New Zealand has a public healthcare system that provides for free or low cost medical treatment for all permanent residents, as well as the Accident Compensation Corporation, which covers treatment for accidents sustained by anyone, regardless of immigration status. Many residents choose to purchase supplemental health insurance that provides for greater control and flexibility in their care, but it is not required.
There are several ways to access healthcare services in New Zealand. The method you choose will depend on what type of assistance you need.
Emergency medical help can be found in the local hospital’s emergency department. Emergency personnel will assess and treat patients who have serious or life-threatening injuries or illnesses.
For non-emergency medical care, the place to start is with a GP, or General Practitioner. In New Zealand, GPs work in groups called practices, and maintain offices in a Medical Centre. GPs are fully trained medical doctors, qualified to diagnose your condition and refer you for further tests or specialist treatment if necessary. Ongoing treatment may fall under the free public health system or occur through a private provider who will expect that patient to pay.
Medications may be purchased at the pharmacy, otherwise known as a chemist. Pharmacies carry a selection of over-the-counter medicines such basic painkillers and allergy tabs, but a prescription from a GP is necessary for more powerful medicine.