Pads Aren’t Free in Public Hospitals — You Have Two Days to Change That

Menstrual Products Are Not Free in Public Hospitals
Instagram / @elisasotoj

Period poverty is still prevalent in Australia, with The Period Pride report showing that one in five people who menstruate has had to improvise on period products because they couldn’t afford them. This means that instead of using a pad, tampon or period cup, they’re forced to use other items like rolled-up toilet paper or even socks.

This serious public health issue has so far received little attention from the Australian government — and that’s reflected in our public health system where basic menstrual products are unavailable to patients.

Regardless of financial circumstances, we are not always prepared for menstruation — particularly when faced with an unexpected health crisis.

Share the Dignity‘s federal petition calls to implement a national government policy, mandating the provision of free pads to all patients being cared for in public hospitals. This means no matter the circumstances that result in hospitalisation, people who menstruate won’t be faced with the additional discomfort that comes with not having access to basic menstrual hygiene products while they recover.

The campaign, #PadUpPublicHealth launched last year, follows the UK’s recent mandate to give all women and girls being cared for by the NHS appropriate sanitary products, upon request. 

“While it might be a hospital policy to stock period products, we found this wasn’t the experience of all women,” says founder and managing director of Share the Dignity, Rochelle Courtenay.

“Availability is limited and many rely on the kindness of nurses and midwives who give pads from their own supply. Some women had to wait hours for help, lying in their own blood. This is not okay.”

The petition has two days to reach 100,000 signatures and only you can make a difference.

Sign the petition here and ensure everybody who menstruates has access to basic healthcare products while in hospital.

About Share the Dignity and #PadUpPublicHealth

While it’s important that we keep up the conversations around period poverty, it’s also time to take action in providing period products within the healthcare system. And that’s exactly what women’s charity, Share the Dignity, is doing, by launching a petition to provide free pads in public hospitals.

The petition is the latest instalment in the charity’s #PadUpPublicHealth campaign, which has seen thousands of women and girls across Australia share harrowing experiences of not having access to period products while in hospital. 

This is Share the Dignity’s second high-profile crusade after the charity received more than 104,000 signatures on a Federal Petition to successfully remove the GST on period products in 2018. 

“We now need strength in numbers, which is why we’re calling on our supporters to sign the federal petition and help us reach 100,000 signatures,” says Courtenay.

“This small act on an individual’s part can have a big impact on the lives of women and girls in ensuring that pads are free and easily accessible in all public hospitals for patients who request them.”

Alethea is just one of the thousands of Australians who have been forced to go without suitable period products, while in hospital. In sharing her experience via Share the Dignity’s #PadUpPublicHealth campaign, she said:

“I was in the Neurology Ward recovering post-brain surgery and got my period as per normal. When I asked for a pad, the nurse said that they don’t supply them. When I asked why not given that it’s a hospital, she said they simply don’t and that they have other priorities. She offered to get a pair of incontinence adult pull-ups for me — if they had any in stock. I asked what I was meant to do, and she walked away saying that I should have been prepared and brought my own.”

Share the Dignity has already taken steps to improve access to period products in hospitals, installing 20 Dignity Vending Machines across the country. The charity has spent more than $250,000 to date and estimates an additional $300,000 will need to be spent over the next three years to maintain and stock these machines.

“Hospital funding shouldn’t fall to us and the generosity of our community and corporate partners. This issue should be much, much higher on the government’s agenda,” states Courtenay.

“Why is it the case that patients have access to bandaids and bandages, pain killers and incontinence pads, but not period products?

“Women’s and girls’ ability to safely manage their period is a basic human right. Menstruation is not a choice, and women and girls should not have to worry about how they will manage their period at any point, but especially when they are sick and vulnerable.”

You can get behind this cause, and sign the #PadUpPublicHealth petition here.

This latest advocacy effort coincides with Share the Dignity’s bi-annual Dignity Drive. Those wanting to support Australians experiencing period poverty can drop off donations at all local Woolworths stores and a number of nominated businesses nationwide throughout March 2022 or buy a virtual pack of pads for $5 here

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