Coronavirus and the Law
Access to healthcare facilities
Can I access healthcare if I’m unvaccinated?
Yes. Access to healthcare is a fundamental right.
You should not be asked for a vaccine pass to access essential health services, like primary care services, pharmacies, specialist clinics, laboratories and imaging services, public hospitals, maternity care, hospice services, oral healthcare services, mental health care services, ambulances and emergency care.
However, there may be restrictions on where, when, and how you get those services. For example, if you have COVID-19 symptoms, you may be asked to a wait outside or wait in a designated waiting area. You may also be refused entry to fully private healthcare providers, see the next question.
What healthcare places can’t I access if I’m unvaccinated?
Anyone can access public healthcare providers (like hospitals, most GPs and other healthcare providers that receive government funding).
However, the rules are different for fully private healthcare providers (healthcare providers that receive no government funding). Fully private healthcare providers can stop unvaccinated people entering their premises in certain circumstances.
Private healthcare providers can refuse people to enter their premises only if they have done a health and safety risk assessment.
The risk assessment must show that it is necessary to refuse access to reduce risk of COVID-19.
When doing a risk assessment, a private healthcare provider must not assume there is a high risk of COVID-19 on its premises. The Ministry of Health has pointed out healthcare providers already use strong public health measures to reduce COVID-19 risk (such as full masks and vaccinated workers). The private healthcare provider must balance your right to services with:
- Keeping other patients and staff safe
- Steps that can be taken to reduce risk
- The urgency of your health care need.
Can I visit my usual doctor if I’m unvaccinated?
You can access face-to-face services from your usual doctor if they are publicly funded. Most family doctors are publicly funded.
Doctors should take extra care when working with unvaccinated people and people who don’t disclose their vaccine status. This might include:
- Separating you from other patients in the waiting room
- Making you wait outside (For example, in the carpark)
- Treating you in a separate part of the premises
- Using additional protective equipment, (For example, wearing full masks and gloves)
Taking extra care with unvaccinated people is lawful on health and safety grounds.
Can a doctor see my child if I am not vaccinated?
Yes. Children under the age of 12 years and 3 months don’t need to be vaccinated, so your child can see a doctor. If a doctor refuses to see your child because you are not vaccinated, it is discrimination.
Doctors can take extra care if an unvaccinated caregiver is with the child during the visit.
Can my family doctor make me get a COVID tested before they see me?
Not usually, but they can ask you to in rare circumstances. Rare circumstances would include situations where you have strong COVD-19 symptoms or when other people on the premises are vulnerable.
Doctors already have strong protections in place for seeing unvaccinated people, such as full protective equipment and vaccinated staff. If you have no COVID-19 symptoms, it’s unlikely they can make you have a test.
Can specialists and hospitals make me get a COVID test before seeing me?
If you are unvaccinated or don’t disclose vaccine status to staff then sometimes they can ask you to do a COVID test before being seen. For example, for major planned surgery, it may be important to know if you are free from COVID-19 before your procedure.
Specialists, hospitals and other healthcare facilities must complete a risk assessment before asking people to do tests.