By Luke Voogt
Doctors will attend students at three Geelong high schools under a new State Government program.
But the Government has yet to clarify whether parents would be notified of their children’s appointments or any prescriptions.
Doctors in Schools would send local GPs to Geelong High School and Newcomb and North Geelong secondary colleges up to day a week from term one next year, the Government said.
Geelong High School Parents and Friends president Sue Nouwen expressed mixed sentiments about the program.
“It’s great to have it there because some kids aren’t able to talk to their parents about their health,” she said.
“But as a parent you want to know what’s happening with your child.”
The program should have a parental notification process dependent on students’ ages, she said.
“When they’re 15, 16 and above they can be independent but if they’re younger the parents definitely should be notified.”
The opposition said the program risked alienating parents from their children’s “health and wellbeing”.
Shadow education minister Nick Wakeling said the program would give children as young as 12 access to prescriptions including the contraceptive pill.
He likened it to Safe Schools as another example of Premier Daniel Andrews “thinking he knows better than parents”.
“Daniel Andrews hasn’t made it clear if parents must provide consent for their child to participate in this program,” Mr Wakeling said.
“Under the Andrews government, Victorian parents are losing their rights when it comes to their children’s education.”
Mr Andrews brushed off the opposition’s criticism, saying students visiting doctors at school would be the same situation as them attending a bulk-billing clinic.
Requiring doctors to notify parents could discourage students, he said.
Mr Andrews suggested that notification of parents would be “based on the individual circumstances of a student”.
But he and Education Minister James Merlino failed to clarify how any notification system would work.
“We’re working through those operational policies and guidelines at the moment,” Mr Merlino said.
Geelong MP Christine Couzens said the program would provide students with reliable health care while reducing pressure on working parents and GPs.
“Happy, healthy and resilient students learn better, stay in school longer and achieve more,” she said.
Western Victoria Primary Health Network chief Jason Trethowan welcomed Doctors in Schools.
“The program focuses on the most vulnerable schools, enhancing the accessibility to primary health care for students.”