Medical care

The government body Justice Health is responsible for prisoner health care in courts, police cells, and all prisons across Victoria. Prisoners have a right to access a private medical practitioner at their own expense.

Health services available in prison

Justice Health is a business unit of the Victorian Government Department of Justice and Regulation. It assumed the health functions previously undertaken by Corrections Victoria’s Health Services Unit and the DHS’ Prisoner Health Care Unit. Justice Health is responsible for the planning, coordination and delivery of contracted health services across courts, police cells, and Victoria’s public and privately managed prisons.

Each prison location 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. The medical file moves location with the prisoner. Justice Health has legal custody of all prisoner health files in Victoria and all requests for information from these files must be made through Justice Health. A request for access to a prisoner’s health file ought ordinarily to be made by subpoena or Summons for Production or by an application under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic).

Psychiatric care is available at each prison site. Specialist services are available in the Psycho-Social Unit at Port Phillip prison and the Acute Assessment Unit at the MAP. Psychiatric support services are available at the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre for women.

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. Application may be made through the health provider to access this program on reception into the prison system.

For further information, contact Justice Health (seeContacts”).

Private medical practitioner

Under section 47(1)(f) of the Corrections Act, 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.

Some content was given to section 47(1)(f) in Castles v Secretary to the Department of Justice [2010] VSC 310, where the right of a female prisoner to access IVF treatment as part of the right to medical treatment recognised by section 47(1)(f) was upheld (seePrisoners’ rights”).

Justice Health provides information and guidelines regarding prisoners’ access to a private medical practitioner. Prisoners can obtain an “application to consult a private practitioner” form from the prison Health Service. Prior to the application being sent to the principal medical officer at Justice Health for approval, the Health Service manager at the prisoner’s location is required to sight and sign the application, and provide any comments considered relevant to the prisoner’s request. A completed application including the intended date and time of consultation must be forwarded to Justice Health. In addition, the full name and date of birth of the private medical practitioner must be provided for security clearance into the prison.