OUR STORY: The price of being ill in Gladstone
WURDONG Heights pensioner Peter Wadge says Gladstone needs to be brought into the 21st Century.
Earlier this year the 76-year-old drove his wife to Rockhampton for an MRI.
It didn't cost them a cent.
Gladstone city is home to two Magnetic Resonance Imaging units - one at the Gladstone Mater Hospital, and one at Central Queensland Radiology.
But neither of those centres are eligible for Medicare rebates and so the procedure would have cost the couple at least $150 (an MRI costs $180 at CQ Radiology).
Wendy Wadge suffers from a rare condition called multiple system atrophy. The condition has put her in a wheelchair; it attacks her nervous system that controls important functions of her body.
Mr Wadge doesn't know what his wife will do if something should stop him from driving.
"Wendy can't get a bus or a train up to Rockhampton because she is in a wheelchair," he said.
"Now the free bus service through the Rotary Club has been cancelled, we need to be able to get bulk billing MRIs in Gladstone - now."
The regional manager for Central Queensland Radiology says his MRI unit doesn't make them any money.
In 2013 Noel Swain applied to the Federal Government for the licence that would enable his practice to bulk-bill to Medicare, meaning Gladstone residents would be able to get an MRI for free in their hometown.
That request was denied.
Kay McNeice from the Federal Department of Health confirmed an MRI provider in Gladstone had applied for Medicare eligibility under the Area of Need application, and it was unsuccessful at the time because "this was a competitive process and there were applicants with stronger claims".
Mr Swain believes it would make a huge difference to the local community if CQ Radiology could get a permit.
Six weeks ago resident Peter Wadge contacted Federal MP for Flynn Ken O'Dowd to ask why Gladstone MRI providers weren't eligible for the Medicare rebate.
When The Observer contacted Mr O'Dowd's office on Thursday, we were told he was preparing a letter for Health Minister Sussan Ley that would allow one Gladstone MRI unit to bulk-bill patients. "We have to get the same situation in Gladstone as Rocky," Mr O'Dowd said.
CQ Medical Imaging general manager Bronwyn Nicholson, who's in charge of the MRI unit at the Gladstone Mater Hospital, said she would also welcome a licence at that practice.
MRI services provided by the Federal Government to residents of the Gladstone region are estimated to account for $600,000 in 2013-14.