Women’s Health in the South East (WHISE) welcomes the opportunity to provide input into the Senate Inquiry into Universal Access to Reproductive Healthcare.

The Senate Inquiry is a critical opportunity to identify existing gaps in sexual and reproductive healthcare provision. WHISE’s submission, endorsed by some of our regional partners including the South Eastern Melbourne Primary Health Network, Peninsula Health and Talking the Talk Healthy Sexuality Education, applies an intersectional gender lens to the Terms of Reference supplied by the Senate Community Affairs References Committee. It also outlines identified areas for strengthening in the provision of health services, education, information and resources, policy and legislation, to ensure equitable access to reproductive healthcare.

“We know that women and gender diverse people experience multiple structural barriers to accessing affordable sexual and reproductive healthcare, including limited availability of providers, Medicare exclusions for people on temporary visas and international students, and a lack of cultural safety and appropriateness of services for people. Our hope is that the Senate Inquiry will ultimately result in substantive investment in sexual and reproductive healthcare, to expand the capacity and capability of the health workforce. We also hope that the Inquiry will lead to reform in Telehealth and PBS coverage” said Kit McMahon, CEO of WHISE.

WHISE’s submission to the Senate Inquiry provides several key recommendations for reforming the sexual and reproductive healthcare system, including embedding training and professional development opportunities for practitioners to prescribe and dispense medical abortion, and to expand the capacity of the health workforce by enabling nurses, midwives, and pharmacists to work to their full scope of practice in contraception and abortion care.

“Expanding investment in the reproductive health workforce, through services such as the Sexual and Reproductive Health Hubs and services that provide antenatal care is vital to ensuring women and gender diverse people have access to reproductive healthcare in their local community,” noted Kit McMahon.

WHISE has also addressed administrative and cost barriers to accessing services in the submission to the Senate Inquiry, and included recommendations to amend Medicare Item Numbers to redress the prohibitive costs of long-acting reversible contraception such as intrauterine devices and Implanon, and extend Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme coverage to include the progesterone-only oral contraceptive pill and the combined vaginal ring, and review the current Therapeutic Goods Administration approval processes for the introduction of new medicines.

One of the key recommendations in WHISE’s submission includes workplace reform to ensure women and gender diverse people are supported in the workplace to manage symptoms related to their reproductive health, including menstruation, menopause and perimenopause, endometriosis, and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

“There have been significant steps taken toward introducing reproductive health leave for employees, to support them to access abortion, fertility treatment, and gender-affirming healthcare without being penalised at work,” said Kit McMahon.

“WHISE will be working with a newly established reference group to deliver important projects on menopause in 2023, and this Senate Inquiry was an opportunity to highlight the need for renewed focus on perimenopause and menopause in our healthcare system and more broadly.”

WHISE is looking forward to the release of the Senate Community Affairs References Committee to the submissions in March 2023.

Read WHISE’s submission to the Senate Inquiry

Media contact: Doseda Hetherington · (03) 9794 8677 · ·

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