On Monday, 4 February I was very proud to announce that, under a Labor government, the people of the western suburbs of Adelaide will at long last have access to a fully Medicare funded MRI machine at their local hospital, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Under the last Labor government, a comprehensive review of diagnostic imaging was undertaken, which resulted in 238 MRI licences being granted across the country. It was in this review that the QEH got its first MRI licence in 2012, a partially rebatable licence that, for the first time, gave western suburbs residents the ability to get scans at their local hospital with Medicare rebates for a limited number of conditions.
But it quickly became apparent to me, through discussions with clinicians and local residents, that the QEH needs a fully rebatable MRI licence. People in parts of my electorate find themselves needing to travel up to 45 minutes to access a Medicare funded MRI machine, a challenge that just got even harder with the Marshall Liberal government's cruel cuts to public transport across Adelaide. I first wrote to the then Minister for Health, Peter Dutton, in 2014 asking for a fully rebatable MRI licence to be considered by the Commonwealth. I got no response from that minister. I again wrote to the Commonwealth government last year, with the then new Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, and we still got no action from this government—a government that, until September last year, had only granted five new Medicare licences in five years for MRI machines for the whole nation.
Labor has decided that the people of Adelaide's west have waited long enough. We aren't waiting for this government to catch up. My constituents deserve local services in their local hospital. Residents of the west currently face the sixth longest wait times in the country for specialist referrals for MRI scans. The western suburbs have half as many MRI licences per capita as other locations, as well as having a population with a high concentration of older Australians, people with chronic disease and low-income families.
I have long fought to ensure that the QEH has quality services for locals, standing up for the continued provision of cardiac, palliative, oncology and other services at the QEH and now making sure that a Labor government will give the western suburbs proper access to MRI scans with Medicare rebates. This government has neglected the west, and it's neglected our hospital. I call on it to act now and to ensure that thousands of western suburbs residents don't have to wait a moment longer for proper MRI access. Labor stands for quality health care, and I will always stand up for the QEH, now and into the future.