SA Prison Health Service

SA Prison Health Service (SAPHS)

SAPHS is responsible for the provision of a range of primary health care services to Prisoners in State managed adult prisons in South Australia.

SAPHS is a directorate of Central Adelaide Local Health Network and works in partnership with the Department for Correctional Services to provide health services to adults in custody.

SAPHS provides patients with health services appropriate to their ongoing health needs in line with that which they would receive in the general community within the public health system.

Health care is provided in collaboration with other health services within the correctional setting, including:

There are nine prisons located throughout South Australia, seven of which are State managed and two privately managed.

Health care services are provided within a predominantly primary care model which focuses on the provision of quality, contemporary and equitable health care across the spectrum of health needs. Health care is provided at all sites 7 days a week.

SA Prison Health Service provides direct patient care at the following prisons:

  • Adelaide Pre-release Centre

  • Adelaide Women’s Prison 

  • Cadell Training Centre

  • Mobilong Prison

  • Port Augusta Prison

  • Port Lincoln Prison

  • Yatala Labour Prison

Adelaide Remand Centre (ARC) – Health Centre is privately managed by Serco and Mt Gambier Prison is privately managed by G4s

Information for patients and families

The South Australian Prison Health Service (SAPHS) provides primary health services to adults in state run correctional facilities in South Australian.

We do this through:

  • monitoring, assessment and intervention

  • prompt and effective treatment at a community standard of care

  • prevention and early detection measures

  • comprehensive health education

  • continuity of care in the community via collaboration with local health care providers.

Answers to frequently asked questions

What health care services are provided in prison?

  • Health Centres within the Yatala Labour Prison and the Adelaide Remand Centre provide 24 hours nursing services; the remaining health services provide nursing services within extended hours over seven days.
  • Medical officers are available Monday-Friday for regular clinics at all heath centres and provide a variety of services associated with general practice as well as on-call and telemedicine services.
  • Dental services are available at all sites on a sessional basis, at SAPHS managed sites this is managed by SA Dental Service (SADS).
  • Allied health sessional services including Physiotherapy and Podiatry are provided at each site.
  • Appointments are on a sessional basis as all health care is triaged.
  • There are chronic disease nurses available and immunisation programs.

Who will provide my health care when I am in prison?

  • Health care is provided by a team of nurses, midwives, dentists and doctors who are employed by SA Health in addition to visiting health and allied specialists.
  • When a person comes into prison a nurse will review and assess your health and identify any known or potential health issues. Please let the staff know about your health and any concerns you have to assist with your health care needs
  • You will be referred to medical officers and or nursing staff as required and you can self-refer by the KEX system.
  • Health care is provided at no cost.
  • Interpreters are available for your health care appointment and also when you are attending a hospital appointment if required.

How do I make contact with health staff?

  • On admission to prison you will be seen by a nurse who will take a health history and identify any immediate health needs.
  • On transfer to a new prison you will be seen by a nurse who will check on your health requirements.
  • To request a service please use the KEX electronic health request system, nursing staff will triage your request and provide feedback to you.
  • If you have an urgent medical issue please let the Officers on your unit know or use the intercom system to let staff know.
  • If you have had a test and haven’t heard back from health staff the results of the test, this includes radiology or X-Rays or blood tests please contact staff using the KEX system.

Can I bring my medications into prison?

  • Please make sure that you bring with you to prison labelled medication and over-the-counter medication in the boxes so health staff know what you are taking.   It is also a good idea to have details of your pharmacy, GP and any specialists involved in your care so health staff can quickly follow-up any medication concerns. 
  • If you bring in labelled highly specialised medications the health staff may use your own supplies until they can get these medications.  As a general rule any medication supplies you bring to prison on admission will be managed as part of the DCS property process.
  • Please bring your Medicare Card with you. 
  • While in prison your medication will be provided by health staff.  This means health staff will:
    • work with you to manage your medication
    • sometimes use a different brand of medication to what you usually have
    • seek specialist support for certain medication
    • stop or change medication that is not safe or not needed
    • the pharmacy service conducts medication reviews for those on complex or multiple medications
  • Your usual medication routine may change due to different meal times, the times health staff are allowed to see you or the type of medication you can have in your cell. Some medications are not available in prison but alternative options will be discussed with you.

I’m a family member/carer - Can I send medications into prison? 

  • Family members cannot send or bring medications into correctional institution for a prisoner.  On some very rare occasions the health staff may ask family members or carers to bring highly specialised medication to the prison but this is coordinated between the prisoner, health staff and the family member with permission from DCS.

How can health care staff find out about my health care prior to my coming into prison?

