Illawarra GP Dr Russell Pearson has welcomed a decision that will give patients better access to potentially life-saving MRI scans.
As of yesterday, general practitioners can request four new Medicare-eligible magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) services for patients over 16 years of age.
Previously, only specialist or consultant physicians could order these procedures.
The four new MRI items to receive the rebate include scans to investigate seizures, headaches, spine issues and knee issues.
Dr Pearson, consultant GP at Shell Cove Family Health, said the decision by the federal government would mean faster diagnosis and detection of some conditions.
‘‘I think that GPs in the Illawarra and Shoalhaven will welcome the improved access to MRI scans for their patients,’’ he said.
‘‘This will mean a significant improvement in the patient journey – as it will be quicker, less expensive and less frustrating.
‘‘For instance, if a patient has a knee injury, the nature of it can be clearly defined on an MRI scan ordered by their GP so they don’t have to go and see a consultant as well just to have that scan ordered.’’
Dr Pearson said GPs had been waiting some time to be able to order certain MRI scans, and would like to see the schedule extended to cover other conditions.
‘‘I think that GPs should have the same privileges as their consultant colleagues,’’ Dr Pearson said.
Federal Health Minister Peter Dutton said bulk-billed services would cover the full cost of the new Medicare-eligible MRI services announced yesterday.
‘‘At a cost of $75million over two years, this change will enable patients to receive Medicare rebates for important MRI services without the additional cost or inconvenience of visiting a specialist or consultant,’’ he said.
Australian Diagnostic Imaging Association president Dr Chris Wriedt said the Department of Health’s announcement was a ‘‘good start’’ but still left Australia way behind the OECD average in the use of MRI diagnostic imaging for patients.
‘‘There are many more common conditions – particularly around diseases such as arthritis and other musculoskeletal complaints – which are still not eligible for Medicare-rebatable MRIs after this announcement,’’ he said.