House debates

Thursday, 18 October 2018


Barker Electorate: Magnetic Resonance Imaging

4:35 pm

Photo of Tony PasinTony Pasin (Barker, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

This evening, in the time I have, I'd like to talk about disadvantage—not just any kind of disadvantage but an example of disadvantage that occurs across rural, regional and remote Australia. When I came to this place in 2013, you couldn't undergo an MRI scan in Mount Gambier. Mr Speaker, you and others in the House know that Mount Gambier is the second-largest city in South Australia. Yet, if you were required to undergo what is now a relatively common and often-used diagnostic investigation, you would need to travel to Adelaide. That is a five-hour drive there and a five-hour drive to return. It usually costs a significant amount of money, with inconvenience and overnight stays, et cetera. Or you could travel to Warrnambool, which is 2½ hours away in regional Victoria, where you had a choice of not one but two MRI machines that you could use. There were two in Warrnambool and none in Mount Gambier. In any event, I began a campaign to secure an MRI licence for Mount Gambier. I must say, thanks to the then Prime Minister, who visited Mount Gambier, we delivered on that commitment some short time thereafter.

Imagine my delight when I heard that, as a government, we are allocating an additional 30 MRI licences across rural, regional and remote Australia. I've turned my mind to that area in my electorate that is suffering disadvantage as Mount Gambier did. I've concluded that the Riverland, an area which is some 2½ hours from Adelaide and two hours or 1½ hours from Mildura, does not have access to an MRI scanner. Just like the people of Mount Gambier did, if the people of the Riverland are subject to the need for an investigation of this nature today, they have to drive to Adelaide or Mildura and back for what are sometimes 15-minute scans.

What I've done is begin a petition because, quite frankly, I'm campaigning for one of these remaining 20 licences—10 of them having been allocated to date—to be secured for the Riverland. There are an estimated 3,000 trips to Adelaide or Mildura unnecessarily taken by members of the Riverland community because that service isn't in the community. Can I also say that in discussions with an orthopaedic surgeon who happens to be a friend of mine, he believes securing a licence and, subsequently, a machine—I've written to the state minister and I've also had discussions with other service providers about taking up that opportunity—may well secure a permanent resident orthopaedic surgeon for the Riverland. After having issued the call for the petition, we've had over 1,200 signatures online. We've got more than 2,000 signatures in total. This is in a matter of days—not weeks but days. The community has come together. It understands what disadvantage is and it wants to do something about it. I'm certain that before the end of this month, when I collect these petitions and present them to this place, there'll be many more. That's the story of the community in general.

Can I tell the story of a constituent who wrote to me on this topic. The constituent writes: 'May I tell you how welcome your call for an MRI machine in the Riverland is to me. My son was born with a problem in his bones which was not discovered, because of his constant pain, until he was 19 years old. He's now 51 and has recently lost his wife to breast cancer, which included many trips to the city. It was taking them over four hours to reach appointments as he needed to take a break because of his back pain, and his wife also needed a break. After being a carer for more than 10 years he's returned to work part time and now requires further MRIs for his back and knee. He may have to travel twice to Adelaide, another eight-hour trip, with the cost of overnight accommodation. To say I support this petition is an understatement. I hope you have the overwhelming support of the community.'

Of course we do have the overwhelming support of the community. For community members out there who haven't yet signed the petition, please do it for me. You can do it online at petition. Alternatively, there are hard copies throughout the Riverland. Get on board and let's secure this licence.