  • Nursing staff will request information from external health providers via a signed Request for Information (ROI) form to assist with understanding your health care needs.
  • They will also access relevant clinical information systems i.e. My Health Record.
  • The ROI will ensure continuity of medications if appropriate.
  • If you have any letters from your General Practitioner or Specialists that you see in the community, including radiology or pathology reports please bring copies in with you or arrange to have them faxed or emailed to us.

I am pregnant what care is provided for me while I am in custody?

  • The Adelaide Women’s prison will refer you to a designated birthing hospital.
  • Midwives are employed at the Adelaide women’s prison to provide antenatal care and support to postnatal women in a shared care model with tertiary health provider.
  • Pregnant women at Port Augusta Prison will be cared for with support from the local hospital.

I am an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person, how can I be supported in prison?

  • Aboriginal Liaison Officers are employed by DCS and are available in most prisons.
  • DCS will try to ensure that you are in a cell with another Aboriginal person.
  • SAPHS have a Model of Care for Aboriginal people in prison that aims to ensure you are provided with culturally appropriate care. (Provide link)

What about outpatient appointments?

  • People in prison have access to the public health system and are subject to the same wait times as people are in the community.
  • You will be placed on the public list.
  • Any appointments that you already have will be rebooked due to security issues, on release you will be told of any future appointments that have been made on your behalf.
  • Appointments are often by video conference or on the phone meaning that you don’t have to leave the prison.

Do you provide Medication Assisted Treatment for Opioid Dependence (MATOD)?

  • Health staff offer Medication Assisted Treatment for Opioid Dependence (MATOD) assessment, also known as the “methadone” program at all adult correctional institutions in South Australia.  MATOD prescribing is in accordance with the requirements outlined in Section 18A of the Controlled Substances Act 1984(SA) and relevant clinical policies.
  • MATOD assessment occurs when you first come into prison and are already on a MATOD program or withdrawing from opioids.

  • MATOD assessment for the pre-release program can occur once you have a confirmed discharge date.

  • MATOD assessment does not guarantee a place on the program and the Drugs of Dependence Unit is the authorizing agent for the program.

  • MATOD will only help you if you are dependent on opioids.

What happens if I have a health care emergency in prison?

Care for an emergency happens in the following ways:

  • If a person is unwell , they can ask for assistance by pressing the call button in the cell and ask for assistance

  • Health service staff will either come to your cell or ask you to come to the clinic

  • In an emergency situation you will initially treated by DCS/SAPHS, and can then be referred and transported either by SA Ambulance or DCS to the local hospital for assessment/treatment.

If I am concerned about the health of a family member who can I contact?

“We will listen to your concerns”

  • SAPHS has in place a procedure that allows for a carer or family member to let SAPHS know if there are concerns about the physical or mental health of a person in custody.

  • If you are worried about a family member in the community contact DCS/SAPHS who can assist your with your concerns.

  •  Options:
    • tell the DCS officer at the gate you are concerned about a person you have just visited.

    • contact the health service by calling the prison and pressing the health centre number when prompted and ask to speak to nursing staff

    • after hours you can contact DCS officers at the prison.

    • your legal representative can also contact either SAPHS or DCS with concerns. 

    • to provide confidential information to others a Release of Information Authority will be required. 

What are my Health Care rights and responsibilities as a person in prison?

  • The Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights applies to all people in all places where health care is provided in Australia. For a person who is in prison the charter describes what you can expect when receiving health care. The charter covers: access, safety, respect, partnership, information, privacy, respectful behaviours and giving feedback.  There are similar obligations for the prisoner and visitors when dealing with prison staff. (Provide link)

How can I provide feedback either a complaint or a compliment?

  • Raising issues is appreciated and assist us in providing high quality services.
  • You can make a complaint to:
    • the Nurse Unit Manager  at the site

    • use the complaint form at the site

    • write to the SAPHS Director at PO Box 255, Marden SA 5070.

    • contact the Health and Community Services Complaints Commissioner. Free call within prison or call 1800 232 007.

    • contact the SA Ombudsman.

    • if the complaint relates to a Registered Health Practitioner i.e. a Nurse, Physiotherapist, Doctor, Dentist, Podiatrist etc. you can make a complaint to Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA)

My family member is about to be released soon, what happens about their ongoing health care? 

  • With your family member’s permission, SAPHS can provide their GP with a discharge letter containing a summary of any health problems they experienced in prison and list any medications prescribed.
  • A maximum of 7 days medication can be supplied by SAPHS if a discharge date is confirmed. 
  • A MATOD prescription, for most products, can be provided between Monday-Friday 9-4pm.  Prisoners must let the health care staff know a discharge date in advance so they can help arrange a pharmacy and appointment with a community MATOD prescriber.
  • Community Mental Health teams can be contacted to assist with some medication if a confirmed discharge date is given and the prisoner has a confirmed address in the community.
  • Please let the nursing staff know of your discharge address and date as soon as possible if you require any appointments or referrals to community services, GP, or Hospital

How can my GP on release find out what happened in prisons?

