Australia has one of the best health care systems in the world. It is widely accessible to all who reside in the country. All permanent Australian residents pay a Medicare levy (an additional tax) to fund the public health system. This entitles them to free or subsidized services by medical practitioners and public hospital care. There is also an extensive private health system, for those wishing to pay an additional fee to receive extra benefits for optical, physiotherapy and dental treatment when they use private health care services.
Emergency treatment can be obtained through some medical centers and emergency (‘causality’) departments at major hospitals. Many doctors’ after-hours phone messages describe where you can get emergency medical attention when their surgery is closed. In an extreme emergency, call for an ambulance by phoning 000. You can ask for a translator for your language. Do not hang up.
Ambulances provide immediate medical attention and emergency transport to hospital. The ambulance service is free only to people who are on a government pension or who have a Health Care Card (given to people assessed as low income earners). It can be expensive otherwise, so you may wish to join a private health insurance fund, which covers the cost
If it is not an emergency, you should go first to a family doctor (also called a ‘general practitioner’ or ‘GP’) or a medical center. You can choose your own doctor, and there is no restriction on using doctors outside the area you live. Once you have found a doctor who suits you, it is usually best to continue using his/her services. For a list of GPs near where you live, look under “Medical Practitioners” in the Yellow Pages telephone directory.
Routine care is generally available from general practitioners or family practice professionals. Care from specialists is by referral only, which means you first visit the general practitioner before seeing the specialist. Most specialists have private offices (called “surgeries” or “rooms”), as well as consulting rooms located in Medical Centers attached to the main teaching hospitals. Residential areas are served by a large number of general practitioners who can take care of most general illnesses. Specialists are also listed under “Medical Practitioners” in the Yellow Pages telephone directory.
If your doctor believes you need medication, you may be given a prescription to take to a chemist shop (or pharmacy). Many medicines, such as antibiotics, are only available with a prescription. Unless you have a Health Care Card (given by Centre link to low income earners), you will have to pay for medication.
Through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), the Australian Government subsidizes the cost of many prescribed medications for everyone. You will be eligible for further financial assistance if you are a pensioner or health care cardholder. If you or your family needs a lot of medications in a year, you should talk to your pharmacist about the Safety Net. If you want to know more about the PBS:
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist
Call the PBS Information Line on 1800 020 613 (free call)
You can buy some basic medications, without a prescription, at chemists and supermarkets.
The Alfred Hospital
Melbourne VIC 3004
(03) 9276 2000
89 Bridge Road
Richmond VIC 3121
(03) 9426 6666
Royal Children’s Hospital
Parkville VIC 3052
(03) 9345 5522
St Vincent’s Hospital
41 Victoria Parade
Fitzroy VIC 3065
(03) 9288 2211