Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (12:20): My question is for the Minister for Health and relates to access to abortion services in the public health system in Victoria, particularly for those who cannot afford to pay for them privately. You may recall I asked a similar question last year when you were acting for the Minister for Health.
You gave me a whole bunch of answers around more training at the women’s hospital, 1800 My Options and new family planning hubs. So I am just wondering: in the last year have we seen an increase in the availability of terminations in the public health system?
Ms MIKAKOS (Northern Metropolitan—Minister for Health, Minister for Ambulance Services) (12:20):I thank the member for her question, and I acknowledge her strong advocacy for greater access to termination services for Victorian women. In fact I know that this has been an issue that we have managed to achieve some bipartisanship on, and Ms Wooldridge and others also have supported the government around these issues.
Mr Finn: Speak for yourself.
Ms MIKAKOS: I note Mr Finn’s strong objection to me including the whole of the coalition in that statement, so I will be very clear in saying that I know Mr Finn will continue to oppose women’s right to choose in Victoria. I hope he will make sure that a whole bunch of neo-Nazis do not continue to march with him around these issues in Victoria—
Mr Finn interjected.
The PRESIDENT: Mr Finn!
Ms MIKAKOS: because we know that it is important that women do have the right to choose in our state. This is why the previous health minister, Minister Hennessy, launched the Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health: Key Priorities document back in 2017. That policy set in place the establishment of eight reproductive health hubs in Victoria.
This has enabled women to gain greater access to contraception, including long-acting, reversible contraception; medical terminations up to nine weeks; and referral pathways to access to surgical terminations when a medical termination is not suitable. Those centres are now operating, including in regional communities. Bendigo, Ballarat, Albury Wodonga, Wangaratta now have access to these hubs.
In addition to that, we established the 5 new 1800 My Options service, which the member referred to in her question as well, which is run by Women’s Health Victoria, and I acknowledge the important work they have been doing making sure that women have access to additional support and information around these services.
I will seek some additional advice for the member. She asked specifically around data. I will look at what datasets are available around these issues, but we are absolutely committed to addressing gaps.
This is an issue that I look forward to working on with my colleagues at the COAG Health Council, including the federal government. I do think that there are certainly some inequities that exist, and this is an issue that I will continue to do some work on.
We certainly have since we have been in government expanded access to women’s choices through the establishment of those hubs, but there is certainly more work that needs to be done.
Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (12:24): Thank you, Minister, and I will look forward to getting that extra information. In regard to the hubs, I certainly will be speaking to you at a later date about possibly getting a hub in our Northern Metropolitan Region.
But by way of supplementary, part of those priorities was to provide training to more clinicians at the women’s to provide surgical terminations, and I wonder if you can tell me how many more clinicians have been trained to provide terminations at the women’s?
Ms MIKAKOS (Northern Metropolitan—Minister for Health, Minister for Ambulance Services) (12:24): I will be looking to see what data is available to provide the member with in response to that very specific question, but I know that the women’s hospital is very committed to giving greater choice to women. They do very important work around these issues.
We know of course that our legislation provides some parameters around training and certainly issues around medical terminations. I think that there needs to be more work done with primary health networks and primary care providers to make sure that we have got greater access to medical terminations across Victoria, particularly in regional communities, and I am happy to have some further discussions with the member around these issues.
But certainly around the training issues more broadly, of course that is a federal responsibility, but I am committed to looking to work with the federal government around providing greater training to doctors—
Ms Patten: There was state funding for it.
Ms MIKAKOS: Yes—greater training opportunities for medical practitioners
Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
Parliament of Victoria