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How to get medical treatment in Australia

How to get medical treatment in Australia

Once you arrive in Australia, you will see that not everything works exactly like back home. Among the many differences is the Australian healthcare system: it is therefore important to understand how to access healthcare in Australia. Depending on your needs (illness, accidents, pregnancy, etc.), as well as your insurance, the procedures and your coverage may vary. Here you can find out about your options and procedures for accessing the care you may need.

Seeing a doctor in Australia

Whether it’s for a check-up or a more serious issue, it’s not uncommon to have to go to a general practitioner, even abroad. So that this relatively common experience is not an ordeal for you, here is a simple explanation.

Getting treated in Australia by general practitioners

In Australia, the most accessible doctors are General Practitioners, commonly referred to as GPs. If you are sick, they will be your first port of call (except in an emergency).

Do I need to make an appointment?

It is advisable to make an appointment before going to the doctor. It is not uncommon for several general practitioners to be grouped together in a single practice (called a Family Practice or a Medical Practice).

Some general practitioners may also have specialties (gynecology, pediatrics, etc.), which can be a real plus! Find out in advance if you have specific needs.

In general, practices are open Monday to Friday (9am to 5pm) and sometimes also Saturday mornings.

What are the costs for medical treatment in Australia?

If you benefit from Medicare, you will be able to get consultations free of charge. To do this, go to doctors who use the “bulk billing” option. Not everyone does, so do your research in advance.

For those who do not have Medicare, be aware that consultations are quite expensive. It will cost you between 50 and 70 AUD for a quick consultation (10 to 15 min). Beyond 15 min, the price of the consultation increases ($120 on average)! Even for a check-up, getting medical treatment in Australia comes with a hefty price tag. It is therefore better to have travel insurance.

What is the quality of medical care in Australia?

The quality of care in Australia is generally satisfactory: it has a good reputation. Nevertheless, it seems that general practitioners don’t tend to prescribe medicine as much as in other countries. You could come out of a consultation with a very light prescription, or even without a prescription. Indeed, Australian doctors often favour (depending on the case) lifestyle advice, rather than medical prescriptions. For example, in the event of a severe cold, they will advise you stay hydrated, rest and take Panadol rather than prescribing antibiotics.

Get treated in Australia by specialist doctors

Before going to a specialist doctor (except for ophthalmologists and dentists), you must first go through a general practitioner. They will provide you with a referral letter which you will then have to present to the specialist. This will allow you to be reimbursed by Medicare or your health insurance.

What are the prices for treatment in Australia by a specialist?

Like other parts of the world, the prices of specialist doctors are significantly higher than the prices of general practitioners. But, in Australia, the length of consultations also affects costs.

For your first session you can expect to spend about an hour, which will cost you 150 to 250 AUD. Any follow-up sessions will generally be shorter and therefore a little less expensive.

Nevertheless, these are significant costs that confirm the need to be well insured.

Going to hospitals in Australia

Throughout Australia, hospitals must adhere to the latest quality standards and are open to all. The quality of care and the facilities are very good. However, the prices are very high! You will find two types of hospitals: public establishments and private establishments.

Note that translation services are offered in many hospitals. If English is not your first language, do not hesitate to ask for these if you have communication difficulties!

Getting treatment in Australia in public hospitals

In Australia, you will find public hospitals in all cities. If you are covered in one of them, you will be able to use your Medicare coverage. If you cannot claim it, you can of course count on your travel/health insurance.

Getting treated in Australia in private hospitals

Private hospitals, on the other hand, are totally independent of Medicare. It is therefore impossible to get your treatment reimbursed through this service. Most of them, nevertheless, have agreements with travel insurance providers. If you have travel insurance, it’s worth investigating further, because the wait times can be shorter when you go private.

The price of medical treatment in Australia

It is difficult to provide exact prices, because they vary according to many different parameters: location, needs, public or private facilities, etc.

To get an idea, know that a simple blood test can cost around $100, and a night in the hospital in a single room can amount to $1000! Ambulance fares can also be very high: a patient transported from his home to the nearest hospital, located 50 km away, had to pay $1200! The need for private insurance is clearer than ever in this case.

