Four years after the last private abortion clinic closed in Tasmania, women in the North and North-West of the state are expected to soon have access to surgical terminations at all three public hospitals.
The Health Department was expected to finalise plans on Thursday, after working with Primary Health Tasmania, Family Planning Tasmania, Women's Health Tasmania and the Link Youth Health Service to update clinical referral pathways for women seeking the service.
It was expected women would be able to be referred to one of the state's hospitals through their GP from October 4 this year.
"These referral pathways will ensure that priority access will be provided to vulnerable women at public hospitals in the North and North-West in the same way that access is currently provided to women at the Royal Hobart Hospital," a Health Department spokesman said.
"Information on the revised pathways will be provided to general practitioners on Thursday and it is expectation that public hospitals in the North and North-West will commence receiving referrals from general practice from October 4 2021."
Community health services welcomed the news, with chief executives of The Link Youth Health Service, Women's Health Tasmania and Family Planning Tasmania releasing a joint statement saying the move would resolve problems surrounding access and equity.
"Surgical terminations are just one of the suite of sexual and reproductive health services that women need to have provided in their local areas, " Family Planning Tasmania chief executive Cedric Manen said.
"We've been lobbying for this system for a long time now. Tasmania has robust legislation guaranteeing women's right to termination of pregnancy services, now we have the service system to support the legislation."
A recent study, "Termination of pregnancy in Tasmania: access and service provision from the perspective of GPs", explored the issues GPs faced in regards to aiding access to terminations and early medical abortion services for Tasmanian women.
The survey results found accessing pregnancy terminations remained an issue for Tasmanian women.
However, the access to surgical abortions through the three public hospitals in the state would mean women located across the state would no longer have to travel to Hobart to have the procedure.
"Introducing this service in our public hospitals will make a real difference to women's lives," Family Planning Tasmania GP Dr Rose Tilsley said.
"In Launceston alone in the last 90 days, we have referred 12 women to Hobart for a surgical termination, most of whom found the travel and time away from friends and family both financially and emotionally very challenging."
Tasmania's last private abortion clinic closed in 2017 and the state government introduced a patient transport assistance scheme to help cover the costs of travel.
However, it was only supposed to be a temporary solution, with permanent solutions promised but not delivered until now.
"Having the costs met for women who need financial assistance means that the access is equitable. Access to health services shouldn't be a postcode lottery," Women's Health Tasmania chief executive Jo Flanagan said.
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