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.

When you should see a GP

In Australia, a doctor who is qualified in general medical practice is called General Practitioner (GP).  A GP should be your first point of contact for any non-emergency and general health problems.

A GP can help you by diagnosing and treating pain, diseases and other health issues. They can also help with mental health support, vaccines, referrals for tests or scans, managing and treating wounds, prescribe medication if required, as well as referring you to specialist doctors, who are doctors who have completed advanced training in a specific area of medicine.  Some GPs also have areas of special health interests, such as women’s health, mental health, sexual health or dermatology.

You can also search for your nearest GP via the Australian government’s ‘Find a Health Service’ tool.

Alternatively, if you hold OSHC (Overseas Student Health Cover) with Medibank or ahm OSHC, you can visit one of our Direct Billing Clinics or have one of our out of hours partners visit your home1.

  • Medibank OSHC members can find an OSHC Direct Billing clinic here.
  • ahm OSHC members can find an OSHC Direct Billing clinic here.

Medibank OSHC and ahm OSHC Policy holders have 24/7 access to virtual consultations with a GP anytime, anywhere in Australia, through Online Doctor, available via the OSHC app. Plus, they’ll send the bill to us, so you only need to pay the gap. Out-of-pocket costs and other conditions apply2.

How does Medibank help with your GP visit?

If you have Medibank Overseas Health Cover, we’ll contribute to the cost of GP visits if out-of-hospital medical is included in your cover. Check your cover summary to see if your cover includes GP visits.

The Australian government sets a fee (known as the Medicare Benefits Schedule fee, or MBS fee) for GP visits. As long as it’s included in your cover, Medibank will pay at least 100% of the MBS Fee for GP visits. Most of the time you’ll have to pay the GP’s fee first, then claim the benefit back from us afterwards. If your GP charges more than the MBS fee, the amount you get back from us may be less than the amount you paid and you'll have to pay any difference. This difference is called an out-of-pocket cost.

24/7 Student Health and Support Line

Need support? For Medibank OSHC members you can call 1800 887 283 and for ahm OSHC members you can call 1800 006 745 at any time to access a range of support services such as medical assistance from a registered nurse, stress and trauma counselling, emergency legal advice, access interpreter services in around 160 languages and more.

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 000. You will be asked by the operator which service you require, and you can tell the operator that you need an ambulance and medical assistance.

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 when you should call for 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)

If you are seriously injured or in need of urgent medical attention, go to a hospital Emergency Department.

Some examples of needing to attend a hospital Emergency Department can include:

  • A major injury
  • An accident such as a broken bone
  • A heart attack / chest pain
  • Problems with breathing or bleeding not stopping
  • Severe pain
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Drug overdoses or poisoning 

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 as assessed by the nursing and medical staff at the hospital will determine how quickly you will be seen. Sometimes you may have to wait a while if they do not consider you to require urgent medical attention. 

What is Ambulance cover?

Medibank Overseas Health Covers will pay towards the costs of unlimited emergency ambulance services Australia-wide. This includes 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 contact us.


Looking for something else?

Visit our Overseas Health Cover Guides homepage to find more information and advice.

Your guide to navigating Australian healthcare

Most visitors to Australia have no access to Medicare. Like most countries in the world, health care costs in Australia can be expensive.

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Need some help?

We’re here to help you choose the health cover that matches your needs while you’re in Australia. 
Contact Medibank how it suits you; messaging, WeChat, in-store or by phone.

Overseas students (OSHC)

Message one of our friendly staff about your cover options.

Visitor, working and working holiday (OVHC)

Speak to one of our friendly staff for sales and policy enquiries.

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Things you should know

1 A minimum out-of-pocket expense of $10 applies. Please note that additional document and handling fees apply for the issue of medical documents such as medical certificates and referrals.  No benefits are payable through your OSHC policy for text only consults and no shows. Online Doctor is available 24/7 through the OSHC App, however, there may be a wait time depending on doctor availability. For privacy reasons, Partners and Dependants on a policy may not access Online Doctor through the OSHC app. Online Doctor is offered on a trial basis and may be discontinued at any time.

2 These clinics have an agreement to send the bill directly to us. This is to help reduce or eliminate the upfront payment you would normally be required to make at the time of your appointment. Depending on the doctor you see, you may on occasion experience an 'out-of-pocket' expense which is not covered by Medibank. Please ensure you confirm any 'out-of-pocket' expenses you may have to pay prior to your consultation by contacting the direct billing clinic. Remember to have your OSHC membership card and photo identification available.

While we hope you find this information helpful, please note that it is general in nature. It is not health advice, and is not tailored to meet your individual health needs. You should always consult a trusted health professional before making decisions about your health care. While we have prepared the information carefully, we can’t guarantee that it is accurate, complete or up-to-date. And while we may mention goods or services provided by others, we aren’t specifically endorsing them and can’t accept responsibility for them. For these reasons we are unable to accept responsibility for any loss that may be sustained from acting on this information (subject to applicable consumer guarantees).