Please note that in the event of hospitalisation, you must contact your insurance company as soon as possible to find out what steps to take.

Finding a hospital in Australia

It is relatively easy to find a hospital on the coasts for treatment in Australia. However, when you move away from the big cities, in the bush for example, they become rarer. If an incident or accident occurs in more remote areas, it is generally more difficult and time-consuming to access care. So remember to be equipped with a first aid kit and some medicines while waiting for help!

💡 Good to know: You will find hospitals near you on the Hospitalby website.

Organising repatriation from Australia

If your health requires repatriation from Australia to your home country, be aware that the distance between the two countries can quickly rack up huge costs. In the event of a serious accident, you may need to be moved to a medical centre. Depending on where you are and how serious the prognosis is, a helicopter or a plane may need be chartered.

Fortunately, most travel insurance covers this eventuality: there is no need to tell you that it is absolutely necessary to have it!

Note that for certain visa categories, such as the Working Holiday Visa, Australia imposes this coverage for long stays.

Getting medical treatment in Australia in case of emergency or pregnancy

Call the emergency number

Because it’s relatively easy to go to the doctor and the hospital in Australia, in the case of an emergency, make the smart decision! No matter where you are in Australia, you call the same number for emergency services: 000.

This is the Australian emergency and rescue number, reachable from any telephone or telephone booth.

Australia’s Health Care System: Medicare

The Australian Healthcare system is called Medicare, and is similar to, for instance, social security in France or the Netherlands. All Australian permanent residents and citizens and New Zealand citizens are entitled to a Medicare card. You can also get a card if you’re in the process of applying for permanent residency.

Some countries such as United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, New Zealand, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland, Italy, Belgium, Norway, Slovenia and Malta have signed bilateral agreements with Australia. These agreements allow visitors from these countries to receive Medicare benefits in Australia if they require essential/urgent treatment. If you want to see a doctor or attend a public hospital for treatment that is not immediately medically necessary, you will be required to pay the full cost of the service. In certain situations, coverage is completely excluded (accidents that occur while working, for instance).

What is covered under Medicare?

  • Consultations with a general practitioner or a specialist (partially covered)
  • Treatment in a public hospital
  • Surgery
  • Subsidised medicine under the pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS)

Treatments such as dental expenses, alternative medication, physiotherapy, ambulance services, glasses or contact lenses, treatments in private hospitals are not covered under Medicare.

How to apply for Medicare

Any permanent resident or Australian citizen is automatically signed up for Medicare and receives a card entitling them to reimbursement for medical expenses.

To sign up, visit a Medicare centre or call 132011. You will have to complete a Medicare form and provide supporting documents. You can find more information on the government’s website here.

We recommend you to take out additional insurance even if you benefit from Medicare. All those who don’t qualify for Medicare will have to take out private health insurance to cover their health expenses.

Read more: Medicare: Australian Healthcare System

Pregnancy in Australia

During a Working Holiday Visa stay or living in Australia as an expat, pregnancies can happen. So that this happy event does not turn into a financial nightmare, it is important to inform yourself beforehand if possible. Indeed, if getting treatment in Australia is generally expensive, you can imagine that monitoring a pregnancy and childbirth are too.

If you have Medicare, then you will be able to benefit from financial support if you opt for a public hospital.

If you are not covered by Medicare, you need to be very vigilant. The care required around a pregnancy and childbirth generates exorbitant fees, between ultrasounds, blood tests, and regular visits to the doctor. Depending on the area and hospital, the costs incurred by a pregnancy can vary from 9,000 to 30,000 AUD. In order to minimise costs, it’s necessary, first of all, to have a good health insurance plan (check the waiting times for care). Carefully read the conditions of your contract, and contact the doctors and hospitals covered by your insurer.

Read more: Pregnancy in Australia

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Black Bird
After a long stay in Australia, we founded Black Bird, a company specialized in travel insurance. Our mission is to inform and help young travellers in their insurance choices (advice, tips, comparisons etc). If you have any particular questions, do not hesitate to contact us directly by email. Contact: infos.blackbird@gmail.com. RCS no. 833 461 403. Insurance intermediary registration number: 18000657 (ORIAS - Banking and Finance Intermediaries)


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