Health Emergencies for Expats in Australia

Submitted: July 2013

Emergency numbers

The official Australian emergency number is 000 (known as triple zero). Calls to 000 are free.

You may also call the State Emergency Service by dialling 132500. This number should only be used for non-life-threatening situations, and it is not available in the Northern Territory.

Do not let money matters jeopardise your or somebody else’s life.  If you have any doubt, do not keep it to yourself, call 000. If, for example, you believe you really need urgent treatment but you are unclear whether you can get it free (e.g. because you are not covered by Medicare), dial 000 immediately and express your concerns. The 000 emergency operators should let you know the best possible course of action.

You may also call Healthdirect Australia on 1800 022 222 at any time for free health advice.

State Emergency Policies

Emergency services (SES) are run by state or territory governments. They are not covered by Medicare, but your state government may subsidise them. If you wish to find out more about SES arrangements in your local area, you can do so by clicking here.

If you need urgent care, you need to go to the emergency department of a public hospital. To check the waiting times statistics for a specific hospital, click here. If appropriate, you might visit an after-hours GP clinic if your GP is not available.

If you are entitled to Medicare, public hospital services should be free. See Doctors and Hospitals for Expats in Australia Otherwise, emergency treatment is not necessarily free of charge and fees can be high, but local governments or hospitals may decide to make them free on a case-by-case basis, especially if you cannot afford the fees.

Australian emergency services endeavour to respond within 10 minutes for the most life-threatening emergencies.

Health emergency system in Australia

An expat should understand that health emergencies are not a universal public service in Australia, and they are not automatically free for foreign individuals not entitled to Medicare. In addition, ambulances are not covered by Medicare, even for Australian citizens, although state governments may meet ambulance fees. See National Health Service for Expats in Australia. This might appear as a major cultural difference for expats from countries where free emergency treatment is provided with no questions asked.

Careful planning is therefore advisable, and expats should plan for health emergencies before moving to Australia. A relevant international cover or an ambulance cover might be helpful. See Health Insurance for Expats in Australia



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