RAT tests should be free for all in NDIS: nurses’ union

By Tom Ravlic

March 29, 2022

rapid antigen test
Free RATS for all NDIS workers, not just those with concession cards. (rapid antigen test/Adobe)

The federal government must broaden its scheme for the free distribution of rapid antigen tests so that all participants in the National Disability Insurance Scheme can access them at no cost, according to the Australian Nursing And Midwifery Federation (Victorian Branch).

Limited access to free rapid antigen tests exists for individuals who hold concession or healthcare cards, but the union says there are people who must pay for their own tests and those of their support workers from their NDIS funds.

The Victorian state government has provided free tests for parts of the disability sector, but the union says the NDIS is a commonwealth program and more should be done to ease the cost burden of getting access to these tests for disabled people.

“This unfairly increases the financial burden on vulnerable people with a disability instead of the government carrying the cost for those most at risk,” Madeleine Harradence, the union assistant secretary, said.

“There’s an additional risk to nurses working with untested clients in the community who may have COVID-19 but no symptoms and can’t afford a RAT. ‘The Morrison Government should not be putting additional financial pressures on the disability sector.”

One reason for the union’s push for an increase in the free availability of rapid antigen tests is that there are 159 people who are NDIS participants who are active COVID-19 cases and there are 137 healthcare workers with the illness.

“The Morrison government’s decision to not provide RATs to the disability sector and NDIS participants is another monumental failure to protect those most vulnerable,” Harradence said.

This call for increasing the availability of free rapid antigen tests to all people who are NDIS participants comes just days after the Coalition government had announced various new health initiatives in the lead up to the federal budget.

Mental health services in the Australian Capital Territory will receive more than $38 million of funding across the next five years with the commonwealth government providing $25.2 million over that period. The ACT government will kick in the balance of $12.9 million to help expand mental health services in Canberra.

Health minister Greg Hunt also announced the listing of a new treatment for cystic fibrosis, Trikafta, on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme over the weekend.

“This treatment is out of reach for most Australians, and now that it will be available on the PBS, patients will only pay a maximum of $42.50 per script, or as little as $6.80 with a concession card,” Hunt said.


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