The Government is now operating in accordance with the Caretaker Conventions pending the outcome of the 2022 federal election.

Access to health care and medicines

Accessing healthcare and medicines may be different during a COVID-19 outbreak. Find out how to get the health care you need.

Access to health care

Access to your usual health care provider may change based on your state or territory's restrictions, or if there is an outbreak of COVID-19.

Check your local state or territory health department for updates.

You may be able to arrange a telehealth appointment if you can't see your regular health care provider.

Telehealth

If you have a Medicare card you can access telehealth services via phone or video.

Medicare rebates for telehealth services are the same as face-to-face appointments. 

Health care providers can choose to set their own fees or bulk bill. Your health care provider must tell you about any fees associated with your telehealth appointment.

To make a telehealth appointment call your health care provider.

Access to medicines

Paper and electronic prescriptions

Electronic prescriptions are widely available in Australia and are the preferred option for accessing medicines during an outbreak. Your health care provider can send the electronic prescription straight to your phone or your pharmacy of choice.

Healthcare providers can also give you a paper prescription following a telehealth consultation. The prescriber will need to mail the paper prescription to you. Alternative, you, or someone known to you, can pick it up from the prescriber’s location.

Image-based prescriptions (a photo of a paper prescription) will no longer be legal in community pharmacy settings after 31 March 2022. Prescriptions with repeats written before then will continue to be honoured until the prescription runs out or expires.

Limited image-based prescribing activities may continue for prescriptions written for hospital patients. A prescription written for a hospital patient can be lawfully dispensed by a hospital pharmacy. This arrangement for will only extend until 31 March 2023.

You are still not required to sign to acknowledge receipt of supply if it is not practical for you to do so. The pharmacist may sign on your behalf unless it is not practical for them to do so. Signature exemptions for safety net concession cards also continue to apply. This interim arrangement will also continue until 31 March 2023 to help prevent the transmission of COVID-19.

Although the Special Arrangement which allows certain supplies to be made based on a digital image or copy of a prescription (provided to an approved supplier by a PBS prescriber) is being limited to approved hospital authorities, residential care services can continue using copies of medication charts for PBS prescribing. This is allowed by section 45(2) of the National Health (Pharmaceutical Benefits) Regulations 2017 which specifies that an approved supplier may supply a pharmaceutical benefit on the basis of a medication chart prescription only if the supplier has seen a medication chart or a copy of the medication chart that includes all prescribing information requirements.

If you are isolating, or in a high risk group

If you are isolating, are more vulnerable to serious illness, or prefer to stay at home you can still access your medicines by:

  • home delivery
  • asking a friend or relative to visit the pharmacy for you.

Call your preferred pharmacy or check their website to see if:

  • they have your medicines in stock
  • they offer home delivery
  • you can order online or over the phone

If you have a paper prescription, you must post it or get someone to take it to the pharmacy before they can deliver the medicines.

If you have an electronic prescription, you can send a copy of the token (QR code) to your pharmacy and they will send the medicines to the address on the prescription – make sure your health care provider has the right address.

You can also access the Home Medicines Service is you are:

  • isolating 
  • aged over 70
  • an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person aged over 50
  • immunocompromised or have a chronic health condition
  • a parent of a new baby
  • pregnant
  • an aged care home resident, if your facility does not use another home delivery service

Learn more about the Home Medicines Service or contact your preferred pharmacist for details.

Last updated: 
13 April 2022

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