Easier hospital access for domestic violence victims

Blacktown Hospital forensic nurse examiner Mandy Eagles, department head Dr Maria Nittis and nurse unit manager Carey Day.

Victims of domestic and family violence will now have easier access to NSW public hospitals for the treatment of their injuries, as part of the NSW Government’s COVID-19 response.

The NSW Government has changed its NSW hospital fees policy so that Medicare ineligible victims of domestic and family violence (DFV) – like those on Temporary Protection Visas – will no longer be required to report the crime to police in order to access public hospitals at no cost.

Blacktown Hospital forensic unit department head Dr Maria Nittis has assisted about 1700 domestic violence victims in the past 13 years, and knows how fearful they can be of the financial and emotional costs of seeking help.

“I saw a patient [on Tuesday] that was on a visitor visa and she was not covered by Medicare. Fortunately, she had reported to the police, so we were able to waive the cost of the emergency department and service.”

However many victims of domestic violence will first turn to community or healthcare services before they are ready to report to police. Had Dr Nittis’ patient been too fearful or unable to lodge a report, she would have faced expensive radiology and pathology fees.

“We know domestic violence is a circuit. How many times people go round that circuit will differ based on their background and circumstance. We hopefully offer a chance to break that circuit and to make sure the perpetrator is held to account,” Dr Nittis said.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard said it is vital that people facing violence at home feel safe to seek support and care in our public hospitals, without fear of reprisal from perpetrators.

“A tragic, often hidden cost of the COVID-19 pandemic is the rise in violence on the homefront and fewer opportunities to reach out for support,” Mr Hazzard said.

“The NSW Government is helping to clear the way for victims of domestic and family violence to receive essential medical treatment and care in our hospitals, whenever they need it.”

If you or anyone you know is experiencing domestic violence, when it’s safe to do so, you can contact the following supports:

  • NSW Domestic Violence Line, for crisis counselling, referral or support on 1800 65 64 63;
  • 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732 for sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling and support services;
  • Link2Home on 1800 152 152 who can help refer women experiencing domestic violence to crisis accommodation; and
  • Men’s Referral Service for men who use violence, or their friends and family on 1300 766 491 or https://ntv.org.au/.

If you are in immediate danger or in an emergency, always contact Triple Zero (000).

For more information on services and supports, visit the NSW Government’s ‘Speak Out’ webpage: https://www.speakout.dcj.nsw.gov.au/.