Builders in the middle of installing a life-saving PET scanner were ordered to leave the Hobart Private Hospital or risk breaking the law. Health Minister Lara Giddings said the scanner did not have her approval. MIA Tasmania says it spent five years and several million dollars obtaining approvals and training specialists to use the Positron Emission Tomography scanner -- the only one in Tasmania. It has approval letters from the Department of Health's health physics unit and the Royal Hobart Hospital. The scanner is due to be ready for patients next month.
"On Monday we were told we had to get ministerial approval. The previous approval was retracted," said Mark Simpson, general manager of Regional Imaging which owns MIA Tasmania. He said Healthscope, which leases the building from the State Government, was forced to tell them to leave. "We intended this scanner for use for public and private patients statewide," Mr Simpson said.
Tasmania is the only state without a PET scanner -- which measures how far cancers have spread and helps determine whether to operate or not. Hundreds of Tasmanians each year travel to scanners interstate. PET can help diagnose Alzheimer's, epilepsy and heart disease. But the Federal Government promised late last year to buy a scanner for Tasmania -- right next door in the RHH. The public plan is expected to take three years or more.
However, Ms Giddings said the State Government had not approved the MIA scanner. "The Hospitals Act is designed to ensure the safety of patients is protected when additions or alterations are made in private medical establishments," she said. She told estimates hearings last month she had not issued the licence to MIA.
Mr Simpson said if such approval was required, it had not been so for all the other equipment they had brought in. PET is a sub-branch of nuclear medicine. MIA provides all the RHH's nuclear medicine reporting services.
"This move could deprive seriously ill Tasmanians of an important diagnostic tool and beggars belief," said Liberal health spokesman Brett Whiteley. Greens leader Nick McKim said Tasmanians needed access to PET scans sooner rather than later, something Ms Giddings should be facilitating.
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