Healthcare in New Zealand

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Wellington Hospital in New ZealandHealthcare in New Zealand is funded through general taxation, which means that residents receive free or subsidised medical care. The standards of healthcare in New Zealand are high, although private healthcare is also available. 
In order to access free public healthcare, expats need to have a work permit or a permanent residence permit. Work permits will, however, need to have been issued for a minimum of 24 months before the permit holder qualifies for state subsidised healthcare. After this period, expats in New Zealand on a work permit as well as their immediate family should qualify to receive government health benefits.
Emergency medical care in New Zealand is offered by three organisations, each of which is run by both volunteers and permanent staff.

Public healthcare in New Zealand

The public healthcare system in New Zealand gives residents access to free hospital-based care, as well as emergency treatment. Other free medical services include standard medical tests, children’s immunisations, and prescription medication for children under six years old. Visits to a general practitioner (GP), the purchase of prescription drugs and ambulance services are subsidised.
New Zealand has a government-funded programme called the Primary Health Organisation (PHO), which further subsidises medical costs, significantly reducing consultation fees and medicine costs. There are some non-subsidised items, which expats and residents have to pay for in full. Most New Zealanders and expats are members of a PHO in their residential district. Expats are advised to join a PHO as soon as they arrive in New Zealand, as the application process generally takes up to three months to be processed. 
Other free or subsidised services include healthcare during pregnancy, childbirth and post-natal care, laboratory tests and x-rays. Medical check-ups and dental treatments for school children are also freely provided. New Zealand takes cancer very seriously, and in an effort to increase early detection, the healthcare system provides free breast screening for all women between the ages of 50 and 64. 
Chronic and acute medical conditions are generally paid for by the state; however, there are a few cases where they are only subsidised. Expats should expect to pay a small fee for specialist doctors such as chiropractors, osteopaths and physiotherapists.
In order to access healthcare in New Zealand, expats will have to register with a GP. There is no restriction on which doctor an expat has to register with; however, some doctors may specialise in certain areas of medicine and it might be best for new arrivals to research the practices in their area to find the GP who best suits their individual needs. The biggest downside to state healthcare is the long waiting periods for non-emergency procedures; however, waiting times vary between hospitals, so it helps to find the most time-efficient option. 

Private healthcare in New Zealand

The majority of New Zealanders who choose to use private healthcare do so in order to jump the queues for non-urgent conditions. Private healthcare users are, however, still able to use free public health services as well. 
There is a wide range of clinics and private hospitals which provide healthcare services such as general surgery, recuperative care and specialist procedures, as well as private testing laboratories and radiology clinics.

Health insurance in New Zealand

Private health insurance in New Zealand costs are not overtly expensive in comparison with other expat destinations. Some employers offer medical cover, and it is recommended that expats check with their company or negotiate medical insurance as part of their employment contract.
Expats will be able to choose between international health cover and local providers such as Southern Cross, which has a network of private hospitals across New Zealand. 

Pharmacies in New Zealand

Pharmacies in New Zealand are plentiful in urban areas, and include large pharmacy franchises as well as independent and online services. Most Western medicines are readily available. 
As with specialist hospital procedures, expats should remember that New Zealand is a small island country and advanced or specialist care is better sourced abroad. It might be best for expats with a medical condition to stock up on their medication before arriving in the country.

Health hazards in New Zealand

Unlike its neighbour Australia, New Zealand has few animals that can be deadly – it only has two rare species of poisonous spiders and there are no snakes. New Zealand does have sharks, however shark attacks are rare because of the cold water keeping both tourists and sharks at bay. 
As New Zealand is situated along the Pacific Ring of Fire, which is a seismically active area, natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic activity are prevelant. The country is particularly prone to earthquakes which can be of a very dangerous magnitude. The official disaster monitoring system is called GeoNet which gives residents early warning in the event of seismic activity through its website, mobile phone application and social media.
While not as bad as cities such as Mexico City, Los Angeles and Beijing, smog in Christchurch has been a problem for quite some time, so expats with chronic lung problems who intend to live in the area should consult their doctor about ways to compensate for this.

Emergency services in New Zealand

Pre-hospital emergency medical care is largely conducted by trained paramedics, as on the Anglo-American model. Emergency medical services in New Zealand are operated mostly by St Johns Ambulance and Wellington Free Ambulance. Both have air ambulance services that operate out of Auckland and Wellington.
  • Emergency number (fire, ambulance, police): 911 
  • Healthline (free advice from trained nurses): 0800 611 116

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