Health in New Zealand
Healthcare in New Zealand is comparable to most Western nations in offering high standards of care. The New Zealand state provides ‘free’ or subsidised care to citizens, permanent residents and visitors. The state covers most of the costs for medical treatment but does expect patients to provide some sort of contribution. Unlike in the UK, healthcare isn’t universally free like it is under the National Health Service but it is not as costly as that found in the United States.
All citizens and permanent residents are automatically entitled to state healthcare and it isn’t necessary to establish a contributions record. If you’re a visitor or temporary migrant and a national of a country with which New Zealand has a reciprocal agreement (such as Australia, Canada, Denmark, Greece, Guernsey, Ireland, Jersey, the Netherlands and the UK), you can also receive state health benefits. Otherwise you must pay the full cost of healthcare.
Your first port of call when you feel ill is the local GPs office. When you visit a GP in New Zealand you will have to pay a fee. Most GPs are subsidised by the government but a GP is allowed to set their own fees and depending on whom you see the cost can vary widely. GPs that are part of a Primary Health Organisation (PHO) are able to offer cheaper services. Children under 6 receive treatment for free. Under the state healthcare scheme, a flat rate is levied for each visit to a doctor, irrespective of the nature of the visit.
The basic consultation fee is from $45 to $55 and visits at night and weekends cost $10 to $15 extra. If you are on a low income you can apply for a Community Services Card (CSC) which makes you eligible for savings on health care and treatment. To determine if you are eligible for this card you can contact the department of Work and Income.
New Zealand also has a High Use Health Card. This is used for people who need to see a doctor a minimum of 12 times in one year. There are no means tests for this card and the application can be made by the GP. The discounts are the same as for a CSC card but a CSC covers all family members while the HUHC is for the named individual only. For information about public health services in New Zealand contact the Ministry of Health, PO Box 5013, Wellington Tel. 04-496 2000, www.moh.govt.nz.
Expats who are not residents of New Zealand will normally be charged for all health care. In the event of needing emergency treatment a patient will not be turned away simply because they are not a resident but they may receive a bill for the treatment at a later date. Treatment after an accident is normally free for all in the country, regardless of residency status.
Health line originated as a pilot scheme in four areas of New Zealand, providing 24-hour health advice from trained nurses. The scheme – similar to those in Australia, the UK and the USA – initially had a two-year trial that ended in July 2002. It has since been expanded to provide a national service, a process which is due to be completed by the end of 2005.
Health line can be contacted on free phone 0800 611 116.
New Zealand dentists are often sought after due to their reputation as some of the best dentists in the world. It is common for a New Zealander living in abroad to search high and low for a dentist from their homeland. The best way for an Expat to New Zealand to find a good dentist is to ask around. Local contacts and directories are invaluable.
It’s wise to shop around, as charges can vary considerably, particularly for extensive repair work. However, most dentists, unless they target wealthy patients, charge fees that are affordable to the average person.
Typical dental fees include $65 for an examination, $110 for an examination and scaling, and $90 for a small filling, while a set of dentures is likely to set you back from $800 to $2,000.
Information about dentists can be obtained from the Dental Council of New Zealand, PO Box 10-448, Wellington Tel. 04-499 4820, or visit www.dentalcouncil.org.nz.
How to get medication
When you need a prescription in New Zealand you should be aware that pharmacists are only able to process a prescription that has been issued by a New Zealand doctor. Prescriptions issued in your home country can only be processed there. If you need regular medication you should register with a GP and consult them as soon as possible as some medications may not be available in New Zealand and you may need to be prescribed an alternative. You should also be aware that some medications which are available over the counter in other countries can only be issued with a prescription in New Zealand.
Emergency numbers and procedures
In a medical emergency in New Zealand simply dial 111 and ask for an ambulance, which will be despatched to take you to the nearest hospital. Unlike Australia the ambulance service is completely free.
For an online listing of hospitals in New Zealand, check out this useful website.