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Health & Wellbeing

DEALING WITH ACUTE PAIN Medicare is supposed to be the government-provided panacea of all ills…but we found it initially caused pain. Now that we have the insipid green cards in our wallets – to support our private health care – we’re hoping for better health…mentally and physically!


New South Wales public health services – www.health.nsw.gov.au – include more than 220 public hospitals, 500 community, family and children’s health centres, 220 ambulance stations, and an extensive range of other services including mental health, dental, allied health, public health, Aboriginal health and multicultural health services.

Emergency treatment is available 24/7 at the ‘Casualty’ or ‘Emergency’ departments of public hospitals. If you need to go to hospital, take along your Medicare card and private health insurance membership card. If the situation is not an emergency you should seek medical assistance from a general practitioner (GP).

Useful links include:

New South Wales Ambulance Service – www.asnsw.health.nsw.gov.au

The four Metropolitan Area Health Services (including hospital directories):

Northern Sydney/Central Coast Area Health Service -


South Eastern Sydney and Illawarra Area Health Service – www.sesiahs.health.nsw.gov.au

Sydney South West Area Health Service – www.sswahs.nsw.gov.au

Sydney West Area Health Service – www.wsahs.nsw.gov.au

The four Rural Area Health Services:

Greater Southern Area Health Service – www.gsahs.nsw.gov.au

Greater Western Area Health Service – www.gwahs.nsw.gov.au

Hunter New England Area Health Service – www.hnehealth.nsw.gov.au

North Coast Area Health Service – www.ncahs.nsw.gov.au

Remember, the phone number for all emergencies – police, ambulance and fire – is 000 (Triple Zero).


If your injury or ailment is not quite a hospital emergency, the local medical centre or family doctor – known as a ‘general practitioner’ or GP – is the first port of call (check out a list of Sydney doctors here: http://www.doctors-4u.com/sydney/.) Always take your Medicare card and/or details of your private health insurance.

You cannot visit a medical specialist without seeing a GP first. If acute, the doctor will refer you to the appropriate a medical specialist for further treatment.

If you need medicine, your doctor will provide you with a prescription to take to a chemist shop (also called a pharmacy). Present your Medicare card to the chemist and always follow the labels and instructions. If you need more help, call the Medicines Info Line on 1300 888 763 or go to www.nps.org.au.


Immunisation is designed to protect us all, particularly children, against the ravages of dastardly diseases and insidious infections (although, from what we’ve read about the Swine Flu jabs, you have to wonder!). While immunisation is not compulsory, it is recommended for all children and NSW requires a record of a child’s immunisations to be presented before attending day care or starting school. Immunisations can be obtained from your family doctor or your Community Health Centre.

Medicare operate a Childhood Immunisation Register which you can call on 1800 653 809 or visit online at http://www.medicareaustralia.gov.au/public/services/acir/index.jsp

The National Immunisation Infoline is 1800 671 811 and their website: http://immunise.health.gov.au


Google to find a dentist in your local area (the first one we tried has been uncommonly good) or sink your teeth into a search via: www.dentalcarenetwork.com.au


Ahhh, Medicare. It took FOUR visits to set up, but we now receive government subsidies for medical expenses – free public hospital care, x-rays, blood tests, help with the cost of out-of-hospital care and subsidised medicines. Check your eligibility on www.medicareaustralia.gov.au or call 13 20 11.

We have a tip that may prove vital for your ongoing sanity: in terms of documentation, take in everything you’ve been told plus your spouse in person, passports (including the passports of any dependents), travel documents, visa if you have one, new residence details (including an electricity bill or similar, with your name and new address on it), new NSW Driver’s License, a JP to witness your Statutory Declarations (or know where the nearest JP or person able to witness a Stat Dec actually is), your wallet…everything except the kitchen sink.

Medicare does not pay towards ambulance costs, dental services, spectacles, podiatry, physiotherapy, chiropractic services or private hospital accommodation and a healthy dollop of Australians augment Medicare with private health insurance.


To cover the cost of services not included in Medicare or ensure treatment as a private patient in private or public hospitals, private health insurance is the way to go. But not all policies are created equal and it pays to compare health insurers, with two seriously grunty and incredibly helpful websites on hand at: www.privatehealth.gov.au and www.phiac.gov.au (which has a great FAQ section).

The government offers financial incentives to encourage uptake, so check out the 30% Rebate and beware the Medicare Levy Surcharge (for high income earners who don’t have private health insurance). If you are a new migrant be aware that you can pay significant loadings if you don’t get hospital cover within 12 months of registering for Medicare (because of the local Lifetime Health Cover scheme, designed to encourage early adoption).

If you have any complaints or queries about your health insurer, contact the Private Health Insurance Ombudsman on 1800 640 695 or go to their website: www.philo.org.au


Sydney is a mecca for outdoor pursuits (why wouldn’t it be with weather like this?!) and provides enough yen-like retreats to escape and recharge the batteries.

Google your local area for gyms, fitness centres and training groups…and, in the meantime, I’ll break the habits of a lifetime and investigate how I can drop 15 – 20kgs before donning the Speedos at Bondi this autumn, winter, spring & summer.

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