue, the early stages of dementia, a spine issue or as a safer way to investigate problems in pregnancy and in children.

“Doctors and patients need access to a local MRI service so treatment isn’t delayed,” he said.

 
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