Hospitals, Pharmacies and Finding a Doctor

How to go about making sure you have the medical services you need in Australia...

All Australian cities have several hospitals equipped with world class facilities and excellent access to emergency facilities.

In a public hospital a patient can choose to be a public, covered by Medicare, or private patient. If they choose to be a public patient then all care is free but they have no choice in who provides the treatment. If the patient chooses to be a private patient then the care will be charged for, but the patient can choose their doctor. Private health insurance generally covers the cost of treatment in a public hospital.

If a patient opts for treatment in a private hospital fees are charged for all care, accommodation, the use of operating theatres and any other hospital services. The contribution of private health insurance to these costs will depend on the policy.

Finding a Doctor in Australia

Patients are not required to register with a specific doctor and are free to choose a GP. GPs can charge the fees they consider suitable for their services. The Medicare scheme covers a certain amount and any excess (often referred to as the gap) is to be paid by the patient.

GPs can refer their patients to a specialist (consultant), but patients have to make the appointment to see the specialist themselves. There is often a delay before seeing the specialist, so many patients choose to see a specialist privately. Visits without a referral or privately are not refunded under Medicare.

Medical Emergencies

The telephone number for medical emergency services is 000. However, when dialling from a recent digital mobile phone, the caller may be required to dial 112.

The Royal Flying Doctor Service

Australia is unique in having a flying doctor service. Travelling by plane provides practical 24 hour a day healthcare to people in remote areas. The service has 47 aircraft which fly from 20 bases transporting around 35,000 patients every year. The core services are paid for by the Australian government. The Royal Flying Doctor Service transports patients, runs health care clinics and provides primary health care for outlying areas.


There are many pharmacies in every Australian town. For emergency medical provision there is usually one open in the evenings and on Sundays. Some cities have pharmacies which are open 24 hours a day. A timetable of which pharmacy is offering this facility is generally published in local newspapers.

Prescription charges

The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) subsidises prescription charges. Patients pay up to a certain amount of the cost of the prescription and the PBS funds the remaining amount.