Council wants Medicare rebate for Sale MRI

CENTRAL Gippsland Health Service will have to wait an undisclosed time before it will have an opportunity to apply to receive a Medicare rebate for its MRI service.

The service has been notified by the federal  Health Department there is no process currently open to apply for Medicare eligibility.

Replacing a discontinued mobile MRI service, CGHS has established its own permanent facility. While MRI services at Latrobe and Bairnsdale hospitals receive Medicare rebates, CGHS doesn’t.

With CGHS covering the cost out of its own coffers, customers will pay the same for the services in Sale as they would at Latrobe and Bairnsdale.

Last month Wellington Shire Council wrote to Health Minister Sussan Ley and Gippsland MHR Darren Chester to draw their attention to the need for CGHS to receive a Medicare rebate for its MRI.

Mr Chester told council CGHS had not written to the government on the matter until April.

Mr Chester said he wrote to the Health Department last year, seeking advice regarding MRI Medicare eligibility and discussed the matter in April with CGHS chief executive Frank Evans.

Mr Chester assured council he would continue working with CGHS on the issue.

“I will continue to make formal representations to  Minister Ley, as I believe the MRI service at CGHS should be granted a Medicare licence,” he wrote.

“I assure you that I will continue working with CGHS to ensure it is heard on this very important matter.

“CGHS made a commercial decision to install the MRI machine at Sale hospital, and should be congratulated for providing high quality medical services and reduced waiting lists in the Wellington community.”

Council resolved to write to Mr Chester supporting his commitment to continue making formal representations to the health minister and call on the government to grant CGHS a Medicare licence for its MRI.

A Health Department official said CGHS would be notified of opportunities for it to apply for eligibility.

“Residents of Sale can receive Medicare rebateable services at the MRI facility at Traralgon, noting the relatively close proximity of these communities,” the official wrote.

Councillor Scott Rossetti said the response that residents could use “nearby” hospitals at Traralgon and Bairnsdale for MRI services which receive a Medicare rebate showed a “lack of understanding of what the issues are in rural areas”.

“Surely it makes no difference to the coffers of the federal government if people turn up to Sale, Latrobe Regional Hospital or Bairnsdale,” he said.

“The comments being ‘nearby’ is completely ludicrous. A 120 or 140 kilometre round trip is hardly nearby, especially with our limited or sporadic public transport options available.”

Cr Rossetti compared the situation to asking a Frankston resident to head to Coburg, or a Werribee resident to Dandenong.

“People turning up at other hospitals are getting the same thing,” he said.

“We’ve got the machine here, it makes no sense that we can’t get the Medicare rebate here.

“We all pay Medicare, please give our hospital that rebate so that we can get those much-needed funds towards other services we need here.”