Media release: Suspend the contract

“The Federal Government needs to immediately suspend Medibank Health Solutions’ contract for 1800RESPECT and commence an inquiry into its gross mishandling of the service”, said Natalie Lang, Secretary of the Australian Services Union NSW & ACT Services Branch (ASU).

On last night’s ABC’s 7.30 program it was revealed that Medibank Health Solutions (MHS) had mishandled complaints made about its operation of 1800RESPECT, the national helpline for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. 

The ASU, which represents specialist counsellors of Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia (RDVSA), said that the MHS operation of 1800RESPECT was driven by profit and not the welfare of victims of domestic violence or sexual assault.

“Medibank Health Solutions has acted in its own commercial interests and in doing is failing victims of domestic violence and sexual assault,” said Natalie Lang.

“Medibank Health Solutions knew that its 1800RESPECT ‘triage’ call centre was failing, but didn’t report this to the Minister or the Department of Social Services.

“If Medibank Health Solution has deliberately concealed the level and nature of complaints about 1800RESPECT, that’s a serious breach of its contract.

“I cannot see how the Federal Government has any other choice but to suspend the 1800 RESPECT contract with Medibank Health Solutions and commence an immediate inquiry into how these complaints were mishandled” said Natalie Lang. 

The ASU has been calling on the Federal Government to ensure 1800 RESPECT is operated by the specialist counsellors of not-for-profit Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia. 

“Women, men and children contacting 1800RESPECT deserve the best support and counselling available, they deserve to speak with the specialist counsellors of Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia.

“Providing the best support to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault should be the only measure for 1800RESPECT, not the profit line of a private health insurance company.

In addition to 1800RESPECT Medibank Health Solutions currently holds several contracts with the Federal Government including healthdirect, after hours GP and Pregnancy, Birth and Baby service helplines. It also operates Beyond Blue and the Butterfly Foundation. 

For media enquiries contact Lauren Hutchins 0423 029 586.