Hospitals & Clinics 

I’m visiting from overseas and had to go to hospital recently. Isn’t my medical treatment supposed to be free?

Publicly funded medical treatment is only available to New Zealand residents and other people who fit the criteria set out in the Ministry of Health’s Guide to eligibility for publicly funded health services.

If you are not eligible under these criteria, you may still be eligible for a limited range of funded services, for example if:

You have had an accident or injury while in New Zealand -

All nationalities are eligible for free treatment in New Zealand if they qualify for Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) cover. The ACC scheme will cover all visitors to New Zealand in cases of personal injury or accident. ACC is not a replacement for travel insurance and will not cover illness, disrupted travel plans or emergency travel home. The injury must have happened in New Zealand.

ACC support may be available to you as a visitor if you are:

  • injured in an accident within New Zealand 
  • in certain circumstances suffering from a health problem related to working in New Zealand 
  • injured as a result of medical treatment while you are in New Zealand 
  • dealing with the mental effects of a sexual assault or abuse suffered in New Zealand.

For more information see our ACC section or talk to your health provider in New Zealand.

You are an Australian or UK resident -

The coverage you get as either an Australian or UK resident is limited and the Ministry of Health still recommends that you have travel insurance including health insurance.

The full list of eligibility criteria for the limited range of services is on the Ministry of Health website. If you don’t fit any of the eligibility criteria described above then you will be expected to pay for your medical treatment, so it’s a good idea to get health insurance before you leave home. Hospital care can be very expensive.

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Is there any financial assistance for travel to hospital?

Travel assistance is available to New Zealand residents. It can help those who have to travel a long way or travel frequently to access specialist health and disability services. It covers things like transport costs, accommodation costs, and the cost of having a support person. If you think you might be entitled to financial help you can find more information from this Ministry of Health webpage

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If I am eligible for public health care does that mean all hospital care is free?

Publicly funded health care includes services which are either free or subsidised by the Government.

This includes:

  • Free care at public hospitals, including acute or emergency care, X-rays, laboratory tests
  • Subsidised visits to the doctor or medical centre – higher subsidies are given to Primary Health Organisations (PHOs) so if you are enrolled in a PHO you may be charged less per visit than if you go to a different doctor or centre
  • A subsidy card if you need to visit the doctor frequently (High Use Health Card) or get prescription medications (Pharmaceutical Subsidy Card ) frequently
  • If you have a Community Services Card you can get further subsidies on the cost of doctor visits and prescribed medication, and free home-based support if you have a disability
  • Dental treatment
    • Free dental treatment (not including orthodontics e.g. braces) for children aged up to 13 years, from practitioners at community-based clinics
    • A limited range of free dental services for young people aged up to 18 years, from practitioners who are contracted by the local district health board (DHB)
    • In some DHB areas, for adults with a Community Services Card, free or subsidised emergency and basic dental care at a hospital dental department.
  • Free or subsidised primary maternity care (you may have to pay for ultrasound scans, antenatal classes, some tests at private laboratories, or if you visit a private obstetrician or private hospital) by a Lead Maternity Carer (LMC) e.g. midwife, GP
  • A range of free maternity and HIV-related services to pregnant women who are-HIV positive
  • Free consultations at Family Planning clinics for people aged 21 years or less
  • Subsidised Residential Care if you also meet extra eligibility criteria

If you are suspected of a notifiable infectious disease, then you can get some services for free or subsidised even if you are otherwise ineligible for publicly funded health services.

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I want to make a complaint about my treatment at a hospital how can I do this?

You should first talk to the hospital about what you’re unhappy with; there are advocates available to help you make a complaint. All health and disability services are required under the Code of Health and Disability Rights to respond to complaints in a timely and appropriate manner.

If this doesn’t resolve your complaint satisfactorily, you can make a complaint to the Health and Disability Commissioner (HDC). Read our Health and Disability Commissioner page for more details.

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Is there a free translation service to help my friend in hospital who doesn’t speak very good English?

Some hospitals and other health providers have access to Language Line, a free telephone interpretation service provided by the Office of Ethnic Affairs. View this list to see whether the hospital your friend is in, is one of them, and this list to find out which languages are available.

If your friend has general queries e.g. about their rights as a health or disability client, they can call CAB Language Connect (09 624 2550 within Auckland or 0800 78 88 77 elsewhere in New Zealand) for help in one of around 26 languages.