Civilian doctors and nurses who worked in medical teams during the Vietnam war will be given Veterans Gold cards similar to those of ex-military personnel, in a new law being passed by the House of Representatives.
The Treatment Benefits (Special Access) Bill 2019 received bipartisan support in parliament on 21 February to give full health coverage via DVA Gold Cards for the civilian doctors and nurses and others who provided aid in Vietnam between 1964 and 1972 as part of Australia’s contribution to the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO).
In a debate, Nicolle Flint MP said the Bill would “provide long-overdue recognition to the members of the Australian civilian surgical and medical teams who served alongside our Australian Defence Force personnel”.
Coming into effect from July 2019, the Gold Cards are expected to benefit about 200 surviving civilian medical team members who served in Vietnam, most of whom are now retired.
John Alexander MP said civilian medical practitioners were as vital a component of Australia’s Vietnam efforts as any other role, and they deserved the same recognition as military personnel who served in the warzone.
“These medical teams were serving on the battlefield under extreme danger, facing the same threats, traumas and dangers as their regular ADF comrades. These teams played a vital role during the conflict through providing much-needed medical assistance and training and treating thousands of Vietnamese civilian casualties.
“It is also important to recognise that the team members were all civilians. They all volunteered to do something dangerous that was not part of their job, that put their careers on hold, to willingly travel to a conflict zone in order to provide aid,” he added.
“When they came home, some of them would have suffered exactly the same injuries and illnesses that many of our troops suffered, yet they weren’t eligible for the same treatment as our troops.”
The DVA Gold Card covers medical and surgical services covered by the Medicare Benefit Schedule in public and private hospitals and day surgery facilities, as well as mental health services, pharmaceuticals, dental and allied health, rehabilitation aids and appliances, home and respite care, community nursing and a range of other support services.