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News & Trends - MedTech & Diagnostics

Federal budget delivers ‘mixed news’ for radiologists

Health Industry Hub | May 20, 2024 |

MedTech & Diagnostics News: The Royal College of Australian and New Zealand Radiologists (RANZCR) and the Interventional Radiology Society of Australasia (IRSA) have described the federal government’s 2024-25 Budget as “mixed news” for their members.

RANZCR welcomed two major announcements: the commitment to remove the MRI licensing system for metropolitan areas by 2027 and an investment in nuclear medicine.

RANZCR President, Professor John Slavotinek, stated “The College has been strongly advocating for the complete removal of MRI licences for over a decade, and this announcement is a result of our continual campaigning with elected decision makers.”

During the initial MRI eligibility expansion period between July 2025 and June 2027, RANZCR will monitor the rollout of changes, which may favour some practices over others and impact patient access.

Professor Slavotinek added, “Investing $92.8 million in nuclear medicine to fund a targeted schedule fee increase and reintroduce annual indexation is also good news and welcomed. Along with the federal government, we are hoping that these funds will improve the viability of nuclear medicine.”

However, he expressed disappointment over the 2% reduction in the schedule fee for CT services.

“The government is giving with one hand and taking away with the other by its decision to reduce funding for CT services while enabling support for MRI and nuclear medicine. The fee reduction makes this federal budget mixed news for radiologists. We were also hoping that the government would invest in brachytherapy by funding equipment through the Radiation Oncology Health Program Grants Scheme,” Professor Slavotinek said.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers announced a $49.1 million funding boost which will see two new Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) items added in July 2025 to support longer gynaecological appointments.

According to IRSA, access to minimally invasive treatments, which are delivered by interventional radiologists, is also required to make a positive impact on women’s health outcomes. Current MBS limitations for interventional radiology treatments, such as uterine artery embolisation (UAE), impact how women are referred for treatments and the financial burden they face. Many women aren’t offered minimally-invasive treatments or are unable to consult an Interventional Radiologist due to these restrictions.

With many OECD countries embracing minimally invasive procedures as an alternative for hysterectomy in benign disease, IRSA believes Australia should examine why it is lagging.

Professor Warren Clements, an Interventional Radiologist and IRSA Executive Committee Member, highlighted the low uptake of uterine embolisation compared to hysterectomy as an example of barriers leading to health and financial burdens for women.

“If we use uterine fibroid embolisation as an example, this is a minimally invasive treatment that can be performed under conscious sedation with a pinhole incision. For the patient, there are no visible wounds, and they are able to get back to work and their lives much quicker. Where possible, we should be making it easier for women to understand and access these alternative treatment options,” said Professor Clements.

“Furthermore, the current MBS classification of embolisation as a cardiovascular procedure creates a financial barrier. Only people with higher levels of private health insurance cover are eligible for a rebate, which could force patients to choose the surgical option out of necessity.”

Dr Chris Rogan, President of IRSA and an Interventional Radiologist, is urging the government to consider future changes to support education, access, and funding for minimally invasive procedures offered by interventional radiologists.

“If we truly care about improving women’s health, we need to embrace change that allows women to have more knowledge and access to procedures that support quicker recoveries, reduce stress on their bodies, and reduce financial burden,” emphasised Dr Rogan.

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