Healthcare

In Australia, everyone has the right to access the healthcare they need.

This page has information about your healthcare rights, including your rights as stated in The Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights 2019.

Watch the Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights video (external website) about 'the importance of health care information':

Tip: Click the subtitles button in the bottom right hand corner of the video to turn closed captions on and off.
Coronavirus

Coronavirus (also called COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered virus. The World Health Organisation has announced that coronavirus is a pandemic. This means that it is currently spreading around the world.

To find out more about coronavirus and how to protect yourself and others, visit our page on Disasters and Crises.


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

A photo of pills and a needle

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.

Complementary medicine

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

Photo of three Medicare cards layed on top of each other.

Medicare

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).

Healthcare card

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:

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. 

Important Resources

Guides
About Coronavirus. Also called COVID-19
An Easy English book about Coronavirus (also called COVID-19).
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Guides
WWDA Easy English Book: Your Health Rights
Easy English book about your rights in healthcare.
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Guides
Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare: Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights
A guide to your rights in healthcare.
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Guides
Better Healthcare for People with Disability
A guide to using healthcare for people with disability.
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Guides
Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare: Top Tips for Safety in Healthcare
Quick guide to what you need to know about safety in healthcare for yourself, your family or someone you care for.
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Guides
Zoom Meetings
Zoom is a program that allows you to run or join a meeting online. This document explains how to download Zoom, create an account, host a meeting and join a meeting.
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Guides
Better Hospital Care for People with Disability
A guide to care in hospital for people with disability.
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External website
Council for Intellectual Disability: Health Resources
This website provides resources in plain english and Easy Read about health and healthcare.
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Where to next:

External website
Australian Government: Privacy Complaints
Information on how to make a complaint if you think an organisation has misused your personal information.
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After Hours GP Helpline
If you need a doctor urgently or after hours, you can contact healthdirect on 1800 022 222 or look for an after hours lGP using the form on this website.
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External website
Australian Commission for Quality and Safety in Healthcare
The website for the Commission that works with patients, carers, healthcare organisations and governments to set standards for healthcare and improve the safety and quality of care in Australia.
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External website
Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (APHRA)
The main organisation that handles complaints about health practitioners across Australia.
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Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
A website with information and statistics about health and welfare in Australia.
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External website
Lifeline
Lifeline is a national organisation that supports Australians in mental health crisis. If you are in crisis you can call Lifeline on 13 14 11.
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External website
Centrelink: Health Care Card
The website for a concession card to get cheaper medicines and some discounts if you receive a Centrelink payment.
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Find a Health Service
An online tool to help you find a near by health service that meets your needs.
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External website
Jean Hailes - For Women's Health
A national organisation that provides women with information about their health in various stages of their life.
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Head to Health
A website with mental health information and resources for your needs.
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External website
External website
Australian Government: Department of Health
Australian Government website explaining the healthcare system in Australia.
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My Aged Care
A government website to help people aged 65 and older to find the support they need.
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Medicare
This website has information about medicare and what it can help cover the costs of.
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External website
Australian Women's Health Network
A health promotion advocacy organisation website that provides information about women's health as well as links to local women's health centres.
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National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)
Information about the NDIS for eligible people with disability as well as their supporters and services.
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National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO)
The website for a national organisation representing 143 Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHSs)
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The Royal Women's Hospital
A website with lots of useful information and downloadable fact sheets about women's health.
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Apps
Instascript
Instascript is an app you can use on your computer or phone to get a prescription online and have it sent directly to your local pharmacy.
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External website
Complementary Medicines Australia
Complementary Medicines Australia (CMA) is the peak industry body for the complementary medicines industry in Australia.
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