Doctors absorbing cost of providing abortions

Sarah Courtney
Tasmanian Health Minister Sarah Courtney is responsible for abortion provision.

Exclusive: Doctors are taking a hit to their own hip pockets to provide surgical abortions to Tasmanian women.

Doctors are taking a hit to their own hip pockets to provide surgical abortions to Tasmanian women, opposition health spokesperson Sarah Lovell said.

The last dedicated surgical abortion service in Tasmania closed in December 2017. After 2017, a surgical abortion in the state cost about $2,500 through the private health sector and some women were flying to Melbourne to use lower-cost services there.

RELATED: Analysing the state’s surgical abortion situation after 11-month delay

The government announced a Melbourne-based surgical abortion provider called Hampton Park would begin providing abortions at a cost of $475. This was supposed to begin operating in Hobart from November 28, 2018, but negotiations fell through.

RELATED: Tasmanian Health Department hits back at low-cost abortion ‘misinformation’

Instead, abortions at the same price of $475 have been available through undisclosed providers since November 2018. But the price difference between $2500 and $475 is being absorbed by doctors, not the government, Ms Lovell said.

“After the government failed to deliver the promised low-cost termination service via Hampton Park, a small number of private providers have been providing this service at the agreed “low-cost” promised by the government,” she said.

“This is in no way a government funded or supported service. Rather, [it’s] a service being provided through the goodwill of these doctors who have recognised that Tasmanian women have been left with very few options.”

When asked if the government was subsidising the cost of surgical terminations for providers, Health Minister Sarah Courtney said, “To be clear, affordable and accessible terminations are available in Tasmania and there is assistance available to vulnerable women seeking to access these services.”

The names of surgical abortion providers in Tasmania are not publicly known. Women can be referred to them by GPs or by Family Planning Tasmania, Women’s Health Tasmania, The Link Youth Health Services, and St Paul Youth Services. For this reason, The Examiner has not been able to speak to the providers.

David Perez, chief executive of The Link Youth Health Services, said the current system was intended as a temporary measure.

“I don’t think anyone thinks it is a permanent solution,” he said. “There was a longer-term plan, and I think everybody is aware that the current situation – that even though it’s serving a purpose – it’s not the ideal best solution.”

A government spokesperson said the government “remains committed to ensuring Tasmanian women are able to access the full range of women’s health services”.

A surgical abortion is available up to 16 weeks of pregnancy. A medical abortion – triggered by taking a pill – works up to nine weeks.

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