What do I do if I get sick while I’m in Australia?
Navigating the Australian medical system if you fall ill
Living in Australia as an international student comes with its challenges. Not only do you need to manage exams, essays and group assignments, but you’re likely on a budget, trying to make the most of living in a foreign country and constantly Googling Australian slang (who would’ve thought it would make sense to describe a messy room as a ‘dog’s breakfast’?)
But, have you ever wondered what would happen if you should require emergency treatment or you unexpectedly need to visit a hospital in Australia? What do you do? Who should you contact? And, importantly, will you be left with a huge medical bill?
When it comes to looking after your health, as an nib international member you can rest assured, we’ll have your back. To help guide you through what to do if you need to visit a hospital, we’ve put together this easy-to-understand article that answers all your biggest questions.
First things first; if there’s a medical emergency, it’s essential that you call triple zero (000). This number is free of charge to call and will put you in touch with qualified emergency services operators who can send for an ambulance.
The Australian Government’s healthdirect website explains that you should call an emergency ambulance if:
If you’re struggling to figure out in what cases you might need to call triple zero, check out the calling triple zero guide on healthdirect. It’s also important to know that as an nib member, you automatically receive unlimited emergency ambulance cover, which means you can rest assured you won’t have to pay a cent if you require a trip in an emergency ambulance.
In most cases, you won’t receive a bill for your ambulance trip, as we’ll take care of it for you. However, if you do receive a bill in the mail following your ambulance trip, simply submit it as a claim through your nib app.
Related: Emergency ambulance claiming
If you require medical attention, but it’s not an emergency, it’s best to call the healthdirect line on 1800 022 222. This line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and will put you in touch with a team of registered nurses to provide advice on whether you should see a GP, manage your condition at home or head to the hospital emergency department.
Worried about the language barrier? If English isn’t your main language, call TIS National (the Government’s translating and interpreting service) on 131 450 to access a free interpreter. You can then ask them to transfer you to healthdirect.
If you’re taken to hospital in an emergency ambulance, you’re probably not going to have a chance to pack much. When you’re in the ambulance, the medical team might ask for your private health insurance details – but as long as you have your smartphone with your nib app on it, you’ll be able to access everything you need when it comes to your member number and policy details.
If you have time to plan your hospital visit, make sure you pack an overnight bag that includes fresh clothing and underwear, as well as a few ‘luxuries’ to make your stay that much more comfortable. For a comprehensive list, check out our article, Here’s what to pack in your hospital overnight bag.
As an nib member, you’ll be covered regardless of whether you attend a public or a private emergency department, but there are pros and cons for each. If you choose a public emergency department, you won’t be charged any out of pocket expenses and you’ll likely have access to a wider range of specialists and equipment. However, it’s likely you’ll experience longer waiting times. Opting for a private emergency department could mean you’re seen quicker and you’ll also have the option of choosing your own specialist team, however, you’ll likely be charged a facility fee.
The most important thing to remember is that if you hold Overseas Student Health Cover with nib and you visit an emergency department in a public hospital, you should not have any out-of-pocket costs from the hospital. This means you shouldn’t need to pay a cent upfront for your treatment. The hospital will complete an eligibility check with us, which will confirm your hospital benefits. From there, the hospital can deal directly with one of nib’s consultants to settle your bill – so you can simply focus on getting back to health.
If you have any questions about using your nib cover in a hospital, you can speak to one of nib’s caring customer service consultants via phone or chat.
For more advice on life in Australia, including health tips, preparing resumes and finding doctors and specialists, check out our dedicated international section of The Check Up.