Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith has confirmed that some people are indeed being required to pay for COVID-19 tests at ACT Government clinics.
Region Media has been aware of reports of Canberrans being asked to pay upwards of $110 for a precautionary COVID-19 test before entering some restricted venues such as nursing homes or for interstate/overseas travel.
Until today (23 November), neither ACT Health nor Ms Stephen-Smith were able to confirm these reports.
Ms Stephen-Smith had repeatedly said it was her understanding that Canberrans were required to meet all eligibility requirements to be tested for COVID-19 for free. This meant someone needed to display symptoms of the virus or have been classified as a close or casual contact of a positive case.
As late as today, Ms Stephen-Smith said she was aware of people being turned away from testing centres for not meeting these requirements.
When Ms Stephen-Smith was questioned on the matter in the Assembly today, she initially sought to take the question on notice as she was unaware of the exact arrangements around paying for COVID-19 testing at government clinics.
However, she was later able to respond to the Assembly as she had been made aware of the payment arrangements in the interim.
She told the Assembly individuals could attend the Garran and EPIC testing centres for travel purposes but they will then receive an invoice in the mail.
It’s unclear when this arrangement came into play with the ACT Government’s COVID-19 website only recently updated to reflect the changes.
The exact price of a test has yet to be confirmed, although the Opposition believes it is around $110.
Region Media was made aware of an individual being asked to pay $112 in mid-November when she needed to show a negative test result to visit her elderly mother in an aged care facility in regional NSW.
Other Canberrans confirmed similar stories.
She said staff were encouraging people to ‘develop’ symptoms before arriving at the front of the queue to avoid paying for a precautionary test.
Opposition health spokesperson Giulia Jones said paying for testing could prove a substantial financial burden on families hoping to travel over the Christmas period.
Comment from ACT Health is expected tomorrow.