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Your healthcare rights
The Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights states that you have the right to:
- access healthcare services and treatments that meet your needs
- be safe and cared for in an environment that makes you feel safe
- be respected and treated as an individual, and have your culture, identity, beliefs and choices recognised and respected
- make decisions, ask questions and be involved in open and honest communication, including involving the people that you want to in planning and decision-making
- be given information that you can understand about your condition, including the possible benefits and risks of different tests and treatments, services, waiting times and costs
- access your health information and be told if something has gone wrong during your health care, and how it will affect you
- have your privacy respected by staff and be able to choose who sees information about you and your health
- provide feedback or make complaints without it negatively affecting the way that you are treated.
Doctors and medical care
As a woman with disability, it is important to make your needs known when you access health care and medical services.
Your rights at the doctor
When you go to the doctor you have a right to:
- choose who goes to your appointment. You do not need to have a support person or family member there if you do not want them to be there
- ask your doctor questions about your healthcare, disability, medical history and medication
- ask for information about your healthcare in a way you can understand. For example, you could ask your doctor to explain things in simple language
- choose who is able to see your information
- ask your doctor if they will bulk-bill your appointment (this means that the cost will be sent to Medicare)
- ask for a new doctor and choose the gender of your doctor.
Tip: You can learn more about your healthcare rights on the Women's Health page.
Support at the doctor
You have the right to ask for any extra support you need when you book appointments. This may include:
- extra time with your doctor
- printed information about your appointment, medications or treatments
- a support person or advocate
- a language translator or Auslan interpreter
- a wheelchair accessible room
- a room with accessible equipment. For example, a bed that moves up and down.
Please note - if you need a translator, interpreter or support person, you may need to organise and book them yourself before your appointment.
The Translating and Interpreter Service (TIS) (external link) offers interpreting services for people who speak languages other than English.
Auslan Services (external link) offers sign language interpreters for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
New treatments and medications
Your doctor should treat you as a whole person, and not just consider your disability. If you are recommended a new medication or treatment you have the right to ask questions like:
- how much will it cost?
- what is good and bad about the treatment?
- will the treatment affect the other medications I take?
- how will it affect my disability?
- will it affect my periods or ability to have children in the future?
- will it affect my contraception?
Your doctor must give you all the information you need about your treatment to allow you to make an informed decision. This is called informed consent.
You can learn more about informed consent on the Health Direct website (external link).
Note: You may also be able to get information about health from your pharmacy or peers. But it is important that you discuss any changes you want to make to your treatment with your doctor.
In Australia, Western medicine is most commonly used by doctors and hospitals. There are other alternative therapies and approaches to healthcare available such as traditional Chinese medicine, homeopathy, and naturopathy. These are called complementary medicines.
The cost of complementary medicine is not covered by Medicare as much as Western medicine, but it is favoured by some people and is covered by some private health insurance policies.
Tip: You can learn more about the use of complementary medicine in Australia on the Better Health Channel website (external link).
Government help with health care
Medicare is Australia’s health scheme that guarantees Australian citizens access to a wide range of health services at little or no cost. If you are an Australian citizen, you should have a Medicare card (external link).
When you go to appointments, take your Medicare card with you and any other concession cards you may have. These cards help to reduce the cost of your appointments and medications.
Medicare can help to reduce the costs associated with seeing a doctor, getting medicines and accessing mental health care.
Tip: You can learn more about what is covered under Medicare on the Government's Human Services website (external link).
If you are receiving a government payment and have a low income you may be able to get a Healthcare card (external link) to help you pay for doctor appointments, tests and medications.
Making a complaint about healthcare
If you would like to complain about a health service, you can:
- talk directly to the service about your concerns
- make a complaint to the Health Ombudsman in your state or territory
- submit a complaint to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (external link).
Tip: the option you choose should depend on what your complaint is about. The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency website (external link) can help you decide which option is best for your particular complaint.