The redeveloped Goulburn Base Hospital is just a month off opening but one vital piece of equipment will be missing.
Despite a concerted community campaign and committed state funding, an MRI machine will not be part of the offering.
Local man Richard Cudaj, who championed the cause before undergoing a brain tumour operation in June, said he'd hoped for otherwise.
"I'm disappointed nothing has been heard from Angus Taylor, who has responsibility for getting the MRI licence," he said.
"I would have thought the federal and state members would be working together on this, given they are from the same party."
Mr Cudaj campaigned for the "much needed" equipment at Goulburn Base Hospital after making five trips to Nowra, Bowral and Canberra for Medical Resonance Imaging scans.
He'd been diagnosed with a brain tumour in May that doctors believed had been growing for 40 years.
Mr Cudaj subsequently underwent a 10-hour operation in Canberra Hospital to remove 95 per cent of the tumour, close to his optic nerve, in early June.
The successful procedure left him with three titanium screws virtually hold his brain together.
"I still get the odd sensation in my face, some numbness and some nerve issues," Mr Cudaj said.
While the rest of the tumour was "zapped," he was travelling to Canberra again this week for another MRI to assess the operation's ultimate success.
He and wife, Susan, argued that shouldn't be the case.
"Being Australia's first inland city, Goulburn deserves a full suite of health services here, including an MRI machine, and not have residents travelling unnecessarily," he said.
It's also unnecessary stress at already difficult times, the couple say.
Soon after Mr Cudaj's diagnosis, his wife experienced "stroke-like symptoms" and had to be admitted to Goulburn Base Hospital.
Only a trip to Canberra for an MRI confirmed it wasn't a stroke.
"They looked after me beautifully at Goulburn but if I'd been able to have the MRI locally, the expense of patient transport getting me to Canberra could have been avoided," Mrs Cudaj said.
"It's unnecessary and I'm just one person."
The couple has heard many similar experiences since June.
Now they fear that despite earlier public momentum, politicians and bureaucrats have put the issue on the "backburner."
Goulburn MP Wendy Tuckerman pursued the cause in May after a meeting with Mr Cudaj. She launched a petition that collected more than 2000 signatures in two weeks and argued the case to Health Minister, Brad Hazzard.
The June state budget allocated an extra $15 million to the hospital redevelopment, including money for an MRI unit. The upgrade also includes a room for the equipment.
But a Southern NSW Local Health District spokeswoman confirmed this week that MRI planning was part of the next development phase.
Ms Tuckerman also understood this planning would continue after the new clinical services building opened in December. She did not directly answer questions about what action had occurred to date.
"I wholly appreciate the significant amount of near-constant pressure our NSW Health and administrative staff have been under since July's COVID outbreak and I look forward to seeing the project progress," she said.
In May, the Health District was preparing a business case to support the MRI service. This would examine demand and and ultimately support a licence application to the federal government.
It's understood the Health District was considering a private partnership to deliver the service.
The Post has requested comment from the SNSWLHD on whether a licence application had progressed, or if not, when one was likely to be lodged. If granted, it would entitle patients to a full or partial Medicare rebate.
A condition of securing a licence is that the machine already be in place or pending within 12 months. It must also be located in a "comprehensive radiology" facility.
Mr Taylor said Goulburn Hospital did not require a Medicare licence to provide an MRI service to the community. However The Post understands this is the Health District's preference, due to the Medicare rebate's availability.
"With funding of an MRI unit announced in the NSW Budget, this service will be available to the Goulburn community," Mr Taylor said in statement.
"I'm committed to ensuring important diagnostic services like MRI scans are more affordable for Goulburn residents.
"I've made several representations to the Health Minister to put forward Goulburn's case for Medicare eligibility for MRI services, and I will continue to pursue this issue until it is achieved."
The Post has requested comment from the federal health department on the MRI licence rounds.
Mr Cudaj just wants action on the matter.
"I had hoped the MRI unit would be in place by the time of the hospital's opening," he said.
"I can understand what is going on with the government in regard to COVID-19 but this is also important. We don't want government to put it on the backburner."
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