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What to expect when seeing a doctor in Australia

Trinity College Foundation Studies

Thu Sep 27 2018


For newly arrived international students, it can be scary to see a doctor in a foreign country for the first time. They may not understand the process because every country has different medical systems. This can make seeing a doctor daunting for international students.

While it can be scary, international students should not neglect their health out of fear. Most of the time, students can seek help from adults around them or even call a clinic to ask. To make this experience easier, we will be detailing the general process below, just to get you started.

The differences of various medical systems

Around the world, every country has different procedures to see a doctor. In most Asian countries, the access to a general practitioner (GP) which is a regular doctor and even specialists are more direct. When visiting a GP, it is recommended to book an appointment, but walk-ins are welcome. To see a specialist, most of the time you just have to book an appointment. Medicine can also be obtained directly from the clinic or hospital after consultation or treatment.

In Australia however, seeing a GP requires a booking. While walk-ins may not be turned away, many clinics are busy and won’t be able to fit you in. Of course, in an emergency situation, you can walk into any clinic or hospital straight away. To see a specialist, you have to get a referral from a GP beforehand. After you’ve obtained a letter of referral then you can book an appointment to see the specialist. Additionally, medication cannot be bought in clinics or the hospital. Prescription for the medication from the doctor will be given to you, which can then be filled at a pharmacy.

International students residing in Australia under a student visa are required to have Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) which means you can claim certain medical expenses. Bring the OSHC card with you to the clinic and make sure to find out what your insurance cover is beforehand.

How to pick the right clinic for you

Picking the right clinic can be tricky. Most universities have an on-campus clinic and this is usually the most convenient for students. However, most clinics outside of campus can easily be booked online. Depending on your insurance provider, some clinics may offer you direct billing whereby they charge the insurance company directly. Alternatively, students will have to pay and obtain an invoice from the clinic and fill out a claim form with their insurance provider to get money back.

It is important to ensure that the clinic is reputable and the GP you are visiting is qualified. All legal and accredited doctors are listed on the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) website. Do not trust any doctors that say you can meet them in a public space or are willing to charge you a cheap fee.

By understanding the way seeing a doctor works here in Australia, international students can feel confident about looking after their health and seeing a doctor when needed.

If students are in a medical emergency, rush to the nearest hospital or call the emergency helpline 000.

This story was produced by Media and Communication students at Trinity College Foundation Studies as part of Meld’s community newsroom collaboration. Education institutions, student clubs/societies and community groups interested in being involved can get in touch with us via