Julia Gibby

Senior Solicitor

Medical care in prison

Health services in prison

Justice Health is a unit of the Department of Justice. It has assumed the health functions previously undertaken by Corrections Victoria’s Health Services Unit and the Department of Health’s Prisoner Health Care Unit.

Justice Health is responsible for planning, coordinating and delivering health services to courts, police cells, and Victoria’s public and private prisons.

Each prison in Victoria offers a wide range of health care treatment, including podiatry, physiotherapy, hearing tests, diabetes education, asthma education, and immunisation programs. Services are provided at community standards. Prisoners are not eligible for Medicare while in prison. Each consultation is documented in a medical file, which is strictly confidential and only accessible to health staff. Justice Health has legal custody of all prisoner health files in Victoria. A request to Justice Health for access to a prisoner’s health file should be made by subpoena or summons for production or by an application under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic).

Some prisons have Aboriginal liaison officers who can assist with access to culturally appropriate services.

If a person enters prison while already on methadone or buprenorphine, they may continue to receive this therapy through the Opioid Substitution Therapy Program.

For information about the psychiatric care available in Victorian prisons, see ‘Prisons’ psychiatric facilities’ in ‘Prisons and residential facilities in Victoria‘.

Private medical practitioners

Under section 47(1)(f) of the Corrections Act 1986 (Vic, prisoners in Victoria have:

… the right to have access to reasonable medical care and treatment necessary for the preservation of health including, with the approval of the principal medical officer but at the prisoner’s own expense, a private registered medical practitioner physiotherapist or chiropractor chosen by the prisoner.

‘Application to consult a private practitioner’ forms are available to prisoners. Applications must be signed by the prison’s health service manager, then sent to Justice Health for approval.

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