OSHC and the Australian Health Care System
The Australian health care system may be different to that in your home country.
What do you do if you get sick? If you will be living in Adelaide for an extended period of time, it's a good idea to familiarise yourself with how your Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) and the health care system here work.
If you hold a student visa, it is a condition that you have Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) insurance for the entire length of your stay in Australia. If you get sick or are injured, OSHC will cover many of your medical expenses. OSHC gives you a similar level of cover to Australia's public healthcare system, Medicare. All of the public hospitals in Adelaide are covered by OSHC.
The University's preferred OSHC provider is Allianz Global Assist.
Other OSHC providers:
There are special arrangements regarding OSHC for students from Norway, Sweden, and Belgium. Please see the Department of Home Affairs for further information.
There are several different ways to access health care and advice within Australia, and these may be quite different from what you do at home. As a starting point, you may wish to watch the Australian Government's great animated video introductions to our health care system.
In general, in Australia you visit hospitals for emergencies only. For all non-emergency medical care, you should first visit a General Practitioner (GP) doctor.
General Practitioner (GP)
A General Practitioner (GP) doctor is your first contact for all non-emergency health issues.
Examples of 'non-emergency health issues' include:
- Ear pain / Flu / Gastro
- Minor sports injuries
- Persistent headache
- Sore throat
- Sprained ankles
- Trouble sleeping
All GPs are fully trained to treat both immediate and ongoing illnesses, and to provide preventative care and health education for all patients, regardless of their age, gender, or cultural background. They can also provide advice about many other areas of health, such as sexual health, drug and alcohol use, diet and weight control, sleep problems and mental health.
If your GP thinks you need treatment from a specialist (eg a physiotherapist, counsellor, gynaecologist, psychologist, health worker or gastroenterologist), they'll give you a 'referral note' to a specialist who will be able to help you.
Finding a GP
GP offices (called GP practices) are usually open from 8.30am - 5.30pm, Monday to Friday.
There is a GP practice, the University Health Practice, on the University's North Terrace campus. You can book an appointment through the University Health Practice website.
Other GP practices near you can be found through using:
Seeing a GP
- It is important to arrive at your GP appointment at least 5 minutes earlier than the scheduled time, especially if it's your first time seeing a GP.
- Remember to take your OSHC card to all your appointments.
- When you make an appointment, it's okay to ask for a female or male doctor if it makes you feel more comfortable.
- You can take a friend or relative with you when you see the doctor.
- If you don't feel comfortable with the doctor you're seeing for any reason, the next time you make an appointment you can ask to see a different doctor.
- If you feel embarrassed about having to talk to your doctor about some problems or symptoms, remember that your doctor has very likely heard everything before, and is there to help you and not judge you.
- Take your time during the appointment - once you start talking, it will get easier. It can also help to take notes into the appointment with you, so that you remember what you need to ask about.
- If your doctor says something you do not understand, it's okay to ask for clarification
- Always tell the truth. If your doctor asks you questions about your lifestyle - for example, about your sex life or whether you have used drugs - it's important to be honest, as it could affect your health. They won't judge you, and what you tell them is confidential unless they think someone is at risk of serious harm.
Out-of-hours doctor / Home doctor
If you're feeling sick but it's outside of regular GP hours (i.e. at night or on the weekend), you can access several out-of-hours doctor services.
Health Direct (1800 022 222)
- Speak to a registered nurse about your symptoms
- You will be advised whether you need to see a GP or go to the Emergency Department
- Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and a free call
National Home Doctor Service (13 SICK / 13 74 25)
- Request an after hours, bulk billed, doctor home visit
- If you need to see a doctor out of hours, but it's not an emergency, you can use this service
- Available weekdays from 6pm, Saturdays from 12pm, and all day Sundays and public holidays
Hospital Emergency Department
If it's an emergency, you should go to a public hospital Emergency Department. Most private hospitals do not have Emergency Departments. Emergency Departments are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
In an emergency medical situation, call the emergency number 000 for assistance and ambulance.
Examples of 'emergency medical situations' include:
- Heart attack or chest pain
- Heavy bleeding
- Burns / broken bones
- Severe abdominal pain
- Trouble breathing
- Giving birth
Your doctor won't give you medication during your appointment. Instead, they'll give you a prescription, which you'll need to take to a chemist (also called a pharmacy) so you can buy your medication there. You can also buy non-prescription medicines such as headache tablets from a pharmacy.
However, a pharmacy is more than just a place to buy your medication from. Pharmacists can:
- advise you about how medicines should be taken, or used in the safest and most effective way to treat common problems.
- advise you about both over-the-counter and prescription medicines, including which ones to choose, how they'll help with your condition, how much to take, how they can interact with other medications, and what their side effects are.
- choose, give advice on and supply non-prescription medicine, sickroom supplies and other products.
If you have a question that does not necessarily require a trip to the doctor, your local pharmacist may be able to help.
Dental services are not covered by standard OSHC policies. If you are not sure whether your policy covers dental work, please speak directly with your OSHC provider.
If you need dental work you will need to visit a private dentist. Please note that dental appointments in Australia can be expensive, and may cost you up to $100 for just an examination. We recommend confirming the price before seeing a dentist.
A good starting point for finding a dentist near you is to search the Yellow Pages . If you are covered by the University's preferred provider, OSHC Allianz Global Assist, you can visit a staff member from that organisation to enquire about dental options.
Children's dental care
In South Australia, there is a free dental service for children aged under 18 years old.
For more information, see the Students with Children page.
OSHC provides a similar level of coverage as the Australian public health insurance system, Medicare. Visits to GPs are often covered, and if you stay in a public hospital while being treated, then you won't be charged any fees.
However, OSHC generally doesn't cover dental or optical consultations, or stays in private hospitals. if you use services outside of your OSHC policy, then you'll be charged and there will be only very limited reimbursement.
Knowing the costs
Before you visit a doctor, you should always confirm if you will need to pay any money for the appointment. Two good questions to ask are:
Good question #1: "Do you charge a gap fee?"
All medical services have a standard fee that is set by the Australian government. However, medical providers (GPs, specialist doctors, etc) can charge whatever they want to. The difference between the standard fee and medical provider fee is called the gap.
Your OSHC policy will cover the standard fee, but not the gap. In other words, you will need to pay the gap yourself. The gap fee for seeing a GP may be anywhere from $10 to $50.
Good question #2: "Do you direct bill to (your OSHC provider)?"
Some doctors send their bill directly to your OSHC provider. This is called direct billing, and it means that you don't pay any money yourself (unless there's a gap fee).
However, some doctors do not direct bill. This means that you need to pay the bill yourself, and then take the bill to your OSHC provider to claim your money back.
What's not covered
Not all medical services are covered by your OSHC policy. For example, most standard OSHC policies do not cover dental or optical services. Check your policy to see what's covered. If you are not covered by OSHC and see a dentist or optometrist, you will need to pay the entire fee yourself, which may cost several hundred dollars.
If you are having trouble communicating with your GP or in hospital, you can use the Australian Government's free Translation and Interpreting Service (TIS). Contacting TIS will connect you with a qualified translator of your language, who can interpret on your behalf.