  • If you have been released from prison in the last 7 days your GP can fax or email a release of information form signed by you requesting information. After 7 days requests should be made to SAPHS administration office.
  • Any pathology will be available to your GP via SA Pathology.

Can I gain access to my health record?

  • To access your medical file you will need to make a request by completing a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.
  • Source: Freedom of Information requests are to be made via the CALHN FOI Office 

How can my Solicitor obtain a health report for Court?

  • Solicitors requesting Court reports should contact the Central office not individual sites.
  • Any requests must include a release to provide information authority signed by the patient.
  • Response to requests for information from your medical file depends on who asking and what they’re asking for. This will also determine whether your consent is required

Is my medical record confidential when I am in prison?

  • Your health information on treatment and consultations is stored in a medical file and is between you and health care staff. It should remain confidential unless non-disclosure may impact on your health care such as diabetes, asthma or epilepsy.
  • Requests for information are dealt with in accordance with the relevant legislation, policy and ethical standards on patient confidentiality

Do you need to have an authority for a person to ask confidential questions my behalf when I am in prison?

  • To assist in managing your health care and personal matters it is recommended that prior to going into prison you have in place:
    • an advance care directive (please provide a copy if you have one)

    • Financial Power of Attorney

    • a Will

  • If a patient is in prison, they can sign a release of information that will allow health staff to share information with only those people the patient permits.

Can I get special dietary food if I have a food allergy?

  • If you have an established allergy please speak to the Health service staff, who will verify your allergies and inform DCS.

My spirituality is important to me is there anyone I can talk with when I am in prison?

  • There are multi-faith chaplaincy service provided by DCS

What is the difference between privately and publicly managed prisons?

  • The Adelaide Remand Centre including health services is provided by Serco, at Mt Gambier Prison health services are provided by G4S, at all other prisons health services are provided by SAPHS.
  • Health staff at the privately managed prisons have access to a patient’s health record that follows them between prisons, they also have access to electronic public health databases and they follow the same policies as SAPHS staff.
  • Patients should receive the same health services between sites.

Can I access private health services?

  • Patients in prison do not have access to Medicare or Private Health Insurance benefits.
  • Patients can pay for services by a private practitioner however the practitioner is required to follow SA Health and SAPHS policies and cannot order treatment or medications, they can only recommend.

What if I have a CPAP machine, or using a walking aid or other piece of medical equipment?

  • You should bring these into prison with you, the Department for Correctional Services will need to check these medical devices and undertake a security review. If you are unable to bring them with you please inform health staff on admission and provide a details of someone who can access these items for you.

How do I know that staff are providing safe quality care?

  • SAPHS is accredited against The National Safety and Quality Health Service (NSQHS) Standards to ensure patients are provided with safe care.
  • All SAPHS Doctors are credentialed with Central Adelaide Local Health Network (CALHN) including locum Doctors.
  • All Health Practitioners which includes Nurses, Doctors, Dentists, Physiotherapists, and Podiatrists are registered with The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency

Model of Care for Aboriginal Prisoner Health and Wellbeing in South Australia

The Model of Care sets out the principles and practices needed to ensure culturally appropriate, holistic and safe healthcare in the state’s prison system for the significant population of Aboriginal prisoners.  The focus is on building the system within prisons that effectively identifies and treats acute and chronic conditions that often compound disadvantage and potentially compromise successful rehabilitation and release.

An important component of the Model of Care is to enhance the skills, knowledge and understanding of corrections and prison health staff, to ensure delivery of culturally safe services that meet the health and wellbeing needs of Aboriginal prisoners.

The Model of Care for Aboriginal Prisoner Health and Wellbeing in South Australia is underpinned by research conducted by the Wardliparingga Aboriginal Research Unit in the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI). The Model of Care was developed in collaboration with the SA Prison Health Service, the Department for Correctional Services, non-government organisations and, importantly the Aboriginal community.

The executive summary and full report is available via the SAHMRI website

Career opportunities

SA Prison Health Service offers opportunities in a broad range of careers including Registered and Enrolled Nurse, Medical Practitioners and administrative support staff. . Potential employees have the opportunity to work within a correctional environment or a corporate office environment. Our staff are part of a dedicated team working towards achieving vital health outcomes for the prisoner populations.

All positions are advertised on the SA Health Careers website.


Central office, Monday to Friday 8am till 4:30pm

Telephone: (08) 7002 3100

Fax: (08) 7002 3199

Postal: PO Box 255, Marden, SA, 5070