The quality and standard of health care provided to prisoners is the same as that provided in the community through the public health system. Qualified medical staff provide on-site health care in every prison. Justice Health is responsible for the delivery of health services for persons in Victorian prisons.
On entry to prison
On entry to prison, a physical and mental health assessment is conducted so that health staff are aware of the prisoner's health and medication needs. A prisoner’s physical and mental wellbeing is reviewed by health staff each time they move between prisons.
While in prison
Qualified doctors, nurses, mental health nurses and other allied health professionals provide on-site health care in every prison. The primary services in Victorian prisons include the following:
- general practitioner (GP) services
- general nursing
- mental health nursing
- dentistry and oral health care
- health promotion
Prisoners with disabilities have full access to the range of health services provided to non-disabled prisoners. In addition, a range of specialised services are available, covering cognitive impairment, sensory and physical disability and psychiatric disability.
If a prisoner has a health issue that cannot be treated at their prison, they may be transferred to another prison where those services are available. Some types of specialist appointments are conducted at Port Phillip Prison (male prisoners only), while others require that the prisoner is taken to St Vincent’s Hospital which provides some services through a secure ward at the hospital – for example, post-operative care.
Prisoners who are referred to specialist services in the public health system are placed on the same waiting lists as members of the community. The waiting time will depend on the clinical urgency of the case.
Under the Corrections Act 1986 s.47 (1)(f), 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.”
As such, prisoners may submit an Application to Consult a Private Health Practitioner for consideration by the Principal Medical Officer (PMO), Justice Health. In order for the application to be considered, the treating Medical Officer at the prison location must provide a clinical opinion on the application. The PMO only has jurisdiction to approve the application. Attendance at private health practitioner appointments is at the discretion of Corrections Victoria (CV). If the PMO approves the application and CV approves attendance at the appointment, the prisoner must meet all of the costs relating to the consultation, including but not limited to treatment, associated transport, and escort costs.
Should a prisoner wish to submit an 'Application to Consult a Private Health Practitioner' for consideration, Justice Health advises that the prisoner should meet with the Health Service Provider at the prison in order to discuss what options are available to them through the prison health system and to determine if the application is necessary for the preservation of health. Prisoners are also advised to speak with their prison General Manager regarding security arrangements and any transport and/or escort costs for which they may be responsible.
If a prisoner needs emergency care, an ambulance will be called and the prisoner taken to the nearest hospital emergency department.
Access to medications is determined by the treating prison medical officer's professional opinion. If a prisoner is already taking prescribed medication before they go to prison, the prison doctor will continue a prescription for this medication where it is clinically appropriate.
In some instances with the prisoner's consent the prison doctor may contact the prisoner's community doctor to confirm medication prescriptions.
Aboriginal Social and Emotional Wellbeing Plan
The department has worked closely with the community to develop this Aboriginal Social and Emotional Wellbeing Plan with the aim of improving health and justice outcomes for Aboriginal people in prison.
Health Service Provider Resource list, under the Aboriginal Social and Emotional Wellbeing Plan
A comprehensive approach to the prevention and management of suicide risk is implemented across the correctional system as outlined in the Correctional Suicide Prevention Framework.
Health staff will develop a discharge summary for the prisoner to take with them when they leave prison. If a prisoner has an appointment with a specialist in the public health system after they are released from custody, information on the appointment will be provided as part of the discharge summary. Health staff may also develop a discharge plan for the prisoner to support them to access health care in the community.
Enquiring about a prisoner's health
Talk to the prisoner about their health and the health care they are receiving. If you have information relevant to their health care or have concerns about their health care, contact the health service provider at the prisoner's location to discuss it.
Prisoners must provide consent before health staff can discuss their health information with family, friends and legal representatives. Find out about obtaining a prisoner's health record.