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Thursday, 15 December 1983
Page: 3889

Senator GRIMES —On 20 September last Senator Haines asked me as the Minister representing the Minister for Health a question without notice concerning the payment of medical benefits for health screening to prostitutes. I have obtained the following information from the Minister for Health. I apologise to the Senate for the delay.

Medical benefits are not payable for the regular routine screening of prostitutes for the detection of sexually transmitted diseases. The primary purpose of the medical benefits scheme is to meet expenses reasonably necessary for a patient's medical care. It is considered that preventive public health measures are more effectively and economically carried out by State public health authorities. Only recently the States have expressed concern to the Commonwealth that all pathology investigations relating to infectious diseases such as sexually transmitted diseases should be performed by State laboratories to ensure effective control over the spread of such diseases. The Australian Medical Association has recently raised the question of the level and availability of sexually transmitted disease services in public clinics and the current policy of non-payment of medical benefits for routine screening for such services if carried out by private practitioners. The Department of Health has asked State health authorities to provide information on their facilities for handling examinations and investigations for sexually transmitted diseases. Their replies are awaited.