Health Guide

Should you go to the doctor, or the hospital emergency department?

There's a lot of confusion about when you should visit a doctor (GP), or call an ambulance to take you to the hospital emergency department.

Written by Medibank

When you should see a GP

In Australia, the local doctor is called a General Practitioner (GP). A GP treats and cares for many different health conditions including non-life threatening medical issues like stomach aches, fevers, diarrhoea, headaches and vomiting, as well as helping you manage ongoing diseases like diabetes. GPs also provide prescriptions for medicine that you can buy at your local pharmacy. In Australia, some medications can be purchased ‘over-the-counter’ in a pharmacy, meaning you don’t need a prescription. Whilst other medications are restricted and need a doctor to write a prescription before the pharmacy will allow you to purchase the medicine.

GPs can also refer you for x-rays, blood tests, or send you to a specialist doctor for further treatment if required.

How does Medibank help with your GP visit?

If you have Medibank Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC), we’ll pay towards the cost of GP visits.

For GP visits, there’s a fee known as the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) fee. For a consultation with a GP, Medibank will pay 100% of this fee. Most of the time you’ll pay the GP’s fee first, then claim the benefit back from us. If your GP charges more than the MBS Fee, you’ll have to pay the difference, which means the amount you get back from us may be less than the amount you paid. This difference is called an out-of-pocket cost.

For example:

You see a GP for a standard consultation and are billed under item 23, with an MBS fee of $37.60.

Your GP charges $50.

Medibank gives you the MBS Fee of $37.60 back.

Your out-of-pocket cost is $12.40.

Medibank direct billing providers

A Medibank OSHC direct billing provider has an agreement to send the bill directly to us. This helps to reduce or remove the upfront payment you would normally make when you book.

As with the above situation however, you might experience an out-of-pocket cost, which we don’t cover. Please confirm these expenses prior to your appointment by contacting the clinic. Remember to take your Medibank OSHC membership card and photo identification to your appointment. If you forget your card you can always show your digital version on your phone.

Find an overseas student direct billing provider

When you should call 000 for an ambulance

You should call 000 and ask for an ambulance if you, or someone nearby, are seriously injured or in need of urgent medical attention. If you’re not sure whether you or someone nearby is experiencing something that could be life-threatening, it is always best to call triple zero (000). You will be asked which service you require and you can tell the operator that you need an ambulance.

If you’re not confident speaking in English you can ask the operator for an interpreter. Just be aware this might add extra time.

Some examples of needing an ambulance can include:

  • Severe asthma attack or trouble breathing
  • Heart attack
  • Severe burn
  • Uncontrolled bleeding
  • Sudden collapse
  • A fall from a great height
  • Sudden onset of weakness or paralysis in the face, arm or leg.

When you should visit a hospital's emergency department (ED)

Whether you should call an ambulance to transport you to your closest emergency department (if you consider your condition serious but not immediately life-threatening) may also be influenced by how far away you are from your nearest hospital, and whether there is someone else who can drive you.

It is important to note that turning up in an ambulance does not always mean you get treated sooner. The urgency and severity of your symptoms will determine how quickly you will be seen. Sometimes you may have to wait a while if the medical staff at the hospital do not consider you to require urgent medical attention.

Ambulance - what is covered by Medibank?

Medibank OSHC products pay benefits towards unlimited emergency ambulance attendances and transportation to a hospital where immediate professional attention is required, and your medical condition is such that you couldn’t be transported any other way.

For more information on ambulance services call us on 134 148.

How you can use your cover to support you

Medibank provides OSHC members with a dedicated 24/7 Student Health and Support line. Just call 1800 887 283 any time for:

  • Medical assistance from a registered nurse
  • Counselling services
  • A health system guide
  • An interpreter service
  • Support for living in Australia.
Written by Medibank

Previous article

How to protect yourself from measles

Next article

Can you ever eat too much fruit?

Related articles