Help for Covid concerns and complaints
There are many aspects of the COVID situation that give rise to questions and concerns. Some of these matters fall within the responsibility and powers of the Health Care Complaints Commission. Others are not within our jurisdiction or can be handled most effectively by other appropriate bodies.
Covid - 19 and Covid-19 vaccines - best advice
WHICH COVID MATTERS CAN THE COMMISSION CONSIDER?
The Commission manages complaints about the quality and safety of health care provided in NSW. It can consider the standard of care and treatment or conduct of a registered or unregistered health practitioner, or health facility.
In a COVID context, the sorts of matters that we can assist with include:
- The quality of general health care provided to you during COVID
- Effective and timely management of COVID symptoms
- The appropriateness and accuracy of advice provided to you about COVID and your protection or treatment options
- Non-compliance of health practitioners or health facilities with public health orders
- Illegally charging for vaccinations
- Adverse impacts of operational decisions on special needs patients
- Infection control
The Commission does not have powers to address broader concerns that may relate to aspects such as policy or operational decisions.
Therefore, it does not have powers or responsibilities in relation to aspects such as:
- Location or operation of COVID testing stations.
- Vaccination eligibility or distribution.
- The requirement for quarantine.
- The quality of quarantine hotels.
- The content or timing of public health orders.
- Exemptions from COVID rules.
WHERE ELSE CAN I RAISE MY CONCERN?
The links and advice below may assist you to determine the body to which you may wish to direct your concerns on commonly raised matters and matters that are outside of the Commission’s jurisdiction.
General COVID information and assistance
- For general advice and information on the rules visit the NSW Government website https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19
- If you have symptoms or questions about Covid-19 or vaccinations you can phone the National Coronavirus & COVID-19 Vaccine Helpline on 1800 020 080
- Service NSW have set up a COVID assistance finder with helpful resources and information. You can also contact Service NSW by phone on 13 77 88.
- Health Direct has a campaign called Get COVID Clarity that provides up-to-date information and answers to common questions as the COVID-19 situation continues to change.
Eligibility for and access to COVID vaccinations
Policies and rules relating to vaccine eligibility are set by the Australian Government. The Commission is unable to change vaccine eligibility requirements or to force a practitioner to accommodate a particular vaccine preference.
The Australian Government’s Department of Health website has a Vaccine Eligibility Checker
If you are eligible for vaccination it will take you through the process to make a booking: https://www.health.gov.au/resources/apps-and-tools/covid-19-vaccine-eligibility-checker
If you do not have a computer or need assistance to locate a vaccine clinic, please phone the National Coronavirus & COVID-19 Vaccine Helpline on 1800 020 080.
Proof of Covid-19 vaccinations
Your Immunisation History Statement or Covid-19 digital certificate are proof of your Covid-19 vaccinations.
You can use the online tool at Services Australia to access proof of your vaccinations https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/subjects/getting-help-during-coronavirus-covid-19/covid-19-vaccinations/how-get-proof-your-covid-19-vaccinations
If you do not have a computer you can call the Australian Immunisation Register on 1800 653 809 for further advice.
If you have a concern about a delay to your vaccination status being registered or an error in your vaccination record then contact the health service that provided the vaccine in the first instance, as they will be best placed to resolve the issue quickly.
Face mask exemptions
The current face mask rules are available on the NSW Government website www.nsw.gov.au. These outline what is required as proof of exemption.
There are two frequently asked questions about face masks:
- My health practitioner won’t provide me with a certificate or letter to give me a face mask exemption
A health practitioner is not obliged to provide an individual with a letter or certificate of exemption from wearing a face mask. Suitability for an exemption will be based on an assessment of your individual situation.
- I have a face mask exemption but my health provider won’t see me for a face to face appointment unless I am wearing a mask.
In non-emergency situations a health practitioner may decline to see a patient. A health provider may have a COVID safe plan that provides that that are unable to accommodate a face to face appointment if a person is not wearing a mask. In many circumstances they could offer a telehealth appointment or alternatively to refer you to another health service provider.
Standards in hotel quarantine
The NSW Ombudsman considers complaints about standards in relation to hotel quarantine. NSW Health has created a fact sheet about hotel quarantine accessible at the link below. This provides further information and explains how people can make a complaint if they have concerns. https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/factsheets/Pages
Concerns about people or venues not adhering to Covid rules and regulations
The Commission considers complaints about the failure of health care providers to adhere to Public Orders. The Commission is unable to consider complaints about potential breaches of Public Health Orders by general members of the public or about issues in locations such as shopping centres, restaurants, cafes, beaches etc.
If your concern is about a member of the public breaching Public Health Orders then call Crime stoppers on 1800 333 000.
Complaints about COVID rules: lockdown, restrictions, requirement to isolate, location of vaccination hubs, testing requirements.
The Commission is unable to change the current COVID rules and restrictions in place in NSW. People with questions or concerns about COVID rules and restrictions may wish to consider the information available on the NSW Government or Service NSW websites
If you have read this information and still feel unsure whether the Commission can assist with your complaint you may wish to contact our team on the Inquiry Line on 1800 043 159 for further information.
COMMUNICATING WITH THE COMMISSION AT THIS TIME
- Your communication is important to us.
- Our Inquiry line continues to operate – Please call 1800 043 159 for more information about making a complaint. If your question relates primarily to COVID-19 testing, treatment and responses, we recommend that you call the National Coronavirus (COVID-19) Health Information Line 1800 020 080 in the first instance.
- If you wish to make a complaint please lodge it via the online complaints portal at https://ecomplaints.hccc.nsw.gov.au.
- If you are providing additional records or documentation please send them via email to firstname.lastname@example.org and to the officer managing your matter.
- If your online or phone details change please notify us.
MESSAGE TO HEALTH CONSUMERS AND/OR THOSE WHO HAVE LODGED A COMPLAINT:
As we respond to COVID-19, the Commission is implementing measures that enable us to continue our day to day business in a manner that is safe and protective of Commission staff.
- Our officers will address complaints in a flexible and proportionate manner, considering public health and safety risks. We will continue to ensure that we act quickly where there is an indication of a risk of significant harm.
- The pandemic response continues to have a substantial impact on the operations of health service providers across NSW and these additional pressures are likely to increase. This in turn will have an impact on the ability and capacity of providers to respond to complaints.
- There may be cases where we may deal with a complaint by a phone call rather than requiring a written response to assist in making an early determination.
- Where clinical records, written responses and/or further clinical advice is required for assessments or where matters are in resolution or review processes, these actions may take longer to process than usual. We will conduct necessary discussions with you by phone and encourage you to call the officer managing your complaint if you have questions or concerns.
MESSAGE TO HEALTH SERVICE PROVIDERS:
The Commission appreciates the intensive pressures on public and private health facilities, medical practitioners and nurses as they respond to COVID-19. If these pressures are such that you are unable to respond to Commission requests or you seek other methods of communication that will assist you in any way, please do not hesitate to advise us of the adjustments you require. We will seek to make whatever accommodations are appropriate to ensure that there is no disruption to the care and treatment of patients.