The Australian Government is working proactively to find solutions to support patients following an unexpected shortage of nuclear medicine scans in hospitals and medical centres.
An equipment failure, which occurred at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisations’ (ANSTO) facility at Lucas Heights, means supplies of Technetium-99m (TC-99m) are limited.
I am advised that ANSTO has been able to secure partial supply of Mo-99 from the South African producer, NTP.
I understand that this will partially cover Australian requirements over the next three weeks.
It is expected that the supply will be quite limited in the week commencing Monday 16 September, and increase incrementally over the subsequent weeks.
The radioisotope is mainly used for selective imaging of organs and soft tissues such as the lungs, bone, brain, liver and kidneys, enabling an effective diagnosis.
As Minister for Health, my key focus is ensuring the continuation of diagnostic procedures, and any impact on services, especially for patients living with cancer, is minimised.
I have been briefed by the Chief Medical Officer and the Department of Health, which is thoroughly exploring alternative diagnostic methods with the relevant clinical experts.
My Department is working closely with state and territory health departments to minimise the impact of the shortage, and with ANSTO’s Nuclear Medicine Working Group.
I have instructed the Department to include temporary provisions under the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) to allow access to relevant PET services to ensure continuity of care for patients.
The Department will work with key stakeholders to ensure that the items are appropriately structured and targeted.
It is important that prioritisation of the most urgent cases occurs and I have been assured that ANSTO and the Nuclear Medicine Working Group are ensuring supply is distributed to patients around the country as equitably as possible.
I urge patients to talk to their health provider if they have any concerns about their particular circumstances.