If admission to a hospital is a non-urgent case, you will be required to have a referral from a specialist (or in some cases, your GP). This may be for elective surgery (surgery that may be necessary to stop pain, but not life threatening to refuse, like a knee reconstruction) or tests such as an ECG, MRI or CatScan.
Once you have obtained a written referral from your GP or a specialist, make the appointment at the hospital of your choice (see the Hospitals section for more information on hospitals and specialist services). When you arrive on the day of your appointment, you will need to show photo ID, your private health insurance documents (and/or Medicare card), and the written referral.
When you make the appointment with the hospital, the administrator you speak with will tell you exactly what you will need at admission and you will be mailed a letter containing the same information.
All hospitals in Melbourne are English speaking, because there are high numbers of immigrants, however, most major hospitals will have either bi-lingual or multi-lingual doctors or translators available.
The emergency number is Australia is 000.
This number should be used in any emergency – there are not different numbers for Police, Ambulance and Fire. To call 000 is free from any landline, public phone box or mobile phone (even a prepaid account that is out of credit). It is illegal for any provider to charge for an emergency call.
The operator will ask you if you need Fire, Ambulance or Police. If you are not sure, or need more than one, say so. Emergency Operators are extremely well trained and can be relied on to be calm, efficient and helpful in a crisis.
In the event of an emergency, your ambulance paramedic will give you the option of going to a public or private hospital. If you are covered by private health care, and have selected private hospital coverage, it is wise to go to a private hospital. Your waiting time will be shorter than through the public hospital system (which can sometimes be overrun or understaffed – particularly in the emergency department on weekends). The hospital staff will arrange your admission into hospital directly with the Ambulance paramedic upon your arrival at the hospital. In an emergency, it is not necessary to have any documentation with you.
Not all hospitals have Emergency Departments (the best three close to the city are the Royal Alfred, Royal Melbourne and St. Vincent’s), but the ambulance will know where to take you. As soon as you get to an Emergency Room you will be treated regardless of whether you have private insurance or not. The horror stories heard in other countries of people being turned away because they do not have insurance simply does not happen in Australia.
If you are conscious, you will be asked for your name. If a relative or friend is with you, they will be asked for all of the details possible. Eventually, you will need to provide the name of your private insurance fund (if you want to make a claim, or have a private room) some photo ID, and Medicare number. A Medicare number is on a green card that is issued to all Australian Permanent Residents and Citizens.
If you do not have permanent residency or citizenship status, either you or your employer will have been obliged to ensure you are medically insured for the duration of your time in Australia. This is important, as calling an Ambulance without insurance will cost upwards of $1,000.
It is important to note that if you chose to take yourself (or someone else) to a hospital in an emergency situation, not every hospital has an emergency room. If you intend on taking someone for emergency care, you must go to Alfred Hospital, Royal Melbourne, or St. Vincent’s.