A patient and clinician are calling on health minister Greg Hunt to quickly act on advice to enable funding of a medical technology and procedure that treats a life-threatening heart condition.
The patient, Michael Budge, said he was diagnosed with severe mitral regurgitation at the Alfred Hospital in August 2019.
“I got breathless. I couldn't walk too far without getting breathless. I couldn't sleep at night properly," he said.
Mr Budge had a heart attack in the months before this experience and diagnosis as a result of which he received emergency coronary bypass surgery. The mitral valve in his heart no longer closed properly as a result of his heart attack.
The mitral valve ensures that blood flows only in one direction. Mitral regurgitation occurs when the mitral valve does not close properly. This means the blood flows in the wrong direction and into the lungs.
The Alfred Hospital offered Mr Budge a Transcatheter Mitral Valve repair (TMVr) procedure to mend the damaged valve. His doctors did not consider him fit for the alternative - open-heart surgery.
“I was surprised that I was not able to have the procedure [TMVr] done in a private hospital, after paying for private health insurance for many years,” said Mr Budge.
Mr Budge was discharged from the hospital five days after the procedure.
It is a minimally invasive procedure in which a miniature clothes-peg-like clip called MitraClip is inserted into the heart through the groin to pinch the malfunctioning mitral valve.
According to Melbourne-based cardiologist, Associate Professor Tony Walton, “If you look at the data from the trials, it helps keep people out of the hospital and it saves people’s lives. It saves money. A hospital stay for patients is very expensive.”
MitraClip is not currently on the Prostheses List and TMVr is not yet on the Medicare Benefits Schedule. However, is has been recommended by the Medical Services Advisory Committee, meaning health minister Greg Hunt will be considering that advice.
Associate Professor Walton said “Reimbursing TMVr for patients living with mitral regurgitation would put Australia on the same level as the US, UK and other European countries.
“We look forward to MitraClip being properly funded both in the public and private sector.”