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Australian Health System

Basics of the Australian health system

The Australian Government provides medical services through a scheme called Medicare. Most Australians have a Medicare card, which entitles the card holder to free or subsidised medical assistance in the public health system. Permanent residents are eligible to join Medicare and gain access to health care services and programs such as free public hospital care, help with the cost of out-of-hospital care and subsidised medicines. More information is available from the Medicare Australia website.

Accident and Emergency

The Gladstone Public Hospital provides an Accident and Emergency Department that can be accessed 24 hours per day, seven days per week in emergency situations. Temporary residents (457 and other similar visa holders) have to pay an up-front fee of at least $185.50, if you attend the Emergency unit; you may be able to claim this on your private health insurance.
If you are admitted to hospital, temporary residents may face daily costs and additional charges for services received while you are in hospital. This could add up to a significant amount, so do not hesitate to talk to someone to make arrangements if you are unable to pay the fees up front.
You are unable to choose your own doctor when you enter the public hospital system.
Should you use a private hospital you will be able to choose your own doctor.

General Practitioners (GPs)

(Medical Practitioner, Doctor, Primary Health Care Provider)
GPs are located in medical practices throughout the Gladstone. There is no rule that governs how much doctors can charge you for a consultation, so you should always confirm the cost before making an appointment.
Types of GP Medical Practices:
Bulk Billing – These GP practices charge the Government for providing a medical service so the patient does not pay an out of pocket additional expense. (only available to those who hold a Medicare Card)
Bulk Billing for some patient groups – These GP practices charge the Government only for the medical service for some patient groups (eg aged, children) but patients who do not fall within those groups are charged for the service.
Non Bulk Billing – These GP practices charge every patient for their services..
Temporary residents, regardless of medical practice type they access, will be charged for the medical service they receive, and whilst they will not be able to claim a refund from Medicare, they may be able to do so from their private health insurance provider.

Specialist Medical Practitioners (Specialists)

To access a Specialist Medical Practitioner for services other the primary health care services offered by a GP, you first need to obtain a referral letter from your GP before you can make an appointment.

Other Health Services

Generally appointments with other health services (dentists, optometrists, physiotherapists etc) are not covered by Medicare. However some services may be wholly or partly covered by private health insurance.
There is no rule governing how much health services can charge you for a service, so you should always confirm the cost when making an appointment. You can also check with your private health insurance provider what if any costs of the service will be covered by your health fund, and if the health fund has a preferred supplier. Using a preferred supplier generally results in you receiving a greater refund from your private health insurance.

Pharmacies (Chemists)

Whilst Chemists can supply a range of over the counter medications, many cannot be accessed without a prescription from your doctor. Prices vary from chemist to chemist and if you have prescriptions that needs to be filled regularly it may be worth while finding the chemist that can supply your medication at the cheapest price. Another way to decrease the cost of medications is to choose generic rather than brand name drugs. Generic drugs are generally less expensive than brand name drugs although they are almost chemically identical, and meet Australian standards for safety and effectiveness. You can ask your doctor or your pharmacist if there is a generic drug you can use as an alternative to a brand name.

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