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In Case of an Emergency, Call Triple Zero (000)

[Warning: graphic pictures of injury below.]

Dialing triple zero (000) in Australia is like calling 911 in the US. This is good information to have before you need it, of course. The problem is that you don’t think about needing it until that moment of crisis. Back in May, while we still lived in Brisbane, I needed an ambulance in the middle of the night, but Rob didn’t know who (or how) to call for emergency services. Fortunately, he got a hold of a friend of ours who helped him through the process.

So, here is what happened. I hadn’t been feeling well the previous evening. I woke up in the middle of the night to rush into the bathroom since I felt like I would be sick. I must have gotten up too fast because all I remember is reaching for the light switch. The next thing I know, Rob is standing over me, asking me what happened. I, of course, didn’t know. I only remembered reaching for the light switch. He was awakened by what he described as a gong sound. Interesting. That must have been my head hitting the edge of the shower door! Fortunately, the door didn’t break or shatter. It wasn’t until Rob started to help me up that he realized I cut my head open as there was a pool of blood on the shower floor.

Our friend, Dan, requested an ambulance, and then three very helpful female paramedics came to my rescue. They soon had me checked in to the Department of Emergency Medicine (ER) at Mater Hospital Brisbane (pronounced “mahta,” btw).

Warning: graphic pictures of injury below.

  1. Just after I arrived at the ER

  2. Cleaned and stapled (15)

  3. All healed up 3 months later (the only thing I can see is all my gray hair! lol)

The staff was engaged and sympathetic with my head injury. Furthermore, they were very thorough in determining the cause of my fall, not just the extent of my injury. They did a CT scan, checked reflexes & motor skills, and monitored my heart (both signal and chemical levels). Aside from the gash in my head, the only abnormality was my low blood pressure (95/60), which was probably the cause of my fall. Since they didn’t want to do the CT scan with staples in my scalp, they waited until after to get my wound cleaned and stapled. I can appreciate that. Then they gave me a tetanus booster, started me on antibiotics and extra fluids.

Once my blood pressure had returned to normal, and all potential causes of my fainting spell had been exhausted, I was allowed to go home. They handed me a discharge paper with test results and wound care instructions, and a complete set of oral antibiotics. My instructions were to go to a regular GP in 7 days to have the staples removed.

That was it. No bill. No limits on care or tests. I felt well attended to and cared for.

The Australian health system

Australia’s health system is one of the best globally, providing safe and affordable health care for all Australians. It is jointly run by all levels of the Australian government – federal, state and territory, and local.

Medicare has been Australia’s universal health care scheme since 1984. Its three major parts are:

  • medical services

  • public hospitals

  • medicines

Medicare is available to Australian and New Zealand citizens, permanent residents in Australia, and people from countries with reciprocal agreements.

Medicare covers all of the cost of public hospital services. It also covers some or all of the costs of other health services. These can include services provided by GPs and medical specialists. They can also include physiotherapy, community nurses, and basic dental services for children.

The other important part of Medicare is the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). The PBS makes some prescription medicines cheaper.

Within the first few months of arriving in Australia, we enrolled in the Medicare system. We had to simply verify our identity and permanent residency status to receive the benefits. We pay into the system as part of our taxes (approx. 33%) rather than our employer, allowing everyone to have health care coverage regardless of employment. Before our PR visas were granted to us back in the States, we did have to pass a medical assessment to ensure that we wouldn’t be a burden on the Australian health system as non-citizens. Essentially, they wanted to be sure that we didn’t have any pre-existing long-term-care conditions.

In addition to the complete coverage of my ambulance and hospital care in May, our Medicare enrollment allows us reduced fees for GP visits and some medications. However, it does not cover the costs of elective hospital stays and procedures or extras such as vision, dental, and physiotherapy.

For this coverage, many Australians have private health insurance on top of Medicare (public health). Some people with private health insurance have either additional hospital cover or extras cover, and some people have both.

Rob and I opted to get private health insurance for ‘extras,’ such as dental and vision. We did not feel the need to get additional hospital coverage. For biannual dental appointments, including checkups and cleanings, and annual vision appointments and glasses, we pay only $32 a month. Considerably cheaper than the costs you see in the States.

Yes, taxes are higher here. But I think what the public gets back in return is well worth the price.

I know. It isn’t straightforward, and no system or government-run health care is perfect. Yes, Australia is an island nation, has a tenth of the population of the US, and is a part of the commonwealth. Just like the States, Australia also has a diverse population of rich and poor, educated and non-educated, and sick and healthy. They have a gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ too. That gap just isn’t nearly as wide as in the States or most other places around the World.

So, even as a public health system run by the national and state governments, the Australian Healthcare system ranks amongst the top. After my personal experiences with the system so far, I would have to agree. It's of good quality and affordable. BTW the US is ranked at 30 in this article (link below).

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So glad it wasn’t worse! Really interesting information.

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